Black History Today: Sue Beyers, Dedicated to Service Through Education

by Marcus Harden

(Black History Today is published in collaboration with Rise up for Students.)

“It’s not about supplication, it’s about power. It’s not about asking, it’s about demanding. It’s not about convincing those who are currently in power, it’s about changing the very face of power itself.”

—Kimberle Williams Crenshaw

The fictional character of Clair Huxtable broke through color lines as “America’s Mom.” If you grew up in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, you saw in Phylicia Rashad a brilliant, strong, caring, graceful, and beautiful mother. It went beyond just the aesthetic because of what she represented for the Black community and Black women in general. She was the Black mother and professional that many of us knew existed but so many failed to see.

Upon first meeting Sue Beyers as a young professional, I thought she was fiction come to life. Sue is a Seattle native with deep roots in the Central District and the South End (a rare feat). She is a graduate of Garfield High School and followed that up by deepening her education at Evergreen State College and gaining her master’s from Pacific Oaks College.

Sue Beyers (photo courtesy of Sue Beyers)

Sue’s life has been dedicated to service through education, and it’s been her drive to give young people access to equitable education through traditional and nontraditional means, specifically in Black and brown communities. Whether in her role directing college readiness and access for Seattle Public Schools, serving as special project director for Seattle’s superintendent, or as chief academic officer for the College Success Foundation — in which she guided programs and delivery in Washington State and Washington D.C., resulting in more than 6,000 historically underserved students graduating from college — Sue’s work personifies her commitment and heart.

In her current position as director of urban and environmental education at Antioch University, Seattle, she guides the next generation of teacher-leaders to become champions for equitable access to education, and she does so through an environmental lens. When we speak of being revolutionary, we don’t always picture “America’s Mom,” but Sue’s work is exactly that — revolutionary.

While doing all of these things, she remains a caring mother, an adoring grandmother, and a supporting and loving wife to her brilliantly talented husband, Sunny Beyers. She sings on the praise team, she leads church worship, she tends to the youth and the elderly, and she volunteers endless hours supporting young women and anyone in need. Sue Beyers is one of those women you almost have to believe has 30 hours a day when the rest of us have 24.

Yet what’s most impressive is how she exudes a warmth, class, and grace that is a throwback to what it truly meant to be “America’s Mom.” Sue can counsel you, console you, and sometimes even correct you with the same level of dignity and warmth, and even in correction can make the point lovingly clear that you probably need to do better, that she knows you can do what you need to do, and that she will be right there to help you.

She extends that grace whether you’re friend, family or stranger — and if you start out as a stranger, you’re not one for long.

Sue Beyers has worked tirelessly and selflessly in and for the community, modeling the way for so many others. Her leadership, her poise, and her love for people do not go unnoticed, and she is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Black History Today!

Marcus Harden is a seasoned educator, with experience as a teacher, counselor, dean, administrator, and program and policy manager. Marcus focuses his work on creating better culture and climate for students, families, and staff. He believes deeply in restorative justice practices and in mindset and resiliency work that leads to excellent and equitable educational outcomes for all students.

Featured illustration by Devin Chicras for the Emerald.

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