There’s no proof that destiny brought Honey Walrond to Teachers College. But there have been some pretty strong indications.
During her first semester, in a course called Harlem Stories, Walrond read a chapter from Educating Harlem: A Century of Schooling and Resistance in a Black Community, co-authored by her instructor, Associate Professor of History and Education Ansley Erickson, and Ernest Morrell, formerly of TC and now Coyle Professor of Literacy Education at the University of Notre Dame. Among the key actors described by Erickson and Morrell was the late human and civil rights activist Maude White Katz – Walrond’s maternal grandmother.
“I was not only surprised, but it left me feeling even more motivated to pursue my academic goals at TC,” says Walrond, a first-year master’s degree student in the College’s Department of International & Transcultural Studies.
Katz, who died in 1985, is best remembered for helping to lead the 1967 student boycott of P.S. 125 in Harlem that forced the Board of Education to create admissions pathways for minorities to attend elite New York City high schools. However, she also was an associate of W.E.B DuBois – the great pan-Africanist who mentored TC Professor Emeritus Edmund Gordon – and an internationalist who lived in the Soviet Union at the tail end of the 1920s.
“My grandmother’s work guides my educational endeavors,” says Walrond, a proud P.S. 125 alumna who grew up in just north of TC’s campus, in a family of educators. “Her history set the stage for what I want to do.”
My grandmother’s work guides my educational endeavors. Her history set the stage for what I want to do.
Walrond earned her undergraduate degree in English Education at Hunter College. Inspired by her grandmother, she taught in Harlem and, subsequently, in Ethiopia and Barbados.
“I became curious about global education,” recalls Walrond, who later this year will present her research proposal on the impact of women leaders in international education at the annual conference of the Comparative and International Education Society. “What does it look like? How does curriculum differ? As a woman of color I was also interested in leadership roles held by women.”
I became curious about global education. What does it look like? How does curriculum differ? As a woman of color I was also interested in leadership roles held by women.
In Barbados, where she’d come to honor her father’s heritage and reconnect with his side of the family, Walrond became intrigued by another civil rights icon and TC icon –Shirley Chisholm (M.A. ’52), the first black woman to serve in Congress and seek a major party’s presidential nomination. Like Walrond’s father, Chisholm had migrated to New York City from Barbados.
Walrond soon discovered that Chisholm had much in common with Maude White Katz as well.
“We tend to discuss Shirley Chisholm’s political background,” says Walrond. “But we don’t really honor the fact she was an educator first. She worked in early childhood education and before going to Congress pushed scholarship programs to assist CUNY minority students.”
A revolutionary change has taken place in the minds of Black parents. Ther will be no more resignation and accommodation to the status quo.
—Maude White Katz
As a member of the TC Student Senate seat, Walrond has looked for opportunities to “connect Shirley Chisholm to the mission of this university.” In December, her proposal – “A Catalyst for Change: Shirley Chisholm’s Educational Agenda” – was the recipient of a Vice President’s Grant for Diversity & Community Initiatives. The proposal – chosen in conjunction with The Black Education Research Collective (BERC), the Office of Government Relations and the Institute for Urban & Minority Education (IUME) – includes a TC wall exhibit commemorating Chisholm’s life and career as well as a panel discussion following a screening of The Fighting Shirley Chisholm, a biopic starring Academy Award winner Viola Davis that is currently in production.
DuBois. Gordon. Katz. Chisholm – Honey Walrond has some big footsteps to walk in. Destiny or no, Teachers College seems like the right place to continue her journey.