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Speaking Up Is How I Show Up

When I looked at the 2020 keynote speakers lineup for NAA Convention, the theme took on a much deeper meaning for me.

So after I was asked to write on how I (which really means "we" because I never do this work alone) "Show Up and Speak Up," I really took some time to think about that. 

Here is my journey with that topic.

I have been working in the fields of education and youth development, in both informal and formal settings, for over 25 years. Over those years, I constantly had to identify, recognize, understand, and fight within and against power and privilege in our systems. Sometimes, it looked like facing peers or systems of oppression that—unintentionally or not—created barriers that prevented young people of color and young people from socio-economically challenged communities from experiencing success. It looked like me not using my own power, when I had some, to be the lever of change for others.

It was me not using my voice to speak up for those who didn't have the opportunity to do so.

Once I wrestled with that truth, I made a conscious decision to change how I approached this work. I made a choice to work at a systems-level to leverage the beauty, promise, and expertise of the people in our field that love, live, and work with children, youth, and families, and to do that in a way that informs and changes the system to meet the needs of all, not some.

I chose to show up in every space as a black woman speaking up and fighting for all children, and explicitly black and brown children who have been marginalized by this system.

I chose to show up by speaking up.

I was given the opportunity to do just that when I was chosen to be on the California AfterSchool Network Leadership Team, then later when I transitioned to a staff position where I could put my choice into action with other like-minded individuals. These individuals and organizations—ASAPconnect, CalSAC, Partnership for Children and Youth, JVH Empower, Temescal Associates and the California Department of Education, System of Support for Expanded Learning—work together to reaffirm California's Expanded Learning programs as an integral part of young people's education, engaging them in year-round learning opportunities that prepare them for college, career and life.

We are doing this by moving with and through love to support each other and our field.

For us, love is an action word. Love shows up in how we support field practitioners by giving them the training and resources needed to grow, both personally and professionally. Love shows up as creating the space and opportunities for our youth development practitioners to cultivate their own personal mastery to explore why they do this work and the impact they have in their communities. Love means that we believe in proximity—people who are directly influenced by decisions are part of the decision-making process. Love means the needs of the most marginalized in our system, which includes students and staff alike, anchor and inform decisions when developing programs, practices, and/or policies. Love means that we are working to cultivate leadership that looks like the students and families we serve. Love shows up as doing the work to create real and authentic, compassionate systems that meet the needs of ALL children, families, and staff in that system.

So, to me, LOVE = EQUITY.

And equity means I will always speak up and show up so that everyone has the space, opportunity, and support to get what they need to thrive.

Written by Tiffany Gipson, Program Director, Quality Initiatives, California Afterschool Network, and NAA Executive member.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Gipson.

Listen to the playlist that influenced Tiffany's writing:

Sam Cooke | "A Change is Gonna Come"
Billie Holiday | "Strange Fruit"
Robert Glasper | "Fu@k Yo Feelings"
A Tribe Called Quest | "We The People"
Kendrick Lamar | "Alright"