Stephen Dickerson has utilized his 20+ years of public education, corporate and start-up experience, and social justice initiatives to create a space for equity, social justice, and personal growth to live within the individuals and organizations he serves. Growing up in Lynn, MA, he learned the power of diversity and representation firsthand. He holds a B.S. in Psychology from Sacred Heart University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Manhattanville College, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University. As an educational administrator, Stephen has developed a balance between equitable practices, academic rigor, and culturally responsive pedagogy in order to meet the complex needs of today’s learner.
Stephen is currently the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as well as the Director of School-Based Youth Services Programs in a public school district in New Jersey. Adept in Restorative Practices, International Baccalaureate Curriculum, and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, Stephen understands the impact of developing individual growth plans to promote the collective growth of an organization. Stephen has inspired entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their organizations by leveraging the power of diverse perspectives. Through authentic relationships, equitable practices, and meaningful personal and professional development, Stephen empowers others to elevate their organizations by leveraging the power of authentic relationships.
Imagine this… Driving on a local freeway. Beautiful day outside. I had just signed a few more merchants for a fundraiser I was working on for a local high school. It was noon on a Wednesday, not a car in sight. The sun was shining, and there was an air of accomplishment that usually follows a full day’s work. The local radio station was playing their normal “Old School at Noon” mix. I was in the zone. Maybe a little too much in the zone. I had not realized I was pushing my Oldsmobile Alero to its max, over 80 miles an hour. All of a sudden, I heard sirens. There was no question I was in the wrong. I was running a little late for a meeting with a business partner and I was just a little too comfortable with my surroundings. I immediately pulled over. As I veered to the shoulder, I heard the voices of my father, my mother, my Godfather, and the many other people before me reminding me of MY protocol: Windows down to show there is no other threat, seat belt buckled to show I am compliant with driving etiquette (other than the speeding), calm relaxed demeanor, positive attitude, and show full compliance. As the officer exited his car, I straightened the collar of my Polo and gripped the steering wheel at 10:00 and 2:00 so both of my hands were showing. I prepared my biggest smile to, again, show there was no threat. All of a sudden, I heard the officer begin to yell. “Freeze! Don’t you move!” It was a bright sunny day, windows down, I am neatly pressed in my company polo and prepared to be fully compliant. Yet, the officer’s hand was on his weapon.
I have been prepared for this. This was not my first interaction like this, and it would not be my last. However, for a moment in time, I forgot that for some people, my mere presence is a threat. I did my best to calm the officer; to assure him that I was fully compliant and showed no signs of being a threat. Meanwhile, I am running every possible outcome through my mind. At that moment, it was my job to keep the situation calm and under control. This was not the role I signed up for, but the role that was necessary for me to get home safely. The officer, finally convinced that I was no longer a threat, was able to stand down. He took my license and registration and went back to his car. Realizing he may have overreacted, he approached the car with a much calmer tone. He informed me that at that rate of speed, he could have arrested me. Instead, he reduced the speed on my ticket and sent me on my way. I thanked him, regrouped, and proceeded towards my meeting, a much more cautious version of myself.
Some may say that this was an isolated incident – two people that happened to meet in a precarious situation. Unfortunately, this has happened often enough that I tend to rule out coincidence. Being a 6’1” Black male well over 200 lbs and an asset on the football field brought many blessings my way. However, in a world where any one of these attributes creates a presence that threatens some, society has normalized a sense of fear of people of my hue and stature. I see it in the woman gripping her purse as I walk by, the gentleman locking his car door as he sees me, or the steady gaze of a neighbor following me as I walk my dog past their house. There are constant reminders that my presence is a threat to some. At a young age, I had learned to navigate the fears of others in order to exist in this world. Through my work as an educational leader, consultant, and mentor, I strive to reduce the need for the next generation to navigate around the fears of others the way I have.