Dr. Nancy “Ayo” Nelson

 

Dr. Nancy J. Nelson was the director of the African American Education Program at Eastern Washington University. She has a Doctorate in Education, a Masters of Arts in Education, Emphasis: African American Issues, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts, Emphasis: African American History in Music, both from Antioch University in Seattle, Washington. She is a speaker, vocalist, poet and a doll artist. She has studied, lectured and performed throughout the United States and Canada.

She served on the EWU President’s Diversity Commission, Spokane Juvenile Court Racial Disproportionality Board, EWU Athletic Board, Spokane Jazz Society Board, School of Social Work and Human Development Board, Children’s Justice Interdisciplinary Task Force and is a member of Blacks in Government, National Association of African American Studies, Cheney Kiwanis, NAACP, The National Association of African American Studies, and the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa.

Nancy performed the theme song for “The Chains That Bind,” a film by Angela Schwendiman that won best drama and best cinematography merit at the Moscow Digital Media Festival. She also provided background recordings for “Through Spokane’s Eyes: Moments in Black History” published in February 2001.

And, even with such a busy schedule, Nancy had the love and found the time to serve as foster mother to a number of children of varying ages in Washington.

Nancy’s story in itself is inspirational. After 22 years of working as a housecleaner, a nanny, a day care and preschool teacher, a waitress and a medical receptionist and never having enough money to cover the basic living expenses, Nancy decided that it was time to make a change. She completed a previously begun BA in one year while working a full time and part time job, despite assurances of failure from those around her.

It was during her time in graduate school that Nancy combined her two loves – singing and teaching – through her presentations, using them to teach African American history. Eventually she expanded into other issues, including women’s issues and domestic violence, among others. Nancy always includes at least one song. She feels that songs- a powerful universal communication among all human cultures- “help people not just to understand, but to feel.”

Nancy began singing as a child. As the fourth of ten children, she always had an audience. Her little brothers often told her she must know a thousand songs. However, it was her fifth grade performance that confirmed her natural talent. ”I was so nervous before singing my first solo that I could barely walk onto the stage. I wasn’t able to sleep the night before. As I started singing the first lines of ‘Summer Time’ I could feel the nervousness melting away. In its place was a feeling of comfort. I felt at home.”

Nancy has studied voice and performed in community theater. She was greatly encouraged by musicians Stan Keen and Linton Garner. And through it all, singing and performing as a child, and now as an adult to help educate, she maintains that the feeling of being at home on stage has never left.

 

What 60? Me?

 

 

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