By Catrina Satterwhite
As a society, we give a lot of attention to musicians, artists, and other public figures. And while those are amazing accomplishments and they deserve that recognition, we don’t give enough recognition to rock-star teachers, and volunteers. These are selfless people who give so much to our communities.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the poet, activist, mentor, and volunteer King Shakur. King is also husband to his wife Regina of 12 years. He founded Volunteering While Black in 2017, which is an organization tasked with promoting volunteerism in the African-American community while supporting several service organizations. He also serves as Co-Ed with the organization 2 Inspire Peace. He has provided over 15,000 in-kind Djing and MC services since 2019. He’s also worked with Catholic Charities of Dallas, Park South YMCA, Carters House, Frazier Revitalization, UNT Dallas, the South Dallas Cultural Center, and many more. King Shakur is a trailblazer in the Dallas community and deserves to be recognized.
With roots in South Dallas, there is a definite correlation present in the work that he does today. Let’s dive in and learn more about King Shakur.
DW: You grew up in South Dallas. For those that are not familiar with South Dallas or just moved to Dallas, how would you describe your upbringing in the Dallas area?
KS: It was family. I grew up in the 80s, and 90s so South Dallas was densely packed. The streets were filled with young people. We had good times going on. It was family, it was community ya know. The older you got you understood that you had less than others but as a younger kid you didn’t know. You weren’t missing out on anything. It was just a way of life. You were playing at the park all day being home by the time the street lights came on. You grew up fast. I grew up in the height of the crack era, seeing things that a kid definitely shouldn’t see. We also had people that looked out for us that stressed education that just really showed you love so if you didn’t have a father, the men on the block would put you in your place. I miss the village.
DW: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about South Dallas?
KS: People think that it’s really violent but it’s not. People discount the brilliance that came out of South Dallas from the artists and the sports players. Lincoln & Madison has produced some incredible human beings. Also, I think we miss a lot of people who live in South Dallas because they wanted to but they had the means to move out. There were people in South Dallas who were financially well off but they decided they wanted to live in South Dallas. I appreciated learning from Diane Ragsdale, Mama Clark, Marilyn Clark, and Vicki Meek at the South Dallas Culture Center feeding into us and making us good people.
DW: How did you get into volunteering and what was your first volunteer experience?
KS: I probably started volunteering when I was super young. My grandmother was a giver in the community. She had the candy house. Our house was the candy house. She would feed anyone in the neighborhood. I saw that giving from my Mom and my grandmother. I went to college in South Carolina and I was far away from home and I didn’t know anyone but I know how to be me and being me was giving and doing things. Being on campus and a part of the NAACP and other programs, we always did community programs. I took pride in being able to give of myself. It was always a passion.
DW: How was Volunteering While Black founded?
KS: So, it was a play on “Driving While Black”. It was pretty much to celebrate volunteerism in the African Diaspora and the African-American community. We have always been givers. It’s a part of Africans, what we did going back thousands of years feeding each other, taking care of each other. Ubuntu, that’s who we are and I just wanted to celebrate that. We started doing programming and other things like Chili Coats Cupcakes. This will be our third year partnering up with our partners Carter’s House, and the Wise Advocacy Agency and servicing those experiencing homelessness or those that need winter clothes in South Dallas. It’s just always been a passion. I started talking to some friends I had in high school. The first event was a Back to School event. It was at Red Bird Mall. It was my son, and my wife, and that was back in 2017. We started collecting money to get school supplies and just supporting volunteering. I not only wanted to be a non-profit but I wanted to do something different. I also wanted to provide free DJ & Sound Services and at least 10 free opportunities for non-profit and community organizations. I bought all of my DJ equipment and continue to learn how to DJ. Since 2017, I’ve donated about$25,000 dollars worth of DJ Services. One of the most expensive things is DJ and sound and I wanted to see how I could eliminate that.
DW: Where do you see Volunteering While Black in the future?
KS: I want it to take a life of its own, I would love to see Volunteering While Black as a club on a college campus. I want to partner with all of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities bowl games. We could do a big activity where we are cleaning up and building something and everyone donates. Imagine how we could help that community and non-profit organizations. It’s like a garden, you want to create something that keeps on giving. I never want to take ownership of something like that. It doesn’t belong to me, It belongs to us, the people. I don’t care if you know my name. I just want you to know my work. I don’t wanna be famous.
DW: Let’s shift gears and talk about your arts initiative. Can you tell us more about that?
KS: I’m a poet, creative writer, and educator. I started writing poetry when I was 12. Nikki Giovanni, I discovered a book by her. The name of the book was Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day. I fell in love with her words. I was already in love with Hip-Hop. I didn’t wanna be a rapper but I definitely wanted to write, but Hip-Hop stayed infused into my poetry. I am a Hip-Hop poet but I wanted to make sure everything I wrote was socially conscious and at one point it was so deep. I had to learn that if you are trying to reach people, give them a little sugar. I learned to write with so much humor. I want you to laugh, but I also want you to learn something. I’ve had the opportunity to perform all over the country. I have four published books including Streetlights J’s and Hip-Hop, Makings of a Poet which won The Black of Caucus of Librarians Portrait Book of The Year award in 2016. I also won Artist of the Year at the Memphis Book Festival.
The second part is that I’m also with 2 Inspire Peace and the co-founder of the Art-Inspired Healing Collective. We are a collective of artists that inspire healing in the Black and Brown communities where going to see a therapist is taboo. Everyone has pen, a pad, and a pencil to start drawing. You can dance in a circle and you can be offbeat, but it’s the art. Art doesn’t cost anything so you use your art to inspire healing. With my partners, we put together a curriculum that focuses on Hip-Hop and healing. We take popular culture music or albums and create entire curriculum and present it to young people and help them create and focus on using their art. At the end of the workshop, they have the opportunity to present. So, we will have an open mic or they are featured. You’ll have a kid that’s five or seven years old and getting their first feature where they started off super afraid of public speaking telling you about a picture they drew, why they drew it, and how they were feeling. Or you’ll have a teenager that was thinking about suicide at one point and taking our workshop really made them dive deeper into what they were listening to and able to write it out.
But that’s not all that King and his non-profit have done. At the height of the pandemic Volunteering While Black partnered with 2 Inspire Peace with other community organizations to help get food to hundreds of Dallas families. The non-profit also stepped in to serve Dallas families during the 2021 Dallas winter storm.
King is doing amazing work in the South Dallas community and the Dallas community as a whole. Though King isn’t motivated by recognition or fame, he has been the recipient of Parkland’s Community First Award 2019, a Dallas Mayor’s Star Council Alum, and a board member of several non-profits. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Business from Allen University and an MS in Public Leadership from The University of North Texas Dallas. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Ethical and Creative Leadership from Union Institute and University.