Hidden Figure: Ebonie Cleaves


Hidden Figure: Ebonie Cleaves

Crystal: Who is Ebonie Cleaves?

Ebonie: Ebonie Cleaves is a mother, daughter, friend, philanthropist, and lover of knowledge.

Crystal: Why do you engage in philanthropic activities?

Ebonie: It’s a  part of who I am. My spiritual gift is giving. It’s like breathing to me. I just can’t help it.11218495_10204305185381468_4435602406690704337_o

Crystal: How do you define philanthropy?

Ebonie: Reaching outside of yourself to help others. It’s not always about financial gains.

Crystal: How do these activities impact the people you serve?

Ebonie: They’re provided with basic needs; hopefully they are being encouraged. They’re not in their situation alone. I hope they know people generally care about their well-being.

Crystal: How can others serve their communities?

Ebonie: Open the door and walk out. They just have to be willing. There is more than enough work to be done. gs3

Crystal: What challenges do you see in your community?

Ebonie: I see substance abuse. There is still a high dropout rate in Georgia. There are people living below the poverty line. There are people that are functionally illiterate.

Crystal: When you’re out on the front lines, what do people need? What are their stories?

Ebonie: Everything. People want somewhere warm to lay their heads, basic medical supplies, their next meal, diapers for their babies, or just a simple change of clothes. The stories are just as diverse as the people. There are Veterans, mentally ill, and people who were put out by family when they became too much of a burden; women with kids.

Crystal: For your birthday, you asked your guests to bring items for the homeless. Why? What inspires you to give your time, money, and talents to the less fortunate?

Ebonie: I can truthfully say that I have everything I need. It’s truly a blessing to help someone in need. Why not take that occasion, my birthday, to bless someone else?

Why not use my birthday as a time to chance to get together with friends and family and let them into my world? I do a lot of my philanthropy under the radar. I am not looking for recognition or awards. It’s just something that needs to be done. By using my birthday and the holidays as a time to get everyone together, to serve the community, I hope it plants a seed in them to gs4want to give back. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Hopefully, they’ll keep it going long after the birthday party.

Crystal: What other volunteer activities do you participate in?

Ebonie: Girls Scouts. This is my 8th year as a leader. I volunteer at my son’s school. I volunteer with Dining with Dignity. Dining with Dignity is an amazing effort to bring a hot meal to Atlanta’s homeless in a restaurant style.

Also, I volunteer at Kashi Atlanta Inc., street meals program and Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry and Homeless.

(Crissy Dorsey, the founder of Dining with Dignity will be featured on Feb. 5, 2017).

Crystal: How did Hidden Figures impact 13327546_10102090808919350_2002651164592076289_nyour life?

Ebonie: I left Hidden Figures feeling like I could do anything. Well, maybe not the math. (laughter) The movie left me wanting to know more.

It made me want to know who else is a Hidden Figure. Who has change the world and is not getting the recognition they deserve. The movie left me encouraged to plot my own course.

It also made me sad that it took fifty years for these women to be recognized. Thank God, President Obama knew the story and awarded Katherine Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

Crystal: Did you know the hidden figures story prior to the movie?

Ebonie: No, I did not know the story prior to seeing the movie. I attended U.S. Space Camp twice and I did not know this story. I can only imagine how my life would have changed if I knew this story.

Crystal: Who is your Hidden Figure/mentor?

Ebonie: Helen Wilson, my fifth-grade teacher. She would push me into everything. Everything from assembly programs to science academy on Saturday at Clark Atlanta 13718623_10102168566776980_4614795129670316122_nUniversity.

My girl scout leaders, Doris Secka and Candice Brown. They made me take advantage of everything that was available to me. They got me out of my community and made me see the world. My first plane ride came about because Doris Secka, spoke to others about a science project I completed. Girl Scouts flew me out to Montana where I went to a research institute and learned about medical testing.

I try to think about them when I work with my girls.

Crystal: In the movie, education was paramount to the success of Katherine Johnson? What are your thoughts on education?

Ebonie: Education is truly the last equalizer for us as a people. We cannot let anything keep us from knowing everything. There is no reason why there should not be a college degree hanging on the wall of every child in this upcoming generation.

Crystal: I watched a video in which Katherine Johnson stated, children in this generation do not seem to want to learn. What do you think about that statement?

Ebonie: She is right. I work at a school and it seems like we almost have to lock the doors to keep the students in. We are so fortunate to have a public-school system. A 12743981_10101936779046450_3266138839826397935_nsystem where no matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white, female or male, you can get an education. I think about my grandmother and my great grandmother. They just wanted something beyond a third-grade education.

We are fighting just to put books in these children hands. A free education is being discarded. I remember when I was in college at The University of Memphis. One of my professor stated, American college students are the only consumers who don’t want what they paid for.

Students would just not show up to class. Somebody paid for you to go to the class. The least you could do is show up.

Crystal: Lisa Nichols has a quote; your passion is not always for profit. What does that quote mean 1934918_10101866797809410_2075267906609307403_nto you?

Ebonie: Amen. The pay has to be the feeling you get on the inside. Your reward comes in the form of favor, grace, and mercy.

Crystal: Do you have a favorite quote?

Ebonie: “Not failure, but low aim is sin.” -Benjamin E Mays. You just have to try. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.

(Ebonie attended Benjamin E Mays High School).

Crystal: What is your favorite book?

Ebonie: I don’t have a favorite book. I think as a librarian, having a favorite book is against the law. (laughter) The book I am reading now is called Fervent by Priscilla Shrier.

Crystal: What is your next philanthropic project? How can the audience assist in this endeavor?

Ebonie: My next project is to launch my non-profit organization.

Crystal: What words of inspiration can you leave the audience?gs 1

Ebonie: Go! We don’t have time to wait or waste. We don’t have time to be fearful. We just have to GO! Go towards your dreams. Go towards your visions. GO!

Crystal: I recently had the pleasure of attending an event where the guest speaker was Dr. Ruben West. He said something that really stirred my soul. He stated, wait, broke the scale.

Ebonie: Yes, say that again. We don’t have time to wait. The time is now. GO!

3 thoughts on “Hidden Figure: Ebonie Cleaves

  1. This story brought tears to my eyes (tears of joy). I am sooo proud of this young lady, I am also proud of the way she’s raising her son. A true role model, the world needs more like her.

  2. This is a beautiful reminder that everyday people can be heroes in our communities. I’m proud to call this beautiful “Hidden Figure” Friend.

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