March is National Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the achievements and contributions women have made to society. For an entire thirty-one days, we highlight and salute women who are making strides and shattering norms. This Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look at some everyday mums who inspire us. They are truly powerful, motivated, and admirable women who have made their mark in various fields. Enter Dr. Monique Darrisaw-Akil, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education at the Brentwood Union Free School District in Long Island, NY. Most importantly, she is the proud mother of Angelina, Kwasi and Akil, and step mum to Oni, Anu and Sana. She is happily married to Shomari Akil.
Meet Dr. Monique Darrisaw-Akil
Dr, Akil is the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, Programs and Policy at the Brentwood School District in Long Island, NY. She has worked in the New York City public schools for over 22 years and she was the founding principal of the Academy of Urban Planning High School in Brooklyn. Dr. Darrisaw-Akil has been credited with establishing student centered programs like Girls Inc, the Friendship Club and the My Brother’s Keeper program.
Awards and Recognition
Dr. Darrisaw-Akil has received the Islip Town Black History Award and the Islip Branch NAACP Women of Influence Award, the Community Leadership Award by Legislator Monica Martinez, and the Outstanding educational Leadership Award by Assemblyman Phil Ramos. Dr. Darrisaw-Akil has a B.A. and M.A. from Brooklyn College, CUNY and a doctorate in Educational Leadership, Management and Policy from Seton Hall University.
Q & A
How do you define motherhood?
Motherhood is the dynamic and chaotic process of caring and providing for another person physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is the most selfless act one can engage in. One gives of herself with no expectation or guarantee of a return on your investment. It is about giving someone you love so much, the tools to live in a world without you. Motherhood changes who you are forever.
What superpower do you bring to motherhood?
The best skill I have is to be a chameleon. I have to be different things to each of my children. I wasn’t the same mum for each of them although I tried to impart the same core values in each of them. The more I got to know who each my children were as individuals, the more I recognized that I needed to adapt. This sometimes meant listening to music I couldn’t stand. Or practicing mediation when I didn’t want to. Or even rethinking what support and love means to each of them.
What makes you do a better job at mothering?
I would not have survived motherhood with my sanity intact without the love and support of my grandmothers and my sister circle. Fortunately, I had people to go to when I ran out of answers. There were other mothers who didn’t judge me when I told them about some really big challenge I was facing with my children. I would tell every parent that if you don’t have a solid circle of informal advisors that you can go to in confidence with your issues, do whatever you can to create it. Even great parents need support systems.
What’s your funniest mum story?
My funniest story was taking my daughter to my job when she was 5 years old. She met my boss. She asked the woman if she was my boss. My boss replied, “Well, your mother and I work together”. My daughter wasn’t satisfied with that answer. She persisted to ask in a few different ways if she was in fact my boss. Finally, the woman agreed that she was my boss. My daughter loudly replied, “My mummy says that you’re a witch.”
What special project (not mum related) are you working on right now?
A special project that I am working on right now is raising funds to send a group of young male students of colour, who are part of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, to Panama as part of an international learning experience in 2020. I started this endeavor because I believe that study abroad opportunities have the potential of transforming young people’s lives by making them globally competent and skilled at navigating an increasingly inter-connected world. I also wanted to close the access gap by affording young people in an under-resourced community with the same opportunities as young people from higher level communities.
Advice to other busy mums?
Some advice that I would share is to be kind to yourself and forgive yourself. You are going to make mistakes as a mother and sometimes you might flat out fail but don’t allow those mistakes to define you as a parent. Trust the process and don’t allow yourself to wallow in guilt for perceived shortcomings. It’s all a part of the plan. Finally, have fun and enjoy the blessing of sharing your life with your children.
Feel free to check out Dr. Darrisaw-Akil! Feel on Twitter @MDarrisawAkil!