Love was in the air at the 2022 Dr. Effie Hall Jones Memorial Equity Luncheon.
The annual luncheon, held at the AASA national conference, honors Jones, who was a teacher, counselor and school administrator for 15 years and served as an associate executive director at AASA, promoting the interests of minority educators and children.
The speakers this year — which included humanitarian award recipients Luvelle Brown, superintendent in Ithaca, N.Y., and Sharon Adams-Taylor, retired AASA associate executive director — focused on the idea of love. The late Bell Hooks’ quotation that “Love is an action, never simply a feeling” garnered knowing nods and snaps.
Mort Sherman, AASA associate executive director, knowingly asked, “What’s love got to do with it?” when introducing Brown, who shared the idea that to serve effectively one must love unrelentingly, patiently and kindly.
The keynote speaker was State Sen. Raumesh Akbari of Tennessee, who spoke of the love she felt in the luncheon room and of the love for the children served by public schools, especially during the harsh conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. During her address, Akbari empathized with the challenges school leaders face in terms of staffing, inadequate funding, poverty and adverse childhood experiences.
But she also called on school leaders to do more to combat the policies that too often disproportionately impact children of color such as exclusionary discipline and inexperienced teacher placement. She referenced Frederick Douglass and the idea that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
While the luncheon annually recognizes leaders for their work on equity issues, this year’s rendition also celebrated Jones’ mentee. That was Adams-Taylor, who for 30-plus years provided dedicated and diligent service to AASA and its members, a tenure that ended with her retirement on Dec. 31.
Other reminders of Jones’ legacy filled the room as well, including seven women presidents of AASA (six past presidents and AASA’s president-elect). Five Black women superintendents, Ann Levett, Wanda Cook-Robinson, Monica Goldson, Carol Kelley and Sharon Contreras took to the stage in unison to honor Adams-Taylor’s leadership and praise the support she offered women leaders and leaders of color throughout her time at AASA.
The 2022 Dr. Effie H. Jones Memorial Luncheon was held on Feb. 18 in Nashville, Tenn. The luncheon attracted 220 attendees, who gathered to celebrate diversity, equity and the mentors who make a difference in bringing women and Black and brown leadership to schools and school districts.
(Bryan Joffe is director of children’s programs at AASA.)