CMC South Reflections: Equity & Belonging



Katherine Cheng

Strategic Partnerships, Implementation & Innovation Expert



Black men saved my life...we need to save theirs.


I met some personal heroes of mine this weekend at the CMC math conference and also discovered some new heroes. Robert Berry, John Staley, Kyndall Brown: thank you for the tireless work you have and continue to do to advocate for EQUITY and BELONGING for our students. I have learned that it truly takes grit and patience and nonstop celebration of small wins to continue to battle.


I had a recent reflection that every single one of my mentors and champions in life have been Black men. Dr. Peter Archer (who was the inspiration behind Pixar’s “Soul” movie) was my lifeline in middle school. In a predominantly white and asian suburb, we certainly had some racism show up in middle school towards him. But he was always kind. Always smiling. Always asking me how I was doing. And to be honest, I usually wasn’t well. My parents fought at home. I was under the pressure of saving their face and so I never really answered that I was struggling. But he knew. And he told me something wonderful about me every single day. He was the sole reason I thrived in school and he encouraged me that I could do anything I wanted. He helped me get into Manhattan School of Music's summer program for low income youth where I allowed my passion for music to thrive. He gave me an award when I graduated 8th grade. He opened doors for me. Not because I deserved it. But probably because he saw my potential but also saw how much I needed love, care, kindness, and a father like figure. That’s what he was to me. He is the reason I am here today.


Then when I moved to China, I worked for Groupon under Malcolm Casselle’s leadership. Rest in Peace. When Malcolm passed this year, I felt the weight of his passing because he was also incredibly accomplished yet humble. He never bragged. But he started so many different companies and invested in so many, yet when we were at Groupon he submitted himself under the leadership of others who had way less qualifications than he did. He always cheered me up and encouraged me to keep going. He always made sure I was not burning out and taking care of my needs too. He believed in me.


With all that said. We are doing a horrible job. Even though Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us the blueprints of how to create an equitable society, we assassinated him and have barely moved the needle since. I’m tired. You’re tired. But we can’t stop making waves because we have still made so little progress. And every minute we waste, another Black boy or Black student suffers and is traumatized, or worse, killed.


But we can’t stop. We have to keep the course and keep encouraging one another and keep on protecting our Black boys.


Otherwise who will?


Thank you heroes here for reminding me again the true meaning of having faith in the impossible. Let’s see an end to the evil powers in our lifetime.


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About the Author


Katherine Cheng, aka "KC" (@katherinechengx) is a lover of learners. She wears many hats at Magma Math but her favorite being in the classroom or at a district office, trying to problem solve and brainstorm the best ways to innovatively and imaginatively implement the best digital tools for the best math practices. With over 8 years of experience in the math edtech space, she has a lot to say about what works and what doesn't work. Reach her on LinkedIn or at kat@magmamath.com.

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