MY STORY

 

I was born in rural South Carolina at the end of the Jim Crow era, just as integration was becoming a reality in my small town.  I figured out the dynamics of race very early on and struggled to love myself as a dark-skinned child.  When I was five years old, my family moved to the South Bronx section of New York City, the poorest Congressional district in the country.  At the time, the Bronx was on fire.  Over 80% of the housing stock had been lost to arson.  It was difficult growing up in such a tough neighborhood.  Our community was subjected to redlining. We lived in poverty and dilapidated housing.  The schools were segregated and underfunded.  There was drug and gang activity everywhere.  I was an eyewitness to the crack-cocaine and HIV epidemics.  And before my 18th birthday, I survived harsh personal violence--physical abuse, bullying, sexual assault and even a shooting.

 

Public service was a way to rise above the realities of my daily life.  I learned about the power that ordinary people possessed to create extraordinary changes in their community.  After that, I never looked back.  Starting in high school, I created the first feminist club; worked on the peace and conflict team; and advocated for educational reform at the state level.  I graduated valedictorian and later became the first African-American to serve as the New York State Youth Engaged in Service Ambassador.  From there, I worked as an educator and activist at organizations across the country--to combat racism, sexism, poverty, homophobia, ableism and religious intolerance.  I advocated for marginalized peoples across sectors, from healthcare to child welfare to criminal justice.  More recently, I focused on healing justice in communities of color, devoting time to restorative circle-keeping, teaching energy healing and leading women's support groups.  Over the years, I've taken a firm stance towards peace and nonviolent action as the most effective way to struggle for justice for all peoples.

Today, I use my personal and professional experience, along with historicism and data to teach about social justice and human rights.  Currently, I serve as a faculty consultant at Lehman College, where we have created a graduate studies program in human rights education and transformative justice studies.  I am also a graduate student seeking a masters in adult education.

I dedicate my work to my ancestors, who survived horrors unimaginable but possessed the strength to heal and continue our family line.

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