By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Dero Sanford | Makeup by Samantha Schmitt with Belle & Blush | Clothing & Accessories by Beyond Cotton 2 | Shot on location at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
Danyell Cummings is a first generation college graduate. One of 15 siblings, she notes she was considered an “at-risk youth” before she “really understood what it meant.” Through the support of a caring community – comprised of family, church, neighbors and teachers – Danyell earned not only bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she continued with a doctorate degree in educational leadership. She believes, “It’s important for our African-American youth, and all Arkansans, to experience and interact with successful African-Americans – people who look like them and come from similar backgrounds.” It’s an important part of her life’s work – as an educator, as a civic leader and, most important for her, as a mother to her three sons.
Danyell already finds outlets that expose her young boys to career opportunities as well as pertinent and interesting African-American history. She attended the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Distinguished Laureate Lecture Series with them and was impressed with the content and magnitude of each Arkansan’s role throughout history. “I wanted to be part of bringing notable African-American Arkansans back to Arkansas to engage our community and students.” Now, she is serving her third year as chairman of the laureate lecture series.
The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame celebrates the accomplishments of African-Americans and their unique Arkansas heritage as well as their regional, national and international contributions. In partnership with the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the ABHOF Foundation features A Living History: The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame permanent exhibit in the museum – highlighting the achievements of all inductees and emphasizing the importance of black history in our shared American history. In addition to the organization’s annual gala and laureate lecture series, the ABHOF provides grants and funding to Arkansas communities to support education, youth development and economic development.
Charles Stewart, chairman of the ABHOF Foundation, notes how the laureate lecture series benefits from Danyell’s leadership. “Danyell has the interest in history, amazing organizational skills and educational background that pair perfectly with the laureate lecture series. She was interested, we were interested and the rest is history. Her commitment to improving education and opportunities for students makes her an ideal ambassador for the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and the laureate lecture series.”
Danyell’s career in education spans nearly two decades – with experience as a classroom teacher, school reform coordinator, building administrator and district level administrator. For the Little Rock School District, she is director of testing and evaluation and is a consummate advocate for children. “The responsibility to expose kids to all of life’s possibilities falls on each of us.”
As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Beta Pi Omega Chapter, she serves as chairman for A.S.C.E.N.D – an international youth program designed to enrich each student’s academic, cultural and civic experiences. “The program is available to students who might otherwise be overlooked,” Danyell explains. “Research indicates most children will be what they see, and it’s important for our community to consistently provide positive people and behavior for our youth to emulate.”
Each February, in conjunction with Black History Month, the ABHOF foundation hosts its Distinguished Laureate Lecture Series. This year, Danyell welcomes Arkansas native Timothy Evans, chief judge of the of Cook County (IL) Circuit Court System. Throughout his career, Chief Judge Evans has championed equality for women and minorities – promoting excellence and diversity. Serving as only the fourth chief judge of the largest judicial circuit in Illinois, he is the first African-American to hold the title. Charles notes, “This lecture series aligns with our organization’s support of the underserved Arkansas communities – established to inspire the next generations of African-American civic and business leaders.”
Growing up… “We didn’t have much money, but we had a lot of love.”
Inspired by… “My mother, Easter Crutchfield – her quiet strength embodies what it means to be a mother, a leader and a woman.”
Favorite Book – “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss
Favorite Historical Figure – Sojourner Truth
Favorite Quote – “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart: and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6