Staff Spotlight: Celebrating Our Black Female Leaders

In this month’s Staff Spotlight, we are highlighting 5 of KIPP Indy’s Black female leaders: LaToya Black, Brittney Almond, Shaina Neal, ShaDe’ Watson, and Brittany Crawford. In the article below, each leader shares what they love about themselves, how their identity as a Black woman impacts their work at KIPP Indy, and how we can celebrate and amplify the voices of Black women.

Shaina Neal, Director of Student Services at KIPP Indy Legacy High

What role does your identity as a Black woman play in your work at KIPP Indy?

There isn’t a single thing I do that isn’t rooted in who I am as a Black woman or the struggles I’ve faced as a factor of being one. When I think about these struggles it makes it easy to relate to my students. Aside from my ethnicity, I’m a Black woman from the Bronx, and my neighborhood and upbringing mirrors where I choose to work. My experiences influence every interaction I have. Education has always been a window for me. I spent my childhood reading books and planning my success. The quote “Be the kind of teacher you wish you had in school” leads me in everything I do. I joined every club and organization, I took every AP class I could and I worked 3x as hard without any mentors or real help in school. When I think about what I could have accomplished under the leadership of even one Black woman in high school, I am saddened. Not that I am not proud of where I am, but how much more could I have done with the guidance of someone who understood my struggles? My family? My culture? When I created our merit and demerit system, these were the things I held in mind.

Why does representation matter in school leadership?

All over the world, students I have taught and or led will never be able to say they didn’t have an example of what a successful Black woman looks like. I have taught in Arizona, Georgia, Indianapolis, Korea, England, and Spain and that was not something I saw Black women (or Black people in general) doing. I didn’t know it was possible for someone who looked like me, spoke like me, and from where I was from, to do these things. In everything I do, I try to bring my authentic, south Bronx, “Soundview projects” self in tandem with my self proclaimed educational “Dopeness” and expertise. I want my students to learn before they graduate what took me years to figure out and navigate: you can be both. That’s what representation does. It shows that success does not only look like a tall white man in a business suit. It can be a short black woman with hoop earrings yelling “Yasssssssss, sis!”

What do you love about being a Black woman?

Chileeeee. So many things. The fact that I know every black woman reading this read it in the exact voice I intended, is just one aspect that demonstrates how strong our culture is. I love our voices when they are amplified and strong. I love our “I see you in that skirt” and “you killing it, sis” compliments. I hate those narratives that women don’t like each other because that is absolutely not true. I love our hair and the hues of our skin. I love our comedy and cultural inside jokes. Most importantly, I love that I am a Black woman in a position to the change the lives of other Black women.