Shakkiah Curtis: Becoming
Her and Guiding Others
Q: How did you like that?
A: I did it for about a year and a half. By that time I had two girls. It became too much for me. Having two girls and knowing where offenders
lived. It was a lot. I became untrustworthy of individuals and I did not like that I was feeling like that. I had to dismiss myself from that.
Q: What are you doing professionally now?
A: Professionally, I have a non-profit organization that caters to minority women and the focus is mentorship, entrepreneurship and professional
development. So outside of speaking and working in the capacity of educating, I have put a lot of my time into building up this non-profit that I
started a little over three years ago.
Q: What is the name of your non-profit?
A: It is called Becoming Her Organization. I got that from every area of my life. At some point, I was graced to have someone who took me under
their wings, who said it is time for you to learn that, it is time for you to know this. Because I did come from the projects and as they would say I
was a statistic having a child at 17 and not even thinking that I was ever going to make it to college. So having someone there to guide me and
knowing that there were other women or girls that look like me or had similar backgrounds that needed mentorship motivated me. So that is
how I started the organization.
Q: So how does someone connect with Becoming Her if they are interested in mentorship, inspiration or your speaking services?
A: They can visit www.becomingher.org. All of the contact information is in there and all the things that I have done, different people that I have
worked with, interviewed and projects that I have worked on. It also has the organizations that we have worked with. I have worked with the
Boys & Girls Club, and local organizations that focus on development. All of our information is on there and we have a YouTube channel and a
Q: What is an interesting fact about you that most people do not know?
A: I recently got accepted into law school. I have been working on that. I am still in the stages of making a decision about whether to defer for a
year and try to get into the school that has my heart or attend the schools that have accepted me. I recently accomplished that and it was the
reason I did my undergrad. I recently just graduated with my master’s, so I am proud of that moment as well.
Q: What did you get your master’s in?
A: Education Instructional Design and Organization Development, so pretty much facilitation, leadership and ability to teach at a college level.
Q: So part of your future goals and aspirations is to become a lawyer. Do you know what type of law you want to practice?
A: I want to be a corporate lawyer.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment as a young professional?
A: Being able to say that I have a master’s degree and that I got accepted into law school. But to have two daughters — the first one by the time
I was 17-years-old — and to be the first in my family to go to college are big accomplishments. It was never expected of me. It was never
pushed. So I really pride myself in being able to accomplish that.
Q: Given that you are a transplant from Milwaukee to Madison, how are you liking Madison?
A: There are two sides to that. Madison has a lot of good people that have helped guide me through its resources and different opportunities. But
outside of the professional world, I kind of struggled with being able to find a fit I would say. I was coming from Milwaukee, living in Baltimore,
living in places where it was very diverse. Coming to Madison where there is little diversity sometimes is a challenge. Sometimes I want that
cultural experience. Sometimes I just want to have a community that has a better understanding of individuals that look like me. Sometimes it
is just limited because of the lack of diversity or cultural awareness that is there. I wish Madison was more progressive about creating
Q: Now that you have had some time in Madison, do you feel like you have found your tribe or community of support?
A: I do. I have a handful of people to turn to when I do get homesick or I need people to understand. And there are individuals that look like me
so this helps. I have also connected with people of different ethnicities that still give me that comfort and we acknowledge that it is ok to be
different and be family and friends. Being that it is just me and my two girls here, it is something that I really do appreciate.
Q: As far as your network, what organizations are you involved with in town?
A: I am part of the Urban League, which has been one my biggest avenues for meeting people. It opened a lot of connections and families in the
Madison area that I probably would not have found if I wasn't involved. I have also been connected with Intellectual Ratchet. I have also been
hitting gyms in Madison. There are a lot of things going on in Madison that don't get a lot of exposure.
Q: You mentioned the Urban League. Being involved with an organization of that stature, I would assume that you probably have social or civic
issues that you are passionate about. What issues facing our city are important to you and why?
A: Advocacy is a big issue for me. Fairness and equality are important issues. This applies to educational opportunities and resources. Living
in Madison, I feel that there should be a lot more opportunities for minorities to get involved, particularly more opportunities to be involved with
healthcare factors or political arenas where we can help impact decisions. The people who are making decisions don't look like us so they
don't necessarily understand how decisions impact us. So I am about advocating for fairness and equality and opportunity awareness.
Q: What advice would you give to young professionals of color who are new to Madison?
A: First and foremost, I would say get involved. Find different organizations that you are passionate about and get involved. You will meet like-
minded people. That is the one thing that I did right away when I got here. I got involved, even if it is volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club
and a local church. I also put myself in spaces where I could help the community build. It helps you create a tight knit safety circle. That has
been the biggest factor that has kept me sane, having that safety circle of individuals that understand regardless of what you are facing, they
understand you. I really got myself out to really understand what was going on in Madison and I kept myself in the scene to know what is here
and who is here. You can't hide in Madison or you will always feel like you are by yourself. Put yourself out there and be open to meet and learn
from people who may not be like or look like you.
Q: You talked about working out, what else do you enjoy doing?
A: Working out is my number one go-to. I used to be a personal trainer. I work out every day to release stress, anxiety and to keep myself
healthy and sane. I get that from one of the people I love as a mentor although I have never met her, Lisa Nichols. She talks about being
healthy, mentally and physically. That is huge in my life. I love shopping and reading. I am currently writing my second book. I am a writer and
love expressing myself on paper.
Q: What was your first book?
A: My first book is called The Real College Experience. I wrote it four or five years ago. It was more so of a guidance of everything that I
experienced. I went to a historically Black college and again, never even expected that I would go to college. So I wanted to share that
experience, what it felt like to be first generation college student and things that helped me survive. I share things that I wish I would have
known and things that I learned going through and after the process. It is geared to people entering college and trying to give them a heads up
and guidance about what is the real college experience, especially if they aren't going in with silver spoons in their mouths. I talk about how I
survived and hopefully impart the same things.
Q: And your second book. What can you share about that?
A: It is called Becoming Her. It is about defining moments that were great life pieces for me. They pretty much kept me on the road when I
wanted to give up. They were moments that defined me and kept me going.
Q: You were currently recognized by Black Girls Rock MKE. Tell me more about that and what does this honor did for you personally?
A: Black Girls Rock MKE is an organization that recognizes entrepreneurs that are doing things in the community. They have been doing it for 11
years. I was just an honoree this past month. It was great being recognized for what I do. I don't do this for money. I am a non-profit. It is great
that people just take the time to celebrate the hard work that we do. When you are not making money, you have to really love what you. Just to
get honored for working with women that say I inspire them, when they actually inspire me, was amazing. It was an amazing night.
Nia Trammell is a professional working in the legal field.
Shakkiah Curtis wears many hats: Mother, author, inspirational speaker, mentor and non-profit leader. It
is not lost on her that she's been anchored by great mentors and individuals that helped her defy the odds
growing up in Milwaukee and becoming a mother at a young age. So now she gives back what many have
given to her. With her varied life experiences, she has woven all of the advice that she has garnered over
the years and is inspiring women through her book and her non-profit, Becoming Her. Learn more about
Shakkiah's journey in this YP Spotlight.
Q: Where were you born? If you are not from Madison, what brought you here?
A: I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I moved to Nashville, Tennessee and did my undergrad
there. I got a bachelor’s in English with a minor in education. I moved from there to Baltimore and stayed
there for a couple of years working in the school system and getting experience in that background. I
ended up moving back home to Milwaukee to be closer to my family. I had a daughter at a pretty young age
so I wanted to come home for her to be around family. I was actually offered a position with the State of
Wisconsin in Madison. That is how I ended up in Madison.
Q: What were you doing for the State initially?
A: When I started I was working with sex offenders. It's totally different. I was a communications operator
and served as a liaison between the State, probation officers and offenders. Depending on who they had to
communicate with, I had to make sure that they were abiding by the rules. Anything that wasn't right I had
to communicate that to the probation officer and the State. I was that middle person that ensured that
everybody was doing what they were supposed to do.