What are you afraid of?

I am tired. I am tired of violence in the news. I am tired of defending my existence, of having the
same conversations over and over about “pronouns this and pronouns that.” We are getting
gunned down and all you do is flash your rainbow “ally” badge and have yet another
conversation about including pronouns in your email signature, all while misgendering me in the

When it comes to real talk of change; of teaching children about identity that’s inclusive of
gender diversity and sexuality, your body tenses. “Our community is not ready for this yet.
Maybe next year.” You are the gatekeeper who decides at what capacity we exist, and that is
wrong. Hints of us exist on your website. We are in your equity statement. We are hidden in
language like, “diversity” and “belonging”. In strategic plans and anti-bullying policies. Yet, we
are invisible everywhere else where it matters like classrooms and curriculum. Your equity
statements and social justice committees are selective of who they include. Cherry picking who
is included is the antithesis of this work. You tout the analogy of “mirrors, windows, and sliding
glass doors”, yet all you want to see is yourself.
What are you afraid of?

If anything, we are the ones who should be afraid. We have been under attack for centuries;
between policing how we look…how we act…who we love…
Today, this still exists on both an individual level and at a larger scale. Anti-trans legislation
continues to pass all over the world, and there are countries that refuse to allow us to exist. And
yet, we persist. We still go out. We teach. We party. We express our radical love through our art
and our chosen families. We thrive and celebrate joy in spite of the hate that you perpetuate.
We are not afraid, but you are.

You are afraid of children's books. You are afraid of graphic novels. You’re afraid of using
pronouns, of drag shows, of freedom of expression. You are afraid of the endless possibilities
that we represent, of the love we represent. Everyday we suffer as victims of violence. And I yet
I am not allowed to read a book with a transgender child as its protagonist. How dare I correct
you when you misgender me. How dare I defend myself against the onslaught of your passive
aggression. How dare I exist.

Queer children exist in every single classroom, yet they rarely see themselves reflected in the
books and curriculum taught to them. Suicidality is several times higher in Queer youth than cis
heterosexual youth, and that is because of your inaction. Your inaction is violence. We are dying
while you are sitting in your office telling us which books we can and cannot read, which topics
we can and cannot talk about. Power hoarding and gatekeeping are rooted in white supremacy.
What are you afraid of?

Your fear is violence. It is because we cannot read our books or tell our stories or exist in
classrooms that these shootings occur. You spread your fear, and so others are afraid. They act
on this fear with violence. Others are not given the opportunity to explore the infinite ways of
being in this world. Their ignorance, the ignorance that you perpetuate, makes them fearful of
the unknown. It’s the reason why so many young people die of suicide. It’s the reason why our
spaces and our communities are under assault.

We are both the same, you know. We have both experienced gendered trauma in our lives. I
would wager that we both grew up being forced onto gendered norms which we did not consent
to. We were ascribed a role we did not choose. Many of us grow older and continue this path.
There is no shame in that. But why silence others who travel a different path? Is our difference
so harmful to you? Free yourself of this burden of fear and join us in our love and liberation.

On the topic of judging schools and organizations based on DEIJ and providing awards

DEIJ Awards

On the topic of judging schools and organizations based on DEIJ and providing awards. To be
clear, we agree with developing and sharing good practice around a range of learning-focused
categories, one of which focuses on DEIJ.

We would like to understand the context of awards? How they come into existence? How are
panels organized? We would like to figure out why you think this work should be awarded.

For full transparency, we really struggle with folks trying to make justice & liberation work
competitive or even about recognition. We have observed that some of the systems outside of
us seem to create competition and ‘fights for recognition’ that, frankly, none of us are really
asking for.

The idea of “winning” seems to run counter to what DEIJ work is about and also implies a finish
line when there is ALWAYS learning / work to be done. It also fails to recognize those who may
not meet the standards of dominant culture/institutions that truly aren’t invested in this work.
These institutions shouldn’t and don’t get to give a stamp of approval to work they truly aren’t
invested in. And if they truly were invested in it, they wouldn’t even think to give trophies out.

DEIJ work is a work of solidarity, community, and deep learning. Competition or
competitiveness are hallmarks of white supremacy, and almost always replicate oppressive
systems we aim to dismantle because they can be individualistic, binary, either you win or lose,
you get it or not. Award-giving like this opens the possibilities for school leaders to tick the box
without doing deep work. We have seen DEIJ becoming commodified, used as a marketing tool,
because of our rush to dole or perceive the need to dole out congratulatory cookies for doing
the work.

A few hand-selected lines from Michelle Mijung Kim, author of The Wake Up comes to mind
around ISC's ideas: “If the good we are seeking in this world is advancing social justice and
equity for all oppressed people, then we must measure our goodness by the outcomes desired
and impacts felt by those to whom justice and equity have not yet been granted. And only they
get to decide when something – our efforts, our impact, our apology, our outcomes – is good

Kim added, “Too many still approach social justice work like community service, as if we’re
doing a favor for marginalized identities, as if we’re spending our time and resources to be
selfless and as if we are deserving of grace, because “at least we are trying”. This attitude is
problematic as it centers us as martyrs while mischaracterizing the necessary work of
addressing centuries of systemic oppression as charity work.”

Considering our thought processes, what do you think schools who are actually doing this
important work would feel to receive this award? What does it say about a school who is
honored to receive such an award?

In addition to the white centering, competition, commodification; and who gets the authority
to confer approval of what constitutes equity and justice, and other reasons – all these make us
say no, not for us.

To be clear, we agree with “developing and sharing good practice around a range of learning-
focused categories, one of which focuses on DEIJ.”  We believe that the categories should have
principles and practices of DEIJ and anti-racism undergirding all of these categories; and for
schools and institutions to ensure they are continuously and cyclically taking actions,
monitoring progress towards equity and justice. Receiving affirmation and recognition is
valuable but it would be much more meaningful and authentic if it came from within the
community and students. In fact, the only people judging DEIJ work in schools should be the
students from a school. How would anyone else know how the school is doing with serving the
very folks they are meant to serve?

Thank your time and for considering these matters. We hope you will take this email as
intended – with humility and as an opportunity for collaborative growth. We look forward to
your reply.

The AIELOC Community

AIELOC statement calling for solidarity for the people of Iran

AIELOC stands in solidarity with the people of Iran, and expresses its support for the students and educators who are being persecuted for demanding their liberties and basic human rights.

AIELOC condemns the violent oppression by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) that has imprisoned, tortured, and killed many innocent lives not just in these last forty days, but for over forty-three years.

AIELOC emphasises that this movement is not a movement against Islam, or the hijab, and should not be co-opted for any other purpose than to support the people of Iran. Understanding that this movement, led in great part by the youth of Iran, is one that is demanding the liberty to choose for oneself. This is about bodily autonomy and the right to live in freedom.

AIELOC calls for unity in our movements for liberation of all people.

‘We are not free until everyone is free.’ Martin Luther King Jr.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Audre Lorde

Thank you to AIELOC Members: Yasmine, Omar, Sara, Parisa, Larisa, Roya

We ask AIELOC members to take a photo of themselves holding a piece of paper that says “I stand with the people of Iran in their fight for freedom” and share this on their social media with the hashtag #AIELOCforIRAN

Reflections from the International School Anti-Discrimination Task Force, 14-15 October 2022

Reflections from the International School Anti-Discrimination Task Force, 14-15 October 2022

By: AIELOC Fellows – Justin Garcia (they/them/theirs), Kristina Pennell-Götze (she/her/hers), Iyabo Tinubu (she/her/hers), and Cultural Wealth and Lifelong Learning Practitioners – Rama Ndiaye (she/her/hers), Nayoung Weaver (they/she)

What does joy look like in the international school ecosystem?

On 14-15 October 2022, positional and thought leaders gathered at the International School of Geneva (Ecolint) to attend the inaugural International School Anti-Discrimination Task Force (ISADTF). 91 educators coming from 5 continents participated in this historical moment.

During these two days of reflection, connection, and co-construction of knowledge and shared understanding, members of the global majority and those of dominant groups held space for one another. Throughout the event, members of the Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) engaged in line with Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy:

“We acknowledge that​ ​the diverse backgrounds and voices of our community represented in the collective make us​ ​stronger and better equipped to make a positive impact globally… Our goal is to ensure that our association and our global partners demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and anti-racism and that this is reflected in policies, programs, practices, recruitment, curriculum, and the life of the institutions in general.”

As we worked, we found solace in gathering as a community.

We heard from the founders of the Task Force – the Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS), the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), the International School of Geneva (Ecolint), AIELOC – and we were graced with a presentation from Xoài David and Clara Reynolds, founders of the Organisation to Decolonise International Schools (ODIS). During an impromptu moment, we also had the opportunity to hear the heart-wrenching experiences of an Ecolint alumnus, Eloise Hughes, and an Ecolint student, Violetta. Equipped with this additional knowledge, educators entered committees motivated to collaborate and generate commitments. The committees were:

  • Governance, facilitated by Kathleen Naglee (she/her)
  • Leadership, facilitated by Fandy Diney (she/her)
  •  Accreditation, facilitated by Nunana Nyomi (he/him)
  •  Humanising Pedagogy through Teaching and Learning, originally Curriculum, facilitated
    by Angeline Aow (she/her)
  •  Recruitment and Retention, facilitated by Justin Garcia (they/them)
  •  Agency, originally Student Agency, facilitated by Katrina Sunnei Samasa (she/her)

From AIELOC;s perspective, one of the goals of the conference was to model, in real time, our commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice, also known as DEIJ. It was extremely important to us that members of the global majority – and other historically-marginalized folks – bring their authentic selves to discuss radical possibilities with those possessing systems knowledge in order to co-create strategies for a more equitable ecosystem. Another goal was to ensure collective accountability for our tasks. In order to reach that goal, each committee
pledged to have at least three commitments by the conclusion of the Task Force. Our dedicated facilitators understood too well that in spite of the extraordinary collaboration that took place, the commitments shared should continue to be a work in progress.

As AIELOC members, we are still in disbelief that we all came together on the sunny weekend of October 14th and are still buzzing from it. Although many of the bodies we hugged were those of the faces we only saw via Zoom until that weekend, it all felt familiar and easy. We all
already knew each other. As advocates that continue to be systematically oppressed at our jobs, being seen and embraced for exactly who we are was refreshing and a (radical) dream come true. Thanks to our cultural wealth, as marginalized folks, we have the critical lens to
observe and talk about the oppression all around us, even though existing structures continue to refuse to acknowledge its existence. Unpacking these systems, to ideastorm solution steps, was invigorating. As AIELOC members, we were there for the movement, the joy, the radical imagination, and of course, being together in solidarity.

Nevertheless, history continues to repeat itself: Even during a Task Force aimed at creating anti-discrimination policies in international schools, we still witnessed – internalized and externalized – oppressive behaviors. We heard from educators who were still surprised that
racism and all the other -isms still exist. As AIELOC members, we were reminded that many institutions are still at the stage of reckoning with the idea that all human beings in their community, no matter their identity, should matter. Many with power and privilege do not have to
come to terms with their experiences of oppression in their lives and thus continue to exploit, appropriate, and commodify our knowledge while continuing to erase our existence in the ecosystem at large.

Even the existence of the taskforce shed light on the privilege we hold within the community. Many attendants could not attend because of distance, travel costs, or illness from the ongoing pandemic. Options for virtual participation were limited. Voices of international school support and maintenance staff were missing. This reinforces our own commitments to learning and action for future taskforce endeavors.

The strategies that emerge from genuinely diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist sessions are new and unparalleled in international schools. Some of us understand that expertise does not mean authority and, as Keynote Speaker Cynthia Roberson stated, passion alone does not make us experts. Many people “in DEIJ” have not made a personal connection to its history and therefore have a lack of understanding of its true meaning. Our ancestors have invited us into this work – we are in a multigenerational effort and need to stay humble. However, divesting in capitalism is challenging when we are taught that succeeding in that realm is our life’s purpose. In shifting systems, we all have a role to play. We must all fight back against these systems and the people who uphold White Supremacy Culture.

As James Baldwin stated, “The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it.” We, members of the global majority, historically-marginalized folks, and AIELOC, had a taste of a genuine space of belonging during the Task Force. Channeling that creative space for our students is our primary job as educators. We have a lot of work to do – but we will do it our way and with a
focus on liberation. But let us start by centering ourselves and our lived experiences, front, back, and all the way. Let us continue the journey with humility while inspiring each other.

To answer the question from the beginning of the reflection: the joy in the international school ecosystem should look and feel like an AIELOC meeting. A space where people gather to be with each other, actively listen to one another, have each other’s backs, and fully realize the importance of authentic solidarity. As AIELOC founder, Kevin Simpson, always says: “it’s about WE not me”.

To non-members of AIELOC: Whatever position you hold, include colleagues that are AIELOC members who breathe and live the work every day simply by showing up to their institutions. Move beyond “allyship” and engage as an advocate. Advocate for a system of time and financial support for them so they can sit next to you at any table you access. Their presence is
revolutionary – uplift them, and in turn, you will play a part in breaking the cycle of oppression that plagues our ecosystem.

To our AIELOC family: coming back to reality after being together is tough. We know. Until our next family reunion, take care of yourself, stay in community, and reach out. Keep being you.

We love you.

Introducing AIELOC

Have you ever noticed the small AIELOC banner on the school website?

AIELOC started from the story of a woman who was a person of colour. She shared an
anecdote saying she was discouraged from applying for a leadership position at an international
school as her race and country of origin did not match the “expectations”.

The Association of International Educators and Leaders Of Colour (AIELOC) is an
organization that deals with racism, identity, equity, discrimination, justice, diversity and much
more. It was founded by Kevin Simpson in 2017. Would you like to be a part of such an
organization? It is noteworthy that ISD is a school member of this association.

Impact ofAIELOC
I, as an intern of this organization, believe that the meetings, core values, and success
have been exceedingly insightful and inspirational; as it made me take a deeper interest in the
inequity in my school community. It is because of such issues that I, as a teenager, constantly feel
like I don’t belong and have a fear of being judged. This is clearly visible through students
avoiding students and staff of a certain race, ethnicity, background etc. Some may also notice it
by looking at how some students are more privileged than others and are perceived to receive
more opportunities.

As an intern who has been a part of the association for the last 6 months I can assure you
of the fact that, It has impacted my overall thought and learning process in a significantly
positive manner. Every ISD student deserves the opportunity to speak up and express themselves
freely. AIELOC is the perfect place to do so as we meet with various leaders from around the
world and come together to share our experiences.

Considering ISD is one of the first members of AIELOC and thus should exemplify and
implement its core values through its regular practice. The organization deals with some notable
issues such as racism, discirmnation, injustice, gender biases,stereotypes. All of the
aforementioned have been recognized by ISD over the years and students have been actively
spreading the word about these. However, their efforts have fallen short due to other affairs.
Addressing these issues aids the school to provide a significantly better learning environment
resulting in a better sense of belonging for the students. It is hopeful to see that ISD is officially a
member of AIELOC as a small banner of the organization is visible on our official website.
However, when the official ISD website is accessed a small banner of the organization is visible;
this is not of much use as it does not give any background of the organization. Hence, a way to
show affiliation with AIELOC is to dedicate a page on the school blog or jag journal, expanding
on what the association does, and what it can do to help to improve ISD in the long run.

What hasAIELOC accomplished so far?
In an interview , Mr. Simpson tells us that the creation of AIELOC was his biggest
success so far as it grew from a mere Facebook page to a structured organization with various
connections to other schools and communities.

From 2017 to 2022 AIELOC has come a long way and the journey will continue on.
AIELOC plans to continue its expansion for a sustainable future. In the upcoming 5 years, it
envisions to, have a bigger impact on students and educators of color, start numerous programs,
develop enhanced PD sessions, advance in research and advocacy, and feature in the chapter of
a book Mr. Simpson has been working on.

Furthermore, AIELOC is making a huge difference as it organizes well-attended
conferences each year. It has created and/or supports groups of the global majority within
international education (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Middle-East) ; It is a founding member of the
anti-discrimination task-force for international schools; it is supporting schools at achieving
more diverse recruitment and, last but not least, it is supporting the exchange of more diverse
teaching resources in international education.

Taking into account all the success that AIELOC has achieved in just 5 years starting
with only one story; we can most certainly imagine the extent to which it can go if hundreds of
stories were shared, all the while challenging us to create a change.

Joshieta Pal
Intern at AIELOC
IBDP-1 (Grade: 11)