We are devastated by the loss of our dear friend, supporter and partner, Layla Avila. Layla was a beautiful, passionate, values- and justice-driven leader. As co-founder and CEO of Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), she dedicated herself to creating a much-needed community for leaders of color. Under her leadership, EdLoC has worked to elevate the leadership, voices and influence of people of color in education, and “break through the polarizing divides that have consumed efforts to improve public education.” EdLoC’s work has been a lifeline for me as a Xicana leader. And when Layla called me in 2018 to ask if I would join the EdLoC board, I could not think of a higher honor.
Layla knew the importance for young people to have educators of color in their classrooms, in the principal’s office, in district offices, and in CEO roles – yes, to serve as role models and diversify the experiences and points of view educators bring to schools—but more so because she knew it represented a structural and bold systemic change that would set the stage for our collective liberation. Only two weeks ago, Layla co-presented with us at a Grantmakers for Education convening about our EdLoC Boulder-funded partnership with the state of Massachusetts to create a pipeline of superintendents of color – while more than half of public-school students in the U.S. are students of color, only 18% of our teachers, 20% of principals, and 6% of superintendents are leaders of color.
During that presentation, Layla brought her full self to the virtual room— dressed in a red Mexican embroidered campensina blouse, she spoke her truth and called us to higher levels of action. Per usual, Layla embodied and modeled what she hoped for every woman of color – to be unapologetically us.
We send our love and condolences to Layla’s family, friends, community, and every single person who was touched (and will continue be touched) by her work. If you want to support her family, a GoFundMe campaign has been established to support her children’s college fund, honoring two things that were most important to Layla – family and education.
As Layla would always say, In Lak’Ech – Tú eres mi otro yo.