Written Work

Originally published on the Leadership for Educational Equity blog.

We all know how important it is to take time off to relax and reset — and hopefully you found some time this summer do just that.

But what about taking the time to give back?

Countless LEE members across the nation — from Baltimore to the Bay Area — are finding time to volunteer with local organizations of all stripes dedicated to lifting up their communities.

Volunteering is a great way to give back, grow your leadership and make a difference in the lives of students and your community. If you’re interested in volunteering but don’t know where to begin, we’ve put together a list of organizations and websites that can help you get started on your search. is a great website that matches what you love or care about to a volunteer opportunity. You can find local listings for volunteer opportunities in your community or you can look through virtual listings to find opportunities.

Some of the organizations involved:

University of Chicago Urban Education Institute

Community Help In Music Education (CHIME)

New Haven Education Foundation

Idealist is another great website that lists not only nonprofit jobs and internships, but also posts volunteer opportunities. Their mission serves “to close the gap between intention and action by connecting people, organizations, ideas and resources.”

Some of the organizations involved:


Firm Foundation Leadership Coalition, Inc.

Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service

Leadership for Educational Equity Job Bank

Besides career options, LEE’s Job Bank occasionally has part-time and/or volunteer possibilities. Remember, you must be signed in to review the job bank.

There are many ways one can volunteer their time, it’s just about finding the perfect place that best fits your skills and your passion.

What are some of your favorite organizations to volunteer at? Tell us in the comments below.

Originally published on the Leadership for Educational Equity blog.

Let’s face it: we could all use a few more hours in the day. But 24 hours is all we have. And with a good chunk of those hours devoted to getting some sleep (hopefully!), we often find ourselves desperately trying to do more and more with seemingly less and less time to get things done.

Enter technology (ahh, technology). Turns out there are a lot of great apps out there designed to help us work smarter and boost productivity. Need help getting your things in order? There’s an app for that. Looking to make better use of your time? There’s an app for that, too.

If you’re like most LEE members, you’ve probably got a lot on your plate. So we thought we’d try to help you get the most out of your day by sharing a few apps designed to help you be the most impactful, efficient (and productive) advocate for kids that you can be.


As part of the Communications Team at LEE, we pride ourselves in staying connected. One of our go to apps for productivity is Trello. Our team is located in two different offices, so Trello is a great way to keep the whole team updated on current projects. Easy to use; you can create multiple boards, checklists to keep track of a project’s progress, comments to update your co-workers, attachments for photos and videos, and much more. Since you can add multiple users, it’s a great way to work on projects with your whole team.

Price: Free

Available: iOS, Android


A popular and some would say classic app for productivity, Evernote is a multipurpose app that allows users to create to-do lists, notes and tasks in an organized format. It also easily syncs across all devices and platforms.

Price: Free

Available: iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Nokia


Full allows you to schedule set goals you have throughout your busy day and it will also show you the progress of those goals. For example, if you wanted to try and read more or exercise more, but have failed to do either, Full will let you know through their color-coordinated system that you haven’t met your goal.

Price: $0.99

Available: iOS


Instead of constantly checking Facebook or Twitter for news updates, Feedly provides a way to combine all of your favorite websites into one continuous stream. (A great replacement for the sadly discontinued Google Reader.) You can organize by topic, read the content right on the site and easily share with others.

Price: Free

Available: IOS, Android, Pure Web Interface

Focus Lock

For all of you who can never put your phone down, Focus Lock is an app that blocks all distractions from your phone. This helpful Android App allows you to add the apps you want to be locked out of based on a certain amount of time. You’ll still be able to get phone calls and emails, but there won’t be as many “irrelevant” updates (ex. sports or entertainment news).

Price: Free

Available: Android


Dropbox is a cloud storage and backup system that allows you to store multiple documents for free for the first 2 GB of space. It can be used as a way to keep clutter off of your hard drive or to share documents with multiple users syncing on multiple platforms. There is also a paid Pro version of the app but you can also earn more free space in a variety of other ways.

Good alternative: Google Drive

Price: Free

Available: iOS, Android

Originally published on the Leadership for Educational Equity blog.


Welcome back from what we hope was a relaxing 4th of July holiday!

We hope you had a chance to relax, refresh, and maybe even start digging into your summer reading. But if not, don’t worry — there is still plenty of time left to start.

We’re pretty avid readers at LEE (we’re looking at you, Victoria Ford). But rather than keeping our reading recommendations to ourselves, we thought we’d give you a peek into what’s on our reading lists this summer.

Here it goes…

Neeta Sonalkar, Director, Leadership Development & Design

Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop by Lawrence Lessig

Republic, Lost is the sixth book by Harvard Law professor and free culture activist Lawrence Lessig. Neeta says it “should be required reading for anyone who cares about our democratic process and how it isn’t working for us right now.”

Jazmin Cameron, Data and Program Coordinator

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah’s memoir provides a firsthand account of the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone and the ongoing plight of child soldiers in conflicts worldwide.

Jerry Gonzales, Senior Director, Talent, Learning, Culture

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet is a collection of real life stories about introverts in an “extroverts world” and how we should change our views about introverts, as well as how introverts should change their views on themselves.

Stacey Moore, Director, Regional Impact

Cage-Busting Leadership by Frederick M. Hess

An educator, political scientist and author, Frederick M. Hess has a provocative take on the underlying issues in the education system and how we must talk about what leaders can do, rather than what they can’t.

Victoria Ford, Program Director, Leadership Development & Design

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Set in the 19th Century, the story is about scientist Alma Whittaker and her family, and their trials and tribulations. LEE’s Victoria Ford reflects on how she finds books The Signature of All Things, “I get suggestions from the NYT Review of Books, conversations with friends, lists of hot new books, and all sorts of other places. A dinner with LEE colleagues in Venice Beach last fall resulted in a dozen new books on my list! I don’t remember where The Signature of All Things came from, but I’ve been hearing good things all over the place.”

Elizabeth Spriggs, Vice President, Technology

There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

Journalist, Alex Kotlowitz’s 1991 biography is the powerful account of two remarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect.

Mehreen Nayani, Coordinator, Strategy and Operations

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch is a work of fiction by Tartt which chronicles the life of a teenager who is flung into a world of privilege and wealth, after the loss of his mother and abandonment of his father. He emerges himself into the art to deal with his loneliness and torment of his new classmates.

Bonus Picks:

The Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Share with us on Facebook and Twitter what is on your summer reading list! @LEE_National #LEESummerReading

Chris Brown took a lot of heat during his performance at the 54th Grammys. It has been three years since Brown has been to the annual awards show as a result of his domestic abuse event with his then girlfriend, singer Rihanna. Domestic abuse sadly happens all of the time to all types of people, but because both of these young performers are in the public eye, everyone saw their problems and criticized them both. There’s a love/hate split for Chris Brown in the music community. He still has tons of female fans who have forgiven him for what he did to Rihanna. They’ve forgiven him so much that they went on twitter complaining how Rihanna was stupid and would love for Chris Brown to beat them. Yes you heard that right. It speaks volumes to the self-esteem of some of the young ladies who admire the young singer. But it also shows that they don’t view Rihanna as a victim.

There are also tons of people, male and female, who think Chris Brown is the scum of the earth and should never make a single song again. Yet the same bloggers and twitter folks who complained about the Grammy’s allowance of Brown’s performance, didn’t even scratch the surface of other celebrity men who have been accused of hitting their female significant other. I know in that audience, there are probably countless men who have done the same as Brown, yet haven’t been nearly as criticized as him. Can anyone say Charlie Sheen? The man has been arrested for domestic abuse issues, yet he continued to get praise in the media and no one touched on the subject. Chris Brown being a young black male, who unfortunately   fits that ‘angry black man’ stereotype and has been subjective to more criticism than a lot of white men in that same industry. Not saying we should overlook the fact of what Chris Brown did, but I feel you need to do the same to everyone.

Where do I fall? I used to love Chris Brown and thought he had the potential to be the next big thing, and he still does. After finding out what he did to Rihanna, I was definitely disappointed. However on the same token, I do not know him personally, so why take it personally? If Rihanna has forgiven him, then that’s all that truly matters. So since then I have made the conscious decision to stop supporting Chris Brown.

The Chris Brown conversation is one I usually stay away from. Let’s be honest, most musicians or artists we like can be contradictory to our beliefs. We have to remember no artist is perfect. In all honesty, instead of worrying about Chris Brown we should be concerned with these young ladies who are glamorizing domestic abuse.

Where do you guys fall on the Chris Brown Debate? Do you think Chris Brown should be forgiven? Or do you think he should be blacklisted? Or could you care less?

– See more at:

If you hadn’t heard, PETA was trying to bring a lawsuit against SeaWorld, claiming that their treatment of the whales was similar to being held and treated as slaves. Yup, you read that right. Slaves. But why are we not surprised? This is not the first time PETA has done something outrageous and dare I say, random, to make their point.

Their defense was that the 13th amendment also covers animal rights. The same 13th Amendment that allowed for the ending of slavery in our country and for African Americans to be seen as people and not property.

Wyatt Cenac (remember him from Medicine for Melancholy?) mocked the lawsuit on last Wednesday night’s episode of The Daily Show in an interview with PETA’s Senior Vice President of Communications, Lisa Lange. You can tell throughout the interview, Lange was taking it seriously, even after Cenac bought up these questions:

“I mean, it’s not like you’re just exploiting the history of the enslavement of black people in this country for publicity, right?”

There was a pause by Lange, and she never really answered the question.

But civil rights activist, Elaine Brown, did, and she wasn’t having any of that. “It’s a cruel and racist joke. If there is animal cruelty than it needs to be checked, but animal cruelty does not rise to slavery.”

PETA filed the lawsuit on behalf of the five orcas at SeaWorld in the fall through the U.S. district in San Diego. They felt that the whales “were forcibly taken from their families and natural habitats, are held captive at SeaWorld San Diego and SeaWorld Orlando, denied everything that is natural to them, subjected to artificial insemination or sperm collection to breed performers for Defendants’ shows, and forced to perform, all for Defendants’ profit. As such, Plaintiffs are held in slavery and involuntary servitude.”

The lawsuit was thrown out on Feb. 8 by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Miller. As shown in the video, the PETA spokesperson still believes this was a landmark case and hopes this could be bring more cases to court. Delusional or passionate?  You can decide.

Animals are amazing creatures and should never be abused, but was this taking it too far? To compare trained killer whales in SeaWorld to slavery? Of course it was. To some, in fact, many animals are in better shape at zoos or parks, rather than out in the wild because they’re most likely to be killed by hunters and poachers. At least SeaWorld can give them a safe home and allow a great learning tool for children.

At the end of the day, can these organizations stop comparing everything to slavery? It diminishes and tries to make a mockery of what actually happened in history with foolish incidents like this. Not cool, not thought provoking. Just disrespectful.

– See more at:

Chris Rock bought up a very interesting point this past weekend at the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Why aren’t actors of color given the same range that many white actors get in terms of animation work? We can ask the same question about movies in general, but looking at just animation alone, white voice actors tends to play a vast array of characters no matter what the race is (The Princess and the Frog anyone?).

Here is what Rock said before he presented the award for Best Animated Movie:

 “I love animation because in the world of animation, you can be anything you wanna be. If you’re a fat woman, you can play a skinny princess. If you’re a short, wimpy guy, you can play a tall gladiator. If you’re a white man, you can play an Arabian prince. And if you’re a black man, you can play a donkey or a zebra. You can’t play white? My God!”

Rock’s reference was to him voicing a zebra in the animated movie, Madagascar and Eddie Murphy’s role as Donkey in the Shrek series of course.

Thinking back to all the animated movies I watched as a kid after hearing what he said, I decided to do some research and started looking up the voice actors from some of my favorites. For example, the two lead actors who provided their voice talents to one of my most beloved animated films as a kid, Aladdin, were a white man and a white woman.  Aladdin and Jasmine are supposed to be of Middle Eastern background, so why couldn’t the studio get Middle Eastern actors to voice these characters? Ironically, the woman who sings as Princess Jasmine’s is a woman of color, Lea Salonga-Chien. And even though Jason Weaver (from Smart Guy) was given the chance to sing as young Simba in The Lion King, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (remember him from Home Improvement?) was the voice for the cub a majority of the time (and Matthew Broderick was the adult Simba). Dang…who do you have to kill to get into A Bug’s Life or in the Toy Story franchise!?

I never fully realized how many characters of color were voiced by white actors. For instance, the few black voice over actors (and there really are few) either play the token black character in the film, a sidekick animal (Eddie was also the small dragon Mushu in Mulan) or some other inanimate object. The Princess and the Frog and The Lion King were one of the few times I knew that black actors had the a variety of roles (even if one was a monkey and the James Earl Jones’s Mufasa was killed off early). White voice over actors are given a range of characters to voice of all different backgrounds. With that in mind, you would think that would be an easy lane for someone of color to pick up a j-o-b, but it almost seems like black voice over actors and voice over actors of all backgrounds and color may not actually be needed…

Do you feel what Chris Rock was saying?

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A recent campaign on Facebook called, Who Needs Feminism? has sparked some controversy all over the web. Originally started by 16 women who attend Duke University, they created this campaign to combat the negative images that resonate with people when they hear the world feminism:

“Identify yourself as a feminist today and many people will immediately assume you are man-hating, bra-burning, whiny liberal. Perhaps a certain charming radio talk show host will label you as a “Feminazi” or “S**t.” Even among more moderate crowds, feminism is still seen as too radical, too uncomfortable, or simply unnecessary. Feminism is both misunderstood and denigrated regularly on a broad societal scale.”

Inspired by a Women in the Public Sphere course at Duke University, these 16 young women have decided to fight back and teach people what they believe it truly means to be a feminist.  The idea that many people believe we don’t need feminism anymore is frightening. Women are still degraded and objectified in the media, women are still not given equal pay even though many exceed most men in education, women are still being told what they can and can’t do with their own bodies. Simply put, we’re still getting the short end of the stick.

What I really like about this campaign is that it allows women and men who are usually not the face of feminism to have a voice. Middle class white woman have always been the main vehicle for feminism, which has somewhat excluded women of color, queer identified people, and transgender people.  I also like that men are entering into the conversation, because feminism isn’t about the equality of just women, but men too.

Even now, when you ask people what they think a feminist is, they will most likely think of some radical white woman who doesn’t shave and hates all men. When in actuality, people like me, a 21-year old black female in college, identifies as a feminist/womanist.

As great as feminism is, why do women of color have to create another movement to gain recognition? Why is it that in 2012, we still have to question this? As a young black feminist, I sometimes find myself outside of the conversation. I attend the meetings of my college’s feminism group and the lack of faces that look like mine is staggering. Many women of color either feel feminism isn’t for them and/or feel that the issues that pertain to them don’t get addressed, so they wonder why they need to get involved.

It’s nice to see college students take the initiative to tackle an important issue, I just hope in the future that more young black women will feel confident enough to call themselves feminists.

Do you believe we still need feminism? Does feminism play a part in your life?

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