Kemal Stewart, 5th grade teacher
I was born and raised in Oakland, California, however, my parents, older brother and sister moved to the Bay Area from Baton Rouge, Louisiana before I was born. In Oakland, I attended Laurel Elementary school up until the 5th grade, later I would transfer to Berkeley Schools, where I attended Malcolm X Elementary School, Willard Middle School, and eventually Berkeley High School.
As a child, everyday after school, my father would take us to the park to play tennis, as tennis was a major focal point in our household. Growing up, my family was always on the road going to different tennis tournaments throughout Northern California. While our road trips as a family were often fun and eventful, there were other times when I’d learn that not everyone is accepting of diversity and through those experiences, I learned a lot about the world around me. Through my experience as a child, I learned that (at that time) there were not many people that looked like me that played tennis, and often times my family and I would experience discrimination. Fortunately, I was raised by two great parents that instilled in me a lot of love, honor, confidence, awareness and respect. Due to their positive influence, I have never let negative experiences deter me from my goals, and I give credit to my Mother and Father for helping me persevere through hard times and appreciate the good times.
While tennis was a common interest in my household, I also had other passions that I chose to explore. I’ve always had a knack for public speaking and expressing myself both verbally and on paper. This led to various opportunities within performance arts and media, and also led to me choosing to major in Communication when I attended college at California State University, East Bay.
Throughout my life I have dabbled in various fields, but one thing that has always been a part of my life is working with kids. I first started working with kids when I was a pre-teen myself, and have worked in various after school programs, summer camps, and schools. However, through my experiences in the school system, one thing that always stood out was the fact that it was rare to see someone teaching the class that looked like me or had a similar background. For that reason, I believe it is important that students from all walks of life see and experience black males in respectable positions of authority, such as a classroom teacher. I also believe that It is time that we eradicate the negative stereotypes that society tends to spread regarding black males, and the time is now to shine a light on those of us that are spreading positivity and helping educate the youth.
I am proud of who I am and where I come from, and I am glad to hear that Cragmont is celebrating and recognizing Black History Month.
—Kemal Stewart, 5th Grade Teacher