Joycelyn Maria Davis began her long career in education as a preschool teacher at Bishop State Community College and is currently employed as a paraprofessional at Saraland City Schools. A fierce advocate for children, Joycelyn believes in the power of community to create a safe and healthy environment in which children can thrive. She is also actively involved in the community, devoted to her work with Africatown C.H.E.S.S (Clean, Healthy, Safe, Educated, Sustainable), an agency dedicated to the preservation and future prosperity of Africatown. Joycelyn is also the co-founder and Vice-President of the Clotilda Descendants Association and organizer of the Spirit of Our Ancestors Festival, a day set aside where descendants of the Clotilda celebrate their heritage. Joycelyn inspires others through her community work, reminding us all that we can be the change we wish to see in the world.
Share any relevant education, accolades, experiences related to your success:
I started my career as a preschool teacher at Bishop State Community College. I was employed there for 20 years. My job was eliminated due to a reduction in force. I currently work as a paraprofessional at Saraland City Schools where I work in a self-contained classroom.
Tell us why you chose your profession, the value it brings to you and/or the community:
I’ve always had a love for children for as long as I can remember. There is an African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child.” That means that an entire community must interact with children in order for those children to thrive and grow in a safe, healthy, and empowering environment.
Are you involved with the community, any nonprofits, etc. and why is that important?
Yes, I am a community engagement officer with Africatown CHESS (Clean, Healthy, Educated, Safe, and Sustainable). We are an environmental group that makes sure that no harmful chemicals come into the Africatown community. I attend all community meetings and conduct health surveys. Being a part of CHESS is very important. Africatown has had a number of residents affected by the chemicals left from various chemical plants. I’m the Co-Founder and Vice-President of the Clotilda Descendants Association and organizer of the Spirit of Our Ancestors festival. This festival is a day set aside where descendants of the Clotilda honor and celebrate their heritage. It is important for the descendants of the Clotilda to honor those 110 enslaved Africans who survived the middle passage.
What is your vision or hope for women in the Mobile and Gulf Coast communities?
I would advise any woman to never give up. We are stronger than we think. I like to listen to empowering songs like “I Want To See You Be Brave” or read my favorite poem by Maya Angelou “Still I Rise” to remind myself of that.
Was there a moment for you that was a game changer and can you tell us about it?
When I met Mary Elliott, Curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She held a seminar at my church asking how we were keeping traditions alive, and I talked about what other women were doing, but she simply asked, “what are you doing?” That was a game changer for me because on that day I knew I had to step up to keep traditions alive in Africatown.
How important are relationships/networking to your personal and professional life?
Building relationships with people who share your same vision can enhance your network of people. For me, I have met people from all over the States who are interested in the Africatown/Clotilda story. These people help expand my horizons.
“There is an African proverb that says ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ That means that an entire community must interact with children in order for those children to thrive and grow in a safe, healthy, and empowering environment. “
Do you have a mentor? Who are they and how have they helped you?
I have so many mentors that I can’t name them all. All of my mentors are pushing me to become a better person–to venture out and leave a legacy for the next generation.
You seem to really love what you do, tell us why:
I love what I do because it gives me purpose.
How do you take care of yourself everyday so that you stay balanced and centered?
I take long walks, meditate before going to work each day, exercise, and eat healthy.