Dr. Crystal A. deGregory: Shadow Warrior (Founder of HBCUstory)

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory is a product of one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Fisk University. In full disclosure, I also attended Fisk University and while we weren’t there together and I’ve never met Dr. deGregory. We share an influence by and a love for the late Dr L.M. Collins , for which I will always appreciate her.

“Dr. DE” is a historian. Since she hit the yard at Fisk University in 1999, she was amazed not only its institutional history, but its “community of caring family and staff.” Every HBCU has a history and those who have made it their mission to mold future leaders and contribute to an ongoing legacy. Part of Crystal’s mission is to ensure that these stories be told. More importantly that the role of the HBCU never be minimized historically so that they will be respected and appreciated in the present and the future. She graduated Fisk in 2003 and went on to earn a Masters and PhD from Vanderbilt University, and a separate Masters of Education from Tennessee State University.

In addition to her passion for history. Crystal is active in the support of many causes. She is a Co-Host of Black Docs Radio  who’s tag line is, “More Than a Radio Show, It’s a Movement.” The show focuses on community involvement not limited to discussion but includes finding solutions. The program features a group of women “Doc’s” who use their power for good in support of programs like, Renewal House which provides services for women and families, Docs Donate Socks, and Docs Mentor which provides mentoring services to HBCU students.

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Photo: dinnerwithnerds.com

In 2012, Dr. deGregory founded HBCUstory. Part of its purpose is the “advocacy, initiative, preserving, presenting and promoting inspiring stories of the HBCU communities, past and present, for our future.” Their website currently is running features on Johnnetta B Cole-Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, former Morehouse President-Benjamin E. Mays, Transplant Surgeon-Sherilyn Gordon-Burroughs, and Basketball Coach- Ben Jobe among others.

In addition to telling warm stories about HBCU traditions and feel good anecdotes. They conduct the HBCU Symposium. The last of which was held Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2016 on the campus of Paul Quinn College campus in Dallas, TX. Presented there was scholarly research and case studies documenting the relevancy of and historic and contemporary need for HBCUs. Presenters included Johnnetta B. Cole who has called Dr. deGregory, “young sister leader.”

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Crystal A. deGregory is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, she was named the 2014 HopeDealer of the Year, was a finalist for the 2015 HBCU Awards Alumna of the Year, and a Bishop Michael Eldon School 50th Anniversary Warriors Golden Jubilee honoree. She’s had published an editorial in the New York Times on, “Nashville’s Clandestine Black Schools,” been in many educational publications and written, HBCU Experience – The Book. Rumor has it she’s working on another book which will be awaited with baited breath.

I’ve somehow omitted that she’s proudly Bahamian. She’s truly an Ambassador for her native land when abroad. She often returns home to give back in her unique way. I encourage you to listen to her Grand Bahamian Ted Talk in which she discusses, “The Problem With What We Teach and Tell Young Girls.”  Dr. Crystal A deGregory is a true Shadow Warrior although it’s already debatable how much in the shadows she is. In many circles she’s already a star.

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I’ll end, not with my words but those of another. Friend, mentor and fellow Fiskite, Edie Lee Harris had this to say:

“I met Crystal online as she was about to defend her doctoral dissertation. We share a love for history, she as a professional, me in my armchair. She was at the 85-yard line in the phD program at Vanderbilt and was feeling the strain of it all and needed some encouragement to get to the goal. She really didn’t’ need help, just an ear and a cheerleader, and I was happy to oblige, having survived law school, and feeling her frustration with some who were obstructing her path.
At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude a trail she was blazing a trail at Vandy. It wasn’t until she graduated that I she announced that she was in the first group of AAs to get her Doctorate in History at Vanderbilt. (She’s that kind of modest about what she’s achieved). Since then, I’ve watched her excel in her field across a wide spectrum of endeavors. I’ve witnessed as she’s her grown from a deep-fried doctoral student to a mover and shaker in her field. She brings her boundless energy and passion and analytical skills for her subject to anyone who will lend an ear, eye, or a brain. More than anyone else I know, she fiercely carries that torch lit by the legendary Fisk intellectuals of the past. For her, history is alive, and she has a unique ability to bring it alive for others. I’m proud to call her my friend and I really can’t wait to see what she does next.”
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Each month Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. Don’t miss one by scrolling down and clicking “Follow”. Please share so that we can bring these Warriors and their work out of the shadows! Would love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Featured Photo: HBCUstory.org

Previous Warriors:

Sevgi Fernandez

The Wilson Academy

Kelly Hurst

Shadow Warriors: Returning April 7th

Shadow Warriors will return April 7, 2017 and honor its fourth recipient. On January 7th we honored Sevgi Fernandez the founder of  Together We Stand whose mission is to proactively dismantle racism, discrimination and police brutality through education, advocacy and legislation.

Sevgi Fernandez
Shadow Warrior

On February 7th we featured The Wilson Academy, an amazing private school in Lithonia, GA whose students were unafraid to stand up for something, even at a cost.

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In March, Kelly Hurst was highlighted. Kelly is the Founder and Executive Director of Being Black sat School. Among other things they advocate for equitable schools and challenge government policies to accommodate the diversity of American classrooms.

Kelly Wickham Hurst

On April 7th we’ll return with a new honoree. We are continuing to seek suggestions of people doing the work that may not yet have received national recognition. Others may well be known for other accomplishments but not for what they do behind the scenes. Please make any suggestions in the comments section or E-mail to spiveywilliamf@gmail.com. To not miss a recipient. Please press the “Follow” button on the side bar or from a mobile device, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Happy Anniversary Enigma In Black (And Happy Birthday to Me)

Happy Anniversary! Enigma In Black is one year old today. I confess I started out blogging without any specific goals! I wrote because I had things to say and needed to get them out. I wrote long essays on Facebook before I started this blog. More than a few posts are repackaged writings from before I had this forum.

Along the way, I decided upon a modest goal of 33,333 views by the end of the first year. I passed that early this month. My new goal is to reach 100,000 views by the end of year two. I follow bloggers who have that many views for a single post. Baby steps!

A few random thoughts. I started my blog on my birthday which allows me to keep track of anniversaries. Three people I owe in particular for starting this blog are former Fisk classmates Adrian Williams and Barbara Jackson who never failed to push me saying, “You should start a blog!” Thirdly, fellow blogger Babz Rawls Ivy who literally walked me thru the initial steps and made it impossible to turn back. This obligates them I think to keep reading and keep pushing so that I keep growing and push myself sometimes beyond what is comfortable.

I write about politics, maybe too much but the current environment requires it. I write about race, systemic injustice, education, and more and more… history. Those who do not know their past are indeed doomed to repeat it. In the future, I will be not only making commentary but suggesting ways to make a difference. In the same way that faith without works is dead… so are words without action.

Thank you for those who read almost all of my posts. I know who you are and you are greatly appreciated. Especially those that disagree with my views and are willing to use your words to express another view. I am above neither learning or changing my mind.

If you don’t read anything else, I encourage you to follow my Shadow Warrior series. A new individual/group is recognized each month on the 7th for what they’re doing which may not yet be receiving widespread recognition. Honoree’s so far are:

Sevgi Fernandez

The Wilson Academy

Kelly Wickham Hurst

I’m always looking for new people to highlight and your suggestions will be appreciated.

On to a new year. I have exciting (to me anyway) plans to reach a wider audience and hopefully make a difference. Take care!

William Spivey (Enigma in Black)

Kelly Hurst: Shadow Warrior (Founder and Executive Director: Being Black at School)

Kelly Wickham Hurst makes some people nervous. All her life people have responded to her either by challenging her to reach her obvious potential or resenting her for exceeding their ability to control. As a youth, she was an athlete. Taller than her peers, she was faster than most, stronger than many and played every sport imaginable. Not only was she good, she didn’t mind telling others about her athletic prowess. She was a member of a neighborhood all girls football team. When a boy threw a rock at her sister’s face because he wasn’t allowed to play with them. The whole team chased him through the neighborhood to make him pay for what he did. Her sister came away with a scar near her eye. Kelly came away invigorated from having acted when someone “did something vile to a girl.”

She was almost sidetracked when she became a teen mother. People looked at her differently. Expectations diminished, she had “ruined her life.” Kelly shrunk a little metaphorically. She no longer bragged of accomplishments, she still had goals but kept them to herself. Kelly finished college, and more or less stumbled into her future career.

She didn’t originally want to be a teacher. She was an English literature major and one day drove a friend to a student teaching position. She decided that day what she wanted to do with all her knowledge was “give it back to children.”

It took her a while to begin speaking up in faculty meetings and offering opinions. Early on she was recognized as “brilliant.” A tiny bit of reinforcement brought back the bravery and confidence she had as a girl, withdrawn no more. She became known as, “that opinionated teacher,” and hasn’t held back since.

A district representative asked teachers if they wanted to pursue administration and earn a Master’s degree. Kelly raised her hand. During her second year, she responded to a question as to “why she wanted to be a principal” in this manner. “Leadership found me,” and she “wasn’t going to shy away from it any longer.” She had started down a path that was going to make some people nervous.

Kelly moved into administration in a desire to help more children than she could in the classroom. She also saw how students, particularly those of color were treated by administrators and other teachers. She witnessed the disparity of suspensions and expulsions. The inequitable treatment and offering of resources. She sat on committees, raised her voice, and made people uncomfortable.

Her personnel record was spotless. There were never any formal reprimands. When she made people nervous by pointing out the systemic disparities. They never reprimanded her. They moved her instead, more than once to hopefully still her voice. Instead of quieting her, she got louder as she began to attain a significant online presence. She wrote about education, life, and race. It was when she wrote about race she made some people most uncomfortable.

There were small victories. One year her position was scheduled to be cut and she was told she’d be moved. Magically, her position was not cut and she remained at the school. A year later she learned that parents of color stormed the administration center and demanded she be allowed to remain for their kids. Her blog, Mocha Momma continued to grow and in 2014 she won the Iris Award for “Most Thought Provoking Content.” She started getting speaking engagements. In 2015, she received the Inspire Award given by students in a 4-H Program. Her following grew, yet in her homeland of Springfield, IL. The prophet was without honor.

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Photo: 5 minutesformom.com

By 2016, as a Guidance Dean at a technology magnet school. She ran the school’s Problem Solving Team that brainstormed on how to keep kids from falling through the cracks. She had served on the Curriculum Council and served on the Minority Concerns Council. She attended a Truancy Review Board meeting monthly where she heard the individual cases and couldn’t help but notice the disparate treatment of minority kids. The District sought her input which was duly documented, yet rarely listened. Springfield had been operating under a consent decree regarding their past policies and was very interested in the appearance of being responsive to minority communities. It seemed the appearance alone was sufficient.

As the school year 2016-17 approached. Kelly was being sent to a new position. One where she would have less interaction with students which was her whole reason for choosing her career to begin with. The monetary incentives for staying were high. The frustrations of speaking but not being heard were greater. Newly married, the impact of a significant financial hit made it a family decision. Backed by the knowledge they would survive the transition and she had their full support; she made plans.

Over the years as an educator and blogger with national renown. She had accumulated friends who backed her, none including Kelly herself the exact direction her new venture would take. Her Board Members include Luvvie Ajayi – New York Times Best Selling Author, Denene Milner – New York Times Best Selling Author, Kristen West Savali – Assoc. Editor. Social Justice. Culture. Education. The Root, Dr. Camika Royal – Co-Director, Center for Innovation in Urban Education, Loyola University Maryland, Jose Luis Vilson – Teacher, Author, Activist, and other big hitters. She resigned from her position with the school system on faith without an announced plan. When she resurfaced, she came out with Being Black At School!

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Photo: beingblackatschool.org

Being Black at School has huge goals. They strive to, “utilize data and policy analysis to foster a movement for making schools safer and more equitable for black students.” Their approach is “data driven, grass-roots focused, and concentrated at all the levels of decision making. In the community, in the classroom, and in the statehouse.” Their movement seeks to:

  1. Advocate for equitable schools
  2. Promote learning environments and professional development that embraces multiculturalism
  3. Protect Black students from racially charged discipline measures
  4. Challenge government policies to accommodate the diversity of American classrooms

For 23 years she watcher Black students and other students of colors being marginalized in a public school environment. Instead of being held down and having her voice smothered. Kelly Wickham Hurst stepped up, stepped out on faith, and followed her dream of giving back to children.

Kelly Wickham Hurst is a true Shadow Warrior although I suspect she won’t remain in the shadows much longer. Being Black at School now has a growing staff and is preparing to announce the first several city chapters of Being Black at School. 26 communities responded to their initial appeal. You can support BBAS by Staying In The Know ,or  Joining The Movement, and of course you can  Donate.

Kelly has a three-month-old granddaughter nicknamed “Mugsy” that has stolen her heart. Her Facebook page is filled with Mugsy pictures, reports, and tales of visits. While there might be some inclination to slow down and spend more time with family. Mugsy is yet another reason that Being Black at School must succeed. Kelly was always driven to help children. Now it’s become just a bit more personal.

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Photo: pininterest.com

Kelly is still making some people nervous. She addresses things head on they’d rather not talk about. She’s upsetting to comfort zones and demands change. The withdrawn girl begat the opinionated teacher that begat the confident administrator that begat the Founder and Executive Director of Being Black at School. Kelly Wickham Hurst… Shadow Warrior.

Featured Photo: beingblackatschool.org

Each month Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. Don’t miss one by scrolling down and clicking “Follow”. Please share so that we can bring these Warriors and their work out of the shadows! Would love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Previous Warriors:

Sevgi Fernandez

The Wilson Academy

Returning February 7th: Shadow Warriors

Shadow Warriors will return February 7, 2017 and honor its second recipient. On January 7th we honored Sevgi Fernandez the founder of  Together We Stand whose mission is to proactively dismantle racism, discrimination and police brutality through education, advocacy and legislation.

We’ll be back in February with a new honoree. We are continuing to seek suggestions of people doing the work that may not yet have received national recognition. Others may well be known for other accomplishments but not for what they do behind the scenes. Please make any suggestions in the comments section or E-mail to spiveywilliamf@gmail.com. To not miss a recipient. Please press the “Follow” button on the side bar or from a mobile device, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Shadow Warriors: Returning February 7th (Bonus Photo’s of John Lewis’s Congressional District)

Shadow Warriors will return February 7, 2017 and honor its second recipient. On January 7th we honored Sevgi Fernandez the founder of  Together We Stand whose mission is to proactively dismantle racism, discrimination and police brutality through education, advocacy and legislation.

We’ll be back in February with a new honoree. We are continuing to seek suggestions of people doing the work that may not yet have received national recognition. Others may well be known for other accomplishments but not for what they do behind the scenes. Please make any suggestions in the comments section or E-mail to spiveywilliamf@gmail.com. To not miss a recipient. Please press the “Follow” button on the side bar or from a mobile device, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Until February 7th arrives, were providing some bonus pictures from John Lewis’s Congressional District that Donald Trump describes as,“In horrible shape and falling apart.”

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Photo: redconcertconceirge.com Downtown Atlanta

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Photo: Expedia.com World of Coca Cola

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Photo thek.not.com Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

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Photo: usnews.com Emory University

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Photo: glassdoor.com Morehouse University

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Photo: pinterest.com Spelman College

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Photo: tripadvisor.com Piedmont Park

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Photo: villarealestate.com Buckhead mansion

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Photo: ajc.com Buckhead mansion

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Photo: Atlantablackstar.com Auburn Avenue Research Library

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Photo: twitter.com Curbed Atlanta

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Photo: news.wabe.com Mural of John Lewis on Auburn Avenue

Featured Image: Patch.com

 

Sevgi Fernandez: Shadow Warrior

“My goal is to bring people together across racial, religious and cultural lines to combat the system of racism and oppression in the country. As long as we are divided, our voices and impact are weakened.” Sevgi Fernandez

Sevgi Fernandez is the first “Shadow Warrior” and is the epitome of the type leader Enigma In Black will be recognizing each month. You may not have heard of her yet but she and her not for profit organization, Together We Stand are already making a difference and growing daily. Throughout this article, I will use her own words which serve better than my own.

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Photo: twitter.com

“My name is Sevgi Fernandez, I’m a biracial woman and have spent the better part of the last two decades working as a Coach and Consultant specializing in cross-cultural/interracial families, blended families and Corporate/Executive diversity training. I’d appreciate your adding your voices to the discussions on my new blog. I’m hoping to create a forum where everyone can speak on the issues of racism and racial bias. I hope to challenge people of ALL races, not only to examine the issues we are facing but also to examine themselves and what they individually are bringing to the table.”

Her mother is white, her father black, a former Black Panther. In some respects that shouldn’t matter but her mixed-race heritage is very much a part of who she is. Her father was part of patrols that protected the homes of black families in Boston that moved into white neighborhoods and had their homes firebombed or crosses burned in their yards. Sevgi witnessed another type of racism that her mother faced for marrying a black man. Disapproval and hatred from both races. When her parents separated, she was raised primarily by her mother and grandmother who gave her a new name in lieu of the one her father had given her, Sevgi, which means love. With her mother, she was raised to be white though Carmel skinned and called “Carrie.” When with her father, she was Sevgi again and black. Out of this confusion came a focus and determination to fight racism… together.

 

 

“Together We Stand” started as a Facebook group in the summer of 2015 and has now grown to a national non-profit with 2,300+ members. An all-volunteer effort, she along with her board members and a growing following began getting involved in cases others passed by. She initiated petitions and calls to action. One of the first cases they got involved with was the death of Marcus (Marc) Anthony Merritt Sr, in Leonville, LA. Working with his mother who wanted answers and justice when police ruled his death a suicide. There were no crime scene photos taken, no toxicology reports, no autopsy. The coroner never even saw the body. After deluging authorities with E-mails and calls, they eventually got the body exhumed and an autopsy performed. The report has been completed but Louisiana won’t release the findings, only a woefully incomplete report. The work and the pressure continue. Sevgi conducted a podcast January 4, 2017 toward that effort. A case file will be presented to the Justice Department on January 13, 2017.

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Photo: Diverseworldcoaching.wordpress.com

They’re working with a family in Chicago where a young girl, Madisyn Wordlow, was handcuffed and kept in a school basement for two hours for allegedly stealing something that was hers to begin with. She’s working towards getting charges brought against the security guard and getting therapy for the child. Sevgi Fernandez says and works with some of the names that no one is saying. Last July they organized nationwide vigils spurred by the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille.

In Virginia, 15-year-old Ryan Turk was suspended from school and charged with larceny for taking a 65 cent carton of milk he was entitled to free. The school stood by its School Resource Officer. Sevgi stood by Ryan and his mother!

“I often feel overwhelmed and wonder if what I’m doing/trying to do is really going to make a difference?”

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Yes, Sevgi you are making a difference. Together We Stand is growing now at a pace of a few people a day and is getting involved with efforts all over the country. They’ve teamed with Black Lives Matter and the American Indian Movement in support of various causes. 2017 will see their first Youth Social Justice Center formed in Northern California and they’re about to kick off what will hopefully be a major fundraising effort, “It Stops With Me!”

“We have people from ALL corners of the earth. Differing religions, races, backgrounds. Yet we are ALL here to bring about a revolution. To FINALLY shift this culture of racism and oppression which has defined our lives. If we focus ourselves and our intentions on action, on solutions, we are UNSTOPPABLE!”

There is so much more to say about Sevgi and Together We Stand and no room to say it. She’s married, a mother of three sons that she wants to be able to grow up in a more optimistic world. I haven’t talked about the work she does with Diverse World Coaching  which she founded. I haven’t mentioned she’s a consultant with ARMC Global, helping corporations get it together. Together We Stand sent packages to protesters at Standing Rock. She’s helped feed the hungry. Fought corruption in the San Francisco Police Department. She just keeps going and going!

Check out the Together We Stand Nationbuilder  website. Review their Newsletter, check out and follow their Blog, sign the Petitions, see the work! They’re looking for people to volunteer in various capacities and you can also donate. Become aware of what this Shadow Warrior is doing. Time to end the divisiveness threatening to engulf this nation and stand… together!

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Photo: twitter.com

Each month Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. Don’t miss a single one by scrolling down and clicking “Follow”. Please share so that we can bring these Warriors and their work out of the shadows! Would love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Featured Photo: Togetherwestand.nationbuilder.com