On Having a Stake in the Well-Being of the Next Generation: An Interview with Kesha Knighten Hughes

Our BlackHer Shero of the Week is Kesha Knighten Hughes, wife, mother, and founder of the Grace and Wisdom Institute (GAWI). GAWI is a life skills development program for teen girls from middle school to high school. Hughes is also a wife and a mother of two teenagers. Her priorities include ensuring balance and success in the lives of her family members through the practice of compassion, patience, and kindness. 

When and why did you start the Grace and Wisdom Institute?

I have teenagers of my own, and that means I get to observe things going on in their lives and the lives of their peers. I became concerned about the lack of life skills being offered at school. Then the pandemic hit, which made our programming urgent.

Our goal is to provide enrichment opportunities for teenagers. Starting Grace and Wisdom Institute is also one of my long-term philanthropic goals. 

Why are you passionate about and focused on teen girls?

We are in a moment of empowerment for girls. And “girl power” has come to mean I can do anything and everything. But, in terms of the development of teen girls, there are things that we’ve skipped over. Specifically, we still have to make sure our girls are balanced. Adolescence is an important time to teach girls this critical skill because, during this time, they are building habits that will last into adulthood.  

You’re also a wife (of nearly 20 years!) and a mother of two children. How do these roles impact your work and point of view?

Having a partner in life whom I love (he is my friend too!) is not something that I take lightly. And we are blessed to have two healthy children. I’m aware of the gravity of being responsible for raising another person and doing everything I can to make sure they turn out ok. 

That said, I strongly believe that it takes a village to prepare the next generation to lead. Unfortunately, my sense is that as a society, we’ve steered away from our parenting responsibilities, especially over the last 25 years or so, when I was a teen. Many parents are less involved in caring for their children, and as a society, we forget that we all have a stake in the well-being of the next generation.

Who are your BlackHer Sheroes?

This is a good question! There are so many phenomenal women from whom I draw inspiration. However, my first shero is definitely my mom because her character is so beautiful. She faced many obstacles as a single mother, but because of her strength, she made being a single mom look normal. I am in awe of the way that she kept me in great schools and was emotionally present, even when she was getting her doctorate! She really did put me first, and I honor the sacrifices that she made for us.

Michelle Obama is another shero. On the one hand, she is herself – a phenomenal Black woman – similar to many women we know. On the other hand, she is a wife and mother and had her own career. She instilled pride in many of us and is a wonderful role model to our girls. We can look to her to see an example of a woman who is wise and graceful, real, and humble.

And she has always championed children! 

Finally, I admire Toni Morrison and Nina Simone. Both women knew the power of their creativity. Through their immense talents, they provided us with the sweet escape of art and encouraged us to engage in self-reflection.

It’s time for the miracle question. You go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow, and it’s March 2022, and a miracle has occurred for Black women. What happened?

We are no longer marginalized nor objectified. We sit at all the tables where laws and policies are being created and enforced. We are leading in research, and millions more dollars have been invested in our businesses. We practically dominate leadership in the medical health system. We’re healthier because our stress levels have decreased significantly, and we are able to have full-term pregnancies without complications from stress.

We are addressed as “Queen” period.





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