by Alis Atagan · 01 Jul 2019 · 7 min read
When Forbes Magazine released its list of America's 100 Most Innovative leaders in September, it included only one female without even a photo. The resulting firestorm mostly centered around a lack of gender equality. A cursory look at the list also showed a lack of racial diversity.
The "All Black Everything Summit" was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. When stay-at-home orders first went into effect, I started to do an Instagram Live series called "Conversations with Global Pros" on my personal account as a way to stay motivated and engage with my community. As a full-time professional makeup artist used to being out and about, it was clear I would be stuck at home for the foreseeable future, and my work had come to a halt. The series started to take off and was doing very well. More importantly, I was having fun and the DMs I was receiving made it obvious my followers were enjoying the content, too.
The girl I saw had a bright, beautiful face and big expressive eyes. She was standing outside the school gates, clinging to the fence with her fingers laced through the wires and peering in longingly. I knew that this young girl, who I later learned is named Srelin, was not being brought into the school to be enrolled, and I wondered if she ever would be. It was a moment of reflection as I realized that the world would never see the boundless potential she possessed if she was barred from education. I knew in that moment that providing girls like Srelin the tools for self-empowerment was the way that her community, indeed our world, could change for the better.
A Black, 14-year old, female, middle school student is tackled to the ground and handcuffed by a resource officer because she wanted to go to the school's health office. A white teacher assigns a slave trade enactment as a class project, assigning Black students to the role of being slaves. A teacher insults Black students and their parents in front of the entire class, causing Black students to tell their parents to not come to the school. These instances of anti-Black racism are happening in schools across America today. Over the summer, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey, and others have shined a light on longstanding anti-Black racism in the US and, more specifically, in education.