Over the past few months, Surge has had the honor of touring its first-ever short documentary film, Shades of Leadership, in the cities of Oakland, Chicago and most recently New York City (see the trailer HERE). Through the screenings, audience members heard from a variety of seasoned education experts on the importance of leaders of color within the education space and explored the narratives of young people who have been impacted by said leaders.
The film made its first stop in the Bay Area on September 24th, premiering at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland, CA. Following the screening, audience members engaged in a dialogue with four education leaders local to the Bay Area:
- Christopher P. Chatmon, Deputy Chief of Equity, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD)
- Nhi Truong, 9th Grade Advisor, MetWest High School
- Dr. Cesar A Cruz, Co-founder, Homies Empowerment
- Ty-Licia Hooker, 2019 Surge Oakland Alumna; Executive Director & Co-Founder, Student Success and Leadership Academy
A key point from the film that was further discussed in terms of its weight and importance was the following: “Until we can build the cadre of leaders of color, we’re going to continue to have these struggles about what decisions are the right decisions, what decisions are the best decisions.” (Ladson-Billings, Shades of Leadership)
Weeks later, Shades of Leadership premiered at Taste 222 in Chicago, IL on October 1st. The afternoon continued building on the layer of conversation from the Oakland screening by delving into the notion of what it means to raise your voice in the spaces that ultimately decide the fate of our youth and communities of color, particularly in education. Audience members joined in a discussion with:
- Dr. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Associate Vice President of Policy for the Erikson Institute
- Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Pedagogical Theorist, University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education
- Dr. David Stovall, Professor of African-American and Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois – Chicago
- Rudy Lozano Jr., Vice President of the Fellowship Initiative, JPMorgan & Chase, 2018 Surge Fellowship Alumnus
- Roberto Rodriguez, Student, University of Illinois – Chicago
The afternoon offered the opportunity to touch on topics such as the education gap in the United States as well as how education leaders should engage with communities that have been on the lower receiving end of educational opportunity. During the panel discussion, Dr. Ladson-Billings stated, “Let’s move away from the notion of sympathy. That’s basically, ‘I feel for you, but I’m glad it’s not me.’ What we need to focus more on is empathy in our communities.”
The most recent destination of the documentary’s tour was the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn on November 13th. Education Leader, Political Consultant and father of one of the voices in Shades of Leadership, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Luis A. Miranda, Jr. also joined the group for a fireside chat dialogue with American educator and activist, Kaya Henderson. The overarching theme of the evening was the call-to-action to support the folks and spaces that are presently engaged in the work of investing in leaders of color within the youth-serving & education space (i.e. the Surge Institute). As folks yearning for a brighter future for our young people, this coalition-building can only go so far without the investment of the catalysts in the room and beyond.
Each of the screenings this year served as a space of authenticity and collectivism within the education space. They themselves were acts of defiance against the status quo of a present white-dominant ecosystem. Shades of Leadership will be released in early 2020 in an effort to continue sharing the stories of the impact of leaders of color, and the Surge Institute looks forward to continue doing its part in the elevation of transformative leaders of color who, along with their communities, are reclaiming their narratives and redefining the future of education.
Continue learning about the Surge Institute at www.surgeinstitute.org and follow the Surge movement on social media @SurgeFellowship and @SurgeOakland.