Latinx Series

2 million Twitter impressions later, Syracuse University alumnus continues leading conversation on education equity

Courtesy of José Vilson

José Vilson, founder of EduColor, is fostering dialogue about race, inequality and the American public school system and his Twitter Talks are going viral.

UPDATED: Sept. 12 at 12:42 a.m.

It can be difficult to find an educator who identifies as a social justice warrior — José Vilson is one of the few.

Vilson, a Syracuse University graduate in the Class of 2004, is the founder of EduColor, a nonprofit advocating for educational equity and justice within the United States public school system. Though primarily composed of educators, parents, students, writers and activists, the organization is open to anybody who wants to be part of a dialogue about the country’s education system. Vilson will be back at SU this weekend as part of the annual “Coming Back Together” celebration.

EduColor stems from Vilson’s experience learning and working in New York public schools. Vilson, who identifies as Afro-Latino, said a majority of kids in the New York public education system are people of color, yet educators of color are a minority.

“It’s important to have that representation in the classroom,” he said, referring to his Afro-Latino identity.

That’s why he’s continued teaching in the Washington Heights and Inwood area in New York City despite seeing the turnover of teachers in urban areas. The places some educators pull away from are similar to where Vilson’s roots are. That’s why he goes where he’s needed most, where his presence will make an impact — and he stays there.

“Students need to see that consistency,” he said.

While Vilson acts on his educational activism in the classroom, he also uses EduColor to create a dialogue about the system of public education and outside factors affecting it.

Within a little more than a year, EduColor has pushed the needle to create conversations surrounding race and equity in education — 2,302,980 — to be exact through the #EduColor hashtag.

“There are a handful of things we do really well, and our monthly chats on Twitter are one of them,” Vilson said.

The chats, virtually hosted by EduColor, are meant to open a conversation about an issue relevant to the time. The topic for August, “Allyship in the Wake of Charlottesville,” co-moderated by three educators, prompted questions about how to be a good ally, how allies should go about educating themselves and the sharing of articles.

Within the past 14 months, the hashtag trended about 11 times nationally and once internationally.

“Having these Twitter chats really creates a sense of community, and it’s something that’s accessible,” Vilson said. “Writing 140 characters gives a lot of accessibility to people who don’t want to write big things and just want to get a thought out.”

The Twitter chats are central to EduColor, but they aren’t its only outlet for outreach. Vilson is working on using his platform to boost the message of other activists.

“I want to lift other people as I climb and make them better than me,” he said.

The story has been updated with appropriate style.

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