Get to Know Board Member Curtis Faulkner
January 12, 2022 - With roots in Fort Worth, Texas, Curtis Faulkner has accrued a combined 70 years of experience in education, politics, and the entertainment industry.
In 1996, Faulkner moved to St. Louis after he was hired as a consultant on a retail development project. When it was completed, he decided to stay and relaunch a passion project he’d started in Texas: The Juneteenth Heritage and Jazz Festival. The event was successful for several years, but hasn’t been held recently. With the help of his nonprofit organization, he also promoted Juneteenth (June 19) as a federal holiday, which President Joe Biden signed into law last June.
In 2018, SSD’s Governing Council selected him for a seat on the SSD Board. As the SSD Board director for Subdistrict 1, Faulkner represents the Hazelwood and Jennings school districts. He has been active for many years on budget and advisory committees for the Hazelwood School District.
Faulkner’s family includes his wife, Asha, and their two adult daughters. Asha is a dietician and director of food services for St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau. She and Curtis met in Fort Worth - she was the teacher of an Arabic language class he took while studying Islam. Ahlam, their oldest daughter, is a chemical engineer who works in Houston, Texas, for Frito-Lay (she’s the project director for Funyuns®). Intisar, his youngest daughter, is the morning anchor for WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina.
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
As a parent, of course, you’re always most proud of your children’s success. But I’m also proud of the work I’ve done and the growth it’s brought me.
I’m a product of the 60s. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on April 4, 1968 - that was my 17th birthday. I was driving a ‘59 Chevy and I pulled over to the side of the road when I heard it on the radio. Tears as big as biscuits rolled down my chin. But my godmother told me that whatever God takes away that was good, he replaces with something else that’s just as wonderful. So I became fully vested in the Civil Rights movement. Everything I did from that point on was aimed at how we progress toward the objective of equality.
Who has been the greatest influence on your life, and what did this person teach you or mean to you?
It hasn’t been just one person. I didn’t have a father figure growing up, but I had mentors who took an interest in me and took me under their wing. In my early 20s and throughout my time in Ft. Worth, I was embraced by Black leaders so I could gain political experience. I eventually became a public relations representative for the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.
What keeps you awake at night?
The position we’re in as a community in North County. Crime, a declining tax base, and aging communities are issues for our schools, but 50% of all the county’s Black students depend on them. We don’t have leadership that understands territorial planning, revitalization, and creating a tax base that can sustain it all. So I think about how I can participate in trying to meet these challenges by creating friendships with people who are willing to be in the fight.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
I loved the first time I went to my wife’s homeland in Zanzibar, an island near the Tanzanian coast and part of East Africa. This was early in our marriage. We used to travel abroad annually and visited places like Kenya, The United Emirates, and Oman. All this exposed me to people in other countries for months at a time. I went to parliament meetings, met ministers of education, and learned more about what goes on regarding their customs, politics, and economic relations with America and Black Americans. These experiences broadened my perspective about many things. I’m a learner bee and a worker bee, other than when I play golf.
Describe your favorite meal or dish.
Being from Texas, I still have this propensity for meat-based dishes, but you learn to like other things when you have a wife who’s visited and lived in different countries. She went to boarding school in India.
Do you have any favorite books you’d recommend to others?
Two that come to mind are “The Postraumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing,” and “Our Kind of People.” But I also like to watch documentaries on YouTube.
When I was a kid we had the Encyclopedia Britannica set. I traveled the world when my mother bought them! I’d spend time sitting on the floor, going through them from A-Z. That body of work was always a big influence on me.
I’ve become a stickler for words. I keep old dictionaries and look up what words meant in 1949, 1996, and 2021. You can look up a word and see how the meaning has changed as policies have changed.
Who would you like to meet in the world?
Barack Obama. I’d like to talk to him about things he found himself having to embrace while leading this country as president and being a person of color.
What kind of music do you like?
I like that era of jazz that became equivalent to classical music. As an entertainment promoter, I got a chance to work with people who were part of the teams for T.S. Monk (jazz artist Thelonius Monk’s son), Stanley Turrentine, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, and Joe Adams.
Would you say your life in St. Louis has been good?
I would say I have survived it. There’s still a lot of challenges in St. Louis. We have to ask ourselves who we are as Americans? Who are we going to be moving forward? We have the conversations but we don’t follow through with new concepts and ideas.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Age. There’s the old adage that says if I knew then what I’ve learned now. Of course we always feel there’s not enough time and worry how we’re going to achieve our goals and objectives before we die. And we want to pass along all the knowledge we’ve learned. But we have to realize we can’t pull people beyond where they are capable of going at the moment.