Black Educators Matter: Project 500 Podcast
By Danielle Moneyham and Brooke Brown
Black Educators Matter is a nonprofit organization designed to create an ecosystem for Black educators globally. Through engagement and podcasting, we will document our stories and harness our collective power to enact change and make excellence equitable.
Brooke Brown, Community Builder
Danielle Moneyham, Interviewer of the People
Black Educators Matter: Project 500 PodcastFeb 23, 2022
“Take educator skill sets into the community to thrive in different ways.”
Educator, K-12, Higher Ed, Author, Executive Leader in Tech Company
"We’re going to co-create together"
In this week’s compelling episode, we speak with Kendra Nalubega-Booker, as she takes us on a transformative journey from Illinois to Africa. Born in Rwanda and raised in Uganda, Kendra faced the impact of colonialism, attending Muslim school, boarding school, day school, and an international school prior to moving to the U.S.. Once in Illinois, her transition included repeating freshman year and navigating English Language Learner (ELL) classes, highlighting the challenges Immigrant families endure while navigating the educational system.
"Bad things happened so that I could be part of the solution."
Kendra's journey unfolds as she shares her challenges in advocating for herself due to her immigrant background. A linguistics major, she researched language assessments in the Black community, recognizing the impact of language in education. Learning what it meant to be Black in the U.S. became a transformative exchange of knowledge for her. Motivated to be part of the solution, Kendra emphasizes the need to change language use in learning, aiming for better opportunities for the next generation. Empathy and understanding form the foundation of her work with students, and she actively advocates for immigrant children and ensuring accessible resources for different immigrant groups. Her book, "Hacking Culturally Inclusive Teaching," explores anti-racist lessons to improve equity in education, delving into intersectionality and prompting critical considerations for educators. Join us in this episode as we highlight Kendra Nalubega-Booker's journey to becoming Dr. Booker.
*Trigger warning, mental health*
“Working with kids gave me purpose.”
Donovan Taylor Hall
Youth Development Specialist
“Kids need people to invest in them so they can learn to invest in themselves.”
Oh the joys of a healing journey. This episode, we are joined by Mr. Donovan Taylor Hall, affectionately known as Donofriend. After a tumultuous educational experience in Virginia, he had a life changing encounter with a Black educator that changed his perspective on what was possible for his life. As he continues to explore who he wants to be and how he wants to show up in the world, he thinks about the experience of Black students and the tools they have in school. Through the creation of his public persona, he hopes to help everyone understand the vision. He wants to be an accessible resource for students, especially kids who struggle that may not have the language or ability to ask for help or support.
“How do you feel? Do you feel good, do you feel safe?”
Thinking about his experience as a positive school climate coordinator, he’s reflecting on some observations on education, and these systems are working as designed, leading to kids feeling bad about themselves. As a non-traditional educator, he has a transformative energy in how he approaches the work, and is careful not to perpetuate harmful beliefs or encourage harmful behaviors on Black students. Join us as he talks about teaching from a place of love, the happy tears he’s cried, and why care is the foundation of learning.
"TSU saved my life."
Computer Science Teacher
“My worry is for those students like me, at predominately white schools…”
#Shoutout to Tennessee State University! This week, Ms. Dionne Cooley, a Computer Science teacher with 16 years of experience, takes us on a walk down memory lane through her educational and career journey. Originating from St. Louis, MO, she experienced the culture shock of being bussed to school, honing her adaptability skills from an early age. Dionne's unique path into education, initially a business administration and marketing major, was influenced by her "Auntie Cousin," to explore the classroom. Labeling herself a "Unicorn," she emphasizes the rarity of Black women teaching tech at the elementary level, echoing the sentiment that she had never seen another Black woman in that role.
"They stick with me."
Dionne passionately addresses critical issues within the education system, from the challenges of students not receiving essential special education services to the business dynamics of charter schools. She raises poignant questions about erasure of Black history in predominantly white schools. Dionne explores the impact of gentrification near HBCUs and advocates for ownership within the Black community, questioning why Black educators aren't coming together to create their own charter schools. Her advocacy reflects a deep commitment to preserving Black history and identity within education. Join us as Ms. Dionne Cooley shares her personal experiences, challenges, and unwavering dedication to transformative education.
Courage is Key
“Every Black child deserves the future representation of their manifestation.”
School Turnaround Strategist, K-12 schools
When Brown Girls Lead - https://www.nadiabennett.com/
"I believe when more Black and Brown educators are given the opportunity to lead, schools in communities of color thrive."
In this impactful episode, we had the privilege of speaking with Nadia Bennett, a dedicated School Turnaround Strategist and the visionary founder of When Brown Girls Lead. Nadia's journey in education is underscored by her unwavering belief in the transformative power of Black and Brown educators. She recognizes that when they are given the opportunity to lead, schools in communities of color flourish, and every Black child deserves to witness the manifestation of their own future. Her inspiration to make a difference in education came from a deeply personal tragedy, the loss of her cousin. She was determined to keep as many Black men out of graveyards and jails as possible, ensuring that the world could see their brilliance. As she aptly puts it, when thinking of the roles Black educators play… "We will go to the ends of the earth for our children."
"Rest, don’t quit.... Stay the course."
Nadia's rich experience as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal, combined with her tenure as the Executive Director of Schools, illustrates her unwavering commitment to impacting education. She's been instrumental in turning around schools in Philadelphia and New Jersey, with the most profound impact coming from the children she served. Nadia highlights the historical significance of Black educators in the broader legacy of Black people, acknowledging the adversity they've faced, from the impact of Brown v. Board of Education to generations of Black educators systematically removed from educating their own communities. Her insights on addressing the opportunity gap versus the achievement gap and the importance of unconscious bias are thought-provoking. Beyond her professional career, attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) has been a source of pride and joy. Join us in this episode as Nadia Bennett shares her incredible journey on her mission to empower Black and Brown educators.
Balanced Black Educator
“I never forgot about my time as a K-12 educator.”
Dr. Siobhan Flowers
Licensed Mental Health Therapist / Higher Ed Professor (Former 7th grade ELA teacher and Lead HS Counselor)
"Black educators are more than just teachers… they are like family."
In this enlightening podcast episode, we had the honor of conversing with Dr. Siobhan Flowers, a Licensed Mental Health Therapist and Higher Ed Professor, who has made it her mission to help Black educators manage and maintain their emotional health and wellness. Dr. Flowers' journey began in the K-12 space, and she never forgot the powerful impact educators can have, especially those who serve as more than just teachers – they become like family. Her experience in a "school within a school" environment, where representation and diversity were lacking, shaped her understanding of the profound influence educators have on students. She recalls her own high school counselor's limitations when it came to college guidance, sparking her passion to bridge the gaps, academically, socially, and emotionally.
"Teachers have more power than they realize."
Dr. Flowers' path led her to establish a therapy and coaching practice centered on mental and emotional wellness, emphasizing the mind/body connection. Her unique background, growing up in a military family and starting her career in journalism, has fueled her distinctive approach to education. Dr. Flowers recognizes the value of a two-year university and holds multiple advanced degrees in communications and counseling. Her advice to Black educators facing challenges teaching a curriculum that omits history is not just to keep history alive but to find innovative ways to ensure its continued significance. Join us in this episode as Dr. Siobhan Flowers shares her insights, her commitment to representation, and her journey of promoting emotional health and wellness in the education space. Her holistic approach to stress management and well-being highlights the power of intentionality in the field of education.
Young Black Scholar
"God, what is my next move? What am I supposed to do?"
Mr. Eugene Banks
Elementary School Math Instructional Coach, 4th Grade Math and Science
"In a matter of moments, you can change the trajectory of a student’s life with the power of your words."
In this episode, we introduce you to the remarkable Mr. Eugene Banks, an educator with a commitment to building connection while teaching. His educational journey was shaped by a lack of representation in textbooks, leading him to believe that white students were academically superior. After overhearing a teacher tell his mother that he could rise to any occasion, he believed her, and it changed his perspective on education and what he could accomplish.
"We're trying to reset the system."
As a career changer who prayed for guidance, Eugene's passion is to repair the trauma and create safe spaces for ALL students to learn. This extends beyond the classroom. He is the visionary founder of Young Black Scholar and the author of "Young Black Boy" and "Young Black Girl" books, works designed to encourage Black and Brown students. His dedication is further exemplified by his nonprofit initiative, "Competitive By Nature," a fusion of fitness and community service activities. Join us in this enlightening episode as we delve into the journey and mission of Mr. Eugene Banks, a tireless educator and advocate for transformative education. For more insights into his impactful work and initiatives, visit YoungBlackScholar.com.
Know Your Worth
“I know what my passion is. I know where I need to be.”
Assistant Principal, Social Science/History Teacher
"Teaching and school can be something a bit different than what we are used to seeing."
In this enlightening podcast episode, we had the pleasure of conversing with Mr. Kendal Davis, an Assistant Principal with a background in Social Science/History. Kendal's journey began in a small Louisiana town where he endured a K-12 experience marked by challenges, including years without math or English teachers. However, these hurdles only fueled his determination to pursue knowledge and make a difference. His educational path led him through two HBCUs, following initial studies at a PWI. His perspective on education was forever changed by a Black history professor who ignited his passion and inspired him to choose a career in teaching.
"Know your worth."
Kendal's wisdom extends beyond the classroom, emphasizing the vital importance of both curriculum and parental dynamics in education. He highlights the current disconnect where students often experience forced assimilation instead of being encouraged to embrace the rich diversity of American culture. Kendal Davis is not just an educator; he is a visionary who is able to bring joy and impact to the experience for his students. He offers insightful advice to educators on day one and has even launched his own tutoring business, demonstrating his unwavering commitment to transforming the world of learning. Kendal is open to collaborating with anyone interested in discussing education, reflecting his deep dedication to improving education for all. Join us in this enlightening episode as Mr. Kendal Davis shares his remarkable journey, creative approach to engagement (#shoutout to the intramural program!), and his unyielding dedication to making a positive impact in education.
Black Teachers Connect
“Why are you not giving yourself a solution?”
Rhia Gibbs, Black Teachers Connect
Educational consultant, Former teacher sociology, criminology
"Become a teacher and conquer the world."
In this week's insightful episode, we sat down with Rhia Gibbs, an accomplished educational consultant with a background in sociology and criminology. Rhia's educational journey was guided by a powerful piece of advice from one of her Black teachers: "Become a teacher and conquer the world." Despite experiencing a rebellious phase, she was reminded that she could do better. Throughout her schooling, Rhia encountered just two Black teachers which underscored her mission to elevate educators.
"Creating a community for Black teachers."
Rhia's organization, Black Teachers Connect, embodies her unwavering goal to impact and empower teachers while fostering a vibrant community. Rhia emphasizes the need to address traumatic incidents in schools, like the unjust strip-search of a teenage girl. Reflecting on George Floyd's global impact, Rhia underscores the importance of acknowledging issues within the UK's own borders. Despite some progress, she recognizes the ongoing struggle for students within the system to envision themselves reaching the pinnacle of success. With only 2% of UK teachers being Black/African/Black Caribbean, Rhia's Black Teachers Connect offers a much-needed network for Black educators—a place to excel, share wisdom, connect, and have fun. Join us in this episode as Rhia Gibbs continues her journey of building a vibrant and empowering community for Black teachers in the UK.
Benches in the Bathroom
Dr. Evisha Ford, LCSW
Founder, Executive Director, Author
"Err on the side of children."
In this week's episode, we had the honor of interviewing Dr. Evisha Ford, a 20-year veteran educator whose wisdom shines through her dedication to students. Dr. Ford's mantra, "Err on the side of children," encapsulates her lifelong commitment to putting students first, especially those with disabilities. She urges us to ask more questions, emphasizing that it's better to have questions than answers. As a social worker, she has honed her ability to discern the environmental factors affecting a person's success, guiding her remarkable journey.
"Creating an organizational culture of love and respect… it’s the vibe."
Dr. Ford's impactful work extends to creating the "I Can Dream Center," a therapeutic school serving students with disabilities, celebrating its 10th-year gala this October. She advocates passionately for self-care among educators, fostering safe spaces for teachers to support vulnerable students. Dr. Ford's episode delves into issues like over-diagnosis and overrepresentation of Black boys in special education spaces, highlighting the evolving landscape of special education. Her story and values inspire us to ask great questions, spark ideas, and cultivate a culture of love and respect in education, ultimately leaving a profound imprint on the lives of students and communities.
Black History Walks
“There have been Black people in the UK at least 2,000 years ago, to Roman times…”
Mr. Tony Warner
Author, Educator, Entrepreneur
“We didn’t learn any African history before slavery, we learned about slavery as if that’s where Black history began.”
What does it mean to bring history to life? Today’s guest Mr. Tony Warner is the author of Black History Walks in London Volume 1 produced by the Black female run publishing house Jacaranda Books. He is also co-author on the GCSE school text book on History from Pearson Education. Tony states facts about history, including the white supremacist educational system in England, the legacy of colonial education in the Caribbean, and the Civil Rights Movements (Black Panthers, Bus Boycott) happening in the UK.
“Find the oldest person in your family and ask them questions…”
In the 22 years since creating Black History Walks, he’s realized the massive deprivation of Black people being educated about their history, and this mass miseducation is perpetuated by colonialism and racism. In spite of the disappointing climate, there is still joy to be found in Saturday Schools, adult students having eye opening moments (check out the “why their history is important” section in his newsletter), and why Black economic independence and Black education independence are critical for the future.
Read our latest book, 'Black History Walks in London Vol 1' HERE
For our Pearson GCSE History school text book click HERE
“We need to see each other.”
Meteorology Professor, Operation Calculus Instructor, Tutor
“Look at the prospects of what math can do for them…”
#Shoutout to South Side Prep! This week, we are joined by Brooke’s high school classmate, Justin Hampton! Justin reflects on his elementary and high school experiences on the south side of Chicago, the culture shock he experienced attending VU (and being one of the few Black students in classes and on the baseball team), and how his affinity for math and meteorology created the conditions for a perfect career.
“I am one of three Black educators in my building…”
After a phone call with his brother, followed by a whirlwind interview process, Justin has spent the last decade in Decatur, IL, embracing the small town life while making an incredible impact with Project Calculus ($11,000,000 in academic based scholarships have been awarded so far). As a nontraditional educator, Justin realizes that the ultimate goal is for students to achieve, and this sometimes gets lost in translation when doing the day to day tasks. He also recognizes the importance of building relationships with students and emphasizing the power of choice and options when discussing college.
Relationships Are Everything
“You can’t be what you can’t see.”
LINK Unlimited Scholars Instructor, Mentor
“My teaching, my impact, my work is really sticking with the students…”
#Shoutout to returning to your roots and pouring into the community that made you, AND to the nontraditional educators! This week, we’re connecting with Mr. Markayle Tolliver, who shares how his K-12 experience in Chicago, growing up in North Lawndale and attending different schools, fueled his passion for education. After graduating with a broadcast journalism background during the Covid-19 pandemic, Markayle explored starting his career in the classroom.
“Finding those small connections help the relationship go a long way...”
Markayle speaks on the power of being from the same neighborhood as his students, and the longstanding impacts of slavery, lack of knowledge and not having identity affirming people on the front lines. Serving as an educator has increased his interest in counseling, as he wants to examine the role that trauma and violence play on the mental health of students and teachers. He also shares advice, highlights the role of mentoring and encourages educators to advocate for themselves.
Leaders and Legends
“Black Educators are the Gold Mine of our community.”
“You have to know the kids to get through…”
From an early age, Tiffany Ford developed a passion for school as she watched her mother work as an educator. Her diverse, well rounded educational experiences prepared her for a career in early education, but a December graduation date steered her into social work. This professional experience opened her eyes to the other side of education, and the birth of her daughter inspired her to open Little Leaders Learning Academy in Philadelphia.
“You learn a lot about yourself when you’re responsible for a large group of people…”
In spite of the disservice of testing and discouraging systems within education, Tiffany is intentional about the culture she creates within her facility. It’s about the power of the village, the joy of award ceremonies and integrating arts into the curriculum. After working through the pandemic, she’s able to share some leadership lessons and encourages training, training, training, and recommends that ALL educators find a mentor.
Love is a Verb
“We have a Black principal, so we need to have this conversation with you.”
Founding Principal, Middle School English, High School Humanities
“Please come teach that here…”
Have you ever heard the phrase that your gifts will make room for you? That’s exactly what happened for Educator Ally Wright, who combined her love of Black Liberation and education as she launched her career (#shoutout to the Black Liberation Through Music course!). In spite of the lack of diversity in her own educational experience, including being the only Black principal in her Los Angeles charter school network, Ally is making room for her students to experience joy and see a role model that looks like them.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about how we have failed Black kids, and how we continue to.”
As the Founding Principal, Ally had the challenge of opening a school during the pandemic. While the state of education is getting attention, there is still reflection to be done, especially about the harm educators unknowingly perpetuate on their students (especially the Black girls!). With the rally cry of “Love is a Verb”, Principal Wright is encouraging educators to radically take care of themselves while creating opportunities to show all students what is possible.
My Very Own Library
“You get an experience…”
Dr. Duane Davis
Executive Director, K-12 Initiatives, University of Chicago, Edpreneur
“Seeing yourself… We are who we waiting for… we all we got.”
With 28 years under his belt and after wearing many different hats, Dr. Duane Davis takes us to school on the nuances and context of the P-20 landscape, school choice, and the grand experiment of education. As a Black male educator that’s taught just about everything, he’s learned the value of time, and the power educators have to make their students feel seen. With deep roots in Chicago, he reflects on doing time at Catholic school, “Teachers for Chicago”, and how being a lover of stories led him into his dream job.
“We put a lot of pressure on schools to be the social safety net…”
“We in trouble…”... But… how did we get here? Dr. Davis breaks down the impact of Brown V. Board of Education, the problematic rhetoric regarding the pandemic, and the critical services that schools provide to the community. In spite of the challenges, Duane finds joy in connecting students with books, celebrating graduations (including his own! #MamaIMadeIt!!), establishing collaborative partnerships and advocating for every single human that walks into the building. He’s Cultivating Genius (one of his recommended texts) and focusing on joy, and is encouraging everybody, but especially Black men in education, to create space to do the same.
Craig D. Butler Scholarship Foundation
“It really was a cathartic, healing tool for me…”
Ms. Khadijah Butler
Nonprofit Founder and President, Author
“I’m going to write a book so people can learn how to do it themselves…”
Khadijah Butler believes in the power of investing in the lives of Black and Brown youth, and does that each day via the Craig D. Butler Scholarship Foundation. With the desire to pay it forward, while giving it back, Khadijah is focused on providing educational opportunities for Black students to escape poverty in Philly.
“Why are these things happening?”
As a Kinesiology major who was not traditionally involved in education, it was the tragic murder of her father that led Khadijah to create the scholarship foundation. Since the January 2020 launch, Khadijah has developed an incredible affinity for educators and school based staff. Moving through the grief and trauma of loss, she speaks on preserving the legacy of her father, providing a solution towards the education gap, and changing the narrative, highlighting Black excellence coming out of Philly.
Teach From DeHart Academy
“... showing every student that they can be great, they can reach their full potential.”
Middle School Teacher, Teach From DeHart Academy Co-Founder / Assistant Dean of Operations
Teach From DeHart Academy
“My mom tells me that I’m blessed with a burden.”
Cam McKennedy has been teaching for 2 years, speaks with the wisdom of a seasoned educator, and is already making an impact on his community through educational entrepreneurship. He shares how his pursuit of basketball led him to meet his mentor, establish a career in middle school math and science, and the lessons he’s translated from the court into the classroom.
“How do I create opportunities for every kid?”
The parents (“He’s a Black teacher!”), the students (“what you taught me” email) and his colleagues have all shared how his presence has impacted their educational experience. His individual emphasis on connectedness and relationships continues as he co-founds Teach From DeHart Academy. Their transformational model focuses on intentionality with students and parents, creating communities of confidence.
A Foundation of Love
“You need to find a way to connect…”
Mr. Jonathan Love
Founder of The Love Institute, Speech Language Pathologist
‘Trust comes from a sense of love…”
What does it mean to embrace the culture of being an African American student? What is academic excellence? Growing up in Chicago, Mr. Jonathan Love was fortunate to experience an elementary school that was the epitome of a village, a diverse high school that influenced his HBCU choice and a legacy of education that prepared him for his calling.
“Always love the kids...”
With over 18 years of experience, Jonathan has observed the lack of resources and identified where the gaps are in urban education. In addition to the disconnect, the shifts and the changing attitudes toward education, he shares his advice to first year educators and learning vs. earning. Education is so much more than brochure talking points, and Mr. Love is helping students find their voices.
Musical Moments: The Remix
Lauren Griffin, Elementary School Music Teacher
Blair Savage, High School Special Education Teacher
“I’m starting to see the bigger picture…”
Talk about a full circle moment! As we kick off Season 2, Blair and Lauren are back! Our very first guests share updates and dig deeper into topics we touched on during their initial BEM visit in February 2020… What led the two Chicago high school bandheads to choose their HBCUs, how do they integrate music with their educational perspective, and what does inclusion mean in their world?
“We are all pioneers in this.”
How has life changed over the past 3 years? How did Covid-19 impact their educational experiences? How has student engagement been impacted? In addition to challenges, they are sharing moments of pure jubilation as they reflect on their experiences in education. It’s Musical Moments, the Remix! Tune in… See what I did there?
Season 2 Teaser: Bonus Blessings
We’re Back! It’s time to record Season 2 of the Project 500 Podcast with Black Educators Matter! This year, Co-Founders Danielle and Brooke join forces on their quest to feature the stories of 500 Black educators, answering the culturally critical question “Why do Black Educators Matter?”
On this Season 2 preview episode, tune in as they talk about the Bonus Blessings of their childhood educational experiences, some of their organizational goals, and what led them to create their nonprofit Black Educators Matter.
“It’s always about the relationships you develop with your students…”
Mr. Willie Watson
Teacher: Middle School, High School, Drama, Creative Writing
This special speaker series is brought to you by the Alpha Theta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, as part of the “Go-to-High School, Go-to-College” initiative. Through this series, we will celebrate the impact and legacy of four Alpha educators.
“I’ve been thinking about how schools are still segregated…”
Let’s give a round of applause for Mr. Willie Watson, who has been educating students for the last 27 YEARS! His Chicago roots and lived experiences influence his approach to building relationships and understanding the socioemotional development of his students. Mr. Watson speaks about the current challenges within the educational system, how we’ve relied on our oppressors to educate us, and the biases adults bring into the classroom.
In spite of the challenges, and with a heart of service, Mr. Watson is unwavering in his commitment to empowering and uplifting as many students as he can during his teaching career. The connection and kinship isn’t only reserved for students in the U.S. either… he’s taken his talents to Guatemala!
Alacrity and Enthusiasm
“We have an opportunity to fulfill our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
Dr. Jon Goodwin
Professor, College of Education
School Psychologist, Licensed Psychologist
This special speaker series is brought to you by the Alpha Theta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, as part of the “Go-to-High School, Go-to-College” initiative. Through this series, we will celebrate the impact and legacy of four Alpha educators.
“We are on the cusp of a new day.”
Church Aunties and Uncles, and all extended members of the village, this one is for you. This week, we are joined by Dr. Jon Goodwin, a Professor and Licensed Psychologist with an incredible vocabulary (seriously, I looked up SEVERAL words during our conversation!). Dr. Goodwin walks us through the educational experiences that shaped him, the trade off when attending a “good school”, and why he was very intentional about choosing Dillard University for undergrad.
His educational journey led him to research the persistent and enduring achievement gap, and he advocates for more diversity within the field (currently, over 70% of practitioners are white women) of school psychology and special education.
“One size does not fit all.”
Dr. Robert (Dr. Bert) Davis
Veterinarian, Biology Teacher, President and CEO of America’s Black Holocaust Museum
This special speaker series is brought to you by the Alpha Theta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, as part of the “Go-to-High School, Go-to-College” initiative. Through this series, we will celebrate the impact and legacy of four Alpha educators.
“How do we change the narrative of Black people in America?”
Education is in his DNA. As the child of a teacher, Dr. Bert Davis had to read books every day, in addition to his assigned school books. This foundation gave him a love of sharing knowledge and the understanding that real education starts at home. As a biology teacher and veterinarian, Dr. Bert speaks about the lightbulb moments that happen when students engage with animals, and the power of attending a HBCU, where you are considered more than a number. Dr. Davis believes that education serves as the key to unlock opportunities, and is a key factor for economic development.
In addition to his role as President and CEO of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, Dr. Davis taught at Tuskegee University as well as Harold Washington College.
“It was the bug that bit me… this is my calling.”
Dr. Carlos Grant
Principal, Science Teacher
Facebook: Bold Leadership Consultants
"I pride myself on all my kids being connected with me… but there is a certain connection that I just can't deny, and I won't deny, when it comes to kids of color."
#Shoutout to the impact that mentors can make on our lives… especially the mentor that tapped a young Carlos Grant on the shoulder and asked him to consider becoming a teacher. Today, we are joined by Dr. Grant, as he reflects on his journey throughout education. He speaks on his dynamic K-12 school experiences, the origin story of his teaching career, and the number one thing that makes his job exciting.
Dr. Grant acknowledges that the system needs to undergo some fundamental changes, but he is inspired by the great educators around him and how they continue to impact the world.
“I thought, working in universities, I was gonna just jump in, changing lives, inspiring students… but what they don’t tell you about is the politics, the hierarchy, and having to deal with the mental health issues of the students, and I found that all so shocking.”
Dr. Shawntia Key
CEO and Founder URep Abroad, Edpreneur
“Black educators matter because it allows us to control our own narratives.”
Shawntia Key was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. She attended public school until 7th grade as a straight A student. When she started 8th grade at a White school, she was said to be academically behind. She continued forward, thanks to the advocacy of her family, but was labeled as having a learning disability for the remainder of her time there, although she made great grades in those classes. In college she continued to earn straight A’s. She attended Hiram College to learn Japanese but it wasn’t offered the year she attended. She rallied up advisors and support around campus to create her own major, International Education. Lesson of the Day: “Don’t take no for an answer. You can always ask.”
“...Media plays a huge part... A lot of times, I’m the first Black person some of these students have ever, ever seen - may ever see - in their lives… And then you have some white people who aren't allies telling them who we are…Who are they going to believe? Who’s there to tell them otherwise?”
Shawntia started her international studies in Japan for a semester, and then China, where she also got her Master’s degree. She was greatly impacted by teaching young students who were excited to learn about her as an American and African American. Her presence as a Black woman was enlightening, appreciated, and the source of intrigue. These experiences inspired her to encourage other Black students to study abroad. Shawntia founded URep Abroad. What started as a YouTube channel evolved into an organization that empowers leaders and educators to support the un- and under-represented voices in education. They provide a space to exchange stories, share resources and gain professional opportunities.
You can learn more about URep Abroad at www.urepabroad.com and URep Abroad on LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also follow Dr. Shawntia Key on LinkedIn.
“I don’t want to sit at everyone’s table. There are somes tables we just need to create for ourselves.”
Edpreneur, Educator, Mentor
www.aieloc.org - Association of International Educators & Leaders of Color
“When I think of why Black Educators matter,... I think about representation, …voice, … those that are challenging a system, the revolutionaries that will call out and call in to whoever’s writing curriculum and doing all of that work.”
Born and raised in Flint, MI, Kevin Simpson is very familiar with the Tale of Two Flints. When his family moved to a white part of town, he experienced more diversity amongst students and was exposed to a plethora of opportunities throughout the city. From an early age, his mom taught him to advocate for himself. He recalls finding out some students with lower scores were enrolled in Algebra. When he went to enroll, a teacher told him that he couldn’t do math. After being exposed to education through a student coordinator position, he went on to double major at Michigan State in Social Policy and Elementary Education. He was later certified to teach math. Well done for someone who can’t do math.
“When we talk about TikTok and Snapchat, are they bringing that data in?... That’s something that should be included in planning. They [the students] should see themselves in plans.”
Kevin is all about representation, exposure and advocacy. When it’s said Black students aren’t doing well in literature, math and science, he wants to know who’s in front of our scholars? Are they seeing themselves reflected in the material? When it’s said there’s a shortage of Black men in education, he wants to know what are their experiences that make them not want to teach? With exposure to the opportunities in international employment, Kevin stepped out, taught and created a business overseas, and has advocated for Black educators around the globe. The Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color is dedicated to amplifying the work and honing in on advocacy, learning and research.
You can learn more about Kevin’s company, KDSL Global, at www.kdslglobal.com, on Twitter @globalkdsl, and on Facebook at KDSL Global.
You can learn more about The Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color at www.aieloc.org and on Facebook at AIELOC.
“We’re in a space where we’re remembering… really going back and seeing our history with a new light. And we’re seeing it not as an oppressive history but a history that is rich.”
Humanities Teacher, IB
“Black Educators matter because we play an important role in empowering, uplifting and setting the example for others to follow.”
Alex Munro grew up in the DC/Maryland area. He is a first generation immigrant, as his family is from Grenada. He grew up in a predominantly White, suburban area with mostly White, female teachers and few Black students in elementary and high school. Alex played college football at HBCU St. Augustine University in North Carolina and came to Chicago for DePaul Law school with the intent to create non-profit organizations for professional athletes centered around education. He worked at a special education summer camp which later created an opportunity for a position in education. Once he got in, he knew that was what he wanted to do.
“I am them and they are me.”
Alex has been in education for 4 1/2 years. He got his Masters in Education and intends to go from an influencer to an active change agent. He appreciates his journey and believes it’s pivotal that Black educators make sure they're always present, no matter where they are in education. They can empathize in a way that other educators cannot. Alex is most positively impacted when former students reach out to him, a high that carries him a long time. Regarding self care, he’s a practicing Buddhist, enjoys reading and is sure to take advantage of his leisure time. He looks at the school year as a marathon and advises new teachers to lean on those who have experience, who understand the ebbs and flows of how things work. Pace yourself, listen and don’t try to do too much.
(A)broad in Education
(A)broad in Education
Black Educators matter because “being educators is in our history.”
Early childhood Educator, Adult Educator, Journalist, Activist and Researcher
“Black teachers are an endangered species and we’re at risk of being eliminated.” - Beverly Cole (1986)
Born and raised in Alton, IL, Tiffany Smith’s humble beginnings started in the projects. When they moved into a house, she recalls a close knit, protected Black community. Later she witnessed White flight, although race wasn’t a prominent factor for her growing up. In fourth grade, she recalls a teacher that took a liking to her and would take her home to play with her daughter. In high school, Tiffany was a regular teenager, but she realized she wanted out of Alton. Northern Illinois University was her ticket out! She didn’t know what she wanted to major in but after babysitting her twin cousins, she realized she loved kids and early education was the way to go.
“Live your life by design and not default.”
From humble beginnings to teaching abroad, Tiffany spent 10 years in early education, teaching in IL, MN, Morocco and Abu Dhabi! She’s now getting her PhD in Organization Development Policy & Development asking how we can keep African American teachers in education. She’s still developing her role in this space but envisions contract work partnering with schools in the recruiting, retention and restoration of Black educators. In her experience abroad, she enjoyed the shared sense of identity amongst the many shades of melanated people, and how they connected because of their differences. She wonders of a future where we don’t have to think about race. Tiffany hosts a podcast, “Abroad in Education”, speaking with African American EdPats about their experiences working internationally.
Check out (A)broad in Education online at abroadineducation.com, Instagram & Twitter Abroad_In_Ed, and Abroad in Education on Facebook.
“The value of having a Black educator… to give you perspective, to sit you down and to set you straight.”
Director of Corporate Engagement at Year Up Chicago
“Educators help shine a spotlight on our native geniuses. And once you find it, it ignites something in you that just catapults you in a way.”
Hailing from Jamaica by way of New Jersey, we speak with Andrea Vaughn. Her career started early. Her mom worked at Wall Street, where she also started working at 16 years old. She was the go-to young professional her friends went to for help, having early exposure that most of them did not. She attended a Catholic high school and didn’t have a single Black educator throughout her education. She recalls her third grade teacher, at a parent-teacher conference, called her retarded. If she didn’t have her mother to advocate for her, also an educator, that would have been disastrous.
“Educators, your job is to prepare them for life, to challenge them and prepare them and motivate them to motivate others.”
Andrea worked in HR and was able to see the disconnect up close and personal. She saw unfair practices and favoritism in the office. Working with 18-24 year old young adults at Year Up, she’s closing the opportunity divide. Rather than focusing on college, she wants to help connect the dots on why the foundational skills are so important. Her superpower is giving students real talk, mentoring them from where they are, and creating a safe space for them to fail, learn and grow. Realizing learning is a lifelong journey, she’s still learning new things about herself and her native geniuses, and makes it her mission to tell anyone she encounters about theirs.
“The achievement gap is artificial.”
Dr. Cardenas Shackelford
K-12 Math Teacher, Site Administrator, District Administrator
“School should be an integration of fun, play, and the academics, you need to have all of them.”
Dr. Cardenas Shackelford has seen both the beauty and the trauma of education, and he’s made it his personal mission to protect and empower the students that he serves. As a child growing up in the Black Panther era, he attended a segregated elementary school and dealt with race riots in middle school, before attending college in Utah on an athletic scholarship. He had NFL dreams and Air Force aspirations, but it was ultimately education that found him.
“Come see me, and I’ll put you in a safe place.”
What does it mean to support every child in the specific ways that they need to be supported (without medication?)? Is it possible to create an environment where every child can have a lightbulb moment? What is the interplay between school funding and achievement, and are we penalizing schools for achieving growth? As a classroom teacher, Dr. Shackelford worked to make math fun and understandable for students, and loves utilizing web based learning platforms. As an administrator, he speaks to the challenges he’s faced during his career, how he continues to produce and rise, in spite of being faced with resistance and set up for failure, and the best compliment he’s received from a teacher. And, in addition to sharing some fatherly advice, he reveals his source for ongoing development: his daughters.
“We have a lot of power as educators.”
Zataya “Shack” Shackelford Walter
English / Humanities Teacher, Founding Educator, Network Administrator, School Leader
“You can’t do this work without being hopeful.”
What can you do to make a greater impact on the communities you serve? Educational Leader Zataya Shackelford Walter, also lovingly known as Shack, has been pursuing the answer to that question for over 21 years. Remembering her own elementary school experience in the Bay Area, she discusses her mothers sacrifice that allowed her to access a quality education and the cost of going from being the smartest kid in the room to the only Black kid in the room. Very early on, Shack recognized that school looked different for kids in different places.
“How am I going to dismantle this system, this very institutional and historical system?”
After beginning her career in education, Shack relocated from California to Chicago, where the segregation of the schools was mind blowing. Her father was a trail blazing educator, and she followed in his footsteps, using education as a form of activism. Having school aged children of her own, embracing the notion of self care for educators, and reflecting on the impact of her decision making are all factors that have influenced her perspective on education, and how she’s working to create spaces that affirm and elevate instead of cause harm or reinforce bias.
In Love With Math
“How can I service these children?”
Middle School Math Teacher
“No matter what, I love myself for who I am.”
As a National Board Certified Teacher with 14 years in the classroom, Adrienne reflects on her open and transparent approach changing school culture and making education more than a checkbox. Although her own elementary school experience in Utah was filled with covert racism and labeling due to dyslexia, she had women who poured into her, making her realize that anything was possible. After an incredibly affirming HBCU experience, Adrienne had the courage to teach in Korea (English and Religion) before beginning her career in middle school math.
“Enjoy the moments that you’re at.”
Adrienne taps into the interests of students to teach math differently, to help kids fall in love with the subject they once hated. As an observer of trends and patterns (#shoutout to the math and science brain!), she challenges her coworkers to be equitable, encourages first year educators to find their person, and wants students to explore EVERY career pathway (“Trades are ok. Hands on work is ok.”).
“It’s time for us to mobilize.”
Elementary School Teacher, Head Start Director
“I love the idea of constantly learning.”
With a Political Science major and Educational Psychology minor, Ms. Mashanda Scott surprised her mentors, family and teachers when she pursued a career in the classroom instead of the courtroom. Now, with over 15 years of experience as an early childhood and elementary school teacher, she is reflecting on the educators who influenced her, the eye-opening inequities that exist within the system, and the crucial moments in her life that inspire her to keep pushing.
“Our country is not designed for people of color, let alone the education system being designed for our babies.”
As a 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Scott speaks to the problematic nature of standardized testing, the Classroom to Prison Pipeline, and how she’s had to combat the demand to teach to the test (including a real life Matilda moment!). After unpacking all of the factors involved in education (teachers, money, curriculum…), she raises an important (yet often overlooked question): where are the kids in the conversation? In spite of the challenges that exist, Mashanda is done complaining and wants to focus on action and mobilization as we continue to love the students, and parents, that we serve.
Keep Your Receipts
“Social justice led me to being an educator.”
“Every child deserves a Black teacher.”
This week, we are joined by Bellwood, Illinois native Ms. Ami Relf, an educator with over 22 years in the classroom. Due to redlining, she grew up in an environment that was incredibly affirming, before experiencing white flight (including a teacher who didn’t support integration) and segregated classrooms in high school. As an educator, she quickly realized that she needed to continue her mother’s legacy of advocacy and activism.
“Education in this country was not set up for us to succeed.”
In spite of the lack of diversity within her own school buildings, Ami recognized that she was not alone. Over the years, she’s formed The Ebony Club, The African American Leadership Team, and the Justice Group, initiatives that highlight the power of numbers and give a voice to her students and colleagues. She is growing and evolving as an educator (she’s been at least 7 different versions!), and has incredible advice for young educators: “Keep your receipts” and also, find a Black mentor!
“We have a system that funds public education that is inequitable.”
Dr. Patricia A. Frazier
“You have to be ready.”
No child should ever be left behind. Over the course of her 35 year career, Dr. Patricia Frazier has recognized the power of connecting with each and every student. Thanks to the guidance of her Economic and Calculus teachers, she realized that she had an aptitude for math - which led her to a career in education that she never would have imagined.
“Integration did not seem to serve us well.”
As a student growing up in Alabama, Dr. Pat attended segregated schools for her entire K-12 experience. In spite of this, she notes the incredible sense of diversity and support that existed, including a strong sense of community, especially among the descendants of the Clotilda. Dr. Frazier speaks about having and not-having, the lack of resources in some school districts, and why it’s important to help students pursue their interests, so that no student is ever left by the wayside.
West Instructional Services
“I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do, and I’m loving it.”
Dr. Wycondia West
1st grade teacher (16 years), Reading Intervention
“You don’t know if you don’t know.”
Dr. Wycondia West began as a 1st Grade Teacher, transitioned into tutoring and after building the confidence to bet on herself, launched West Instructional Services. Over the course of her impressive career, she has shifted from early childhood education, to supporting students for ACT and college readiness, and now providing professional development for the teachers, giving them the tools they need to support all students.
“Do what you can with what you have.”
Although she had a great mix of diverse teachers growing up, a young Wycondia didn’t know the history of her community, and the close connection to Africatown. Dr. West speaks on the freedom she felt after launching her company (although, entrepreneurship ain’t for the faint of heart), connecting the dots for students as they face struggles and a message for entrepreneurial educators. Stay with your gift, find your niche… and remember, “If you can solve a problem, you got a business.”
Trust My Genius
“History and power go hand in hand.”
Dr. ShaDawn Battle
Assistant Professor, Gender and Diversity Studies, Literature, African American Literature, 20th Century, Hip Hop Studies, Critical Race Epistemology
“What do you do with that privilege?”
Get you an educator who can do both. On today’s episode, we are joined by Dr. ShaDawn Battle, a 14 year educator who brilliantly breaks down nuanced topics about race and education. As a Chicagoian based out of Ohio, ShaDawn reflects on the educational experiences that shaped her, how her environment influenced her, and how her approach to the classroom is inspired by cultural icons (RIP Nipsey Hustle).
“We don’t feast with our oppressors.”
One of the things Dr. Battle is most proud of is the mentorship she provides to her students as they learn how to navigate whiteness, and how to reject becoming an agent of the power structure. She emphasizes the role of student activism in making societal change, and recommends American Skin as a must watch film. Her work with the Stained Glass Initiative, as well as her upcoming project Footwork Saved My Life, demonstrate how her authenticity, potential and genius are unlimited. A final note from Dr. Battle - “Don’t ever count Black academics out.” We won’t.
Identity Talk Consulting
“Stay true to the teacher in you.”
Math Teacher, Tutor, Mentor, Founder: Identity Talk Consulting
“If we’re really going to talk about anti-racism, we need to commit to proactive and continuous capacity building.”
Have you ever thought of education as healing work? As an educator for the last 15 years, Mr. Kwame Sarfo-Mensa utilizes his youthful spirit and commitment to the community to actively bring joy into the lives of the children he serves. This week, we learn about his origin story, how he navigated his childhood in Connecticut and Ghana, and how he utilizes his lived experiences to support educators in developing their practice.
“Read the books, but look in the notes section, that's the gateway to building your knowledge.”
Kwame breaks down the state of education in Black America (and schools us on the Saving American History Act of 2020), calls out the testing companies that capitalize off of the white washing of teacher education, and asks “whose voices are being centered?” He also shares lots of resources and recommendations for educators, including James Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers”. He’s trying to dismantle the white supremacist norms which influence the way that educators teach. Once you get informed, that’s when the unlearning starts to happen.
His advice to educators: Rethink pedagogy. Remix teacher education. Learn your teacher identity.
ELA Teacher, Mentor, Paraprofessional, Edpreneur
Instagram and Facebook @RoseCafeChi
“My foundation was set with a Black preschool teacher.”
Roseland, stand up! On today’s episode, we are joined by career changer and edpreneur, Ms. Iesha Malone. Ms. Malone reflects on her educational journey, her where she’s been and the ambitions she has for the future. She shares pertinent advice on remaining authentic while following your passion and purpose (you gotta go inside out), why she feels we are losing in education, why she’s hopeful for the future of her community… #Shoutout to the rose that grew from the concrete.
“Give me these kids.”
Initially unable to pass the Illinois teaching exam, Iesha began her career working with the Department of Children and Family Services. The circumstances she witnessed led her to always advocating for the underdog, because she recognizes that there is always so much more to the story. After connecting with her Mentor about her desire to teach, she accepted a role as a special education classroom assistant, eventually graduating with her masters degree in special education. Ms. Malone speaks on the power of modeling the behavior that you want, demanding the respect that you want and setting the standard.
You will always find Ms. Malone with a book. Meet her at The Rose Cafe.
“Black Educators Matter because we have a gift… stay committed to your gift.”
Speech Language Pathologist
“You have to have a love for research as an educator, and do the research. That knowledge you pass on to the students.”
Beverly Glinsey was born and raised on the south side of Chicago - one of seven girls. Throughout public elementary school she had a mixture of Black and White teachers. However, at her Lutheran high school, she experienced covert racism under the guise of Christianity and there were no Black educators. Combining her creativity and love of acting, she was led to pursue Speech Pathology in college. She worked in the private sector for 10 years but always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She applied as a Speech Assistant, got her Masters and became a Speech Pathologist.
“It’s hard to describe how that child feels when they can do something they weren’t able to do. Their countenance changes. When they see me, they’re ready to go. It’s a game changer. That’s our role. That’s what we do and I love it.”
For the past 16 years Beverly has helped children with communication delays and disorders. The breakthroughs are her highs, when the students are able to make a sound that they couldn’t before. Their self esteem and motivation skyrocket. Many parents are in denial, but for those who do actively participate, their children succeed much faster. Beverly believes the state of Black education is suffering because many Black parents are failing their children, not supporting them and sending them to school ill-equipped from the start. She’s hopeful that increasingly parents will invest in and advocate for their children. She urges new speech pathologists to stay committed to their gift, keep improving, have compassion and have fun.
“How can we make the school a staple in this community?"
Ms. Chivon Ford
Assistant Principal, History Teacher, Dean of Students, Preschool Teacher, Alumni Counselor
“[I] have an educational privilege. How can I check it? How do I use it for good?”
Chivon Ford was born and raised in Chicago. She was privileged to have Black educators throughout elementary school. She enjoyed school along with her “cousin siblings” finding it fun, an escape from home. She ranked number one in her class at Kenmore High School, where she noticed even then the differences in the quality of her IB education from that of her cousins’ regular track within the same building. She planned to go into Law, attending Vanderbilt to be near her cousins at Tennessee State. With little direction and no plan, she majored in Philosophy. From there she started teaching and never turned back.
“ I now understand why you have those teachers - 40 year educators, because the work is hard. There has to be passion and love in it.”
Chivon has experienced dichotomies in the educational system, from schools in the north and south, urban and affluent, and PWI and HBCU. It’s important for Black students to have representation in Black educators and Black administration. A philosopher and self-proclaimed radical, she wonders what can be done to improve the state of Black education and how can we do it on our own.
Black Boy Be You!
“Growing up… it was always a unicorn if one year you had a Black teacher.”
Elementary School Teacher, Author
“We have to break down each layer to get back to the basics”
Latoshia Martin grew up in Miami, FL, in a family of Black educators, so it was a no brainer for her to become a teacher. She majored in Education and got her Masters degree in Early Education. She began teaching at a Tier 1 school - schools with mostly Black and Hispanic children, less funding, more students per classroom, and in low income neighborhoods. Some days, she sat in her car after work to debrief and talk herself through. She learned the importance of choosing the right school for your first year and in finding a support circle.
“Being an author, you can bring up the future with your own personal goals and show that it can be done.”
Now 15 years in the game, Latoshia has seen a lot of change. She’s seen her students grow. She’s also seen more responsibility shifted onto educators with larger class sizes and less funding. She’s taught children who weren’t able to count, read, write nor comprehend at their grade level. As a new author, she’s written a childrens’ book promoting literacy, business acumen, self-love and representation for younger students, entitled “Black Boy Be You!” She’s creating solutions, an example and also a family business. She is a unicorn.
For more information on Latoshia Martin’s book, “Black Boy Be You!”, you can go to her website, www.martinchildrensbooks.com, or find her app, “Black Boy Be You!”, on Google Play.
Short Stories of Black History
“[Being a black educator] gives students a hero they can interact with everyday.”
Mr. Amondre Johnson
2nd Grade, History Teacher, Football Coach, Paraprofessional, Substitute Teacher
Short Stories of Black History Podcast
“[There's] better understanding and compassion between a black teacher and a black student.”
Amondre Johnson grew up in Roanoke, VA. He got his BA in History, played for the NFL and then came back to get a masters in Curriculum & Instruction - where his cohort consisted of 24 white women and him. He was the first black male to graduate from this program! He knew he wanted to be a teacher and against all odds, he worked hard to do just that.
“Black males make up only 2% of the teacher population.”
Although he grew up in a predominantly Black neighborhood, Amondre didn't have a black male teacher until high school. In his time working with black student he's seen how crucial his presence is, from diverting hair disasters and being school dad, to teaching critical thinking skills to second graders. And just like a hero, he doesn't shy away from hard topics & challenges. His podcast, “Short Stories of Black History", was created to further these discussions and embrace our experiences.
For more information, find his podcast on Spotify and Anchor @ Short Stories of Black History, or reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If they take a step, you take a hundred and go get ‘em.”
Mr. Jonas Cleaves
High School Principal, Former Dean of Culture, Former Teacher
“There’s the benefit of being able to have that connection, to have these conversions,… [but] we also have to be mindful and willing to listen.”
Jonas Cleaves was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. He attended Curie High School through a lottery. The diverse environment was a great, new experience where he made great connections. His mother was big on education, wanting him to get a great job and do better for himself, promoting upward mobility. After graduation, he joined the military and pursued a degree in Marketing.
“Every good thing isn’t a God thing.“
Jonas worked in a re-entry program, helping those recently released from prison. A common thread among them was dropping out of school, which appalled him. This righteous indignation fueled him to make a difference in education. Jonas obtained a Master’s in Educational Leadership. Pulling from all his previous experiences, he’s countering the Black male narrative for his students, listening to them and advocating for their success. He's in the trenches with them through the long, bumpy road.
Teachers Are Everything
“Teachers are the backbone of the team.”
Mr. Charles Asiyanbi
Assistant Principal, Social Worker, Elementary School Teacher, Reading Specialist
“Black educators matter because students need to see people who look like them, sound like them, who've had many of the same experiences and understand the challenges and obstacles that they may have to overcome to become successful.”
Charles Asiyanbi was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. Born to Nigerian immigrants, they instilled the importance of education in him early. From Holy Angels Catholic School to Hales, he has been surrounded by supportive, Black educators. When his plans for Law School didn't pan out, he reflected on his time spent at Holy Angels and decided to give education a shot.
“Be flexible, be hungry [reflective and looking for ways to continually improve], and be patient.”
Charles taught a couple years before going back to school to get certified to teach. As a teacher, he believed schools were created for Black students, but now as an administrator, his point of view has changed. He's working on creating a curriculum that supports the needs of Black kids, especially Black boys, who are left behind at higher rates. But this isn't a task he can accomplish alone.
“Anything is possible!” – Kevin Garnett
“Why are we not pushing that more?”
Mr. Barry Southerland
Teacher, Substitute Teacher, Graduate Student
“We’re not one monolithic group. We are a wide-range, diverse group of people with different experiences, but they all lead up to the Black experience.”
Barry Sullivan grew up on the south side of Chicago. He had Black teachers in elementary school but none of them resonated with him. He’s an eccentric, outside-the-box thinker. After out-thinking the class in a discussion, one of Barry’s teachers told him that he was bright but didn’t apply himself. In college, his mentor recommended he apply himself toward ELA, which he’s doing now as a graduate student working toward a Master’s in Education/Secondary English.
“You have to find interesting ways of leveling the playing field – and you have to do it without money sometimes, sadly.”
At a friend’s suggestion, a reluctant, unemployed Barry applied to be a Substitute Teacher. To his surprise, the students accepted him and his reservations about teaching high schoolers went out the door. He's also witnessed the lack of resources and funding that certain neighborhoods receive, compared to the opportunities present at other schools. With diverse interests and their trust, Barry is able to challenge his students to think differently, expose them to alternatives, and tap into their potential, just as his teacher, mentor and friend did for him.
“There's tons of research to support the importance of Black educators, not just for children of color, but for non-children of color as well.”
Jillian Lenae Carew
Instruction Coach, Former School Leader, Principal and Teacher, Life Coach, Sneakerhead
“I was just being me, unapologetic about how I showed up as a Black woman in that space.”
Jillian Carew grew up on the south side of Chicago. Her mom relied on connections and fabrications to get her into better schools than her neighborhood provided, something she questioned even as a child. She went on to major in Math at UIUC but was lured into teaching via the Teach for America program that visited campus.
“Violence is young Black kids going to school for twelve years and receiving six years of education.” – Julian Bond, activist
Jillian began her teaching career in Vegas working mostly with Mexican students learning English. While the new scenery & environment presented challenges, she saw the progress in her students. She knew if they could do it, so could the kids in Chicago. When she returned home, kids gravitated toward her, being able to identify with her familiar swag and authenticity. Jillian spent a lot of time in good faith conforming to a system she thought she could change from within, only to learn speaking up & being herself gave her the same access. Through her company, InnerG UNLMTD, she helps students and parents achieve success authentically.
To stay informed, you can follow both Jillian and InnerG UNLMTD on Facebook and Instagram @JillianLenae and InnerG UNLMTD.
We Are Everywhere
“Teach Black Children Everything”
Ms. Tialyr (Pronounced Ty-lur) Winters
Foreign Language Instructor, Global Traveler
“We are everywhere but yet we don’t know our story. We don’t know our history. We don’t know our place. And I’m here to give it back."
“The world is yours. It’s bigger than Chicago. It’s bigger than the west side. It’s bigger than the south side. It’s bigger than your block. It’s bigger than your friends.”
Hailing from the #WestSide of Chicago, Tialyr Winters began her education at a magnet school. While other students were reciting their family’s heritage, Tialyr was denied her princess tiara and told that she was Nigerian - because aren’t all black people? She went on to learn French and Spanish, get degrees from UIUC in English and French, and then another in Culinary Arts. As she was traveling the world, becoming a formal teacher wasn’t her plan, but every job she had involved kids. And had it not been for a meddling friend, she may have missed her calling.
“They know we’re brilliant so they have to keep us from knowing we’re brilliant.”
Ms. Winters and her high school students didn’t immediately connect. They were shocked that someone who grew up in similar, humble beginnings from Chicago knew multiple languages and traveled the world. They’d soon learn that Black people are everywhere and breaking language barriers was just the beginning. Including geography, sociology and history from the black perspective, her curriculum allowed students to see themselves in other places throughout the world.
Understanding that the mandatory history courses purposefully exclude our story from history, she’s doing her part to give her students an honest, global view.
"Black educators matter because they can be essential role models for Black students, and not just Black students but all races."
Mr. Kevin Blackmon
Band and Chorus Teacher
"Those [HBCU] experiences molded me into who I am today."
Born and raised in Columbus, GA, Kevin Blackmon had many Black teachers throughout elementary and high school. However, retention was always a problem. He began a singing group with his siblings at the age of 5 and joined the band in middle school. In high school, he had to deal with having good grades and struggling with standardized testing (AKA the graduation test). In spite of the challenges, music and teaching were always his goals. He attended Alabama State, majoring in Music Education, joining the marching band and band fraternity. A first generation college student, he wasn't sure of himself but proved to be stronger than he thought.
"[Our] people are learning their history. That's the beautiful thing about our culture, we are learning each day and we're standing up to it [White supremacy] like we're not going to tolerate this…"
Kevin began teaching back home in a rough school. The students tested him, but once they saw he was committed, they began learning and growing in music. As Kevin grew close to his students and tragedy befell one of his drum majors, he questioned if he was in the right profession. Again, he resolved within himself that he was made for this and would be there for the students' highs and lows.
“This is so for me.”
Dr. Felicia Rutledge
Multi-Tiered System of Supports Project Facilitator, Teacher of the Deaf / Hard of Hearing and Teacher of the Deaf-Blind
“I love liberating students to dive into their passions.”
Shoutout to all the Black educators who remained authentic! This week, we are joined by Dr. Felicia Rutledge, an educator who speaks to the power of tapping into the community. After almost dropping out of high school, Felicia shares her story of proving her counselor wrong, changing majors and exploring her interests before finding her way into the deaf education program.
“I will educate an educator in a heartbeat.”
What happens when they change the target? Why do Black educators leave the profession? What is Black Sign Language? Dr. Rutledge is breaking it all down, sharing why she’s passionate about helping educators build their practice, providing personalized professional learning, to tap into their brilliance. She also teaches parents how to advocate for their children, and empowers her scholars to advocate for themselves. Put some respect, and seasoning, on her name!