Every Day, a Thousand Small Acts of Connection

Professional businesswomen talking

As part of her role, Danielle Bryant has been having in-depth conversations and storytelling sessions with BIPOC educators and administrators to learn about their educational pathways, including the obstacles they’ve faced—microaggressions, blatant racism, and inequitable systems—to the community they’ve found or longed for, and the resilience they’ve needed to succeed. Through these many conversations, Danielle has also reflected on her own journey.

Danielle Bryant
Danielle Bryant, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Education

Danielle has had first-hand experience with the stereotype that “women of color are strong.” As she’s had time to reflect on her years in K-12 and higher ed, Danielle has recognized how trauma played a significant role in that “strength.” “I was strong only because I have to be. If the options are to be strong to get through life or not, then being strong is a necessity.” Frustration and anger fueled that strength and fueled her to stand up for others. “I know what they’re going through, and I know what that is. But not everyone is brave or able to stand up for themselves. Being a voice that can advocate for others—that tenacity—drove me.”

Perceived as a “strong black woman,” other identities took the backburner. “Color is more often closer to a life-and-death situation for us. Our society sees us as an active threat.” But Danielle began to feel that constantly forefronting only one part of one’s identity can be challenging. It diminishes the fullness of any person when your other identities don’t get acknowledgment and grace. Understanding the intersection of multiple identities allows you to see a person as a whole. “Building community isn’t just about meeting people with one of your shared identities, but rather connecting to the discrimination or dehumanization more generally,” Danielle said. “Sometimes it’s nice to be a person in multiple groups and be seen because that’s all a part of me—not a thousand different pieces but a human being, the sum of all these different identities.”

As she’s grown older, she’s choosing peace over constant struggle and fighting. “Shifting to a peace mindset has meant I’m a better discerner of my battles.” Danielle chooses battles much more carefully than she did when she was younger because, as she puts it, “I know that I can’t impact everything in the way I want to. I work on changing the system piece by piece.” She encourages others to find pieces they can tear down or change and then help others around them do the same.

Before jumping into equity work, Danielle encourages friends and colleagues to “make things simple.” When confronting the status quo, Danielle recommends asking “why?” at least five times: “Asking why breaks apart the rationale to the point where people have to describe and confront base feelings and base truths. Once there, we realize that all our experiences connect to these basic things. That forces us to keep it simple and strip away the complexities hindering us from taking action. If we’ve all felt pain and hurt, why can’t we empathize and see the full humanity in another person?