Glory Edim: Shadow Warrior

Glory Edim is aptly named. Glory is defined as “high renown or honor won by notable achievements.” Her Nigerian parents may have known the destiny of their daughter long before we had the chance to watch it unfold. This month’s Shadow Warrior would likely shun the word warrior and possibly embrace the shadows. She doesn’t seek acclaim but it finds her nonetheless.

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Glory is the founder of Well Read Black Girl, a Brooklyn based book club that has over 20,000 followers worldwide. Its mission is to “increase the visibility of Black women writers and initiate meaningful conversation with readers.” On September 9, 2017, they’ll be hosting their first WRBG Writer’s Conference and Festival. To finance the Conference they began a “All or Nothing” Kickstarter Campaign  in a desire to raise $15,000. The money was raised in just a few days and they’ve established a secondary campaign to reach $25,000 to host a closing celebratory concert. At the time of this writing there are still 26 days left to contribute.

Glory was always a reader, starting at age three. She has a story that parallels one of mine. I would read well past time for bed, taking the shade off a lamp and reading under a blanket so the light wouldn’t give me away. One night I fell asleep and the bulb slowly burned a hole into the mattress until the smell and smoke woke my brother. Far more sensible, Glory used a flashlight for her night reading and therefore didn’t almost burn down the house.

She called her mom a “super library fanatic.” Claiming they “went to the library every two seconds.” She later attended Howard University where she discovered Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde and bell hooks among others. All that she read and the thoughts inspired simply couldn’t be contained within her. She then and now was compelled to share with others.

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She moved to Brooklyn in 2012 and one “victim” of her sharing was her boyfriend. He had created for her a shirt that said, “Well Read Black Girl,” complete with the Latin phrase, “Erudita Puella Africae.” That translates loosely to well-educated African. He also suggested she “start a book club.” Definitely in encouragement, possibly in self-defense. Glory started Well Read Black Girl in August of 2015 and what began as a collection of her New York friends getting together to talk about books became the behemoth it is today. A formidable presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and TinyLetter; she publishes a weekly newsletter and the club physically meets once a month.

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Photo: twitter.com

The group name “Well Read Black Girl” is misleading in that you need not be Black to join and participate. You don’t even need to be a woman as men are welcome as well. You must understand that WRBG is supportive of the works of Black women authors and not the place to hype the works of others. On her website she posts, “You don’t have to be Black to join the book club, however, you should be an ally. Glory pays homage to the “foremothers.” These include Zora, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and bell hooks. She is also the first to provide support to new authors with their first release. The books she chooses to highlight are not based on how they’ll sell but what they bring to the discussion. First and foremost, she’s a reader… that loves to share.

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Photo: cavecanempoets.org

She’s already been proclaimed, The Future of Reading  by Brooklyn Magazine. When interviewed in October of 2016 the concept of a literary festival was spoken of in hopeful whispers. This September it will come to pass. Glory has brought to fruition all she declared less than two years ago and admits to exceeding her own dreams. She’s considering how to respond to requests to start new Chapters of WRBG as far away as London and Los Angeles. Despite all the newfound recognition and acclaim. It’s the monthly meeting s and connections with real people that keep her grounded. That and meeting with and moderating discussions with the Black female authors she initially sought to support. She met author Naomi Jackson at her own book reading and mentioned her book club was reading her book and invited her to come. She came! Since then they’ve had other authors and WRBG has become a destination instead of an afterthought.

When WRBG began, it was just Glory. She was the entire organization and everything came from her. She now has a team. Everything she’s done in life has prepared her for this moment. She served as a creative strategist for more than ten years at startups and cultural institutions including The Webby Awards and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is presently the Publishing Outreach Specialist at Kickstarter where she “helps writers use the platform to build community and find support for their creative endeavors. Looking at what she’s accomplished in the past two years, I’m planning now to see where she’s at two years from now? Today, “The Future of Reading.” Tomorrow… writer, publisher, Queen of the World? #WellReadBlackGirl

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

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Aramis Ayala: Shadow Warrior

Aramis Ayala is fighting for her political life. Newly elected as the State Attorney for Orange-Osceola in Florida covering Orlando and the surrounding area. She defeated incumbent Jeff Ashton, best known for his role as lead prosecutor in the infamous Casey Anthony trial. Ashton had name recognition and the backing of the establishment. Ayala had money.

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Photo: donate.constantcontact.com

She benefited from just under a million dollars in spending from Florida Safety and Justice, a Political Action Committee (PAC) tied to George Soros. Television ads and mailings from the PAC were considered a factor in her surprise victory. I live in the area, received mailings from both candidates and saw her ads. Ayala campaigned on the promises she would prosecute domestic violence cases and ensure racial equality in the State Attorney’s office. Aramis Ayala worked in Ashton’s office as a prosecutor for two years. She worked as a Public Defender in Orange County for eight years prior to that. While not relevant, some would insist you know of her husband’s conviction when young of a drug offense before they met in church.

Her platform focused on more transparency and prosecution of personal crimes like domestic violence. She said she’d bridge the gap between communities who perceived an inequity in justice, particularly the black community, and her office.

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Photo: rabidrepublicanblog.com

In December of 2016. 41-year-old Markeith Loyd was declared the main suspect in the shooting death of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon. Sade’s brother who was also shot and other family members identified Loyd as doing the shooting that took place at Ms. Dixon’s parent’s home. In an earlier incident, Loyd assaulted Dixon during an altercation and bit her. Markeith Loyd fled from the scene and was the subject of a manhunt that would last almost a month.

On January 6, 2017 at 4:00pm, Aramis Ayala was sworn in as the Orange/Osceola State Prosecutor. She was the first African American State Attorney in Florida history. When Aramis ran for office. The Death Penalty did not exist in the State of Florida. It had earlier been declared unconstitutional (twice) and had not been a campaign issue. Ayala would later say, “When I ran for office, I don’t recall death penalty ever coming up as an issue. And it doesn’t surprise me because when I ran for office, death penalty was unconstitutional in the State of Florida. We’ve only gotten a constitutional statute as of March 13th of this year.”

On January 9th, 2017, three days after Ayala assumed office. Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton was killed in an Orlando Walmart parking lot. A citizen approached Clayton saying they thought they had seen Loyd. As Clayton neared Loyd, he shot her. She returned fire, striking him in the chest but he was wearing a bulletproof vest. Ultimately, he shot her four times. One which entered her neck was declared the fatal wound. It entered at a downward angle while Loyd stood over her. He basically executed her after she was already disabled.  A second officer, Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis, died during the search for Markeith Loyd.

The ensuing manhunt was on an entirely different level than when Loyd killed Sade Dixon. His face was plastered all over local television and social media. Rewards were offered up to $100,000. His employer, a niece and different ex-girlfriend were arrested on charges of harboring a fugitive. It was widely discussed among locals that they didn’t expect Loyd would be captured alive given the outrage of the police. On January 17th, Loyd was captured alive despite being heavily armed and wearing body armor. Captured alive but make no mistake they beat his ass, damaging one eye. Video showed officers kicking him after he was down and handcuffed. There was no outrage. He was universally considered scum by black and white alike. No one cared.

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Photo: twitter.com

On January 19th, Loyd had his first court appearance where he indicated he wanted to defend himself. Attempting to tell his version of the original murder. He disputed what he called “the lies” being told by the media. As the hearing ended he told the judge, “Fuck you!” twice. He protested the injuries received during his arrest. There was no community outrage. No one cared.

Markeith Loyd was as reviled a defendant as any that had come through the Orange County Courthouse in some time. On March 16th, Aramis Ayala, after extensive research, announced she would not be seeking the death penalty in any cases coming to her office. Then the gates of hell opened, unleashing its hordes upon her. She received death threats including a noose sent to her office.

Before she decided not to pursue the death penalty in any cases. Ayala had her staff review the newly enacted statute and past cases. She says only then did she make her decision. She said, “I took an oath to support, protect and defend the Constitution and the American Bar Association rules of conduct outline my duties as a prosecutor. My duty is to seek justice, which is fairness, objectivity and decency. I am to seek reform and to improve the administration of justice. I am prohibited from making the severity of my sentences the index of my effectiveness.”

“What has become abundantly clear through this process is while I currently do have discretion to pursue death sentences, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interests of this community, or in the best interest of justice,” she said. “After review and consideration of the new statute, under my administration, I will not be seeking death penalty in cases handled in my office.”

News of the policy leaked to a local television station and there was soon a condemnation from Orlando Police Chief John Mina. Not long after, there were quick responses from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Governor Rick Scott. In a written statement Bondi stated, “State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s decision today sends a dangerous message to residents and visitors of the greater Orlando area — furthermore, it is a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law as a constitutionally elected officer.”

Governor Scott said, “I want to be very clear, Lt. Debra Clayton was executed while she was laying on the ground fighting for her life. She was killed by an evil murderer who did not think twice about senselessly ending her life,” Scott stated. “I completely disagree with State Attorney Ayala’s decision and comments, and I am asking her to recuse herself immediately from this case. She has made it abundantly clear that she will not fight for justice for Lt. Debra Clayton and our law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day.” Governor Scott asked her to recuse herself from the case and she refused. The Governor later removed her from the case, appointing another prosecutor. He later removed her from all 23 potential death penalty cases handled by her office.

She was not immune to criticism from the local black community. Former Judge Belvin Perry (also of Casey Anthony fame) was outraged and has stated he believes Ayala will be removed from office. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demmings agreed with Governor Scott’s decision to take her off the case. Demmings also spoke to the mother of Sade Dixon, Loyd’s first victim who indicated she was upset with the decision to not seek the death penalty but understood the reasons.

There are some things generally accepted as true. Sometimes the wrong person gets convicted, DNA evidence has overturned many cases over the years. Once an inmate is executed, there is no satisfactory resolution. It is also true that race has historically played a role in sentencing and that disparity has led to an inordinate number of black and Hispanic prisoners being executed as opposed to white convicts. This is not because minorities commit more heinous crimes than white people. Studies have shown minorities are more likely to get harsher sentencing and/or the death penalty than whites. Critics say Aramis Ayala didn’t run on a platform advocating repeal of the death penalty. She certainly said she wanted to address the unfairness of the system and reach out to the minorities who perceive systemic injustice.

Aramis has her supporters as well. Several legal experts suggest the Governor doesn’t have the power to remove cases from the legally elected State Attorney. Her lawyer Roy Austin says, “The justice system is supposed to be, and holds itself out to be, independent of political influence. This is one of the clearest cases of an attempt to politicize our justice system. So, I think people nationally who care about the independence of the justice system care about what happens in this case.”

She’s received support from the NAACP, ACLU, the Sentencing Project and Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Some have suggested that Ayala was singled out for her race. Ayala said of the Governor’s action, “What I think about the Governor, what is clear is that he’s attacking the independence of prosecutors. He’s abusing his power and he’s got absolutely no substantive law that I’ve violated.” When asked about justice for the victim’s families, she replied,”There are cases in my office from 1976, 77, when I was two years old that families have been waiting on death sentences. There’s no reason for those families not to have some level of closure.”

On April 11, 2017, Ayala filed a Federal lawsuit against Governor Scott. Constitutional law professor Darren Hutchinson saya she makes two main points. The Governor has diluted the power of the voters of Orange/Osceola County that elected her to the position. It also deprives Ayala of her constitutional right to due process. He said, “She’s an elected official, and that gives her the right to hold that job and perform it fully. Governor Scott has deprived her of that job in an arbitrary way… it’s just because he disagrees with her.”

A recent poll says that 62% of Orange/Osceola citizens would prefer people convicted of first degree murder serve life sentences. The poll was not specific to Markeith Loyd where I suspect those wanting death would poll higher.

Aramis Ayala is a different choice for Shadow Warrior than previous honorees. She fights for what will seem to some as an inconvenient justice. She is correct when she says the death penalty has been and still is unfairly applied. She’s right in that sometimes states get it wrong and kill the wrong person. We could agree that there is no appropriate recompense when a mistake is made. There is much we can agree upon, including that the bulk of the establishment, and much of the public want Markeith Loyd dead for his crimes. One more than the other. When the pregnant ex-girlfriend was killed it was bad. When a police officer was killed, revenge is apparently required.

Florida is not alone in the need for exacting revenge. Oklahoma, Arkansas and others have thrown cruel and unusual punishment out the window. They’ve demonstrated willingness to use unauthorized and untested chemical combinations to kill, possibly breaking laws themselves in their desire for vengeance. Other states have redefined mental disabilities to allow what otherwise would not be permitted. States resist DNA testing that might prove innocence lest they get in the way of a promised execution. One the side of quick executions, even at the risk of getting some wrong is the President, Attorney General, most Governors and in Florida’s case the weight of the State government including the Republican legislature. Aramis Ayala stands mainly alone.

That the law supports Ayala’s right to decide whether to seek the death penalty is clear. Should the citizens that elected her dislike her choices there is a mechanism called an election to remove her from office. There are provisions for recall elections should the next election be too far away. There is no legal apparatus for the Governor to restrict her cases, threaten the offices budget (which he has) of for the Legislature to attempt to remove her. Ayala has taken a stand and is facing the whirlwind. A true warrior!

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Photo: blavity.com

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

Featured Photo: pinterest.com

Previous Warriors:

Dr Crystal A. deGregory

Sevgi Fernandez

The Wilson Academy

Kelly Hurst

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.