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 A tiny bit of reinforcement brought back the bravery and confidence she had as a girl, withdrawn no more.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 Mommacontinued 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.


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!


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 watched 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 new 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.


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.

Originally published March 7, 2017

Shadow Warriors of 2017: End of Year Update

On January 7, 2017, I introduced a feature on my Enigma In Black blog, Shadow Warriors. The intent was to shine a light on those putting in serious work on behalf of their respective causes, that might not have gotten the recognition (yet) they deserve. This year there were eleven individuals or groups I was blessed to have been able to highlight and thought I’d end the year by letting you know what’s been going on with these Warriors since I wrote about them. I’ve appreciated learning about all of them and their work and being able to support them in some small way. If any of you are inclined, I hope you can do the same.

 

Sevgi Fernandez

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Sevgi Fernandez was the first Shadow Warrior and exemplifies the type of person we want to recognize. She said, “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.”

The President of “Together We Stand,” she and they get involved in cases others often pass by. One of those we mentioned in Sevgi Fernandez: Shadow Warrior, was the death of Marcus (Marc) Anthony Merritt in Leonville, LA. According to officials, no crime scene photo’s were taken, no toxicology reports, no autopsy, and the coroner never even saw the body. His death was classified as a suicide. The TWS team and others have made great strides in uncovering new information that will change the narrative. Watch this space!

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In another case involving Ryan Turk, a 15-year old black male was arrested over a 65 cent carton of milk that he was entitled to free. The case was eventually dismissed, in no small part due to the pro bono efforts of Attorney Emmitt Robinson.

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TWS was active in rallies opposing the Alt-Right in Charlottesville, VA and Berkeley, CA and is involved in the planning of a major rally in San Francisco on December 16, 2017. They’re also actively working on the development of a Youth Social Justice Center in Northern California in 2018. Sevgi was the first Shadow Warrior and is still very much in the battle!

 

The Wilson Academy

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When I wrote about The Wilson Academy: Shadow Warriors, in February, the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association (GICAA was threatening to dismiss them from the league, during the State Boy’s Basketball playoffs. Because the Wilson Academy Warriors chose to kneel during the National Anthem in response to police shootings and the lack of justice when it came to people who looked like them. After a tremendous response from parents, friends, and strangers. The League relented and let Wilson Academy play. They lost their next game but won a battle the students will learn from forever.

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Later in the spring, the school took the trip they were raising money for to Capetown, South Africa where they visited Nelson Mandella’s first and last home, and the jail cell where he spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.

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During the summer, the league revised the contract with the schools, requiring them to stand for the National Anthem. Wilson Academy thought they might have to pay a fine which they were prepared to pay but later learned if they violated the prohibition, they would be kicked out of the league. This message was sent to Wilson Academy just before a road game which happened in Alabama. The Warriors and their cheerleaders did what they have done for the last several months. They took a knee. They also won the game.

 

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Prior to the next game, the Commissioner called the headmaster, Byron Wilson, prepared to kick Wilson Academy out of the league. For whatever reason, the Commissioner changed his mind, allowing them to stay in the locker room during the Anthem which they were always willing to do.

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At the time of this writing, The Wilson Academy put out a call for all alumni to attend the next basketball game wearing all black. It wasn’t a protest, they were simply playing a tough opponent and wanted all the support they could get. But you never know because… Wilson Academy.

 

Kelly Hurst

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Kelly Hurst: Shadow Warrior, is first and foremost an educator. When asked why she wanted to be an administrator, she responded, “Leadership found me, and I wasn’t going to shy away from it any longer.” She spoke out when students, in particular students of color, were receiving disparate treatment in the schools. Over time Kelly has developed a significant online presence, becoming nationally known as an educator and blogger. When her School Board tried to move her to a position where she could help fewer students. She stepped out on faith, leaving what others viewed as a comfortable job and started Being Black At School, so she could do more. She would not be silenced!

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Since the profile piece on Kelly was written, she was awarded cohort status for the Advancing the Development of Minority Entrepreneurship in Illinois (ADME). She’s one of 35 applicants accepted into the program, developed to strengthen start-up and small businesses from underrepresented communities.

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Immediately after the founding of BBAS, Donald Trump was elected President and Betsy DeVos was soon installed as Secretary of Education. This has made the need for BBAS ever greater, while traditional funding sources are drying up. More than ever they could use your support. Please Donate Now, your children’s future may depend on it.

 

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

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In looking for a way, to sum up why “Dr. DE” was chosen for a Shadow Warrior in a single paragraph, I gave up. She’s a historian, educator, been a radio-show host and supported many great causes. Three things that had to be mentioned is her founding in 2012 of HBCUstory, her Bahamian heritage and her love of alma mater, Fisk University.

Since writing about Dr. deGregory in April, she’s been named the inaugural Director of the Atwood Institute for Race, Education and the Democratic Ideal at Kentucky State University. She also serves there as an Associate Professor of History.

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She’s been published in the New York Times, USA Today, and The Tennessean among others. She wrote an epilogue for, The Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, written chapters in several books and reportedly has her own book in the works.

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Named, “Young, sister, leader” by Spelman College and Bennett College for Women President Emerita Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole. Dr. deGregory has already been recognized as someone on the move and the only direction she knows is up.

 

Aramis Ayala

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We were introduced to Aramis Ayala: Shadow Warrior, in May when she was in the middle of a struggle with Florida Governor Rick Scott, and many in law enforcement and the State Legislature over her decision to refuse to ask for the death penalty in her role as Orange/Osceola County State Attorney.

Newly elected, she defeated Jeff Ashton, one of the losing Prosecutors in the Casey Anthony trial. When she ran for office, the death penalty did not exist in Florida, having been declared unconstitutional. Approximately two months after she assumed office, a constitutional death penalty statute was enacted. Shortly afterward, Ayala announced she would not request it in any case because it was unfair. She said, “What has become abundantly clear through this process is while I currently do have the 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 added, “After review and consideration of the new statute, under my administration, I will not be seeking the death penalty in cases handled in my office.”

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All hell broke loose, especially because the first case where the death penalty was to be considered involved an alleged killer of a pregnant woman and female police officer in separate incidents. All involved were black. The Governor removed all potential death penalty cases from Aramis and appointed another prosecutor to oversee them, one not elected by the voters of Orange and Osceola counties. Aramis Ayala filed a lawsuit against the Governor which she ultimately lost. She agreed to institute a panel that would consider death penalty cases and make a recommendation which she would agree to follow.

Her struggle with the Governor continues as the panel recommended death for a recent case but a filing deadline was missed by the State Attorney’s office making the ability to seek the death penalty in that case unclear. Ayala blamed the Governor who had indicated he wanted to review all death penalty cases from the jurisdiction. Governor Scott has demanded records from the State Attorney’s panel, including meeting times and dates. To be continued…

 

Glory Edim

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Glory is the founder of Well Read Black Girl,  a Brooklynn based book club with over 25,000 members worldwide. When we wrote about her in June.She was preparing to host the first annual WRBG Writer’s Conference and Festival. WRBG had a Kickstarter campaign where they sought $15,000 and raised significantly more in just a few days, enough to host a celebratory concert. This is what I wrote then, Glory Edim: Shadow Warrior.

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WRBG went on to hold that literary conference and concert. The culmination of a celebration of black female writers and readers. WRBG continues to grow both its online presence along with in-person meetings where black female authors across the diaspora are elevated.

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George (Geo) Cooper

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A high percentage of the profile, George (GEO) Cooper: Shadow Warrior, didn’t come from research and interviews. I just spoke from the heart about the man I watched arrive at Fisk University with the big ‘fro, big smile, and serious focus. I didn’t know then of his musical history as a teenager and participation in the All-City Choir in Chicago. I was aware he was a Jubilee Singer at Fisk but I knew him better from talking trash about sports and being friends with literally everybody. There were those who settled into cliques if they pledged a fraternity or sorority but GEO crossed every line counting everyone the same.

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Being Facebook friends with George gave me a chance to watch him continually impart history about Fisk, African-American history and the Jubilee Singers. One of his sons was a big winner on the Jeopardy show and I knew he got it from his daddy. As a musician, George has performed with legends like the Isley Brothers, Peabo Bryson, and Natalie Cole yet carved out a niche for himself on piano whether recording instructional video’s on Chopin’s etudes or playing with Chaka Khan. Fiskites won’t forgive me if I don’t mention the group Autumn of which George was a founding member.

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He formed the Ella Sheppard School of Music in his native Chicago and serves as Minister of Music for Congregational Church of Park Manor and Assistant Minister of Music for St.Mark AME Zion.

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Since I wrote about George in July, he helped pull off the successful Fisk Jubilee Singers Alumni Heritage Awards where they honored Patti Austin and made her an honorary Jubilee singer, along with posthumously honoring Mahalia Jackson and Sarah Vaughn. George serves as President of the FJSA which he will do well as he does all things. He made the time to accompany singer Amber Nicole Johnson in her debut concert and is currently working on a Martin Luther King Celebration at his church in January. I’m just proud to know him.

 

Zain Jacobs

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Zain Jacobs if fiercely passionate about education. Her own education, her children’s, and thankfully your children as well. I don’t know where she finds the time to do all she does. She founded the Blooming Lotuses Rites of Passage Group and has maintained some iteration of it for several years. Some of the young women she mentored are now grown, some married with children of their own. All of them went on to college, none had teen pregnancies and most are still in touch on a regular basis.

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She launched, P.I.L.L.A.R.S. 4 Success, LLC which stands for Power In Life Learning And Resilience Strategies.  Pillars offers organizational support, community education such as G.E.D./Post Secondary Prep, parenting support and mentoring.  She provides workshops on Cultural Competence. Zain works with trafficked youth, addicted youth, many on probation or otherwise involved with the justice system.

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Since her profile in Zain Jacobs: Shadow Warrior, Zain has been writing, speaking, and planning her next move. One of her children graduates in May and her “secret plan” goes into effect the next day. Whatever she does next, she’ll give it her all.

 

The Dreamers (DACA Recipients)

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The Dreamers then as now, are in a precarious position where they have declared who they are, in a country where some want them gone. When we wrote about them in September, The Dreamers (DACA Recipients): Shadow Warriors, Donald Trump had just announced the formal end of DACA while suggesting Congress could address the issue before a 6-month deadline when DACA would be dead.

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In the three months since then, Congress has done nothing. Democrats are trying to include a plan to save DACA as part of a spending bill to keep the government open while Republicans want to wait until the last moment, seemingly desiring to appease their base and let DACA go away.  A two-week extension was just signed to keep things open, Nancy Pelosi says they “won’t leave town without a deal on DACA.” The question is, will Democrats stay strong and risk the government being shut down, or will they cave in? To be continued…

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Harry T Moore

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The story of Harry T Moore: Shadow Warrior, was not known to many of my readers. Even those familiar with the Civil Rights movement. Harry T Moore was active in the NAACP and worked with Thurgood Marshall to help get justice for the “Groveland Boy’s” which many speculate led to his death. Moore and his wife Harriette were killed in a Christmas night bombing in their home in 1951.

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Learn about his legacy by visiting the Harry T and Harriette V Moore Cultural Center in Brevard County, FL or attend the Annual NAACP Florida State Conference annual memorial event. Dates to be included later.

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Babz Rawls Ivy

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It’s perhaps unfair to write Babz Rawls Ivy: Shadow Warrior, in November and come back in December and ask, “what have you done for me lately?” Yet Babz being Babz is always up to something and this month is no different.

As Editor-in-Chief of the Inner-City News with the largest circulation of any Black newspaper in New England, host of the Love Babz Love TalkRadio Show, head of both the Seed & Source Literary Group and Earth Seed Publishing. You’d think she’d be too busy to take the time she does, encouraging others, pushing them to reach their goals, all the while pursuing her own.

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Since November she’s launched the Criminal Justice Insider radio show on WNHH Community Radio. She and her co-hosts discuss all aspects of the justice system, including the effects of incarceration and the challenges faced by ex-offenders. She can’t possibly do everything in a 24-hour day and yet she does. Sleep is apparently overrated!

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Shadow Warriors will be back in January 2018, introducing a new set of Shadow Warriors for your consideration. As always, I encourage any suggestions of deserving candidates that their work might be better known. Follow this page so as not to miss any future “Warriors” and please share so that others might know them as well. Peace!

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.