Forget Allies and Advocates, I Needed an Activist

About LaToya Morrison

LaToya Morrison is an ELA Secondary Instructional Coach in Austin, Texas. Previous to this position, she taught middle school ELA (grades 6-9) for 10 years in Fort Worth and Round Rock ISD. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2008 at William James Middle School and 2013 at the Young Women's Leadership Academy of Fort Worth. She holds a bachelor of science degree in middle school education from Texas Wesleyan University, and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University. LaToya also blogs on Medium about student engagement, culturally responsive practices, and high-yielding instructional strategies. Follow her musings by visiting https://medium.com/@latoya_morrison.

We (educators) like to think that we’re advocates for students. I’ve even been guilty myself of living in the nobleness of the word. However, as our current climate (societal and educational) continues to toil with inclusivity and what it means to be responsive to ALL, I grow impatient with our “nobleness.” Case in point, social media is exploding with a story of a high school wrestler who was forced to cut off his dreadlocks to prevent the forfeit of a match. While investigations begin and details are sorted, the dejected face of Andrew Johnson is fixated in my mind. Partly because I’m a mother and partly because I’m an educator. There’s something about the pain of seeing a student caught between a rock and hard place that is palpable. And it’s so palpable that his face is the face of many others. Others like students, who felt they had more allies and advocates than activists on their behalf.

I write this poem for all the Andrew Johnsons in the world:

Forget Allies and Advocates, I Needed an Activist

by LaToya Morrison

Forget allies and advocates, I needed an activist

When I didn’t have the words to articulate

When I looked around and didn’t see

anyone who represented me

When time wasn’t taken to identify my struggles

because moving on was easier for others

When time was running out

and no one had time to take for me

Snip

Snip

Snip

away

my

dignity

Forget allies and advocates, I needed an activist

What good is it to show me your empathy

When your empathy does nothing for me

You think your support helps my trouble?

How? when it doesn’t even pierce your bubble

Oh, the safety that you have from afar

Watching my struggle

Without changing the bar

Snip

Snip

Snip

away

my

identity

Forget allies and advocates, I needed an activist

Your words are noble, yet empty

You didn’t even try to save me

When my back was up against a wall

You stood by and let me fall

You rest in your good intention

Yet your focus should have been on prevention

Snip

Snip

Snip

away

my

humanness

Forget allies and advocates, I needed an activist

When will you ever take a risk for me?

When will I simply get to….just…..be?

Be all of who I am without question

Not having to sacrifice myself to give you a lesson

A lesson in what it means to truly stand with me

Not just sit by quietly

but align with action for my sanity

Snip

Snip

Snip

away

my

spirit

Forget allies and advocates, I needed an activist

I needed you to see me

I needed you to step up

I needed you to speak up

I needed you to sacrifice what you thought you’d gain

and take a moment to prioritize my pain

While you’re busy marveling at your allyship and advocacy

You’re not getting the gist, see?

Cause I didn’t need allies and advocates

I needed an activist

to

help

me

In the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, do better.” Folks, we MUST  do better on behalf of ALL students, especially all of the Andrew Johnsons in the world.

“Poetry is emotion put into measure.”

-Thomas Hardy

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About the Author:

LaToya Morrison is an ELA Secondary Instructional Coach in Austin, Texas. Previous to this position, she taught middle school ELA (grades 6-9) for 10 years in Fort Worth and Round Rock ISD. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2008 at William James Middle School and 2013 at the Young Women's Leadership Academy of Fort Worth. She holds a bachelor of science degree in middle school education from Texas Wesleyan University, and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University. LaToya also blogs on Medium about student engagement, culturally responsive practices, and high-yielding instructional strategies. Follow her musings by visiting https://medium.com/@latoya_morrison.

One Comment

  1. Shawnta S. Barnes December 22, 2018 at 10:31 am - Reply

    I appreciate this piece so much especially when you spoke about how people won’t take risks for children because they are worried about themselves. The problem with that is it allows it to happens to other children.

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