Executive Director, DeLaSalle Education Center
I am a native Chicagoan that grew up as the oldest grandchild in my family. I come from a long line of educators that have given collectively over 200 years to children in urban areas all around the country. To say education is in my DNA might be very accurate. In addition to loving the education of students, I have always been drawn to leadership. My leadership journey started when I was voted ‘mayor” of my elementary class in honor of late and great first Black Chicago mayor, Harold Washington. The journey continued as captain of my high school baseball team, then being elected president of my chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity incorporated at Truman State University. That journey led me to being hired as principal and then subsequently Chief of Schools in Chicago Public School. Finally up today I serve as the Executive Director at DeLaSalle Education Center in Kansas City, Missouri. In my life, I have lived my purpose as a servant leader to over 14,000 children, families and citizens in urban areas.
I am a proud father of two, beautiful, intelligent, and amazing daughters, Taylor (20) and Clarke (14). Both my girls are a testament of my faith as a father and co-parent with their amazing mother. The responsibility to be a good father to Black girls in our current climate is one that I embrace and cherish. It is my duty to breathe life, hope, identity and dignity into them on a daily basis. I believe that I must treat them in a way that promotes their self-worth, well-being and the belief that they can do and achieve anything that they aspire to do. It is this same energy that I bring into my professional life. Every child I am entrusted with must get the same energy if not better than I give my own children. Young people are next up. We need them to be their best.
Who is a Black hero or heroine that has motivated you in your career? / Who are you celebrating this Black History Month?
My Black heroes are the late Fr. George Clements and Fr. Paul B. Smith. Both were African-American priests at Holy Angels Catholic Parish in Chicago, Illinois. Fr. Clements was the pastor and Fr. Smith was the principal for over 30 years at Holy Angels. These men were a dynamic duo that promoted a belief of Black identity, high achievement and self-pride in the parish and school. Holy Angels was the largest Black Catholic parish in the country. Both men were leaders and civil rights activist at the local and national level. Holy Angels produced some of the brightest and best leaders in Chicago and the nation. These men simply said “Produce and Achieve”. As an alum and former principal of Holy Angels, that is what I have tried to do everyday of my life in their honor.
I celebrate the life and legacies of Fr. George Clements and Fr. Paul B. Smith this Black History Month. They are the angels that watch over me. #BeAnAngel
How has the history of Black and African American people in Kansas City impacted the work that you do?
I am still learning the Black History in Kansas City. I am amazed by what I am learning about the dynamics of how the city became a refuge for escaped slaves. While attracted to the Kansas side because of the abolitionist history, many Black people established their lives on the Missouri side. It is intriguing how many felt threatened in Missouri at the fear of reinstating slavery but still managed to influence the world of arts, education, religion and food. Though many continued the migration to the North, tons of people stayed and changed the landscape of KC. The food, arts and religious influence in this city is far reaching. 18th and Vine is an amazing resource to learn about KC. My favorite place is the Negroe League Museum. As an avid baseball fan and former player, I love learning about the league and its influence in the city. KC is such a rich place for Black history. It has its success stories while still wrestling with an ugly history of racism and currently the stress of gentrification and urban planning that threatens the current Black residents in this amazing city.
My school sits on Troost. You can feel the history. I am challenged to honor the historic and complicated racial past of this city on a street that symbolizes the struggle for humanity and equality. My work is a daily reminder of the importance of the future for Black residents in the city.
What is the most essential work that must be done to ensure equity for Black students in Kansas City?
Real access and equity. Mr. Devon Teran, our principal at DeLaSalle has stated eloquently that our students deserve to be at the table with the city leaders, not just as guests but as full participants in the process to develop a better KC. We must make sure that they are equipped to be full participants. The city and its leaders must open the doors and welcome them to the table. It is not just as a concession but requires a willingness to a conversation for change. The most vulnerable people have a voice. We have to realize that silencing that voice would repeat mistakes from the past. Giving that voice power will look like resources, opportunity and access that leads to a productive and meaningful life. That is what must be done now.
What is a cause or organization that you would encourage KC citizens to research this black history month?
Learn more about A. Philip Randolph and the Pullman Porters. These porters fought for workers’ rights for African Americans. The Pullman Porters were influential in the Civil Rights Movement. And there are still amazing opportunities today in the field. Many well-paying jobs and opportunities exist that are not well-known to Black people in this space. The stories are amazing and do not get the highlights as some of the more popular civil rights stories. It will be well worth the time and effort to learn.