Dear Auntie Shirley,

Dear Auntie Shirley, 

I can still remember my mother, your niece, waking my brother and me up at the crack of dawn.

We had to drive deep into the country side to pick up the young women enrolled in her microloan program. So they could make it into town in time to sell their wares at the market.

Now, I was not a big fan of this back then. I wanted to sleep in!

But today I’m so grateful that I got to see my mother care for another woman’s dignity and well-being.

That’s what a mentor-mentee relationship is all about.

It’s transformative. And today I am proud to pay it forward with the launch of The Protégé Experience, a first-of-its-kind mentorship program for women ages 16 to 25.

Auntie Shirley, we are launching this program exactly 49 years to the day that you announced your bid as the first Black woman nominee for president.

That’s no coincidence. Your relentless, fearless spirit runs through the work we do here at the Foundation—especially this program.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like if you had been in my life. What a mentor, a model for excellence you could have been for me.

Unfortunately, that’s just not the way it worked out. But I try to honor you by raising my niece, Mya, to be confident and strong, to always be carrying that folding chair so she has a seat at the table.

And now I want to do the same for other young women through the Shirley Chisholm Education Foundation’s ReachHer program.

Anyone can find out how to be a part of this important work , on the new website for the Shirley Chisholm Education Foundation, at unbought.org

Just a few days ago, we celebrated the inauguration of our first Black woman Vice President Kamala Harris—who cites you as her personal hero.

All this is to say, we are at the beginning of a new, hopeful chapter of our history.

Whether it’s [one of the highest offices] in the land or a first-of-its-kind female mentorship program, the legacy of the original unbought and unbossed Queen —lives on.


Dr. Donna Hicks

Dear Shirley

Dr. Michelle Henry

Dear Shirley

Tatiana Der Avedissian

Dear Shirley