A Black Herstory Month Reflection: My Love Letter to Black Teachers and Mentors

Photo by Kylar Gray
Photo by Kylar Gray

Dear Spelman Community,

To wrap up Black History and Futures Month, I wanted to pen this heartfelt letter to shine a light on the remarkable and extraordinary Black women who continue to inspire my academic journey, aspirations, and identity – the teachers and mentors.

Reflecting on my time as a Spelmanite fills me with profound gratitude for the educators who have profoundly influenced my life. Their commitment to providing a nurturing learning environment and safe space for us with a focus on our academic success and aspirations reinforces the significance of my choice to attend such a prestigious HBCU as Spelman College. This choice continues to inspire me in more ways than one.

From the halls of Grady (Midtown) High School and pandemic-era virtual meetings through Georgia State University, I had the privilege of learning from Black women who lit my path to Spelman College. Their encouragement, dedication, wisdom, guidance, and belief in my potential fueled my determination to strive for excellence in higher education.

While attending high school in Mobile, Alabama, I had a strong desire to expand my horizon beyond limiting beliefs, including the non-Black art teacher who once made discouraging remarks about the colleges I wanted to attend. Oblivious to my scholastic achievements, I remember how my response to her question about my aspirations were met with skepticism and sarcasm. Among the esteemed institutions I listed was Spelman College, my ultimate goal. This experience, along with reading about how former First Lady Michelle Obama had a similar encounter with a guidance counselor decades before during her Chicago high school years, proved the importance of seeking environments that offer genuine support and enhanced opportunities for growth. This realization paved the way for a new chapter in my life that included moving to Atlanta and attending Grady (Midtown) High School. My entire experience was eye-opening and inspiring. At Grady, I was met with a huge support system–from administrative staff to fellow students–who believed in my dreams of achieving excellence in higher education. An administrator at Grady High School, a Black woman, once told me, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Her words were both encouraging and affirming, providing me with motivation at a crucial time, especially after facing discouraging remarks at my previous high school. Since then, this quote has remained with me, serving as a gentle reminder in moments when I question myself. This refreshing bond set the stage for the supportive community of teachers and mentors that emerged during my college years. They have constantly reminded me, in a myriad of ways, how Black girls are entitled to dream without limits. They empower us by asserting that no dream is “too big,” dismissing the notion that our aspirations are unrealistic or crazy. I deeply value these affirmations.

I share this story to pay tribute to my journey of relocating to Atlanta and entering the gates of Spelman College. In this nurturing environment, I was embraced by an extraordinary community of Black women who served as mentors, educators, advisors, and role models. Through classrooms, mentorships, internships, advising centers, and the network of alumni, I have been provided with a sense of belonging and empowerment.

This Black History and Futures month, I celebrate all of the incredible women I’ve crossed paths with through education, mentorships, my mother’s book club community, circle of journalists, and professors–my cherished aunts who’ve taken me under their wings (Janelle Harris-Dixon, E Kehinde, Susana Morris, Imani Perry, the late Valerie Boyd, Lisa Butler, Biba Adams, Anoa Changa, and so many more to name.) I am forever grateful for the impact they’ve made on my life. I look forward to carrying the lessons, values, and inspiration they’ve provided me into my next chapter as I pursue a career in journalism. 

In high school, I was fortunate to have mentors like Ms. Greene, Ms. Cosby, and Ms. Lovejoy, whose encouragement and efforts were dedicated to nurturing an environment of growth and speaking life into my aspirations. 

During my time at Spelman College, I have had the privilege of learning from exceptional professors and mentors, including Jordan Parker, Dr. Maner, Dr. Strange, Dr. Williams, and Mrs. Johnson. 

In addition, I want to highlight the mentors I’ve gained from summits, fellowships, mentorships, and interviews who have made a significant impact on my life, like Kenyatta Victoria, D’Shonda Brown, Ms. Walker, Darralynn Hutson, Kayleigh Skinner, Kenya Evelyn, and Heather Lowery.

Furthermore, as we collectively celebrate Black History and Futures Month, let us recognize and honor the love, brilliance, and elegance of Black women educators and mentors who have shaped the minds of past, present, and future generations. To my teachers and mentors, thank you so much for being the trailblazers who have illuminated my path and continue to inspire me on this incredible journey.

Forever and Always Honored to Have Crossed Paths with You,
Kylar Gray

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