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Christopher Emdin, PhD at Amplify 2019
Watch: "Christopher Emdin, PhD at Amplify 2019" | 5:00

Fighting Goliath

Dr. Christopher Emdin calls on educators of color to examine their essential role to impact the lives of students of color who are challenged to succeed in an education system not meant for them.

He asked the educators of color gathered at Amplify 2019 to define “systematic.”

A deliberate plan with a fixed goal.

“It is a systematic plan that goes on at schools and universities,” Dr. Christopher Emdin said. “Now, when the system of education was constructed in this country, black and brown young folks were not supposed to be educated at all. If we have a schooling system now that has a fixed plan, and we’ve not redefined it, that means that you are not part of the plan, my G.”

A mainstay at the annual event designed to empower educators of color for student success, Emdin asked them to tap into that space as he spun the tale of David and Goliath – challenging and inspiring them to examine the essential role educators of color play in the lives of their students of color – the Davids within the Goliath of a system.

Emdin posits that David was never outmatched. He had very different tools – and knew that. David achieved success by disrupting the standard – relying not on the same armor and brawn of Goliath, but on his own talent and acumen.

Disrupt the standard

Dr. Christopher Emdin provides a list of books and music for those who want to continue to expand a lens of equity and pedagogy.

“… The young folks in front of you have mastered the art of the slingshot,” Emdin said, “but you are judging them based on their ability to put on the armor of the oppressor. Your instruction is don’t put it on them. Your instruction is, go with them and find out how that slingshot works.”

The five-minute segment of Emdin’s presentation above provides a glimpse into his pedagogy. Emdin is a social critic, public intellectual, science advocate, creator of the #HipHopEd social media movement, and author of the award-winning book, “Urban Science Education for the Hip-hop Generation,” and The New York Times best-seller, “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and the Rest of Ya’ll Too.” It is part of the Foundation’s education strategy to develop, strengthen, and support a strong pipeline of quality teachers and education leaders. Nearly half of our nation’s students are not white, yet less than a quarter of teachers are people of color, according to the American Community Survey. Research continues to show that when a teacher’s race/ethnicity match their students, that academic success and outcomes improve.

Until our education work force has a balance of representation that reflects the students they serve, we will continue to build a strong community, ready to develop and advocate for better practices to recruit, retain, and empower educators of color.


Our Bootstrap Obsession: Let each of us own our success, exhibit the grit and determination it takes to forge our own paths to define and achieve it, but with the recognition that we don’t get there alone.

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