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Tamika Mallory: The beauty of activism

Cyril Josh Barker | 10/24/2013, 5:36 p.m.
Tamika Mallory’s name is synonymous with the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN). Working for the national ...
Tamika Mallory

Tamika Mallory’s name is synonymous with the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN). Working for the national civil rights organization for 14 years and serving as its executive director for the last four, she recently stepped down to pursue her own goals and aspirations.

While she is still a member and affiliated with NAN, Mallory said that she’s taking a break to figure out what she wants to do for the next 14 years of her life. As a mother and activist, she remains on the path to fight against injustices and wants to start her own business.

NAN is clearly my home, and I still go to rallies and get members,” she said. “I am looking at the next level for my advocacy.”

Since resigning as NAN’s executive director in August, Mallory continued her work on several issues, including efforts involved with the search for Avonte Oquendo, getting the number of Black blood donors up, women’s issues and social justice issues.

Over the years, Mallory has been at the forefront with Sharpton on issues, from the NYPD shooting of Sean Bell, the Trayvon Martin case, the Troy Davis case and the 2012 killing of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan Jr. Mallory is hard to miss as she brings a new look to activism, oftentimes marching the streets in heels and business attire.

She’s also made trips to the White House to meet President Barack Obama. The president’s senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, called Mallory a “leader of tomorrow.”

Born and raised in Manhattanville Houses in Harlem, her family moved to Co-Op City in the Bronx when she was 14. Her parents were two of the first members of NAN, leading her to become involved. Her parents remain prominent members, with her father running the organization’s sport division and working on security and her mother also on the security team.

Mallory eventually began working for NAN and worked her way up to executive director. While she’s always been an active member of NAN, one event in particular put some extra energy into her fight for justice and issues.

My activism really kicked in when my son’s father was killed in 2001. NAN trained us that when you face adversity, your job is to turn it into action to help another person. When it happened, I was angry and confused, but NAN taught me to organize and be involved in the activity of the issue,” she said.

And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Her son Tarique, 14, is a “NAN baby,” joining in the movement and becoming a leader. Mallory’s 7-year-old niece, Skylar, is also active in the organization.

Now on her own, she said she plans to continue the work that NAN trained her so well to do. Her goals are to get more Black, young professionals involved in activism and let them know its time to stand up. However, she said, she will never forget where she came from.

“I am dependent of the Lord, my faith and my relationship with God to direct me to the next step,” she said. “I owe a lot to NAN for giving me the opportunity to develop as a leader and professional. Rev. Sharpton saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. He allowed me to lead, and I will be supportive of him. He is my leader.”