Celebrating Black History with Prospero teammate, Junell Ellis

Junell recalls her role model and best friend – her grandmother.

When I think of Black History and someone who has impacted my life, I immediately think of my grandmother, Mattie. Even though we were 50 years apart in age, she was my best friend.

She taught me the importance of standing up for myself and showed me education opened doors that would otherwise be closed to a person who looked like me. 

Junell’s grandmother, Mattie

My grandparents grew up in small Mississippi towns and were the oldest of multiple siblings. My grandpa was one of seven children and my Granny was the fourth of 20 children. She was the first to go to college and she graduated with her degree. My Granny helped put her siblings through college, as well, and many of them went on to become educators. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Mississippi and aided Freedom Riders who came through her town. Ultimately, my grandparents migrated to St. Louis, Missouri after being threatened by the KKK and having a cross burned in their yard when my mother and uncle were both under the age of five.

As a child, my grandmother always told me stories of her experiences living in the Jim Crow era in Mississippi. She had me watch the PBS special Eyes on the Prize, which is how I first learned about the Civil Rights Movement and the horrible experiences Black people faced. I was extremely moved at the age of six when I learned my birthday is the same as Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech, as well as the death of 14-year-old Emmitt Till. 

My Granny, along with my mother, raised me to be a strong woman and to never let people mistreat me, especially based on the color of my skin. They both taught me that going to college meant embracing a legacy that the generations before me died to have. I ended up getting my Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Education, and I completed coursework for a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and Digital Marketing. I embraced being a life-long learner because of the impact my Granny had in my life.

Junell and her Granny

My Granny inspired me to work hard, study harder, and give the same respect that is earned. Her legacy lives on through me and I am honored I can share just a snippet of her impact with my Prospero teammates and the community I serve.