How did I come up with this name?
Well, I wanted it to have something to do with teachers. I do not - repeat, DO NOT - plan on being principal consultant for long. I'm too much of a homebody/TV/Facebook body for all that. Racial equity had to be at the forefront. Be real, folks - you can't tell who somebody decides to sleep with just by looking at them, but you sure can decide what race they are, therefore the treatment you think they deserve! Since we know race is seen first, then I gotta keep race as THE work, not a piece of it.
Do we have an acronym yet? T.R.E.? um, no, I know too many dudes named Tre. Tre, my former student, Tre from Boyz N Tha Hood, Tre that used to go to my church, Toothless Tre... Clearly we can't call the bidness TRE. Back to the notepad. Hmm. I needed another letter. I started thinking like the cheat trick for playing Scrabble - look at each group of letters and just start going down the alphabet to see if you can squeeze a word out somehow. TREA? TREB? Ugh. TREC? Nah, I don't need trekkies visiting my page and wasting my stats. TRED? Now that just sounds like I'm just barely hanging on by a string, trying to stay afloat. Or replacing tires.
What about TREE?
Images flooded my heart like the butterflies I had when I first kissed this fine husband of mine. Images of the mossy trees in southern swamps, who whispered soft, furry clues to enslaved black people escaping to their freedom up north of the Mason Dixon line. "Feel the trees at night. Moss grows north." Images of a gnarly, old, grand weeping willow tree, full of stories, storm scars, and twists and turns that added to its beauty and strength. Images of my backyard twin maples, who provide shade in the summer, colors in the fall, and a mess to clean up in the winter. Images of the proverbial tree in the book of Psalms Chapter 1 that is planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth fruit, leaves not withering, and prospering in whatever it does.
But the most vivid image was that of a Baobab tree. This tree grows in the savannas of middle Africa - where the terrain is arid and dry. In fact, the poorer the growing conditions, the stronger the tree. It simply digs its roots deeper. It provides nutrient-dense, fatty fruits for the savanna's inhabitants, homes for birds who burrow, and an oasis of shade. And, it's beautiful. It has everything that a superficial, shallow man would look for - thick trunk... And I will stop there.
I thought of the Baobab as the various children of color that I have had the joy of teaching. Even in some of the poorest conditions created for them, they shine. They thrive. They command rooms. They charm. They laugh. They work. They succeed. I supposed I could match that effort they must expend deepening their roots to circumvent a systemically racist school system, by disrupting the system itself. Jesse Williams said, "Just because we are magic, doesn't mean that we aren't real." Just because our babies CAN thrive in poor conditions made for them, does not mean that they have to, or should. I thought of colleagues of color as my twin maples - how they enter teaching, fired up and ready to make a change, and, as the climate changes, they are quickly jaded by the racial microaggressions imposed on them - and they quit, burn out, or dissolve into a messy pile that sometimes makes it into the media's clutches. I thought of pioneers and role models of color that I've had, and likened them to the majestic weeping willow - standing tall, but with plenty battle scars to tell stories about. TREE stands for Teachers for Racial Equity in Education, but it means something more. It symbolizes my duty to my folks - and other folks who are affected by the racist ills of education - public, private, and otherwise.
"I think I found a name," I told my colleagues...