To recognize Black History Month we are sharing voices from the Visions community. In this Staff Spotlight we interviewed Home School Vice Principal Beyonka Marshall. Read her spotlight below to learn how her heritage helped her become a successful educator.
Hey, hey! My name is Beyonka Marshall and I am the Vice Principal for the Bay Area Region Home School Academy!
How did your heritage and upbringing play a role in your career path/education?
I grew up in a household where education was super important. My grandmother taught me how to read at a very young age and instilled in me that education was the way to open up new doors and opportunities for me. My grandmother made me super “Black Conscious” at a young age and my grandmother’s home was full of books with stories about those who came before us.
My family is super family oriented. Being together and making contact with each other is so important to us. We have a family reunion that is held the first weekend of August every year and it’s a weekend full of love and fun. This past August was our 80th Annual Family reunion which we held in New Orleans!!
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite African Proverb is “It takes a village to raise a child”. And it’s so true! It takes a multitude of people to raise a child up into who they are going to be in life. That village can consist of parents, grandparents, family friends, teachers, school staff, etc. As an educator I have been honored to be a part of so many students’ villages. It is such a great honor to be such a great influence.
What motivates you to come to work each day?
The students, families, and my staff motivate me. I am such a people person and relationship person. I enjoy having the opportunity to interact with families and my staff when I can.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is so important to me. Though I live by the saying “Black History 365”, Black History Month is a month where Black people and their contributions are put on the forefront of peoples’ minds. For example, I drive everyday and never think twice about traffic signals but for some reason during Black History Month I am reminded that the traffic signal was invented by a Black Man [Garrett Morgan]! It really serves as a month of reflection and appreciation for me.
Tell us about a moment in Black History that influenced or shaped your career/life.
When I was 8 my grandmother introduced me to Mary Mcleod Bethune who was an educator and civil rights activist. I was so intrigued by her passion for education! Her charge was the right to education for African Americans and she also opened up a school for girls.
How do you plan on observing Black History Month?
Personally, I love attending the Black Joy Parade that is held in Oakland. It’s such an awesome gathering of Black folks and it’s a joyous event. I also have discussions with my kids at home. I have a 10 year old daughter and a 7 year old son and they love learning about historical figures in Black History.
Last year for Black History Month, my Principal Edwina Cirelli and I organized different virtual events for the students in our region. It included read alouds of books about historical Black figures and movie discussions. We had a great turn out!
I also love graphic tees and so during the month I try to wear a different graphic tee with a historical Black figure, musician, or statements that show my love for Blackness every day!
Any book or documentary recommendations for educating ourselves on Black History?
One book recommendation would be a book called “Dirty Little Secrets About Black History: Its Heroes and other Troublemakers” by Claud Anderson. It’s a book that is really enlightening.
There are so many documentaries on Netflix right now so it’s hard for me to narrow it down to a few. My current favorite documentary is called “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America”. It’s a must watch!!
Who is an inspirational Black historical figure who inspires you and why?
I would say one who definitely inspires me is John Lewis. He is so inspirational and really pushes the message that not all trouble is bad. In certain environments and situations I used to be afraid to speak up for fear that I would get in “trouble”. But John Lewis’ life has inspired me to engage in what he calls “good trouble or necessary trouble” especially if my intention is to achieve change.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I am a foodie! I love trying food from different cultures! My most favorite type of food is Caribbean food.
Anything else you would like to share?
Ethnically I have Nigerian and Cameroonian roots. I was always aware of my Nigerian roots because of my paternal grandfather but recently I did an African ancestry test for my maternal side and discovered that my ancestors were the Bamileke people from Cameroon. So now I am diving deeper into learning about the culture.