George Cooper (GEO) Shadow Warrior


George Cooper is the first “Shadow Warrior” I’ve personally known before writing about. We attended Fisk University together and knowing his history is important to knowing George. In those days, Fisk had just over 2,000 students. There were those hardly anybody knew and those that knew everybody. George was in the latter category. He had a big afro, was always smiling and was deadly serious about his music, the Jubilee Singers and Black history.

Part of that history is the story of Ella Shepherd. She was born into slavery on Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Plantation in Nashville, TN in 1851. While she was young, her father was able to buy his own freedom for $1,800. His former master broke a promise to let him buy Ella. It took the threat of her mother saying she’d “take Ella and jump into the river than see her a slave” before she was allowed to be sold to her father for $350. Her mother, still in slavery was taken to Mississippi.

After marrying another slave woman whose freedom he purchased. Simon Sheppard took his family from Nashville, TN to Cincinnati, OH after a race riot in 1856 made it impossible to pay his debts. His family could be seized as assets and sold back into slavery. In Ohio, Ella attended a colored school and began studying music. She was a prodigy and soon had her own piano. A rarity for black children.

After Simon died in 1866, Ella helped support the family by performing at local functions. She was seen by a prominent white music instructor who agreed to provide her advanced training. Ella was his only student of color, entering thru the back door between the hours of 9 and 10 PM.

In 1868, Ella accepted a teaching position at a school near Nashville in Gallatin, TN. She took her meager earnings and entered the “Fisk Free School for Blacks”, which in 1866 became Fisk University. She became the music teacher at Fisk. Becoming the only Black staff member at the school until 1875.

Because of financial difficulties at the school. Fisk’s Treasurer organized a bunch of students to sing for money. After some success locally, George White was given permission to form a group and go on National Tour in 1871. Ella was one of nine students selected for the original Jubilee Singers where she also served as pianist and assistant trainer.

The first tour raised $20,000 which purchased land for the new campus. The Jubilee Singers was often the only source of revenue for the school and their concert tour was extended to seven years. They raised over $150,000 in America and Europe, financing the construction of Jubilee Hall which still serves as a women’s dormitory. Sheppard was the backbone of the Jubilee Singers and later began lecturing throughout the South forming Jubilee choirs. She later found her mother and a sister and brought them to Nashville.


George would not mind that I used part of his story to tell that of Ella Sheppard. Her story is intertwined with his. George Cooper was a Jubilee Singer while at Fisk and toured to some of the same locations as Ella. I hesitated to use the word “was” as George certainly “is” a Jubilee Singer as that’s not something that ever left his soul. He’s active in the Jubilee Singers Alumni (JSA) and part of the JSA Advisory Board. The legacy of Ella Sheppard is strong in George. He once wrote of her, “If not for her, her intellect, her spirit, and her musical genius, Fisk would not have survived. George White started the Singers but Ella Sheppard nurtured the seed and grew it into the powerful force that it became. Those who don’t know of her, I ask that you take some time today and discover a woman who essentially gave birth to American Music. Ella Sheppard-Moore! Fiskites, a TRUER Daughter, there never was!” In 2009, George founded the Ella Sheppard School of Music (ESSOM) in his home town of Chicago.


I’ve neglected to this point to mention George’s accomplishments as a musician. Although he got his start as part of the All-City Choir in Chicago, later joining the Jubilee Singers at Fisk. It’s playing the piano for which he’s better known. His nickname is “Maestro” and his mastery of classical music has taken him all over the world. The world class pianist has recorded for Polygram and Capitol Records and toured with Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, Peabo Bryson, Natalie Cole and his home girl Chaka Khan. He did a series of instructional videos on, “Secrets of the Chopin Etudes.” He’s performed as a solo artist and part of the group of Fiskites R&B band, “Autumn” and heads the GIII Jazz Trio. He’s presently the Director of the Lutheran School Gospel Chorus, is the Assistant Minister of Music for the church he grew up in, St. Mark AME Zion and Minister of Music at the Congregational Church of Park Manor. Like Bo Jackson, George Cooper knows music. But it’s not his playing or singing that makes him a Shadow Warrior… it’s his teaching.

At the school he founded, the Ella Sheppard School of Music, he gives free music lessons to children 2–14. He solicited friends, his church and other sponsors to keep the school going. One friend, Tamera Fair, (a fellow Fiskite) provided space for the school at one of the Premier Child Care locations she owns and said this about George.


“Not often in life do we personally have the chance to meet living angels, living legends. We read about them. Now we “like” and “follow” them. I am in a select class that shares time and space with one, Maestro, George Cooper. Since the moment we met in the yard of Fisk University, I knew Geo was a talent for the times, correction for all time. I had no idea that we would work so closely together in the future. Geo was looking for a home to put his music school. I had far more space than I needed. He agreed to put the school in the building and has provided music lessons to hundreds of children in the west side of Chicago for over eight years. Many of the students have continued their study in music and are following their teacher’s footsteps and becoming accomplished pianists. His passion shows in every note he hits and every lesson he gives to every child he touches. I feel honored to call someone so great, friend!”


Had this been all he’d accomplished, George would have provided a great service but he does so much more. When I knew George he had not yet become Geo (Gee-Oh) so I’m slow to embrace the name but Geo also an Ambassador for the HHW (Henry Hendricks Weddington) School for the Performing Arts. HHW is an open walls school serving children from all over Chicago. They audition for acceptance and get paid for their participation. Geo has been teaching Master Classes, doing arrangements and composing for them for years. I watched a recent video HHW performing one of his arrangements, Njiculela, Es Una Historia, I Am Singing which instantly dispels everything you may have assumed about Chicago if you only read the news. At least 5 of those students have gone on to Fisk University and become Jubilee Singers. In writing this story I found that George was always recruiting for Fisk and the Jubilee Singers… always teaching. George said of his efforts to bring music to youth, “I’ll keep going ‘till my breath runs out!” I won’t wait until then to say thank you!

There are a few things that are the essence of who George is. Chicagoan, musician, Fiskite, Jubilee Singer, a member of Omega Psi Phi, father, teacher and in his own way Historian. One of his arrangements and compositions for HHW was a Black Heroes History Medley. He’s always looking for teachable moments whether talking about music, sports, Fisk or our nation. A true believer that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. George will keep you and the children he comes in contact with informed of their history. For that reason, he’s a Shadow Warrior.

Originally published July 7, 2017

“Shadow Warriors” Moves to AAMBC Journal


On January 7, 2017 a new series called, “Shadow Warriors” was launched by William Spivey on his Enigma In Black blog. The goal was to highlight individuals and groups that were doing great things in the community that might not yet have gotten the national recognition they deserve. After a full year and having saluted some fantastic honorees. Shadow Warriors is moving to the AAMBC Journal where it will continue to honor those who are putting in serious work, whether you know who they are or not.

William Spivey said, “The move to the AAMBC Journal will give additional exposure to the “Warriors” which is the goal after all. I’ve been writing for the Journal since it’s inception and found it a natural platform for me and a lot of what I write about. The AAMBC Journal is hosted by Medium and articles tend to get noticed by additional sites. It’s a perfect situation and fits in with my overall goal to have my voice heard and make a difference.”


The first Shadow Warrior published by the AAMBC Journal will appear on March 7th and approximately each month afterward. Please feel free to submit any suggestions for honoree’s in the comments section or by email at spiveywilliamf@gmail.com.

William Spivey is a staff writer for the AAMBC Journal and a regular contributor to the Inner-City News where he writes about all manner of things socially relevant. He also blogs as “Enigma in Black” where he explores poetry, religion, and politics. He is the founder of the Facebook pages Average Citizen Forum, Enigma in Black, and “Strong Beginnings.”

Alan Spivey: Shadow Warrior

Almost two years ago, I made an appointment to interview a young man in anticipation of one day writing a book about him. Not for the things he had accomplished, but for what he would. He was the sort of man that radiates purpose and destiny. That he would do great things was certain, my interview was preparation for what is sure to come.

I’ve known this man all his life, so I was able to bring up some items to discuss that he may have forgotten. I reminded him of the lesson he taught me about perseverance. We were watching Ryder Cup Tournament that covered two days. After the first day, the European team had a commanding lead. I had conceded the American’s defeat. He told me, “It’s not over!” On the next day, the US team roared back and claimed victory against incredible odds. He raised his fist and said, “Persevere!”

He knew two years ago he wanted to start his own business, he was still working out exactly what. His full-time job was with a Chapter Thirteen Bankruptcy Office where he reviewed all the files before submission. He had become excited about a Mortage Modification Program which only whetted his appetite to do more. He’d seen what had befallen homeowners and investors. He said, “I want to help.” I reminded him that while he was still in high school, he wanted to train service dogs which would then partner with humans after 1-2 years of training. While he didn’t ever train service animals, his desire to help others never left him.

During the interview, I asked him what had prepared him for the next step and how was he feeling? He said he was, “nervous and confident.” Being part of the FAMU Business Program made him fearless in his ability to network. He said, “that training prepared me to be able to talk to anyone” regarding his business. He discussed partnerships, traveled from coast to coast meeting potential investors in New Jersey and California. There were setbacks to be sure but he never stopped pressing on. He didn’t even have to use the word, “persevere,” he’d just raise his fist and the meaning was clear.

As exciting as it has been to watch him pursue his goals with a laser-like focus. I’ve been more impressed watching him mature as a man and as a father. He never forgets the why of it all and the trust his family has in him is a joy to watch. His oldest daughter might be playing behind him while he’s seated and suddenly launch herself over his head saying, “catch me, Daddy!” He says, “you have to warn me first,” but he has never failed to catch her. His youngest daughter calls to him to save her when captured by the evil grandfather. He never lets her down.

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He recognizes the work his wife, Jessica, puts in being a stay at home mom, who has completed her MBA since their marriage and runs her own business, Jessica’s Cookie Jar. They still have date nights, he supports her business as she supports his. They are a team in every respect. Regarding those cookies… I must warn you, they are the best cookies ever and you can become addicted faster than crack.

I probably should mention that this young man I know so well and have always admired, is my son. My contribution is to babysit his two girls on those date nights and other occasions. And to be the official recorder of his success. An additional disclaimer, at the end of this article I will ask you to make a small contribution towards launching his business or at least share this post with others should some of them be interested. Let me tell you a little about the business.

Alan has formed the Social and Sustainable Community Development Fund which will help create affordable housing and help people facing foreclosure issues. Among other things, they will acquire underwater mortgages and offer mortgage modifications including principal reductions. They’ll also provide one-on-one counseling with distressed homeowners.

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They have just started a campaign to raise $55,000 in start-up costs to get this thing off the ground. When you click on the link. You can watch the video about what their mission. You could read about how they plan to become a Community Development Financial Institution. What I’m hoping for is that you contribute, and/or share.

While there will be opportunities to invest in the future, this is not that. It’s hoping you can give to a company that will give back far more than your contribution. Not everyone will be able to donate but anyone can at least share this post. I know this venture will be successful because I know the man behind it. Alan Spivey: Shadow Warrior

Social and Sustainable Community Development Fund

 

 

 

Babz Rawls Ivy: Shadow Warrior

“Never mess with a badass woman. Her Pen. Or her guitar.” – Fee Thomas

As far as I know, Babz Rawls Ivy doesn’t play guitar? If she did she’d no doubt be badass at that as well. There are words in the dictionary that she doesn’t quite understand the meaning of; impossible, can’t, and failure. The word that replaces each of these is magic, which she believes makes all things possible.

She doesn’t understand the concepts of not having enough time, resources, money, talent, or energy to accomplish her goals. Any attempt to explain there are but 24-hours in a day will be time wasted you’ll never get back. She believes she can do it all… because of magic.

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Life for her ain’t been no crystal stair. I’m not talking out of turn because she tells all of these things herself. She lives her life in public and has no secrets. She was molested in her childhood which informs much of who she is. She was left unable to have children of her own as a result, so she adopted four. She spent 29 days in the Danbury Federal Prison Camp. She was branded a felon. It made her stronger.

Shadow Warriors like Babz are my attempt to recognize others for what they do. In this case, for what she does and what she is able to get others to do. She helps people see and accomplish their own visions. Giving them the strength to do what they otherwise might not. I stumbled across a young poet named Fee Thomas and immediately recognized her talent. I might write an occasional poem but it isn’t my medium. I put Fee in touch with Babz and… magic. Fee’s book, Owning the Color Blue was bound to be published one day, her talent was that obvious. Babz made someday… now. I have a book heading towards publication that would never have happened without her. She pushes, demands, hounds, and has on more than one occasion demanded my soul, to make me better. She should spend more time on herself, Seed and Source Literary Group, and Earth Seed Publishing, her new ventures. She keeps devoting time to others before herself.

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Babz is an activist, she throws herself into too many causes because she alone has unlimited time. She keeps getting asked because she get’s things done. She keeps saying yes too. She often names boards of directors she intends to get off of, “soon!”Civil rights, human rights, education, politics, she’s well informed (and opinionated) on all of these. Talk to Babz you can’t simply have a position, you have to defend it and show how serious you are.

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Babz Rawls Ivy has held political office, is consulted by office holders and in New Haven, CT her opinion matters. I’ve failed to mention her role as Editor-In-Chief of the Inner-City News and host of a call-in radio show. I did mention those four adopted children along with adopted authors and poets that she nurtures to maturity. Babz Rawls Ivy is this month’s, Shadow Warrior. Never bet against black… or magic!

 

I’ll end this piece with the words of another:

“Of Babz, she has the entirety of the wild horses in her heart and when they run, they part the sky.

It’s the most beautiful sound, surpassing all others.

The very first time I heard it,

I knew I was sent to her by The Divine just so I would know what the sound of authentic power sounded like; she in the whole of her Truth.

And the sound of home.”

Fee Thomas

a a a a babzz

 

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

Harry T Moore

The Dreamers

Zain Jacobs

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Coming October 7th: New Shadow Warrior

Never before has Enigma In Black honored anyone posthumously as a Shadow Warrior. This month’s selection is someone we should all know or know better. A story that needs sharing.

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

The Dreamers

Zain Jacobs

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

 

Zain Jacobs: Shadow Warrior

Zain Jacobs was always older in her soul than physically. She began reading at three. At seven, she was writing about serious topics. Inspired by a 15-year-old cousin that was given LSD and jumped to her death, Zain focused on the impact of drugs on the community. She also wanted to donate her eyes to Stevie Wonder, believing that if he could write such beautiful music while he could not see, what might he do if she could give him sight?

Her maternal grandmother was named Zain also. There was no time in memory when she wasn’t taking in children in need of a place to stay. She led several of her church ministries and was always feeding or housing people.

Both her parents were activists in addition to their respective careers. Zain’s living room contained photos of various historical figures, Leontyne Price and Andrew Young to name a couple. There was a book with a signed inscription to her parents from Coretta Scott King. Her mother and father were founding members of the Circle of Friends which gave one of the first large donations to fund the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence in Atlanta, GA.

Their church, First African Baptist Church in Savannah was once a stop on the Underground Railway. The pews were built by slaves and contain markings in their native African languages. Holes in the floor are shaped in the form of a Congolese Cosmogram representing birth, life, death, and rebirth. There is a subfloor beneath the lower auditorium floor that slaves traveled through before heading North. Perhaps these physical ties to slaves and Africans have led to the current connection that Zain feels to the land of her ancestors?

After high school, Zain matriculated to Savannah State University and studied business.  She planned to head her dream Fashion House as both Executive and Designer. With the proceeds, she would finance her passion to write independently about issues concerning her people, to give them a voice. She continued her writing for the school newspaper and was reminded of the power her words could have. She was responsible for the focus on and ultimate resignation of a tenured Professor, known for his racist attitudes. She changed her major to Journalism and English, still writing about drugs along with alcohol abuse and civil rights issues. She served others indirectly but felt the pull of her lineage to get more directly involved.

After graduation, she returned to her childhood home of New York, pursuing interests in law, history, and politics. She’d given up her dream of the Fashion House after she graduated from SSU. In what is an apparent fixation with what appears on her tombstone. She decided she didn’t want it to say, “Here Lies Zain, She Designed a Hell of a Skirt.” Her life working for corporations also left her wanting. She imagined, “Here lies Zain… Employee.”

Living in Queens, Zain took the city bus and subway to and from Manhattan. She witnessed something that changed her perspective. She saw a group of teenage girls describing a fight during which they kicked and beat a pregnant girl. They saw nothing wrong with their actions and attitudes. Nobody on the bus challenged them to do better… to be better. She decided at that moment that she would take on the mission of helping girls who needed a different path.

She went to a local private school and said, “I’ll clean toilets if you give me one class to teach!” After reviewing her credentials, they decided cleaning toilets were unnecessary. She was given a job at the school that allowed her to teach that class. It was a busy time during which she became certified as a teacher and met her husband and future father of her two children.

Teaching the class soon wasn’t enough for Zain. Over a period of time, Zain presented the concept of a “Rites of Passage” program for girls to some of the educational giants she had come to know in New York.  Writer and historian Yosef Ben-Jochannan, activist Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Professor Clinton Crawford at Medgar Evers College.She proposed her concept in hopes they would direct her to someone else to lead it. They laughed and said, “If you identify the problem, you have an obligation to be the solution,” adding, “Get to work!” She began the program in the first public middle school she taught at.

The “Blooming Lotuses Rites of Passage Group,” was based on an African model of teaching values. They met three times daily to accommodate conflicting student schedules with some attending one, others all three. They met during her planning period, lunch hour and after school. When Zain arrived home, she had to do the planning she didn’t get done during the allocated time. There was seemingly never enough time to get everything done that was needed but she found this period of her life empowering as opposed to draining. She said, “I needed them as much as they needed me!” Zain is still in touch with many of her early students. Many took Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Almost all went on to college with some getting advanced degrees. Not one of her girls had a child out of wedlock.

After a time, she moved to another School District in Long Island. She not only brought the Blooming Lotuses Program with her, Zain began conducting parenting classes so that she could begin to affect whole families. She began the Rites of Passage – Literary Program. Most rewarding to her was when the early participants of the first programs, returned to give back and reinvest in the community that supported them.

Zain Jacobs: Shadow Warrior

Photo: Tim Alexander

She furthered her own education, getting dual Masters of Science Degrees in Child Youth and Family Services and Youth Development & Human Services Administration. Zain was laying the foundation to be able to administer the recently launched P.I.L.L.A.R.S. 4 Success, LLC. The acronym 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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Her clients often find her through word of mouth. They got help and tell someone else who needs it. She gets referrals from groups and families. All of five foot two and a half (she was adamant about the half), she goes alone into neighborhoods where her potential clients live and work, day or night. She literally meets them where they are.

Zain is a reluctant Shadow Warrior. She shuns the personal spotlight and wants to focus on her charges whose circumstances are “nobody’s business.” She said, “I never heard my grandmother repeat to another person how she helped someone.” There is no sense of aggrandizement. “I like where I am in my humility.” It gets tough sometimes, her empathy both blessing and curse. “Sometimes I can’t allow myself to feel the pain of those I serve in order to keep going. Other times I can’t serve without absorbing their pain to process my approach in serving them!”

Zain Jacobs was recently honored by the Black Charlotte Business Coalition as, “Servant Leader of the Year.” For now, she wants her epitaph to read, “She was Zain… one who found optimism in service and service in optimism.”

Tolitha Henry was one of the last of her New York Lotuses. When asked for a comment about Zain she responded with a book. Among the things she said:

“Mama Zain helped me form my identity as a Black woman.  Prior to meeting her, I battled with low self-esteem, depression and not understanding my purpose on this earth.  She suggested I participate in a writing competition; the requirement was to write what I thought was my purpose. I wrote that it was to give back to my community. I would not have known that I would receive, a nurturing, first-hand experience on what my purpose looked like from my ninth grade English teacher. She took me under her wings, she fed me what it means to be a black woman, how my dark skin translated to beauty, that I descended from a lineage of tenacious people, and how to self- love. She invited me to join Rites Of Passage and from that, I learned about sisterhood and simultaneously what motherhood looked like outside my familial roots. Furthermore, when ever someone asks me now who influenced you, who helped you to become the woman you are now I always, always go back to Mama Zain. I am a proud black woman, who celebrates other black women and loves my community because of the love and chance she took in investing in me. For that, I am absolutely grateful.”

What Zain does is not quantifiable in statistics. She measures her success in the progress and productive lives of her former mentees. She worries about them as she does her own children. “Have I prepared them for every situation possible? She wonders if anything were to happen would it be because of something she failed to impart? Fear not Zain for you have prepared them all well. Even those who experience negativity have been trained how to get back up and try again. That is a success… and why you’re a Shadow Warrior.

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! Suggestions are welcome for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

George Cooper

Glory Edim

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Coming August 7th, New Shadow Warrior

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by  following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Featured Photo: patch.com

George (GEO) Cooper: Shadow Warrior

George Cooper is the first “Shadow Warrior” I’ve personally known before writing about. We attended Fisk University together and knowing his history is important to knowing George. In those days, Fisk had just over 2,000 students. There were those hardly anybody knew and those that knew everybody. George was in the latter category. He had a big afro, was always smiling and was deadly serious about his music, the Jubilee Singers and Black history.

Part of that history is the story of Ella Shepherd. She was born into slavery on Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Plantation in Nashville, TN in 1851. While she was young, her father was able to buy his own freedom for $1,800. His former master broke a promise to let him buy Ella. It took the threat of her mother saying she’d “take Ella and jump into the river than see her a slave” before she was allowed to be sold to her father for $350. Her mother, still in slavery was taken to Mississippi.

After marrying another slave woman whose freedom he purchased. Simon Sheppard took his family from Nashville, TN to Cincinnati, OH after a race riot in 1856 made it impossible to pay his debts. His family could be seized as assets and sold back into slavery. In Ohio, Ella attended a colored school and began studying music. She was a prodigy and soon had her own piano. A rarity for black children.

After Simon died in 1866, Ella helped support the family by  performing at local functions. She was seen by a prominent white music instructor who agreed to provide her advanced training. Ella was his only student of color, entering thru the back door between the hours of 9 and 10 PM.

In 1868, Ella accepted a teaching position at a school near Nashville in Gallatin, TN. She took her meager earnings and entered the “Fisk Free School for Blacks”, which in 1866 became Fisk University.  She became the music teacher at Fisk. Becoming the only Black staff member at the school until 1875.

Because of financial difficulties at the school. Fisk’s Treasurer organized a bunch of students to sing for money. After some success locally, George White was given permission to form a group and go on National Tour in 1871. Ella was one of nine students selected for the original Jubilee Singers where she also served as pianist and assistant trainer.

The first tour raised $20,000 which purchased land for the new campus. The Jubilee Singers was often the only source of revenue for the school and their concert tour was extended to seven years. They raised over $150,000 in America and Europe, financing the construction of Jubilee Hall which still serves as a women’s dormitory. Sheppard was the backbone of the Jubilee Singers and later began lecturing throughout the South forming Jubilee choirs. She later found her mother and a sister and brought them to Nashville.

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George would not mind that I used part of his story to tell that of Ella Sheppard. Her story is intertwined with his. George Cooper was a Jubilee Singer while at Fisk and toured to some of the same locations as Ella. I hesitated to use the word “was” as George certainly “is” a Jubilee Singer as that’s not something that ever left his soul. He’s active in the Jubilee Singers Alumni (JSA) and part of the JSA Advisory Board. The legacy of Ella Sheppard is strong in George. He once wrote of her, “If not for her, her intellect, her spirit, and her musical genius, Fisk would not have survived. George White started the Singers but Ella Sheppard nurtured the seed and grew it into the powerful force that it became. Those who don’t know of her, I ask that you take some time today and discover a woman who essentially gave birth to American Music. Ella Sheppard-Moore! Fiskites, a TRUER Daughter, there never was!” In 2009, George founded the Ella Sheppard School of Music (ESSOM) in his home town of Chicago.

geo3I’ve neglected to this point to mention George’s accomplishments as a musician. Although he got his start as part of the All-City Choir in Chicago, later joining the Jubilee Singers at Fisk. It’s playing the piano for which he’s better known. His nickname is “Maestro” and his mastery of classical music has taken him all over the world. The world class pianist has recorded for Polygram and Capitol Records and toured with Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, Peabo Bryson, Natalie Cole and his home girl Chaka Khan. He did a series of instructional videos on, “Secrets of the Chopin Etudes.” He’s performed as a solo artist and part of the group of Fiskites R&B band, “Autumn” and heads the GIII Jazz Trio. He’s presently the Director of the Lutheran School Gospel Chorus, is the Assistant Minister of Music for the church he grew up in, St. Mark AME Zion and Minister of Music at the Congregational Church of Park Manor. Like Bo Jackson, George Cooper knows music. But it’s not his playing or singing that makes him a Shadow Warrior… it’s his teaching.

At the school he founded, the Ella Sheppard School of Music, he gives free music lessons to children 2-14. He solicited friends, his church and other sponsors to keep the school going. One friend, Tamera Fair, (a fellow Fiskite) provided space for the school at one of the Premier Child Care locations she owns and said this about George.

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“Not often in life do we personally have the chance to meet living angels, living legends. We read about them. Now we “like” and “follow” them. I am in a select class that shares time and space with one, Maestro, George Cooper. Since the moment we met in the yard of Fisk University, I knew Geo was a talent for the times, correction for all time. I had no idea that we would work so closely together in the future. Geo was looking for a home to put his music school. I had far more space than I needed. He agreed to put the school in the building and has provided music lessons to hundreds of children in the west side of Chicago for over eight years. Many of the students have continued their study in music and are following their teacher’s footsteps and becoming accomplished pianists. His passion shows in every note he hits and every lesson he gives to every child he touches. I feel honored to call someone so great, friend!”

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Had this been all he’d accomplished, George would have provided a great service but he does so much more. When I knew George he had not yet become Geo (Gee-Oh) so I’m slow to embrace the name but Geo also an Ambassador for the HHW (Henry Hendricks Weddington) School for the Performing Arts. HHW is an open walls school serving children from all over Chicago. They audition for acceptance and get paid for their participation. Geo has been teaching Master Classes, doing arrangements and composing for them for years. I watched a recent video HHW performing one of his arrangements,  Njiculela, Es Una Historia, I Am Singing   which instantly dispels everything you may have assumed about Chicago if you only read the news.  At least 5 of those students have gone on to Fisk University and become Jubilee Singers. In writing this story I found that George was always recruiting for Fisk and the Jubilee Singers… always teaching. George said of his efforts to bring music to youth, “I’ll keep going ‘till my breath runs out!” I won’t wait until then to say thank you!

There are a few things that are the essence of who George is. Chicagoan, musician, Fiskite, Jubilee Singer, a member of Omega Psi Phi, father, teacher and in his own way Historian. One of his arrangements and compositions for HHW was a Black Heroes History Medley. He’s always looking for teachable moments whether talking about music, sports, Fisk or our nation. A true believer that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. George will keep you and the children he comes in contact with informed of their history. For that reason he’s a Shadow Warrior.

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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.

Glory Edim

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Coming July 7th, New Shadow Warrior… Maestro

 

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by  following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Featured Photo: patch.com

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