As we celebrate Black History Month, we are reminded of the significant contributions of Black leaders throughout history and the contributions that Black leaders continue to make today to better our society and communities. Today we recognize the accomplishments of Kenny Shackelford, a Black leader at OHU, whose work impacts not only the organization but also the communities we serve.
Holding many roles in the early childhood education field including Teacher, Educational Coordinator, and Assistant Director, Kenny Shackelford has continued to grow his career and currently oversees OHU’s entire Early Learning & Childhood Development division as the Executive Director. Kenny is continuously recognized among staff, peers, and other leaders as an inspiring leader with a remarkable ability to motivate and guide his team to success.
While working here at OHU, what effort or achievement are you most proud of?
At the moment, I would have to say I am most proud of having the opportunity to work alongside my Early Learning & Child Development teams (ELCD), really the administration and the entire teaching personnel. They have weathered day in and day out, through the pandemic woes and they continue to push through a critical staffing shortage within ELCD. Every day they come to work putting forth their very best and that is all I can ask for from my teams!
What issues surrounding race or equality have you tackled during your career?
When I first started to answer this question, I didn’t think that I have had to directly tackle any issues in my professional career when it comes to race and equality, but as I really think about it and consider my experiences, I recognize I’ve tackled race issues more than I realized before. I have learned to navigate the inevitable encounters as a professional black man over my tenure. I have learned to master the art of code-switching, when this skill must be exercised, and how to pick up on unconscious bias to those who may not even be aware of what they are saying.
In your opinion, what is the importance of recognizing and celebrating Black History Month?
Black History Month is paying homage to those who paved the way for a better future life for this generation of African Americans today. It’s about giving respect to those who fought for the rights we deserve and for us to reflect back on lessons that can be learned to help us continue to work collectively today to make inequality a thing of the past!
Is there anything you’d like to say to the young Black girl or boy that looks up to you as a leader in our community?
Be true to yourself. Be your authentic self. Trust your instincts. And what I feel is most important, do not let anyone make you feel bad for speaking up about something you believe in. That does not mean it is okay to “pop off at the mouth” (as the young people would say… I think) whenever you feel like it, but instead, find a way to convey your message in such a manner that allows what you’re trying to say to be truly heard. As we continue to become a more inclusive world, it’s important to recognize that as a society, we still have work to do.