GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — When we first introduced you to these Guilford County principals, they were trying to help their students have productive conversations about race. Now they’re taking their message to a larger platform in the form of a podcast.
Erik Naglee and Marcus Gause’s friendship started when they were in grad school together.
“Everybody’s introducing what school district they’re in. This guy stands up, he’s from Guilford County, I stand up, I’m from Guilford County. So initially it was like, ‘hm. We can carpool. We’re gonna save some money,'” Naglee said.
Their friendship grew into a brotherhood after a traffic stop. Gause, who is Black, was driving. They were pulled over by a white officer. They both say the interaction was not pleasant.
“The conversation with the officer wasn’t about ‘let me see your license and registration.’ It was more or less about ‘where are y’all going?'” Gause said. “So Erik, mouth of the south was like ‘what do you mean, we’re coming from class?’ I was like, ‘hey friend pipe it down.'”
The clear difference in their experiences with law enforcement sparked one of many serious talks about race they would have over the years. Today they are both principals at Guilford County schools. Gause at Andrews High School and Naglee at Page High school. They were already encouraging their students to have some of these talks with their classmates, but now they’re taking those conversations to the airwaves, hoping to reach a larger audience.
“The safe place that we’ve created is what we’re trying to do with great expectations. So we start on topics of who we are and how it came about because that also leads to some of the experiences. From our interactions with law enforcement to our interactions within our roles as principals and things we’ve seen even in the times when we were getting our education together and the experiences that we had there,” Gause said.
Their podcast is titled Greyt Expectations. They make it clear in the spelling of the name — G-R-E-Y-T — that this is for everybody.
“It’s very purposeful. But obviously, there’s not black and white in this. It should be grey. That includes all races so just great expectations. We have expectations for all to do well in our world and that’s obviously what we try to instill in our young people every day at the schools we lead,” Naglee said.
This idea started during the social justice movement of 2020. But as the memory of that summer slowly fades from the regular news cycle and people’s memories, the two want to make sure people keep talking to each other.
“I always say all the time it takes one big event and then we focus on that for a period of time and then as you say, it tapers off. But there’s got to be different people across our state locally that continue this work and it doesn’t have to take these big events to enact change and to really get the conversation going,” Naglee said.
“The guests that we choose, they come from a whole myriad of backgrounds and I think that’s important because what we’re dealing with is different people, different experiences, that have different life outcomes, but we can change perceptions once we get to know who we’re talking to,” Gause said.
Their experience in education gives them the tools to lead these conversations in a way that is not only entertaining but teaches too.
“Everything that we do really revolves around really three big principles. Can we educate, empower and equip? As educators, having these conversations, I think we can do so in a manner that maybe others don’t have the expertise to be able to do that are not educators,” Gause said.
And while they try to educate others, they’re still learning from one another every day.
“Erik can pick up the phone and call me and say hey so I had this conversation and this is what I said, ‘is that racial? Did I miss something there?’ And we can have that conversation, like ‘yeah don’t ever say that again.’ Or you know ‘I don’t know about that one, I missed that one,'” Gause said.
“We have such a safe place together it’s how we duplicate that and how we coach other people,” Naglee said.
The Greyt Expectations podcast is sponsored by the Guilford Education Alliance. Episodes can be found here.