Have you ever played a game of dominoes? I must confess that I have never played the game the way it was intended. What I did learn was how to line up the dominoes up into a desired line or pattern, and then when I was ready, to knock down the first domino, which would in turn knock down the rest of the dominoes. If the dominoes were not close enough to each other, it wouldn’t work. This is akin to how one person or group can be a catalyst for change, by being willing to be a domino and to fall first. If the other dominoes are close enough, they cannot help but to fall as well.
During one of our recent full-time staff meetings, we watched a TED talk video entitled, “Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable,” led by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. After taking a few moments to pair and share, where we discussed with our teammates our own personal or professional experiences with uncomfortable situations, we discussed how we have joy in doing this work because of WHO we are doing it with. The work itself – addressing inequities and working towards change – is very challenging.
With systemic change, it’s incredibly difficult to address things that aren’t spoken about. It is crucial for marginalized groups, much like our staff, students, and the communities we serve, to make our voices heard. We are often the first “domino” as Luvvie Ajayi defines it, to fall. The intent is to bring awareness to people who have the power to address those concerns or challenges, and to actually serve the people that they are supposed to advocate for and represent.
“Your silence serves no one.” ~ Luvvie Ajayi Jones
If you have ever had to be the “domino” or the one who brings attention to an issue, you know how lonely, stressful, and potentially destructive that can be. After such an experience, silence can be a trauma response that makes things more manageable and is the path of least resistance. However, it is integral that we be the collective dominos that start and continue those conversations. The important part of being that domino, is not having to do it alone, to be close enough to others who also desire and work for change to “fall” too.
This makes me reflect on the fact that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was willing to be uncomfortable and to be one of many “dominoes” during the Civil Rights Movement to continue making marginalized group’s voices heard. He didn’t do it alone, MLK had so many supporters standing with him, using their voices to fight for equity and justice.
My parents brought me into the world during the Civil Rights Era and something stuck with me that my father said to my siblings and I; he said “I never wanted to pour that hate into you all.” My parents lived through the blatant racism that separated people and provided resources that were clearly not equitably distributed. The fact remains that in education, students are still being locked out of access to equitable resources, including the lack of representation in curriculum and needed support to address the hundreds of years of blatant discrimination. This is a testament to how we need to continue being the dominos to make change.
As Student U, we are dedicated to continuing to push against the status quo in education and one of the ways that we are doing this is through our intentionally inclusive curriculum. Our Summer Academy includes a curriculum centered around reflecting our students, their lived experiences, and the experiences of those who came before them. With a prioritization around history, we are helping students find their voices and provide them with opportunities to practice using them.
It has taken hundreds of years to get where we are and there is so much more work to be done, that’s why we continue to do it. I would like to leave us with an alternative visual to a falling domino when it comes to using our voices to make change. Falling could imply passivity. What if we envision ourselves as dominoes who are determined to stand up, and in turn invite others to stand with us to achieve equity and justice for our community.
~ Michelle Price, Executive Director