8 Teachable Facts About Fences Playwright August Wilson

August Wilson was a prolific playwright known for chronicling the 20th Century African American experience. His work resonated with the American public during a time when people were unaccustomed to seeing reflections of African American life in art. On Christmas Day in 2016, his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Fences was released theatrically to rave reviews. Here are 8 amazing facts to teach your children about August Wilson and his contribution to our fabulous history.

August Wilson was a prolific playwright known for chronicling the 20th Century African American experience. His work resonated with the American public during a time when people were unaccustomed to seeing reflections of African American life in art.  On Christmas Day in 2016, his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Fences was released theatrically to rave reviews.  Here are 8 amazing facts to teach your children about August Wilson and his contribution to our fabulous history.

1. He was biracial.

August Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel in 1945 to Daisy Wilson, who was African American, and Frederick Kittel, a German immigrant. His parents divorced when he was a child and his father was reportedly absent from his childhood.  When he was 20 years old, his father died and he adopted the pen name “August Wilson” as a tribute to his mother.

2. He faced racism and adversity at a young age.

When Wilson’s parent’s divorced, Wilson moved out of the Hill District of Pittsburgh to the then-predominately white neighborhood of Hazelwood.  He was the only black student at a Roman Catholic high school.  In 2001, he told The New Yorker, “There was a note on my desk every single day [and] it said, ‘Go home, nigger.'” As a result, he left school at 15 years old and earned his high school diploma by studying on his own at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  He bought his first typewriter with $20 he earned writing a term paper for one of his sisters.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” – August Wilson

3. He was a poet.

In his twenties, Wilson submitted poems to magazines while working odd jobs.  Invigorated by the Black Power Movement, he and a group of fellow poets started a theater workshop and art gallery.  In 1978, Wilson took a job working at the Science Museum of Minnesota. His job was to adapt Native American folk tales into children’s plays. He wrote his first notable play, Jitney in 1979 and earned a fellowship to the Minneapolis Playwright Center.

4. Coined the “Century Cycle,” ten of his plays chronicle the 20th Century African American experience by decade.

With the exception of Ma Rainey, all of the “Century Cycle” plays take place in the Hill District of Pittsburgh where Wilson was born.  Wilson once said, “I wanted to place this culture onstage in all its richness and fullness and to demonstrate its ability to sustain us in all areas of human life and endeavor and through profound moments of our history in which the larger society has thought less of us than we have thought of ourselves.”

5. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice.

In 1987, Wilson’s popular play Fences premiered on Broadway starring James Earl Jones.  He won a Tony Award and his first Pulitzer Prize.  At the time, Fences set a record for a non-musical Broadway production by grossing $11 million in a single year! In 1990, Wilson took home another Pulitzer for The Piano Lesson following its premiere on Broadway.

“Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone’s disbelief.” – August Wilson

6. Fences almost didn’t get made into a motion picture.

In 2016, a film adaptation of Wilson’s play Fences was released directed by Denzel Washington and starring Washington and Viola Davis.  However, it wasn’t the first time an attempt was made to make the film. In 1990, a major Hollywood studio optioned Fences but Wilson caused controversy by insisting on a black director.  Wilson is quoted as saying, “I am not carrying a banner for black directors. I think they should carry their own. I am not trying to get work for black directors. I am trying to get the film of my play made in the best possible way. I declined a white director not on the basis of race but on the basis of culture. White directors are not qualified for the job. The job requires someone who shares the specifics of the culture of black Americans.” He was a vocal opponent of “colorblind casting,” citing as an example that an all-black “Death of a Salesman” was “irrelevant because the play was ‘conceived for white actors as an investigation of the specifics of white culture.'” Some suggested that Wilson’s viewpoints were a form of self-segregation.

ma rainy.jpg

7. He was influenced by a variety of arts and artists.

In an interview in The Paris Review, Wilson called his major influences the “four B’s”: the blues, Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, writer Amiri Baraka and painter Romare Bearden. He is quoted as saying, “From Borges, those wonderful gaucho stories from which I learned that you can be specific as to a time and place and culture and still have the work resonate with the universal themes of love, honor, duty, betrayal, etc. From Amiri Baraka, I learned that all art is political, although I don’t write political plays. From Romare Bearden I learned that the fullness and richness of everyday life can be rendered without compromise or sentimentality.” He also listed playwright Ed Bullins and activist and author James Baldwin among his influences.

8. He worked until his death.

Wilson died of liver cancer in October 2005 in Seattle, Washington. His play, Radio Golf, the last of the Century Cycle opened in Los Angeles just a few months earlier.

Sources:

***

About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

5 NEW Children’s Books Featuring Characters of Color

As a parent, it is very important to me that my children see themselves reflected in the stories we read and the shows we watch. I want them to believe there are no limits to where their lives will take them. The search isn’t always easy! Here is a list of 5 recently released books featuring main characters of color.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz once said, “…if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”  At the time, he was referring to the importance of diversity in art.  More specifically, stories featuring characters of color.  As a parent, it is very important to me that my children see themselves reflected in the stories we read and the shows we watch.  I want them to believe there are no limits to where their lives will take them.  The search isn’t always easy! Here is a list of 5 recently released books featuring main characters of color.

1. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

From School Library Journal: Ada Marie Twist is an inquisitive African American second grader and a born scientist. She possesses a keen yet peculiar need to question everything she encounters, whether it be a tick-tocking clock, a pointy-stemmed rose, or the hairs in her dad’s nose. Ada’s parents and her teacher, Miss Greer, have their hands full as the child’s science experiments wreak day-to-day havoc.

screen-shot-2016-08-09-at-11-18-28-am

2. Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! by Ruth Spiro

From Amazon: Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this book explores the basics of flight – from birds, to planes and rockets – and ties it all to baby’s world.

3. Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

From Amazon: Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder. But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name…a name that is sure to light up the sky.

leo

4. Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn

From Amazon: Leo, Lola’s little brother from Leo Loves Baby Time, is back in a new adventure at the pool. Leo and Daddy go to swim class where they kick, bounce, and dive like little fish. Joining other babies and their caretakers in the pool is a guarantee for unforgettable fun.

5. Max Speed by Stephen Shasken

From Amazon: Max, a tiny speed racer, is off on the adventure of a lifetime in this adorable new picture book that proves all you need for a big adventure is a little imagination. As soon as Max has finished cleaning his room, he’s off racing his super-secret car at incredible speeds, soaring over rivers of lava, sky diving, and swimming with sharks. This picture book is perfect for every young speed racer, careening from one adventure to the next.

***

About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

The Complicated History of Martin Luther King Day

In 2000, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time. It was a long and arduous battle to gain national recognition for the life of the civil rights icon. If your kids are anything like mine, that is probably hard for them to believe. The life of Martin Luther King Jr. is practically central to the public school civil rights curriculum. It may seem as though the leader was always universally celebrated and respected. In actuality, it wasn’t easy to get national recognition for the slain leader. Here are seven facts to teach your kids about the history of this important day.

1024px-reagan_signs_martin_luther_king_bill

In 2000, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time.  It was a long and arduous battle to gain national recognition for the life of the civil rights icon.  If your kids are anything like mine, that is probably hard for them to believe.  The life of Martin Luther King Jr. is practically central to the public school civil rights curriculum. It may seem as though the leader was always universally celebrated and respected.  In actuality, it wasn’t easy to get national recognition for the slain leader.  Here are seven facts to teach your kids about the history of this important day:

1. A bill to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday was first introduced a few months after Dr. King’s death.

In 1968, a few months after Martin Luther King’s assassination, Congressman John Conyers (MI) and Senator Edward Brooke (MA) introduced a bill to make January 15, Dr. King’s birthday, a national holiday.  It didn’t go to the House of Representatives until 1979 and failed to pass by five votes.

2. The petition to support the holiday garnered close to six million signatures.

Shortly after Dr. King’s assassination, the King Memorial Center was founded in Atlanta.  The center launched a campaign to solicit support for a national holiday from the public and along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, garnered millions of signatures in support.  As of 2006, it was considered the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history.

3. Stevie Wonder wrote the song “Happy Birthday” to gain support for the holiday.

In 1980, Stevie Wonder’s released the song “Happy Birthday” to popularize the campaign to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. Lyrics include: “I just never understood/ How a man who died for good/ Could not have a day that would/ Be set aside for his recognition/ Because it should never be/ Just because some cannot see/ The dream as clear as he/ That they should make it become an illusion/ And we all know everything/ That he stood for time will bring/ For in peace our hearts will sing/ Thanks to Martin Luther King…”

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Letter From Birmingham City Jail

4. Senator Jesse Helms led a filibuster against the bill to create MLK Day.

In 1980, the bill passed in Congress but faced opposition in the Senate. Among those opposed to MLK Day were then-House Republican, now Senator John McCain (AZ) and Senators Jesse Helms and John Porter East, Republicans from North Carolina.  Helms and East criticized Martin Luther King for opposing the Vietnam War and accused him of being associated with communists.  In October 1983, when the bill once again came before the senate, Senator Helms led a filibuster against the bill.  He submitted a 300 page document alleging that King had associations with communists. New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously called the document a “packet of filth,” threw it on the Senate floor, and stomped on it.  Although President Ronald Reagan initially opposed the bill, he signed the bill into law in 1983. The first official holiday was observed in 1986 by 27 states and the District of Columbia.

5. The NFL moved Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona to California in protest of Arizona’s decision not to recognize the holiday.

Even after the bill passed, many states refused to recognize the holiday. Arizona was among them.  1n 1992, the NFL moved Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona to California to protest the state’s failure to recognize the holiday. In response to the NFL’s protest and growing opposition, Arizona passed legislation to recognize the holiday.

6. South Carolina was the last state to recognize the holiday.

In 2000, South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed a bill into law to make MLK Day an official state holiday. Prior to that, citizens could chose between celebrating MLK Day and other holidays celebrating members of the Confederacy.  Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, and Virginia continue to combine MLK Day with other observances.

7. MLK Day is celebrated around the world.

Japan, Canada, Israel and The Netherlands hold celebrations in honor of Dr. King.

Sources:

http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1872501,00.html

http://www.webcitation.org/5vnLjow8L

***

About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

 

I am loved! Positive Affirmations For Our Children

By affirming all that is good in our children, we teach them to combat the inevitable negativity they will face on their path to adulthood. In so doing, we can instill in our children an unwavering confidence and belief that they can not only guard their own light but spread that same beautiful light throughout the world.

I remember the moments after my first son was born like it was yesterday.  It was shortly after six in the morning, and I had spent the vast majority of the previous twenty-four hours in an exhausting labor.  Like so many moms I know, I ended up having an emergency cesarean section.  The decision came swiftly and before I knew it, I was laying in a cold and bright operating room with the lower half of my body shielded by a blue curtain. As the doctors worked, I looked up at my husband, my hand woven with his, feeling a mixture of excitement and fear. It took eighteen minutes to hear that sweet sound but when I did my whole world changed. It was my sons cries. A whimper and then a steady whine. They brought him to me swaddled, his full pink lips pressed firmly together and his eyes open wide. The love I felt was instant, immeasurable and all encompassing.  Almost a decade later, I am a mother of three beautiful sons. Each entering the world with just as much of a profound impact on my life.  It has been a joy to witness them as they receive this world, arms and eyes open wide, dwelling in radiant light.  Anyone who has spent time around children knows the light I am talking about.  A young child can embody all that is beautiful about the human experience. Children greet each day with excitement.  They believe in the good in those around them.  They love without condition, and they see endless possibilities for their lives.

As we know, the path to adulthood can be trying.  Pain, grief, disappointment and heartache are inevitable facts of the human experience.  Even the brightest light can dim in the face of negativity.  Our children will inevitably question their worth, beauty and value.  In a perfect world, we would be there for every threat to their humanity.  However, as our children grow into complete human beings, they will venture boldly into this world without us, having experiences we could never predict.  As adults who love them, it is our duty to release them into the world with the ability to protect their own lights.  By affirming all that is good in them, we teach them to combat the inevitable negativity they will face on their path to adulthood.  In so doing, we can instill in our children an unwavering confidence and belief that they can not only guard their own light but spread that same beautiful light throughout the world.

I wrote my latest book I am loved! Positive Affirmations For Our Children to protect and spread that beautiful light. It is available for pre-order now on Kindle and will be available in paperback on February 14, 2017.  I hope you love sharing these beautiful affirmations with your children as much as I do.

I am loved! Positive Affirmations For Our Children will be available February 14, 2017. Pre-order it NOW HERE.

***

About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Something’s Not Right: My Experience with Postpartum Preeclampsia

African American women are three times more likely to die from preeclampsia. I had chronic hypertension, which is a risk factor, but it was well-controlled and monitored so I had no reason to believe this disease would impact me.

I’ve never had an easy delivery. That’s probably why the first thing I said to my husband when he greeted me horizontally in the operating room just prior to my second son’s c-section was, “Never again.” I had just spent the better part of twenty minutes hunched in my obstetrician’s arms as an anesthesiologist jabbed me with a really, really big needle in my spine.  He had trouble finding my epidural space. The result of which was a two-week long spinal headache.  However, six years later, one day before the 2016 Election, I found myself once again laying in the same position preparing for the birth of our third son.  Don’t get me wrong. This little guy was planned. He was wanted.  However, that didn’t stop the anxiety from practically eating me alive as I prepared for his birth.  I was prepared.  That is, I knew what to expect.  However, I also knew all the things that could go wrong.

This was my third c-section.  I had considered VBAC. However, during monitoring my son’s heart rate dropped so I would have had to be induced at 37 weeks. Since labor via induction can be harder on a previously scarred uterus, I chose a third c-section as the safest option for baby and me.  Surgery went well.  I had scar tissue that complicated things but my son was perfect.  He was 7 lbs 10 ounces, 19 inches and screaming his head off.  10 fingers. 10 toes. A head full of hair and placed right in my arms.  The days following my c-section were brutal but nothing out of the ordinary. As the remaining effects of the epidural wore off, the pain returned with gusto but I was on three different pain medications so it was manageable. We stayed in the hospital four days and were released with a clean bill of health. I had no swelling, my incision was healing already, and all of my vitals, including my blood pressure, were great.

blackwoman

The first warning sign came the day I got home.  It was a Thursday.  As I was parked in our recliner, surrounded by members of our immediate family, I noticed the beginnings of extreme swelling in my legs and feet.  By the following day, my feet had blown up so big, I couldn’t fit any of my shoes or socks. My feet had even gotten too wide for my husband’s socks (he wears a size 15 shoe).  Even more concerning, when I pressed into my feet with my fingers, they left deep imprints (I later learned this was pitting edema).  The swelling was so bad I could feel my skin stretching.  I called my doctor and she told me it was probably normal. However, I would be further evaluated at my postnatal check up the following week.

My second warning sign happened a few days later. I developed a horrible headache. Even with the pain medications, I couldn’t find relief. As a migraine sufferer, I assumed it could be a migraine.  With a new baby in the house and not much sleep, a headache seemed natural and like nothing to worry about.  Plus, it was a Saturday and my appointment was on Tuesday.  I figured any concerns could wait a few days.

When I finally made it in to the doctor’s office, I was surprised to find my pressure was elevated.  It was reading 160/92 which was a sharp contrast to the perfect readings I had gotten all throughout my pregnancy (find out more about normal blood pressure readings here).  My doctor assumed my pressure was elevated due to the excess fluid and put me on a higher dose of labetalol, a pressure medication to help lower my readings. I was already on a small dose to regulate my chronic hypertension before pregnancy.  She also tasked me with monitoring my pressure at home.  Luckily, I owned my own cuff so I was able to record my readings at home.  I had heard of preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system) but it was rare (though possible) postpartum.  I asked my doctor about it anyway and she tested my blood and urine just in case.  All the tests came back negative.

Two days later, I woke up with an excruciating headache.  I took a pressure reading and it read 174/112.  My husband had just run out to the grocery store, and I called him and told him we needed to go to the hospital.  Everything in my body was telling me something was wrong and the reading confirmed it.  I called my doctor and they told me to go straight to labor and delivery.

When we arrived at the hospital, almost a week to the day we had been released my pressure was 186/121.  I was scared, my head was pounding, and I could barely see straight.  The doctor’s immediately gave me IV blood pressure medication and put me on Magnesium to avoid a seizure or a stroke.  Although the emergency meds worked, I spent almost another week in the hospital trying to find the right medication combination to safely release me from the hospital.  I maxed out on two medications before finding the right combination, and was given IV rescue medications twice.  At one point, my pressure was being checked every fifteen minutes.  It was rough but I survived.  In the end, I was diagnosed with atypical postpartum preeclampsia, a rare and life-threatening condition if left untreated.  My condition was atypical because I never showed signs in my blood or urine. I also developed it almost two weeks after giving birth.  Most women develop symptoms during pregnancy or within 48 hours of giving birth.

I didn’t want something to be wrong. I know that sounds silly but after giving birth, all I wanted to do was live and breathe my new son.  Even now, just writing about it fills me with anxiety.  When I started swelling, something deep inside of me told me something was wrong.  However, I was almost too afraid to know because I didn’t want to be rehospitalized and ripped away from my family.  Nonetheless, I knew letting the fear of knowing paralyze me wouldn’t change anything.  The sooner I acted, the more likely I would be able to get control of what was making me sick.  Ultimately, even though I was hospitalized for another week, my husband and newborn were allowed to stay with me so I didn’t lose any days nursing him and bonding with him.  Most importantly, however, I am ALIVE.  I feel so thankful I listened to my body and had the support of my family and doctors who recognized something was wrong and acted quickly. I will likely be on a large amount of medication for the next month or so but my awesome team of doctors assured me I will be fine.

The fact is African-American women are three times more likely to die from preeclampsia. I had chronic hypertension, which is a risk factor, but it was well-controlled and monitored so I had no reason to believe this disease would impact me.  It would have been easy to ignore my symptoms as sleep deprivation or just another part of postpartum recovery.  However, if I had, I may not have lived to tell my story.  Often women in our community are celebrated for our strength and independence.  Our strength is a source of pride.  Seeking help can make you feel vulnerable and weak.  However, as a survivor, I know recognizing my vulnerability saved my life.  No matter how strong we believe we are, recovering from birth takes time.  As new moms, our bodies have spent close to a year building a life.  If I could lend any advice it would be to listen to your body. Lean on your support system and allow yourself to heal.  Be your own advocate. Be vigilant.  Ask questions and remember, no symptom is too small or question too silly.  If any healthcare professional makes you feel like it is, find someone else. Remember, the most important thing is for you to survive to raise that tiny human.  He/she is depending on you to make it through.

For more information on Preeclampsia, visit preeclampsia.org.

***

About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

 

 

Minute Mentor: Filmmaker and Educator Chad Quinn

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams. It began with the simple idea that “seeing is being.”  When cofounders Rick and Faye’s oldest son was born, it was clear he was musically inclined. He was playing piano by ear at age 4 and neither of them ever even picked up an instrument! When Faye remembered an old neighbor who had gone on to become a Julliard trained musician, she immediately reached out to him and said, “What do we do?”  He patiently answered all of her questions on how best to nurture her budding musician.

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

fullsizerender-4

NameChad Quinn

Age: 36

Occupation: Filmaker/Assistant Dean of Public Charter School

Career Level:

  • Entry
  • Mid-level
  • Executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Retired

How hard do you work? 

  • Lots of Leisure Time
  • Typical 40-50hr Workweek
  • More than Average
  • I never stop working

Lifestyle/Income

  • Side Hustle/Didn’t Quit My Day Job
  • Getting By
  • My bills are Paid with Some Room for Fun
  • You get a car! You get a car!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you currently reside?

[I was] born in North Carolina, raised in Jersey. I went to Temple University and obtained a degree in Marketing and Business Law.  I then went on to further my studies at Howard University School of Law. I’ve spent 12+ years in corporate America working for multiple Fortune 500 companies as a consultant and research analyst. But with all my work and studies, I’ve always wanted to make films.

 What kind of student were you?

Hmmm…somewhat troublesome. School came really easy for me.  [I] had mostly AP courses, so I would get in trouble for running my mouth and causing issues because I knew I was going to pass regardless. Then one day a teacher shared with me that although I was doing fine, my behavior was really affecting those I considered friends, that changed my perspective and helped me be more of a leader.

“I overcame adversity due to my willingness to continue to push through regardless of the obstacle. There is not one successful person on earth who’s done it all alone. I developed a very trustworthy and supportive team to help guide my career. From family to friends, I owe them so much credit for my success.”

Describe your current job/jobs.

I work with high school students (grades 9-12) on all types of issues relating to academic and behavioral performance. I’m also a filmmaker. I write constantly. I have multiple films that are now hitting the film festival circuit and a few projects I’ll be pitching to networks in the coming months.

What education level is required for your job? Tests? Certificates? Years of School?

Advanced degree to be a Dean of Admissions. Film, none, just a serious work ethic and dedication to the craft.

 Did you have a mentor/mentors? How did you meet?

On the film side, somewhat. We met during the shooting of one of my earlier projects and have been working closely ever since. She’s taught me a lot about the film industry, both from an artistic and business perspective.  

How did you get your current job?

Working my way up the ranks. I honestly come back to God’s favor. I started at the bottom of the totem pole with no prior experience in education and continued to foster relationships with both staff and students. Eventually, opportunities arose for me to move up in this field.

Do you find your work fulfilling?

Very. I couldn’t happier with both areas of my work. They provide me an opportunity to make tangible impacts to our society.

Did you always know you wanted to pursue your current career path?

I always knew I wanted to be an educator in some capacity. As far as filmmaking, I’ve been writing short stories since my early teen years. Watching a movie, from the opening credits/music, to trailers, everything about making movies just always fascinated me.

 What, if any, setbacks have you faced? How did you overcome them to accomplish your goals?

My setbacks are no different than those in other disciplines; rejection, lack of opportunity, discrimination, lack of support, lack of experience, etc. I overcame adversity due to my willingness to continue to push through regardless of the obstacle. There is not one successful person on earth who’s done it all alone. I developed a very trustworthy and supportive team to help guide my career. From family to friends, I owe them so much credit for my success.

“…the first and only person you need to sell your idea, dream, or whatever to, is yourself. Because there are many lonely and dark days to the path of success, if you don’t truly believe in what you’re trying to accomplish, then you won’t.”

What advice would you give a parent of a child/young adult interested in pursuing a job in your field? What advice would you give them on pursuing any career goal?

Don’t just say what you want to do, create a plan and then go out and execute. And this holds true with most things in life, if not all. Belief in yourself is the key. It sounds cliché, but the first and only person you need to sell your idea, dream, or whatever to, is yourself. Because there are many lonely and dark days to the path of success, if you don’t truly believe in what you’re trying to accomplish, then you won’t.

Anything you would like to add?

Be on the lookout for a few films I have slated for screenings in multiple cities within the next few months, Perceptions, #Trending and Mixed. To find out more specifically about Perceptions you can follow us at http://perceptionsmovie.com/. Additionally, I have a movie, Sex, Politics, Race and Religion, due to come out with TVOne next year.

Check out the trailer for Chad’s upcoming movie Perceptions here.

***

About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Minute Mentor: Social Worker and Motivational Speaker Shameeka Mattis-Pinard

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams. It began with the simple idea that “seeing is being.”  When cofounders Rick and Faye’s oldest son was born, it was clear he was musically inclined. He was playing piano by ear at age 4 and neither of them ever even picked up an instrument! When Faye remembered an old neighbor who had gone on to become a Julliard trained musician, she immediately reached out to him and said, “What do we do?”  He patiently answered all of her questions on how best to nurture her budding musician.

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

shameeka

Name: Shameeka Mattis-Pinard, LMSW

Age: 35

Occupation: Social Worker

Education: Master’s Social Work ’05 University of Pennsylvania; Bachelor’s Degree (English & Sociology) ’03 SUNY Binghamton

Career Level:

  • Entry
  • Mid-level
  • Executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Retired

How hard do you work? 

  • Lots of Leisure Time
  • Typical 40-50hr Workweek
  • More than Average
  • I never stop working

Lifestyle/Income

  • Side Hustle/Didn’t Quit My Day Job
  • Getting By
  • My bills are Paid with Some Room for Fun
  • You get a car! You get a car!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I’m from Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  I was raised in the Ingersoll House i.e. “the projects.”  I currently reside in NYC. I’m a creative music lover, married and love my puppy.

What kind of student were you?

Since I can remember, I was an A student when I applied myself, but an A-/B+ student when I procrastinated or didn’t study well, which was often.  I was always curious, questioning, intrigued by learning, a strong writer, and creative.  I was rowdy and talkative, but astute.  So, [I was] a cool brainiac that would fight or flip at the drop of a dime, but whom teachers loved and scolded equally.  I also made friends with everyone and have some of those friendships to this day.

I was a rough kid with a sharp mind and even sharper mouth, but I believed I could be successful because [my] mentors were my daily examples.

Describe your current job/jobs.

I’m the Director of Programs for a victim service and alternative to incarceration program based in restorative justice in NYC for young adults who commit violent crime.  Responsible parties get a chance to make amends with the people they hurt and instead of going to prison, they remain free without felonies on their records if they complete the program.  I supervise the counselors, develop anti-violence curriculum, interface with the courts, set organizational policies, and build community partnerships.  I’m also a motivational speaker, educator and writer.

What education level is required for your job? Tests? Certificates? Years of School?

A master’s is required for my position.  College graduates from the associate to bachelor level are employed where I work.  However, having a Master of Social Work degree enabled me to make more decisions, have great autonomy, supervise anyone, have leverage and get paid very well.

Did you have a mentor/mentors? How did you meet?

To this day, I’m still in contact with my mentors and close to many of them.  Since I was age 3 or 4, I had mostly Black women in my life that helped me discover myself, love myself, aim high and never settle.  I was a rough kid with a sharp mind and even sharper mouth, but I believed I could be successful because these mentors were my daily examples.  I met most mentors in school, but a few connected with me when I attended church and recreational activities.

How did you get your current job?

I worked in criminal justice in Philadelphia after finishing graduate school, grew tired of those particular jobs and wanted to move back to NYC, particularly to Brooklyn, where I knew my field had innovative opportunities.  I also knew I deserved more money and had talents to expand upon, so I spoke to friends & former professors that encouraged me to consider a prominent criminal justice advocacy and research agency.  When I received an interview, I researched the agency and program, brought my A-game, and the rest is history.  I began my job the day after I helped to elect President Obama to his first term, so that helped it feel extra special.  Talk about a fresh start!

It’s difficult but life-changing work, so I surround myself with people who are good at what they do and who push me to be great.

Is your job family-friendly?

Yes, it is.  Plenty of children are welcome and other family members too.  I’ve even been able to bring my dog to work.

Do you find your work fulfilling?

It is fulfilling, but not just because I get to work with incredible young adults, or because of the impact I’m able to make in their lives.  It’s fulfilling because I aim to do my best, ask for and accept feedback, hold myself to the same standards I request of others, including my clients, and I have fun along the way whenever possible.  It’s difficult but life-changing work, so I surround myself with people who are good at what they do and who push me to be great.  I work hard, so my social network of family and friends helps me stay balanced.

Did you always know you wanted to pursue your current career path?

I was naturally drawn to justice work, teaching and counseling as a kid, but I also like to help solve difficult issues.  So I was convinced I would pursue many careers, but social work just seemed portable and full of options by the time I was a junior in college.  I genuinely liked its principles.  So far, I’m not disappointed in the choices I made and path I took.  I stay open to all opportunities because I have many skills and know how to make connections with anyone.

To all my young people, think of the problems you want to solve, not what you want to be or do.  Have fun, learn how to communicate effectively, and remember that you are limitless.

What, if any, setbacks have you faced? How did you overcome them to accomplish your goals?

I used to fight daily as a kid.  Then I argued all the time because I always thought I was right and didn’t know my worth or appreciate other’s differences.  I developed a healthy self-esteem in spite of my poverty as a young black girl and I channeled my talents through academics and sports, surrounding myself with people who encouraged me to shine.  I learned how to be humble.  I was the first person in my family to graduate college and that was huge because both my parents were functionally illiterate and didn’t finish high school.  However, my mom died right after I graduated from college, and I grieved her absence a long time before learning to accept that death is a part of life.  It [was] then [that] I remembered the gifts she instilled in me and understood how they would never leave me.  I don’t forget the people who helped me and the gifts God gave me to share with the world.  I am diligent about asking for help from those closest to me when needed and I keep it real no matter where I go.

What advice would you give a parent of a child/young adult interested in pursuing a job in your field? What advice would you give them on pursuing any career goal?

Don’t push your children to do ANYTHING.  Be patient.  Encourage their curiosity, support their uniqueness and praise them for incremental efforts and success.  Your child is not one size fits all.  Also, your children are not carbon copies of you because they were born as whole people with dreams and purpose.  To all my young people, think of the problems you want to solve, not what you want to be or do.  Have fun, learn how to communicate effectively, and remember that you are limitless.  Don’t rush to grow up.  Have authentic relationships with yourself and others and be honest with yourself always.   Surround yourself with people who are doing productive things because you gain motivation from their success and it generates your own.

***

About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.