Amy Hunter promotes understanding, peace through courage and activism
“Where we stood when it mattered will make the difference,” says Amy Hunter, who has devoted herself to a vision of an inclusive society.
As director of racial diversity at the Young Women’s Christian Association, she has introduced programs to the St. Louis community that promote equality regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status. Hunter, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has also pursued graduate education through UMSL’s College of Education.
“During this time of change, I feel that I went from just living to living with a purpose,” she says.
Born and raised in University City, Mo., Hunter grounds her mission with genuine connections to her community. The University City School District Board of Education awarded her the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award, and FOCUS St. Louis included Hunter in its prestigious 2016 list of “What’s Right With The Region.” Appreciative and humbled by the recognition, Hunter directs the attention from herself to her work.
“We can all make contributions toward social justice,” she says. “You don’t need a job in social justice or a degree.”
And while a degree is not the path for every person, Hunter’s studies and knowledge base reaffirm her belief that cultural awareness across the country starts with promoting equality in the classroom – a goal she says is at the core of bringing about real change.
“Strategically speaking, we need to support everyone better, teachers and students,” she says. “Ninety percent of teachers are not culturally competent in a field where 36 percent of the kids are of color. Systemically, we haven’t done a good job of preparing teachers for those spaces and how to be bi-cultural.”
She also asserts that her time in the College of Education at UMSL with Educational Leadership Professor Matthew Davis helped shape her confidence and her voice.
“Matthew Davis introduced me to critical race theory and how it explains why we are the way we are as a society,” she says. “UMSL totally gets credit for the Amy you see now. I would not have been prepared for public engagement without practice and encouragement.”
Fifteen years of organizing diversity initiatives for companies such as Edward Jones, Monsanto and Bank of America have helped Hunter develop her approach to broaching necessary dialogues.
With her communication skills in hand, Hunter shares her insights with local and national media outlets. She has written about the Ferguson demonstrations for Essence Magazine, given a TEDx Talk on how zip codes are an indicator of systemic discrimination and discussed the Michael Brown case with CNN, CBS, PBS and the Wall Street Journal.
“As a mother of three sons and a daughter, I understood where the activism came from,” Hunter says. “What happened to Mike Brown was a reminder to people of color that no matter your station or education, your child could be hurt for being black. But what might not be obvious is the hopefulness that was displayed during the protests.”
This story was originally published in the spring 2016 issue of UMSL Magazine.
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