Black History Month: What it Means to Me

Ty-Kiera Brown is a Development and Marketing associate at FCS and a passionate volunteer. In 2017, Ty-Kiera was honored by the Long Branch chapter of the NAACP with its “President’s Community Service Award.” This April, she will be honored with Trinity AME Church’s “Millennial Innovator Award” during its Remarkable Women Luncheon. Ty-Kiera shares with us her thoughts on Black History Month and what it means to her.

February is Black History Month, a month set aside to help us reflect on the accomplishments and achievements of African Americans, both past and present. Many are well known, like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but many go unrecognized. They are the ones who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that I, and others like me, have the tools and support we need to succeed in this world.

Growing up in Long Branch, I was fortunate to be exposed to many people who cared about my success. From my earliest years, my mother, Tyesha Brown-Scarborough, stressed to me the importance of studying hard and getting an education. When I entered elementary school, I remember the annual Back-to-School block parties hosted by the Long Branch Housing Authority. Volunteers and staff would distribute free school supplies and backpacks to children and families, items critical to our educational success. In high school, my principal, Dr. Alford Rawls, himself a first-generation college student, often shared with us the advantages of attending college. Once, he introduced me to the prominent black political activist Dr. Cornel West, who told me that attending college may also motivate my family and peers to further their education. It did.

In 2015, I became the first in my family to graduate from college. (In June, my sister will become the second.) Through the New Jersey Equal Opportunity Fund (EOF) program, which provides financial assistance and support services to New Jersey students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, I was able to attend Saint Peter’s University. My EOF counselor Ana Rodriguez often talked about her life growing up in Camden, New Jersey. After graduating Columbia University, Ms. Rodriguez went on to mentor students who shared similar experiences. She inspired me. My goal became to return to my community and encourage other African-American students to value education and learn more about the world.

In 2016, I began work as a Development and Marketing assistant with Family & Children’s Service (FCS). It was important for me to work closely with an organization that served the people of Long Branch. I assist with the fundraising and marketing that helps support essential programs and services in the community, programs like home care for the elderly and frail and literacy education for children. The job is rewarding, especially my work with volunteers. I’ve learned a lot about myself and the many benefits of volunteering. Giving back gives people hope. It also can help boost self-esteem and make us feel worthy.

My experience working with FCS inspired me to get further involved in my own community. Last spring, with the help of the NAACP, I hosted a voter registration event to educate eligible voters about the voting process and help them understand why their vote matters. In the summer, I distributed more than 200 book bags to students and their families in Long Branch. And this past winter, I helped organize a free coat drive for people in need. None of this would have been possible without my family, teachers and the community leaders who motivated and inspired me with their compassion, courage and resiliency.  They taught me an important lesson; that we are all one, that each one of us builds on the achievements of those who came before us.

This Black History Month, I honor the prominent African Americans who helped shape our history. They are remarkable. But I also celebrate the unsung heroes, the ones who help shape our lives everyday. Thank you!

 


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