This week marks the start of Black History Month. Elevating Black history and culture in America should be imperative year around. KIPP teachers and staff are sharing the joys and impacts of Black heritage and achievement with our students every single day and today, I simply want to share a little extra shine.
All this month, on our social media, we’ll be highlighting stories of changemakers and trailblazers from the KIPP community and beyond. Here are just a few examples of the incredible folks we’ll be honoring. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram to see more!
You can’t talk about KIPP without talking about Harriett Ball. In the mid-1990s, this master teacher inspired the creation of the first KIPP school in Houston, TX. Her classroom approach, which combined joyful mnemonic chants and songs with an uncompromising belief that all children can and will learn, formed the backbone of KIPP’s new middle-school model. If you’ve ever heard a classroom of KIPP students chanting, “You gotta read, baby, read,” then you have witnessed her legacy firsthand.
Harriett Ball was born and raised in the greater Houston area, and taught in Texas public schools for 35 years. In addition to mentoring KIPP’s co-founders, she served as a coach and mentor for many other teachers across the country. Although she passed away in 2011, her passion and philosophy live on in our work to this day.
Changemakers from the KIPP Community
After losing three friends in the last three years to gun violence, KIPP Columbus High School senior Daylon Humphries is on a mission. In partnership with the city of Columbus and the nonprofit organization We Amplify Voices, Daylon travels around the city to speak at schools and recreation centers about nonviolent communication and how to properly defuse conflict. He is currently in the process of creating a nonprofit called Dream Achievers and hopes to build his own “Dream Achiever” building where young people in his community can access mental health resources and participate in recreational activities. He says:
“This is very important to me; I don’t want to see the next generation get killed. I think getting my voice heard and having children see that I am young too, and how far I have come helps them see what is possible.”
An African American culture teacher at KIPP Inspire in St. Louis, Monica recognized that teachers and leaders in her community didn’t know how to teach Black history and culture because they had never learned it in school themselves. In response to this, she created America’s Black Leaders and Creative Kids, developing Black studies curricula that can be easily incorporated into public schools. KIPP St. Louis has now signed on to adopt her African American Culture curriculum as part of their social studies curriculum throughout all their schools! In Ms. Reed’s own words:
“I created this curriculum because of the overwhelming need to continue to shed the light on a ‘conversation’ that is not being talked about. African American culture contributed so greatly to American history and helped shape so many of the precious luxuries we enjoy today. I wanted to help keep that conversation going, by teaching my kids about their beautiful history and the grand human beings that paved the way for people like those they learn about during Black History Month. I wanted a way that, student after student, generation after generation, teachers would have ongoing reference to help keep that Black history conversation going.”
Ashley teaches third grade at KIPP Bessie Coleman Academy in Jacksonville, FL. In 2021, she published her book Kareem’s First Kwanzaa Table! Here’s what Ms. Marshall had to say about her book:
“Growing up, my schools were filled with little to no knowledge on the beauty of the culture. We were taught the pain but not always the truth. We were taught the pain but not always the passion. Our education did not always show the perseverance, the fight, the smiles, or the laughter of the people. I wrote this book so that we—as people of African descent—can celebrate us. We have cried, we have experienced trauma, and we still are in the fight. Today, as a professional and a woman of African descent, I choose to celebrate my ancestors—those who experienced things our workbooks could never describe. This book was written to celebrate our smile. I hope that the book will help families begin celebrating Kwanzaa because this holiday celebrates us and brings well-deserved healing into our households.”
Ms. Marshall isn’t the only published author at KIPP! Check out this awesome list of books by KIPP teachers to read with your kids.
Nairobi Colon is the 6th-grade level chair and art teacher at KIPP Cooper Norcross Whittier Middle School in Camden, New Jersey. They are also a Tik Tok star where their lessons go beyond the classroom! With close to half a million followers on Tik Tok, Robi Colon teaches students and followers about diversity and inclusion by addressing gender pronouns, Black History, and overall raising awareness of what being a non-binary teacher is all about. They run an art club after school two days a week and help as the assistant coach for the girls’ basketball team. Speaking out is not easy and this is what they had to say:
“Recently I have faced a lot of backlash on my social media accounts about being a non-binary teacher and I think it’s important that kids have the safe space that I never had in school. I hope to spread joy and be a positive role model for so many others out there like me.”
Black history in America is still being written, and KIPP’s alumni community is full of people helping write it. Roquel Crutcher is just one example. A former Next100 Policy Entrepreneur and current Chief of Staff at PowerToFly, she has dedicated her career to advocating for equity in K-12 schools, institutions of higher learning, and the workplace. A KIPP Memphis alum and a member of its board, Roquel graduated from American University and served as founding president of the school’s NAACP chapter. She was a member of the inaugural class of KIPP Alumni Leadership Accelerator fellows, as well as a New Profit Millennial Impact Fellow, an NAACP NextGen Fellow, and an Aspen Ideas Fellow. In 2021, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools named her a 30 Under 30 Changemaker for her work to combat educational inequity and anti-Black racism. Roquel says about her current work:
“The support marginalized identities need post-college to enter into impactful and well-paid work has been a passion of mine I’m so thrilled to dive into. As PowerToFly’s Chief of Staff, I’m given the opportunity to work alongside our co-founders and leadership team while we create pathways to equity in work across the globe.”
These are just a few of the incredible Team and Family members who are helping shape the future of history in the US. If you have changemakers in your KIPP region or community that you would like to highlight for Black History Month, please share them with us on social media! Be sure to tag us @KIPP and use the hashtag #KIPPChangemakers