Leader Spotlight: Shaketa Radden

Shaketa Redden grew up in Buffalo, then left for Washington, D.C. where she attended college and then worked as an instructional assistant in the D.C. public schools. After a year in San Diego as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps working in a foster care office, she returned to Buffalo, where she joined VOICE first as a leader and recently as a staff organizer. She attends the Pilgrim St. Luke’s United Church of Christ in Buffalo, New York.

How did you get involved with Gamaliel?

I was just back in Buffalo from Jesuit Volunteer Corps in San Diego where I spent the year pretty much getting angry at the system. I knew I needed more than just “helping people.” I was craving for justice and I guess [Gamaliel Western New York Director] Bruce McKay could sense that, because he recommended I attend National Leadership Training.

What are some of your recent accomplishments?

I started as an organizer with VOICE Buffalo last August. My first week, the New York State Education Commissioner was threatening to close two city schools due to students’ low test scores. Our communities cared too much about these schools to let them go. We put together a press conference on the steps of one of the High schools and sent the message. The schools are still open, and now the community is part of a larger conversation about equity in our public schools, and I am our education organizer.

What are you currently working on?

We are working to establish a broad-based task force representing students, parents, faith leaders, teachers, school officials and politicians using the methodology of community organizing. VOICE leaders are engaged in a campaign to increase parent involvement, and decrease segregation of culturally disenfranchised students as well as students with disabilities and start discussing the validity of high stakes testing in Buffalo and western New York.

Do you have a goal that you are working towards for 2014?

I am working on engaging Black women leadership through education work. I would also like to see the issue of cultural diversity to improve. I am really excited about the work that we are starting with understanding diversity in the schools. However, we are not just working with diversity, but also understanding that more anti-racism training is beneficial for the staff in the school system.

Can you talk about how your faith has inspired your leadership vision?

My grandma was a big influence for me. She taught me what it means to be a servant leader. She was my living example of Jesus and community and what we do is about building community and power. What we’re doing is about community, growing up, and being brought up in the community. It’s never just about having this for me, but to be able to have what I need to fight for the needs of other people and also help to provide the tools for others to fight for themselves too.

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