The pursuit of higher education looks different for each person—with so many barriers standing in the way of obtaining a college degree for many marginalized groups. One man was able to beat all of the odds from his upbringing and is now celebrating earning his Ph.D.
As a child, Dr. Tommie Mabry was expelled from 10 different schools all before entering high school. Fast forward to December 2019, he was able to celebrate a huge milestone, finally obtaining his Ph.D. after a difficult journey of pursuing his education.
“My mom and dad [have] all my books in their house, they’re proud and they’ve come to all my graduations. Hopefully, if God says the same, they will be there at my Ph.D. graduation in December,” Mabry told Because Of Them We Can. “My mom said she didn’t think I would make it and now [I’m] the only doctor she knows.”
Mabry credits playing basketball for giving him direction and providing him more opportunities at a better life leading him to pursue college. “I start playing basketball, and Tupac’s lawyer, Chokwe Lumumba, he took me on the road with him and exposed me to AAU Basketball. I credit AAU for saving my life,” Mabry said.
“Going on the road with him, I was able to see other ballplayers from other states that were dreaming big…They were telling me they wanted to go to Duke and play for North Carolina; I said, wait a minute, y’all dream different. I started to think I could do it.”
Today, Mabry is also an author and offers professional development workshops to help others on their own journeys to pursuing their goals. Mabry says it is critical to instill the value of an education in youth early and teach them those necessary skills at an early age. “We punish our kids for the ignorance we showed them. Our kids lack knowledge and reasoning skills. Reasoning skills are taking information and applying it; you shouldn’t be learning reasoning skills when they hit that gavel and put you way,” Mabry added.
“A lot of our kids are locked up based on the ignorant principals we showed them. Look at where they are and who’s around them. Sure, there may be doctors and lawyers coming from their neighborhoods, but they don’t ever stay there when they ‘make it.’ Kids learn off of observational learning, not because you told them. They learn from models and what we’re showing them is ignorance. If you want kids to value life, you gotta give them life.”
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Excuse the tears in this video But today is one of the best days ever. Allow me to re-introduce myself I am Dr. Tommie Mabry!!! I did it My story 1994-99 Kicked out of 7 Elementary Schools 1999 Arrested for breaking and entering (age 11) 1999-2003 Started getting tattoos eventually covering the entire body 2001-2002 Received permanent gold teeth (Age 13) 1999-2003 Kicked out of 3 middle schools 2003 Repeated the 8th grade 2007 Gunshot wound while skipping school (Grade12) 2007 1st High School Graduate of my family 2007 Received a Full College Basketball Scholarship 2011 Elected Mr. Tougaloo College (Well known HBCU) 2011 Received a BA in Education 2011 Became an Educator in the same school district I attended growing up 2013 City of Jackson Appointment by the Mayor to lead a department 2013 Published “A Dark Journey to a Light Future” 2015 Published “If Tommie Can Do It, We Can Do It” 2015 Founded Tommie Mabry Company 2017 launched Lil Tommie Cartoon Mascot 2017 Received a MA in child development 2019 Published “Tommie’s Four B’s 2020 Ph.D. Jackson State University Www.tommiemabry.com