Black History Month: Board Members

Happy Black History Month! This February, in honor of Black History Month, MOI will be featuring different people we work with. We want to celebrate their successes and share how excited we are about what they're doing. Next: our dedicated board members!

We asked our board members to talk to us about what Black History Month means to them, their involvement with MOI, their favorite childhood authors of color, and their lives. Check out their answers below.


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Karen Dye

St. Paul Academy & Summit Schools

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about Black History Month. I completely understand its origins and how necessary it was for Carter G. Woodson to start such an important recognition (as Negro History Week), and I still think there's many reasons why we should continue to do so. At the same time, I feel it relegates the acknowledgement of the history of a community so crucial to the creation, growth, and sustaining of our country to a single month (the shortest one, no less) when this history should be celebrated all year long, as should the history of all Americans. It was a source of pride to me when I was younger and got to see leaders in the African American community be specifically honored, and I continue to be proud of it now. My only concern is that when we make a point to highlight the community during a single month, it can give us an excuse, if we're not intentional, to not recognize this history throughout the year. The great thing is that we can do both, and my sense is that this is happening more and more.

Why are you involved with MOI?

I became involved in MOI initially because the former ED was a good friend who understood my passion for writing, literacy, and children and thought it would be a good match for my interests. I remain involved for the same reasons, and feel the creative ways in which MOI works with kids is unique and amazing. I am excited about the direction the organization continues to go and looking forward to the next chapter.

Who were some of your favorite authors of color as a child?

I grew up in the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities (Eagan, Rosemount, Apple Valley)—where we were one of very few African American families—in the 70s and early 80s, and the schools and curriculum were not very diverse back then, so I honestly don't remember reading authors of color when I was young. My earliest memory of reading an African-American author was when I was 16 or so, after we had moved into the city of Minneapolis and I started my junior year at Washburn High School. It was The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and I remember it made such a huge impression on me because I had never read such beautiful writing by an African American. I'm sure it's what led me to want to be an author myself.

Anything else you want to share?

I've come to realize that my upbringing, as difficult as it was being one of the only sometimes, has been valuable in informing my work at a predominantly white independent school, which is actually much more racially diverse than the schools where I spent most of my childhood. Though our country is in a time of turmoil regarding difference right now, I think my personal experience has made me uniquely qualified to work with the students at the school where I work who also felt isolated and marginalized at times. While celebrating the history of different cultures throughout the year helps, the real work is in the day-to-day interactions and school initiatives that intend to make students feel welcome and included, and I'm grateful for any small part I can play in that through my work. 

 

 
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Qorsho Hassan

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black history month is an opportunity to dig deeper into the rich, multifaceted experiences of black people and extend the dialogue beyond the single story of slavery and onto the tremendous accomplishments of Africans throughout history who have advanced math, music, language, the sciences, etc. As an educator, I know it's pertinent to shaping our understanding about racial inequity and social issues in our country. To me, this is a month to celebrate a community whose incredible accomplishments have pushed this country forward and made us a better and stronger nation. 

Why are you involved with MOI?

I am passionate about bridging the achievement gap for underserved students and and I believe MOI is a safe space that encourages all students to activate their creativity, utilize their brainpower, and extend learning beyond school. I am so thrilled to be apart of MOI and am looking forward to the exciting move to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, where I believe MOI will play a more strategic role in reducing the achievement gap.      

Who were some of your favorite authors of color as a child?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading books by Langston Hughes, Mildred D. Taylor, and Tanuja Desai Hidier. Their perspectives on identity, double consciousness, and integration helped shape my worldview.

Anything else you want to share?                                                                                       

I'm a devoted bilingual educator for ISD 191. I collaborate with classroom teachers, students and families to provide reading intervention and enrichment opportunities. In 2013, I was apart of the Fulbright Program in Malaysia and my experience teaching abroad inspired me to become an educator. I seek to catalyze change through intercultural, interracial and interfaith dialogue in this current political climate. I am a co-curator and author of a community art project called Urur Dhex-Dhexaad Ah (Community In-Between), which aims to look at the lives and experiences of young Somali-Americans through a photo-narrative lens.

 

 
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Reynolds-Anthony Harris

Lyceum Partners

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is an open opportunity to focus on what I do every day—appreciate the wisdom of the ancestors, building beloved community and standing for the rights of all.

Why are you involved with MOI?

The ability to read, write, and comprehend is a justice opportunity. MOI provides a way for our children to access their imagination and intellect.

Who were some of your favorite authors of color as a child?

As a child, I enjoyed Gordon Parks, who wrote “A Choice of Weapons.” I read it in 7th grade, and it changed my life.

Anything else you want to share?

I'm a founder and managing director at Lyceum Partners + design, a networked global firm focused on architecting world class organizations. I’m an active Catholic layperson committed to a vision of healthy and whole communities. I'm a founder of MN Harvest Initiative, a private organization committed to educational freedom.


MOI will be celebrating all month with features and reading lists, so keep an eye out all month for more Black History Month blog posts! Check out our previous post on our partner authors here.