The New Adventures of Rwanda (V5): Race In Rwanda

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“ To live in a post-racial society we must address the issue of race. ‘We’ (Americans) never addressed race which means we cannot live in a post-racial society.”

Dr. Brittany Cooper, Academic & Cultural Theorist

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A couple of months ago the other African-American YAGM/ cohort member decided to transition back to America for various reasons and I hadn’t anticipated the ways that would affect my presence in Rwanda. It has been trying being the only one. So instead of discussing Rwanda solely for this newsletter I will discuss my experience with Race in Rwanda.

While analyzing my racial experiences I will often refer to quotes from the movie “For Colored Girls” as this movie has helped me process my racial experiences here.

Bold= For Colored Girls

“Every since I realized there was a colored girl , a b****, a nag .. I’ve tried not to be that”

My time in Rwanda has exactly been that. I’ve been trying not to be any of the negative labels placed upon black women because I know the consequences of carrying those labels. My voice will all of a sudden scare people. Those who are afraid will exclude me. I will be alone and painted as “angry”. In essence, sometimes it’s easier if colored girls don’t cause any trouble.

YAGM, Blackademically Lived and Speaking
YAGM= Young Adult In Global Mission, ELCA based

The church believes they prepared me to serve when the truth is one cannot prepare me for something they have not experienced. I’m unsure if diversity and inclusion is helpful if we aren’t prepared or educated on how to support those who are diverse and need to be included. It all seems pretty simple to me but I now understand it’s not as simple for those on the outside looking in. And it’s also not simple for those who make the mistake of grouping the black american experience and the black african experience into one category. According to Pew Study, the Lutheran Church is 3% diverse while the remainder of the church is 95-97% white. Additionally, the International Education Open Doors Report and The US Dept. of Education’s National Center For Education Statistics reported that in 2014-2015, african-americans only accounted for 5.6% of US Study abroad students and americans only accounted for 3.4% of US Study abroad students that visited the continent of Africa in comparison to 54.5 % of americans who visited Europe. Additionally, the Journal of Blacks In Higher Ed (2016), states that of the 5.6% african-americans that studied abroad in 2014-2015, only 275 american students studied in Rwanda. The reality is international focused programs that host african-americans and the countries that host african-americans lack the experience and education to support african-americans through study abroad experiences. Both the US communities and most host communities have a limited understanding of what it means to be african-american and to travel or live abroad.

This research has underscored and supported the way I’ve been feeling. At summer orientation one of the leadership members asked us to reflect on our most important identities that we carry and even today I am confronted with that same question. I am Chicago raised, Bennett made. Two communities that are majority black and have shaped how I gracefully move through the world as an african-american woman. I got to a point where I would beat myself up on this journey because I didn’t feel like being inclusive . It became an honest struggle and I now understand it was a struggle and continues to be a struggle because it doesn’t relate to the identity I carry heavily–Race. I have been raised in black safe havens all of my life so naturally I struggled with feeling emotionally safe in Rwanda and being solely supported by people who don’t look like me or walk in my shoes.

Code Red. Let’s Cope
How’d I cope? Through relationships back home and social media. My safe haven, my black community became my loved ones on FB. Black women who looked like me. I became increasingly glued to my phone again because I needed my support system. One thing the leadership team has never been able to understand after they would remind me to be present, (which meant to leave my phone alone) was that they had their community, whether white or rwandese, and I was just trying to stay connected to mine. Daily, I needed a laying on of hands that leadership members nor my cohort members could provide because their aesthetics didn’t look like mine.

I realize after reading all of this I’m a little self-conscience about sharing my experiences because it sounds like I am constantly complaining or crying but I’m processing.

I’m not saying there is a me vs. them because there isn’t. We’ve shared and continue to share things only we would understand. What I am saying though is the world creates a me vs. them because of just how things were created and the institutions that exist. We didn’t create race. We just deal with privileges and consequences of it.

Code Blue. Let’s Cope.
Another way I coped was by watching the movies Precious and For Colored Girls. The stories of these women helped me analyze time and time again what it means to be a black american woman and I needed to reaffirm myself of that foundation to make it through. “No, Miah. You aren’t crazy. These women experienced the same thing”. In ways, their stories became my stories and they laid hands on me. The hands I needed from black professors, sisters and mamas, aunties, cousins, and bigmas.

The Encounter: A Loss of Respect.
A couple of months ago my parents arrived in Rwanda to greet me with 8 suitcases, all ranging in sizes. 4, which were for community here in Rwanda.

We took 2 of the suitcases to one of my two schools where the VP turned my day upside down. Little did I know, it would be this encounter that shaped me into a strong black woman.

That morning when I asked the VP to acknowledge my parents, he walked passed them, shook our Rwandese driver’s hand and went inside the school building. I was livid for so many reasons. I had dealt with his God complex and rude behavior for months. I had pushed myself time and time again to adapt to his culture and the one thing I asked him to do for my parents he wouldn’t. It was blatant disrespect. This event happened towards the end of March and I didn’t return to work until the beginning of May once he apologized.

I think one of the most frustrating moments of this encounter was that no one could truly understand how I felt expect the other african-american cohort member who was now back in the states. I loved my students and wanted to go back, but I could not let this person get away with disrespecting my family after they had sacrificed and brought generous gifts to his teachers and students. I called the other african-american cohort member for a sister chat and vented. I concluded my long monologue with, “Am I crazy?” and she like every other black woman I spoke with said, “no, you aren’t crazy” in an assuring voice.

I had to ask that question because leadership figures kept encouraging me to return to work without an apology from the VP and to think about the students. So many times I had to say to myself, “FORGET the students!”. That’s a black woman’s song. We can never defend ourselves because someone or something is always trying to remind us to reflect on those who need us. Well I felt like I needed me and my parents needed me. I couldn’t choose the students because I had chosen them over myself several times and it always resulted in me being under-appreciated and bullied in the workplace.

I couldn’t understand why my “no” as a woman wasn’t being accepted but then things clicked and I reminded myself that I carry three visible identities (Christian, Black, Woman) in Rwanda. Bennett College taught me that’s its called intersectionality. So I had the epiphany: “No Miah. Your no as black woman doesn’t mean the same as someone else”. In fact, your no is so light that people will actually try to pressure you into saying yes.” See my no is perceived as being angry, stubborn, ungrateful, resisting, and a b**** when in fact my no means , “lay hands on yourself”.

The VP called me on Sunday, April 31st and told me I “should come back for the students sake and that I was hurting them”. Before I could brace myself, my mouth started moving and I addressed his poor behavior with every fiber in my bone. I raised my voice!

“I’m going to raise my voice and I don’t care who hears me . I’m going to yell, shout. I don’t care. I’m sick of sorry”

He heard my anger through the phone. Soon he apologized and asked for prayer. That day I felt my power and I became a strong black woman. I was thankful through the feelings of loss; I gained my voice and respect.

But I guess there are other parts that confuse me about the the encounter…

Okay White Americans:
Those in leadership are always talking about being mobile allies and this was the perfect situation to be an ally in action.

Instead of reflecting or asking the VP, “Hey if my family came to greet your school would you walk pass them and not greet them?”, to my knowledge it wasn’t raised. The question should have been asked, although, as a black woman I already know the answer and hopefully the leadership team knows the answer too.

The leadership team also made comments to me like ,“ well the VP is sexist and he discriminates against me too.” Appreciated but not needed at the moment. Why? Because my struggle for respect as an african-american woman is not parallel to your struggle as a white american. Why again? Because there is a food chain and unfortunately black women are always at the bottom.

“The most disrespected person is the black woman” -Malcolm X.

Okay Conservative Rwandese Men:
Notice I said conservative. They are some pretty liberal men here who do not fall into this category, but the conservative ones do. Naturally they projected the perspective to their colleagues in leadership that the VP is proud and won’t give an apology because many of them are also proud and wouldn’t give apology. I’ve learned that supporting the man’s ego is more important than admitting that he is wrong because when in the presence of an american he feels his ego is all he has.

The Many Facades of The Strong Black Woman

“Being colored is a metaphysical dilemma I haven’t conquered yet.”
In fact, sometimes it conquers me…..

When hearing this quote I am reminded of the movie “Get Out.” There is the African-American woman who often smiles when talked to and has this peculiar look as if she is on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Weeks later after watching that movie and dealing with the encounter I understand her character more and more. The leadership team inquired about the delay with my newsletter and in the process of writing this I’ve discovered that I am tired. I’m unsure if I can actually describe the physical, spiritual and emotional exhaustion that comes from being the only one. Like that character, I’ve been wrestling with many internal things to get through this process and I’ve had to maintain face. I’m laughing actually because when my mother and I discussed the encounter she said, “Never let them see you sweat” ,which is what I’m sure most black girls have been told. It’s routine for us. If we let those in power see us sweating, it unveils weakness and we just don’t have time for that. It was the best advice though. Thanks Mama !

Now the debate could be, “Shemiah, this is a safe space. Why didn’t you say something?” The reality is, those who don’t look like me and haven’t lived like me will never understand the layers of this struggle. You will never truly understand what it feels like to always have your mind racing and developing ways to either protect yourself or uplift yourself as a black woman when in the face of adversity.

The Rebuttal:
Well Shemiah, as a white american my mind is always racing and trying to figure out ways to protect myself while in Rwanda because I am the minority here. No offense, but it is for 11 months out your entire life that you may be the minority in the room . It’s not the same.

“Or Shemiah I’m here. You can trust me.” Here’s the thing: How can you trust someone who doesn’t like to acknowledge the elephant of race?

So I understand the character’s smile. Her smile protected her from publicly crumbling, allowing her to shift in her own mental façade to avoid the awkward moments of race and class. I think my anger, my nagging, and resistance in the encounter knew that my smile had cracked and I was just over it.

I think the other layer of this encounter is the history for me. Belgian oppressors planted the seed of racial divide in Rwanda. Someone who doesn’t like look them at all. However, Rwandans have still found it in their hearts from what I’ve observed, to love, magnetize and drool over whiteness.

And because Black folks always feel the pressure to be better and do better I made sure my parents went the extra mile to bring gifts for my community here. That’s apart of the black experience . We always have to participate, to be our best, so no can say negative things about us. So I guess I was more frustrated with the idea that my parents brought 4 pieces of luggage as gifts to our community members here and they were disrespected when other visitors who look differently have brought only their bodies and received more respect. Crazy huh? ..

But let’s get deeper with this. When Rwandese people see white americans they see money. When they see black americans or black people they think poverty. This could also be why the VP felt like he didn’t have to acknowledge my parents. He didn’t see money. Their was no gain for him or his school in his mind. In the presence of the black americans, he protected what he felt like he only had– his ego.

I don’t want you walking away from this piece and thinking I’ve hated my time here. No. But it has been filled with the racial complexities that I thought I left in America. Pretty naive of me huh? Nevertheless, it’s been a great introduction to Black Womanhood so I’m grateful.

Race Isn’t That Big Of A Deal
I was talking to an East African man one day and he implied that he knows “America has race issues but we have resources!” He framed his position as if race was something subtle that doesn’t affect my day-to-day life. Now once again, I don’t blame his ignorance. He isn’t American. But that is the kind of thinking that makes it difficult to be in Rwanda sometimes. “Oh yeah, I hear your concern but it really isn’t that deep. “ “Race really isn’t that big of an issue.” This is the problem. People really don’t believe the misfortunes of race are a big issue. Like Dr.Brittany Cooper said, we never addressed the concept of race, therefore we cannot live in a post- racial society . Consequentially, this means the consequences and burdens of race are still alive and real. One of the most damaging things you can do to a person of color is dismiss their concerns about racial discrimination as if it’s imaginary. It’s real, traumatic, and shapes how we move in the world.

Stopped In The Grocery Store
Over the weekend I was shopping at a popular grocery store in Rwanda when an employee stopped me because I walked in and then back out ( I didn’t see what I was looking for). He motioned for me to open my purse and then I said, ” I didn’t buy anything.” He then realized I was American and decided to let me go as he smiled . I’ll let you process that one for yourself.

I Tried To Side-Step Race
During my time here, I’ve tried to side-step race. I tried to pretend as if it didn’t exist in my cohort and it wasn’t a factor in my existence to make things “easier”. I sipped the post-racial fantasy. Reflecting on this decision, I think it was the worst one I made. Mellody Hobson, the CEO of Ariel Investments suggest in her Ted Talk that we should be color brave and not color blind. When we are color brave we get ahead. Reflecting on the statistics I shared earlier, I’m unsure if anyone in this church knows how to be color brave and not color blind. For some it may be easier to be color blind than color brave. My last truth is this . I’m black and I’ve lived around black people all my life. I know and connect with very little things that are apart of white culture. This is why being color blind didn’t work for me. Instead of making me feel included, it makes me feel excluded. Let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room and celebrate the differences.

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to lunch with a group of white american volunteers from a different program. “New adventure. Let me take this on!”, were my thoughts. It ended up being one of the most painful meals. As they bonded over the typed of beer they drank in undergrad and their childhood experiences, I couldn’t help but think what am I doing here Jesus? Our childhoods were different and the majority of my undergrad community didn’t drink beer per say for a good turn up.

Although the meal was painful, I took the advice of Mellody Hobson and sat still in the uncomfortable moment versus running away. It was another opportunity to learn and I learned a lot about white american culture that day.

I often ask myself if my cohort was instead 4 black americans and 1 white american how would this experience change? How would the 1 white american cope? How would the 4 black americans support the 1 white american?

I was skeptical about sharing because my community of supporters range in race but I think it’s important. Once again , thank you all for your support. I would not have been able to have these reflections without your financial and spiritual support.

There have been moments when my body has felt less valued than that of my peers. People have walked passed me, or not acknowledged my presence when with my white peers. Like I said before, even if someone assumes I’m Rwandese it is still a poor example of how they treat their own people in the presence whiteness.

Rwanda only touched the surface of addressing race. Americans swept it under the rug which has resulted in paradoxical framework for me. I’m celebrated and invisible at the same time. Hasn’t this been happening to black american women for years?

Celebrate our bodies, ignore our work.

I will say there have been times when my cohort members have recognized that someone ignored me and they spoke up or included me in the conversation. Whether spoken or unspoken I’ve never forgotten those moments and I really appreciate it.

I want to conclude by saying these are my reflections and my experiences. I am not the voice for every black american that chooses to study abroad or chooses to participate in a program like this one. The black experience is not monolithic but I do hope this provided some valuable insight.

Thanks for reading. Until next time.


Ted Talk Links

Brittany Cooper, ” The Racial Politics of Time”

Mellody Hobson, “Color Blind or Color Brave?”


My last day in Rwanda is July 13th, 2017. Letters from the US usually take 30 days to arrive. The countdown has begun 🙂


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Letters To Our Fawe Sisters



What is Letters To Our Fawe Sisters?

LTOFS will serve as an affirmative pen pal system between Rwandese students from Fawe All Girls Secondary School in Gahini, Rwanda and African-American girls and women in the United States.

Why did I create Letters To Our Fawe Sisters?

Serving as an English Teacher at Fawe has shown me that the girls are undeniably sharp, however many of them lack emotional support. I think reading words of affirmation from girls and women who look like them would help provide that extra push.

Additionally, this pen pal system creates a space for Rwandese and African –Americans girls and women to build a cross-cultural relationship.

How will this be done?

African-American participants will submit a short letter to a Fawe student virtually. All letters can be submitted to the designated email ( between March 6th -March 31st , 2017 with the subject lineLTOFS”. I will be responsible for printing off the letters and distributing them to Fawe students.

Some letters may be duplicated to ensure that the majority of students receive letters.

How old are the students at Fawe?

The students at Fawe range between the ages of 13-20 years old.

Is there an age limit for African-American participants?

No. If you can write/type you may submit a letter.


What is the time frame for LTOFS?

 March 6, 2017- March 31, 2017 

African-American participants can submit letters to the designated email:

April 2017  Letters distributed to Fawe students

May 2017  Fawe students will write a response letter to African-American participants

May 2017 Fawe response letters sent to African-American participants via email

June 2017 African-American participants write their final letter

What is the letter format & criteria?

You have the freedom to write using your own style. Just be sure to follow the guidelines below:


  • Microsoft Word
  • 200 words or less
  • 1-2 paragraphs only
  • Include small photo of yourself in the left -hand corner above the date


  • Paste your photo
  • Include the date
  • Address the letter “Dear Fawe Sister”
  • Introduce yourself
  • Describe what you currently do
  • Do you work? Are you a volunteer? Are you in school? Are you a parent?
  • Talk about your family and/or interests
  • Share your favorite quote, explain why it inspires you, and how it can inspire her
  • Affirm the student in her beauty
  • Ask a response question
  • Sign your first name only



This is to protect your identity and safety

  • Do not include your last name in your letter
  • Do not include your email address yet (this will be given in your final letter if you choose to do so)
  • Do not include your social media handles
  • Do not promise to provide money or sponsorship to the student
  • Do not imply that you will bring the student to America
  • Do not imply that you will visit the student in the near future
  • Do not provide explicit details about your personal life (i.e. your mailing address, phone number, or income)

Why are the letters so short?

Good question. Printing happens to be very expensive in Rwanda so making the letters shorter means that I can put more than one letter on each page. Additionally, English is a second language for my students so reading longer letters may present unexpected challenges.

Recommendations for writing a Fawe Letter:

  • Stray away from using slang
  • Use your own writing style
  • Imagine this is your sister or mentee
  • Keep in mind that English is her 2nd language

Instructions for submitting group letters:

  • The organizational leader should submit all of the letters on behalf of the group from her designated email to Shemiah Curry
  • The organizational leader should proofread and check the guidelines for all letters
  • The organizational leader should place all of the letters in one word document that can be several pages long
  • The organizational leader should include in the body of her email how many letters she is attaching
  • The subject line of the email should read LTOFS

Instructions for submitting individual letters:

  • You should proofread and check the guidelines before submitting to Shemiah Curry
  • Your letter should be typed in a word document
  • The subject line of your email should read LTOFS

What’s the best way to contact you if I have questions?

Through email ( or FB messenger (Shemiah Curry). For an immediate response please use FB messenger.



Sample Letters


Sample Letter 1- The College Student/Young Adult


March 6th, 2017

Dear Fawe Sister,

Hi, my name is Shemiah. I am so happy that I get to write to you. I am currently studying elementary education at Bennett College in North Carolina. I have two younger sisters. My dream career is to be a teacher one day because I love teaching.

One of my favorite inspirational quotes that I want to share with you is from the famous poet Maya Angelou. She says “But still, like air, I’ll rise”. It reminds me that no matter what happens, I can always rise. I hope you also know that no matter what is going on in your life, you can also rise. I hope you are doing well with your studies. Continue to work very hard and I am sure it will pay off very soon. I know you are very intelligent and beautiful! So tell me, what do you like to do in your free time? Can’t wait to hear from you.





Sample Letter 2- The Parent/ Adult



March 6th, 2017

Dear Fawe Sister,

Hi, my name is Shemiah. I am so happy that I get to write to you. I currently live in Chicago, Illinois and I am a teacher. I have two daughters and I am married. I teach students with learning disabilities and I love my job. In my free time I like to watch movies and read books. My favorite author is Toni Morrison.

One of my favorite inspirational quotes that I want to share with you is from the famous poet Maya Angelou. She says “But still, like air, I’ll rise”. It reminds me that no matter what happens, I can always rise. I hope you also know that no matter what is going on in your life, you can also rise. I hope you are doing well with your studies. Continue to work very hard and I am sure it will pay off very soon. I know you are very intelligent and beautiful! So tell me, what do you like to do in your free time? Sending blessings your way.




Sample Letter 3- The Pre-Teen/Teenager


March 6th, 2017

Dear Fawe Sister,

Hi, my name is Shemiah. It is very nice to meet you. I am 13 years old and I live Fort Worth, Texas with my mother, father, and two brothers. I am in the 6th grade at Rudy Bridges Elementary School. I love math and science. When I grow up, I want to be a scientist who can make a cure for cancer. This is because cancer kills a lot of people.

One of my favorite inspirational quotes that I want to share with you is from a song in the movie “Honey”. It says “ If you want to be somebody/ If you want to go somewhere/ You better wake up and pay attention.” I like this quote because it encourages me to become that scientist I dream about. It also reminds me to work very hard and pay attention in school. I hope this quote encourages you to work very hard in school too and be whatever you want to be. I know you are very smart and beautiful like me! So, what do you like to do on the weekends? Please write back.



The New Adventures of Rwanda! (V4)

Greetings Family and Friends:

It has been a long time since my last post but I am so happy to reconnect with you all. I am greeting you with the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


So what’s new with me?

Well during the months of November -December I was without my iPhone and my laptop. This made it very difficult for me to stay in contact with you all but I’m confident this was apart of God’s plan. I learned a valuable lesson about being present during those 33 days. It was also during this time that I was given the opportunity to birth “Letters To Our Fawe Sisters” (LTOFS), which is a pen-pal system between Rwandese students from Fawe All Girls School in Gahini, Rwanda and African-American girls and women in the United States. This project is definitely God-given and I am so excited about it. LTOFS will officially launch March 6th , 2017 during Women’s History Month. Please stay connected to my social media handles for the latest updates.

Although my electronics were down I managed to find some photos. Here are some stories I would like to highlight from the past couple of months.

I Don’t Cook

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my YAGM cohort, Rwandese and Tanzanian friends, and our Country Coordinator. Collectively we cooked a traditional American thanksgiving meal and it was fun. Although I don’t really cook, I had the best time snacking on Kenyan trail mix (super tasty), setting the table, and smiling for photos.




When Your Bennett Family Becomes Family

During the Christmas holiday my Bennett Sister, Niquia, came to visit me. Bennett Sister is a term of endearment we use at my alma mater. We are not just women who attend an all women’s’ institution. We are sisters. I was beyond grateful that she visited me for the holiday and helped rejuvenate my spirit for the last half of this journey. We grew together, laughed, cried, bonded, ate, traveled and conquered fears. She is one of the best travel buddies. She isn’t just my Bennett Sister, she is family and for that I am extremely thankful.


img_4310 “My Worship Is For Real”

By: Bishop Larry Trotter


You don’t know my story

All the things that I’ve been through;

You can’t feel my pain

What I had to go through to get here,

You’ll never understand my praise

Don’t try to figure it out;


Because my worship is for real

Because my worship is for real


I’ve been through too much not to worship him

When I hear this song, I think of Amnia. She is a member of my church here in Rwanda and her worship is for real. Every Sunday she praises God with everything in her heart. It doesn’t matter if people are sitting still. Amina is constantly moving her lips, clapping her hands, dancing with her feet and weeping to the Lord. I don’t know her story but I can see she loves God. Amnia means Amen in Kinyarwanda. Her praise always says Lord I touch and agree with whatever you are doing in my life. Her praise says “amen”. I love Amina because her worship is for real.

Amnia and her 2 children live in the back of our small church. Currently, she is unable to provide a home for her family. Yet despite her circumstances she praises God with everything inside of her. THIS makes me smile. In the midst of what we perceive as trials, she still manages to find God. She manages to say “Amen”. She manages to say, “Lord, I touch and agree with whatever you are doing in my life.” I love Amina because her worship is for real.

School is Back In Session!

Oh, how I’ve missed my students so much! It’s been a long 90 days without them and I am ready to get back to work. Several of my graduating seniors from Fawe have applied for a prestigious scholarship that may help them get into an American university. Please add my girls to your prayer list.



My vibrant students from G.S. Kayonza

Babies Got Books

While my electronics weren’t working I began to read more. The host brothers saw me with books and have now developed the same habit. My babies got books!img_3887


Dancing Through The Storm

In the midst of her storm, she danced. While visiting my “cousins” one day I played Beyoncé’s Sorry and instantly this girl became alive. She moved like she had oil pumping from her legs, her smile became radiant like the hot sun, and her problems became distant.

The 14-year-old girl in this picture had just returned from Burundi where she found her parents and siblings dead. They had been killed in the war. She is 14, homeless, and an orphan.

I kept playing the song for her. I didn’t want her reality to reset itself.

“Shemiah, tell the Americans I want to go to school. Just tell them I want to go to school.”

“Okay. I will.”

 I walked home and cried. I cried for her.




(Muheri, Teta, Keza, & Sedi )




 Pay attention to the girl on the far right. Yes, her. She’s dressed in a long white blouse and her arms are folded. This is Belyse. She is 9 -years -old and one of my best Kinyarwanda teachers from church. I know she isn’t smiling in the photo but she’s afraid of the camera. One day I’ll figure out why she is so afraid. She always greets me with love is and is ready to teach me something new. Sunday she walked me home from church after not seeing each other for 2 months. She said, “Shemiah, I missed you. “ I smiled and said, “Belyse, I missed you too.”

  Bantu Knots



Many of you read my story about my experience with Bantu Knots. If you missed it, you can scroll below.

Well I took the Bantu Knots down and I miss them. Although people looked at me crazy and talked about me, it was such an overwhelming confidence booster. I will return to the Bantu Knots very soon and I anticipate building my confidence even more.





To my supporters and sponsors, thank you so much! A huge thank you to my 3 Evangelical Lutheran Sponsors: Shekinah Chapel Lutheran Church (Riverdale IL), Peace Lutheran Church (New Lenox IL) , and Christ Lutheran Church (Palestine IL). I am so grateful to have this village constantly holding me in your thoughts and prayers. As always, my love is with my family, friends, Bennett College, fellow Chicagoans, and my NC community. I could not do this without you all.

If you have questions, you can email ( or message me on FB @ Shemiah Curry. Due to low broadband signal, FB messenger always gets you a more immediate response :).

– Shemiah


Letters To Our Fawe Sisters! Coming MARCH 6th, 2017!


The New Adventures of Rwanda (V3)


Using a squatter toilet is the easiest ……

Using a squatter toilet is the easiest thing I’ve tackled since living in Rwanda. Although it requires moving outside of your comfort zone, it’s fairly easy. Using one requires walking outside; opening a wooden door, and squatting over a hole that goes into the ground …you get the visual.

I can think of a much longer list of challenges that are more difficult than using the toilet outside or bathing from a bucket. Trust me, these physical adjustments are easy in comparison to the emotional challenges that come with living abroad.

I’ve had to wrestle with my privilege in some of the most unfamiliar ways to me. I’ve had to entertain conversations for the sake of representing my American nationality. I’ve had to eat food to remain in relationship. I’ve had to sacrifice “me time” for the sake of community building. All of which have felt more taxing and uncomfortable than using a squatter toilet.

You Are Not in Control


I’ve officially been in Rwanda for a little over 2 months and with my host family for about 7 weeks. These last 7 weeks have taught me so much about myself and stretched me in ways that I would have never imagined. The week I moved to Kayonza, I felt like chaos broke out in my life. Everything that I once had control over, I lost. Little did I know, that this was just the beginning of God trying to teach me a very important lesson: Shemiah, you are not in control. So for the last 7 weeks my faith has been stretched. I lost control of relationships back in the United States, my weight, my skin, my schedule, my alone time, and almost a little of my identity. I began to reflect on several questions: How can I be myself in a culture that is so different from mine? How can I voice my opinions in a space where women are treated so differently? How can I be a woman in a culture where I am categorized as a girl? How can I nurture my spirit on Sunday mornings when I don’t understand the service? How can I charge my phone when the electricity is inconsistent? How can I feel comfortable living with two father figures who are not my father? I lost control over everything and I was miserable. I desperately wanted control back over my life so I could regain the peace I had a couple of months ago while in America. But God said no and is still saying no.

My friends this why I could not give you an October update. The growing pains were so tough that I didn’t have the space to write. I wanted to be responsible with my word choice and I was too fragile to care about that at the time.

Since deploying to our countries of service other volunteers have made the decision to return to America. This has been my reminder that what I’m experiencing is truly tough and sometimes we can’t always make it through. So I am grateful for the other 85 volunteers internationally who are experiencing similar growing pains and wrestling with what it means to live in another country.

I Almost Gave-Up

I’ll be honest–3 weeks ago I honestly thought about going home. This is because I returned home from work one day and witnessed a rat scurrying through my room. I was emotional about this experience for several reasons:

1.I am petrified of mice and rats
2.The rat being in my room threatened my control
3.I asked God far in advance to protect me from mice and rats 🙂

Point 2 really sums it up. I had lost control over everything and the last pieces of control I had were my phone and my room. Those two things gave me peace and now the rat threatened that. I didn’t sleep for two days because the rat ran through my bed and I didn’t eat for 1 day. I’m sure those of you with phobias understand. My host mom could sense the emotional strain this was causing me and tried really hard to fix the problem.

Eventually I snapped out of my emotional roller coaster and made the decision to keep pushing. The motivation? These kids. They are literally my saving grace on sunday mornings. I love them so much. I am grateful for their light and the light they continue to share with me. I see God in these children and I couldn’t imagine abandoning my ship without finishing my mission with them first.


I pray your concluding thought is not, “Oh no, Shemiah is miserable!”

Let me clarify: I’ve had some miserable moments but no I am not miserable. I am growing and most times that is pretty uncomfortable. I am very grateful to be in Rwanda. The journey teaches me something new every day! And Iet me say it again– I LOVE my students. I find purpose in them everyday! The growing pains are still present but I’m changing my mindset. At this point, all I can do is roll with the punches. Thank you to my village of supporters who have kept me lifted these past couple of weeks. The journey continues!


There’s a popular hip-hop song that says “slim -thick with yo cute….” Many of my audience members may be familiar with this song because it encourages women to maintain a slim- thick body frame. Thick meaning nicely proportioned in the back and front of the body. Before coming to Rwanda, my friends and I joked about me becoming slim-think due to the massive amounts of rice I would have to eat.

Consequently though, eating has been a really intense task while living in a host community. Everyone wants to overly feed me because they think I am a starving American. They think I am a starving American because of my small size and the little amounts of food I eat (I actually think this is funny).The picture above was sent to me by a fellow Rwandan who was encouraging me to eat more.

I can never eat just one plate because someone is always gracious enough to put a second plate in front of me. I’ve definitely gained weight since being in Rwanda but it’s not going to the slim-thick places the song describes (I also think is funny). Last week I ripped a pair of jeans in the thigh area and noticed my face looking a little fuller when a fellow community member told me I was “beginning to look healthy.” Now the weight gain was bound to happen when maize, rice, bread, and potatoes are apart of your daily diet, but somehow I was still shocked when the jeans got tighter and the shirts began to feel a little smaller.

Another cohort member and I laughed as we sheepishly admitted we now have to hop into our jeans to get them on. My host family wants me to become “big and fat” so the community members can know they are taking care of their American guest. I tried to explain that if I gain the 10-15 pounds they are encouraging I won’t be happy, but cultural barriers limit their understanding of my concerns. So if I return to America in July of 2017 resembling a slim-THICK African Queen, we know why.

While I wrestle with my privilege I think this is an opportunity for us all to grow.

3 Reasons You Are A “Blessed” American

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1. In Kayonza, Rwanda we mop the floors with our hands and a rag.There are no physical mops in my home. The women and girls in my family hunch over , bend their legs , and mop the entire floor with their hands using a rag.

2. I don’t have running water in my home. Imagine having to fetch water for washing, bathing, or eating. Imagine having to buy water every time you wanted a drink. Imagine having to carry water around with you to ensure that you can wash your hands after using the restroom.

3. I have not sat on an actual toilet seat in over 7 weeks. I’m pretty sure you have one. Use it and be grateful for it.

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God Moments


I’ve had some really amazing moments since being in Kayonza, Rwanda. The community has truly welcomed me as their own. I am almost always magnetized to any elementary student I meet and develop a sisterly relationship with many of the high school girls. I love all of my students and I am grateful that I get to experience God in them at church, in the community, and at school. As I travel the neighborhood I usually have at least one person stop me and say “Hi Teacher”. They pull me out of my comfort zone. Most times they are my Kinyarwanda teachers and cultural interpreters. If Miss Shemiah has a question about Rwanda she talks to her students. These kids are thirsty for knowledge and are always eager to learn. They keep me on my toes because learning English is access to power and power can bring wealth. In a crazy kind of way, I give them hope.


Student Spotlight:

Meet Fannie! She is in Senior 6 at Fawe All Girls School (high school is 6 years in Rwanda). On the last day of school she yelled,Hi, Miss Shemiah!” Startled by her confident response, I stared really hard because I couldn’t believe this meek and shy student from 6 weeks ago was now yelling my name. She then yelled, “ Bye, Miss Shemiah!” I ran up to her and we joined for a big hug. I then yelled, “ I am so proud of you! Very good English.” She smiled. I see God in Fannie.

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Community Spotlight:

Meet my Host Mom, Jackie! She is amazing. I am so grateful to have Jackie as my mother figure. Because she is only three years older than me, we really act like sisters. We can literally sit together for hours and laugh at anything. She knows a little English so we have conservations about love, family, food, our countries, and God. Jackie is not only the wife to Shema and mother to her boys, but she is an accountant at one of the local schools. She is also in school part -time concluding her accounting license. Jackie is an anointed prayer warrior and singer. Girls in the community affectionately call her “Auntie!”. Family and Friends meet Jackie.

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FAQ’s – Updates

Where do I live?
I live in Kayonza, Rwanda.
Kayonza is a small town that is similar to DeKalb, IL and Greensboro, NC in the United States.

Who do I live with?
Shema and Jackie (Host Parents)
Cleaver and Derrike (Host Baby Brothers)
James (Host Father’s Brother)
Deborah (Host Father’s Sister)
Sylvia (Host Father’s Sister)
Janvier (House Girl)

What is a House Girl?
A girl (female between the ages of 12-30 if not married) who helps with housework. This includes cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children.

Where do I work?
I teach English to students at 2 high schools, and I run a monthly English class at my host father’s church for children and adults. Per week I teach about 300 students. Schools are out of session for the months of November, December and January.

I see God in my students
I see God in my host mom
I see God in my host family
I see God in my church family
I see God in my community
I see God in my cohort
I see God in my support system
I see God in the hills
I see God in my growth

My Host Family


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My Students


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For the latest pictures and videos, please visit the handles below 

FB: Shemiah Curry | Instagram: fearless_s|

FB Page: The New Adventures of Rwanda  (@AdventuresofRwanda)

The New Adventures of Rwanda (V2)


Photo Cred: Celia Douglas




I never shared why I decided to pursue a year of service in Rwanda. Truthfully I wasn’t ready for graduate school, a fulltime job, or any commitment that required all of my time. For the first time in my adulthood I was making a decision for me and I was happy about that. It was a decision that wasn’t influenced by anyone but myself. I had spent my last academic year of undergrad serving in a highly esteemed leadership position. While it was one of the most fulfilling jobs I had, it also brought on a lot of stress and sacrifice. I enjoyed my job so much, but like any other work-alcoholic I faced burn out by the end of my term. On graduation day I actually felt the consequences of my work ethic. Hours after walking across the stage I found myself curled up on my friend’s couch trying to fight a cold and sleeping the remainder of the day away. I spent 3 weeks after graduation traveling the east coast and nursing myself back to health before returning to my hometown of Chicago. So in the next season of my life I promised myself I would do what I wanted for me. The only thing I was committing to was me. And prayed that whatever I was looking for I would find it and whatever I was broken from would be healed. This was my version of self-care. So here I am in Rwanda…expecting God to show me what I’ve unconditionally showed people for the last year…. LOVE.

Additionally two years ago, January 2014 to be exact, I purchased my MacBook. I made the desktop a picture of a mountain and told God this symbolized my desire to go to Africa. Two years later, April 2016 God delivered on his word and told me I was going to Africa. Great is thy faithfulness. So you see, it was all-apart of the divine plan.



Kinyarwanda Class| Photo Cred: Kristy Rudberg


Learning a language has been really tough. It has provided me with a different perspective. The official language of Rwanda is Kinyarwanda. In my opinion it shares no similarities with English. For example, it consists of sounds we don’t have in the English language causing your tongue to make unfamiliar movements when pronouncing words. Learning the language has felt as if I am tackling an impossible mission. Yet my relationship with Kinyarwanda has provided me with a greater sense of patience for those who are learning or have learned English as a second language. When learning a new language it takes a lot of work to retain vocab, construct a sentence, and be confident enough to engage in a conversation. After three weeks of intensive Kinyarwanda training, I am heading to Kayonza this Friday to immerse myself in a community that will become home. I’m super nervous because I know I sound like an infant producing his or her first words. However I am grateful for the community of Rwandans who are patient with my Kinyarwanda and encourage me to keep speaking.



Photo Cred: Kristy Rudberg

Rwanda is by far one of the most beautiful places I have seen. It is a country wrapped in breathtaking sunsets that are a resting place for it’s “thousands of hills”. The food, the culture of family, the community all feels so familiar to me as African-American woman. Although I know little Kinyarwanda the music and the dances ministered at the weekly Rwandan Lutheran Service are also fulfilling. Within these past three weeks I’ve met some of the sweetest Rwandan women who have loved me like sisters or their very own daughters. They’ve embraced me with hugs that have reconciled those initial uncomfortable feelings of anxiousness. I love Rwanda and the Rwandan people!

I am also grateful for Kate, our country coordinator who simply goes above and beyond, Robin & John (Community Organizers), Veronica (local Tanzanian Pastor), Mama Fred, Monica, Frank, Fred, and the staff at Bethany Retreat Center. Each of them has showered me with what we needed most—Love.

By the way, I love the food! It’s literally one of the best places for vegetarians.




“The motherland doesn’t always feel so motherly….”

These were my initial thoughts after being in Rwanda for one week. I was discouraged by the stares I received while traveling with my other sisters/cohort members. It was hard for me in my black skin… to process that in Africa whiteness is highly regarded. I somehow forgot that colonialism didn’t just affect America but touched all parts of the world. Here I was feeling as if I was too black to be American in America and not white enough to be valued by Africans in Africa. It was hard to walk to the streets of Kigali and see people respond to my cohort members with such reverence while I and another black volunteer faded into the background.

Now, not all of the stares were bad. Until I opened my mouth, most Rwandans assumed I was one of them so they embraced me with the traditional warm greeting. “Mwaramuste. Amakuru?” This means, “Good Morning. How are you?” While this made me feel good a times, it still didn’t replace the initial feelings of inadequacy I had as I compared my experiences to my cohort members. My time here has taught me that Rwandans have had very little interaction and exposure to Black Americans, which makes my existence here a little more complex.

These racial scenarios put me in what Pastor Kate calls “liminal space”. How could I be feeling so uncomfortable in Africa? I’m “home” right. I’m supposed to be “home’” but I don’t feel at home.

I’m not sharing these experiences to paint ill pictures of my time here in Rwanda. I did a lot of reflecting before finalizing my decision to post this. The experiences I choose to share will shape some of your perceptions about African countries and I carry that responsibility with me daily. I decided to share these personal stories because we don’t hear or see the stories of Black Missionaries. As much as I didn’t want to identify myself as such, that is what I am. I am a black missionary . When we think of missionaries, we often visualize white christian women. I am not a white christian woman so in essence, I am dismantling the perceptions of what missionaries look like. Although I am very uncomfortable in this identity, I have chosen to be intentional about building relationships with Rwandans so they can see there are black americans who also believe in mission work. Although trailblazing is hard, I am grateful to be called by God to open doors for other black missionaries and black non-religious volunteers.

I have to give a huge shout out to three of my women college professors: Drs. Mclucas, Bookman, and VJ. These three introduced me to global citizenship my sophomore year in college and it wasn’t until I recently started living in Rwanda that I understood this concept. What does it mean to be a global citizen? How do your actions affect others around the world? There’s a difference between vacationing in a place and living in a place. Once you begin to live somewhere you think about your actions differently. You think about how you navigate the space differently. I want to say far in advance that this is not a vacation. This is a year of service work. It is a year that will present its own version of “living.” This is a year of being vs. doing. Much of my time in Rwanda will be spent building relationships with Rwandans (being) and completing small tasks (doing). This will definitely create tension for my American values. We are a culture of busyness and Rwandans do not use that core value the same way Americans do.

Lastly, I’m grateful for my cohort/ country group. We are only the third group of YAGM volunteers to serve in Rwanda and this year we happen to be a group of 6 diverse women. Our walks of life are overwhelmingly different but we all have a common love for Christ. Grateful for our stories and our commitment to walk this journey together no matter how uncomfortable it can feel. Keep us all in prayers as we accompany those we have been called to serve. Our struggles are different, but we are all struggling in some way to make this place home.


YAGM Rwanda| Photo Cred: Kristy Rudberg


So is it possible to love a place and still struggle with navigating it? Absolutely.

Rwanda is now home.

Until next time.


The New Adventures of RWANDA(V1)!

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Greetings Village:

My name is Shemiah Curry and I will be leaving for Rwanda in August 2016 ! I am super excited about this new opportunity to serve. Throughout my 11 month journey, I will blog frequently and use social media as much as I can to stay connected. This opportunity is possible through the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) via their Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) department.

So a couple of FAQ’s …………..

How did you hear about this opportunity?

I learned about this opportunity through the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America which is also my church’s denomination.

What’s the name of the program you are serving with?

I will be serving with the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) Program.

Where are you staying in Rwanda?

I will be living in Kayonza, Rwanda with a local pastor and his wife. The wife, Jackie, speaks English. The official languages of Rwanda are English, French, and Kinyarwanada.

What will you be doing in Rwanda?

I will be teaching English and working at the local women’s center.

Are you nervous?

I am more excited than nervous. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Are going to Rwanda by yourself?

No, I will be traveling with a group. There are a total of 85 volunteers who accepted the call to serve in 13 different YAGM countries. 5 of the 88 will be serving in Rwanda. Each country also has a Country Coordinator who helps to facilitate the transition to the new country and throughout the entire experience. I have been in constant communication with my country coordinator since April.

When are you leaving?

I complete the bulk of my training August 16-24 in Chicago, IL. During the week of August 25th, we fly to Rwanda.

Are you coming home for holidays?

Unfortunately, no. Plane tickets are very expensive.

How can I help?

You can assist in two ways:

By either purchasing items from my donation list or contributing to my financial campaign. I have a $4000.00 fundraising goal.

This link provides  more information about the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission Program and details where all monetary donations go.

Do you have a Donation List? 

Yes. All donations can also be sent to my home church:

Shekinah Chapel Lutheran Church, 13800 S. Wabash, Riverdale IL, 60827 

I am collecting a 6-month supply of any item with an asterisk (*)

Brands included for additional assistance
• Soap * (Dove)
• Deodorant *( Suave, Dove, Degree)
• Hand Sanitizer*/ Hand wipes
• Sunscreen *
• Bug Spray * (Off)
• Fabric Sheets * (Downy, Bounce, Gain, Tide, Snuggle,etc)
• Shampoo/ Conditioner *( Creme of Nature, Shea Moisture Intensive Hydration Shampoo/Conditioner)
• Toothpaste *(Crest, Colgate, Aquafresh, etc)
• Cold Medicine
•Lysol wipes*
•Kleenex/ Tissue *
• Feminine Hygiene Products* ( Always, Stayfree, Kotex, Tampax, Playtex)

My folks in the medical field.. if you have access to any of the following:

Cipro (for intestinal bugs)
Imodium, Ibuprofen or Aspirin
Dramamine (for motion sickness)

And I’m not a parent (lol). So if something comes to mind that you think I might need , feel free to add it.

I would like to send a card or care package. Do you have a mailing address? 

Yes, I receive a Rwanda mailing address after training. For now, all items can be sent to Shekinah Chapel.


I will be in contact . Monthly blog updates will begin August 2016 . Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers :). I love you all so much !



FB: Shemiah Curry | Instagram: fearless_s| Email: |

FB Page: The New Adventures of Rwanda

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White House Reflections (2) : But What Was I Afraid Of?

Reflecting back on my White House experience especially during the application process I think to myself “ WHAT WAS I AFRAID OF? “ Like why did I doubt myself so much? In fact I doubted my ability to be competent in the program so much that I thought about not even applying. After a lot of pushing from a professional mentor, Dr. Karla McLucas and a close aunt I decided to press forward.

Yes, I Shemiah Curry doubted myself. Hard for some of you to believe … I know. I thought that I wouldn’t be as prepared.. I didn’t think I would have the best skills. I thought my vocabulary wasn’t as big as it needed to be… I was afraid that maybe my HBCU experience hadn’t prepared me as much as I needed it to be for this Ivy League world when in fact I was better prepared because I did attend an HBCU. And honestly I was scared.. scared that change would allow me to lose opportunities I had in place for the next semester , relationships , and personal resources. I was scared of being forgotten and losing almost everything I worked tirelessly to establish on the campus of Bennett College.

I was afraid of being seen as inadequate in a world that seem so much bigger than myself .I mean we are talking about the White House – the most prestigious institution in this nation. Had my public education in the city of Chicago really prepared me for this experience? I kept thinking to myself “ God am I ready????!!! God am I ready ??? !!! “ I know I have a tremendous support system and people think the world of me, but can I be honest? I was afraid that my intelligence was only considered intelligent around black and brown faces…that maybe my academic confidence has been built on a lie. .. I was afraid that they would stereotype me as the angry black woman, but from the south side of Chicago. That my natural hair would invite conversations that I really didn’t feel like entertaining. That I would have to always defend myself for simply being a black woman.

In my crazy head the odds seemed against me. I was siking myself out. I was selling myself short. Everyone else could see this thing had my name written all over it BUT me.

I was afraid that every relationship I had worked so hard to develop at Bennett would slowly dissolve. That although I worked so hard to gain the trust of so many girls that I would eventually end up losing it. That no one would pay close attention to those girls like I had did. That unfortunately someone would leave them hanging and that they wouldn’t feel loved. Through them I found a small piece of my purpose and I couldn’t understand why God would remove me when I was just getting excited about my purpose. When in fact , he removed when he did so that I could understand that the girls were just a piece of my purpose and not the entire picture. I got happy too quickly and was about to begin limiting myself.

I was afraid that I , Shemiah Curry wouldn’t be good enough. That my deficiencies would somehow seep through and become apparent to everything and everyone around me in the White House community. Lord, at the end of the day I was scared of being great. Countless times, I’ve had one-on-one conversations with women and men about their greatness and there I was being oblivious to my own.

Had God really prepared me for this experience? Did I really deserve to be at the White House? Why was my mindset so focused on losing everything when really I would be gaining so much from this experience?

The truth is I deserved to be interning at the White House just as much as anyone else. The truth is I was just as competent as my counterparts and even more prepared than some of them. My HBCU education provided me with the example and the tools on how to be a stellar professional. My childhood and teenage years spent in Shekinah Chapel reminded me of the unfailing God I served, and my love from my parents, family and closet sister-friends challenged me to see the leader in me that they always bragged about. My love for my baby sisters motivated me to accept the fact that this was my journey and no matter how I felt, someone was always watching. The truth is …I had to push through those emotions because there was really no reason to be afraid. The truth is.. God removed me from comfort zone just so I could realize how unhealthy I was being to myself. As a public servant I was taking good care of everyone else but myself. The truth is.. the reason I was so afraid was because I was crowded. My brain was clouded with everyone else’s greatness but my own. I needed time to stretch myself, to get to know God for myself…I needed time to reflect. I needed peace , balance and I had to start practicing preservation. God knew what he was doing.

The truth is I gained two new awesome support systems at the White House—friends that I’m sure I will carry with me for a lifetime . The truth is I learned so much about God’s love , protection and prophetic word just from being lost in the world by myself. The truth is everything I thought I was losing, he replaced it with a double anointing . I left the White House with a greater sense of self and a piece of comfort from God that I had never known.

Like every other intern … we were “the cream of the crop” and we deserved to be there. Out of thousands of applicants every semester and every year we were blessed to be selected to intern at the White House.

I realized that my “deepest fear was not that I was inadequate , but that I was powerful beyond measure. “ I know it sounds cliché , but its true. When Marianne Williamson wrote that poem she somehow knew we would all get to a place in our lives were we doubted our greatness simply because we couldn’t wrap our minds around the fact that God would package so much inside of us.

I pray that after you read this , you feel empowered to live beyond what your insecurities tell you. And you fear not what your flesh is saying, but disobeying God. That every blessing that comes your way , you run with it because God has ordered your steps and you have divine favor.

That you won’t become attracted to my spirit because of my accolades, but because of the God in me. That you see yourself in me and feel motivated to fully pursue every blessing that comes your way.

Thanks for reading …Until next time. Pics are below ..Feel free to leave comments.


– Shemiah K. Curry


Jech ( Spelman Alum ) , Terry ( UC Berkley Alum , & I at President Obama 's  Helicopter landing on the South Lawn of the White House

Jech ( Spelman Alum ) , Terry ( UC Berkley Alum , & I at President Obama ‘s Helicopter landing on the South Lawn of the White House


President Obama and his entourage boarding the Helicopter

President Obama and his entourage boarding his Helicopter


Us at the Intern Potluck

Us at the Intern Potluck


Dinner Date in DC

Dinner Date in DC