Thursday, February 18, 2021

Karen Lewis Taught Me | The Jose Vilson

Karen Lewis Taught Me | The Jose Vilson

“José Luis, I’m writing your foreword.”

That’s how it went. My publisher and I were brainstorming names for who would best introduce my first solo project This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education to the world. For what it’s worth, Haymarket Books let me have my vision for the book, but they nudged me in ways I didn’t know I needed. As we approached the editing phase of the book, the publisher saw how the book needed to meet the moment. So one thing lead to another and President Lewis and “Coach” John Lewis sat in [an undisclosed location] with my family (Luz and Alejandro). We made the usual introductions between family, then she stated matter-of-factly that she would have the first word in my book. I looked at Luz, then Alejandro, then Coach, then back to Karen.

I must have giggled a bit and said “Sounds like a done deal.”

By then, I had gotten used to her directness, the warm demander so lauded by Black women education scholars past and present. There I was, an up-and-coming national voice in the movement against the corporatization of public schools facing the local legend turned national hero. Our main order of business took about 30 seconds without much fanfare. Because she said so.

Of course, she also pushed me to do the work of making the book meet her expectations for greatness. I didn’t have plans to let her down even before her provocation, but now I felt the duty not just of the movement at the time, but of ancestors from centuries CONTINUE READING: Karen Lewis Taught Me | The Jose Vilson