Michalyn Easter-Thomas (’13)
Michalyn Easter-Thomas graduated cum laude from CBU with a BA in History, minoring in Political Science and Peace Studies, all of which provided her with the background she needed for her career and life goals — to educate the next generations and to advocate for their communities to make sure they have the resources and support to guarantee their safety and economic opportunities in a society that is just and equitable.
Michalyn became involved in the community at a young age through her membership in the Girl Scouts and her involvement in the Memphis Parks Commission’s Summer Camp program at the Ed Rice Community Center in her North Memphis neighborhood. As a student at CBU, she was active in Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, served as a tnAchieves Mentor, and was on the executive board of the Black Student Association. She helped spearhead voter registration drives for the BSA and says that one of her fondest memories is organizing early voting transportation for students during the 2012 election with the BSA and the support of staff such as Dr. Ben Jordan, her professor and advisor in the Department of History and Political Science.
Michalyn left Memphis after graduation and headed for New York City, where she completed her Master of Arts in Teaching at Columbia University in 2014. She had intended to remain in New York for a few years but came back to Memphis after her father passed away in March 2014. She took a teaching position with Memphis Shelby County Schools and returned to her old neighborhood in North Memphis — where she almost immediately became an advocate for her community by founding the nonprofit Our Grass Our Roots, an organization designed to fight gentrification in the neighborhood, provide its citizens with information needed to enhance living conditions, and to promote land ownership, advocate for local schools, and create businesses in order to build economic independence in the community.
Today, Michalyn is still employed by Memphis Shelby County Schools as an Instructional Facilitator. She received her Education Specialist degree in Principalship from Arkansas State University in 2019 and is currently a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University.
In 2019, Michalyn was also elected to the Memphis City Council to represent District 7, which includes Mud Island, Uptown, Frayser, and North Memphis. She chairs the Personnel and Government Affairs committee and serves as vice chair of the Housing and Community Development committee. During her first term on the Council, she has secured federal stimulus funding to bring a grocery store to the residents of North Memphis, encouraged efforts in support of COVID-19 recovery within the Memphis community and to improve vaccination rates, and advocated plans for beautification and blight remediation, mortgage and rental assistance, homeless services, and expanded internet access for low-income residents.
Michalyn is an active member of Memphis Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, as well as the Tennessee Educators Association, Memphis Shelby County Educators Association, and serves on the Educator Diversity Advocacy Council of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance. She serves on the boards of the Vollintine Evergreen Community Association, BLOOM Partnership for Memphis Parks, Memphis Greater Greenline, and was active in the Friends of Chelsea Greenline Advocacy Group, which helped to give North Memphians an official voice in the development of a new neighborhood greenway. At her alma mater, Michalyn is a founding board member of the CBU Black Alumni Association.
Her community activities have been recognized by her selection as a “Woman of Excellence” by the Tri-State Defender in 2015, a member of the Memphis Flyer’s “Top 20 < 30, Class of 2017,” and the Memphis Business Journal’s “Top 40 under 40” in 2020.
When asked if there is a lesson that she learned at CBU that has helped her in life, Michalyn said:
Expanding your potential for opportunity may look daunting and impossible, but with the true support of those around you rooting for your success, you will NOT fail.