Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy’s “family business” is communications.
Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy comes from a history of trailblazers. Her family knew people like Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Quincy Jones, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Dorothy Height and Muhammad Ali. In the late 1950s, her parents–Janie Sykes-Kennedy and the late Dr. James Scott Kennedy–operated the Scott Kennedy Players, the first multicultural theatre company in New York City. They worked on five continents for five decades promoting international relations and leadership development via communications. In the late 1960s, they lived in Africa, working at the University of Ghana and producing for the 1966 First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal, and the First Pan African Cultural Festival in Algiers, Algeria in 1969. In the early 1970s, they were invited as Fulbright scholars by the Prime Minister of Australia to live in Adelaide and introduce “new concepts of people”–African-American and African–via theater and other arts, to that continent. They also produced plays for the Papua, New Guinea Independence Arts Festival.
Her father became Professor at Brooklyn College in 1959 and remained there until his retirement at which time he was named Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts. Known as “Mr. Speech,” he was a voice and speech coach to celebrities, including Althea Gibson who sang two of his songs on The Ed Sullivan Show. As a celebrated professor at the New School for Social Research, he was asked by the head of IBM to offer Leadership and Communication Training to executives, becoming a pioneer in the new field of Executive Leadership Training. He had also been a Professor at Fordham University at Lincoln Center in New York and the United States International University-Africa in Nairobi and London during the summer months. A pure creative, he was an actor, director, writer, producer, composer, and playwright for stage, television and movies. He produced over 100 plays around the world. Some of his works include the first book ever written on African theatre entitled In Search Of African Theatre (1973, Charles Scribner’s Sons, ISBN: 978-0684130446). Plays and songs include Guard Your Heart, Don’t Say No, So Much To Live For, Commitment to a Dream, The Rivers of the Black Man, The King is Dead, African People Suite, Every Man Is My Brother and Gospel Suite for Dr. Martin Luther King. Before the family moved to Africa in the 1960s, he was involved in the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
Janie Sykes-Kennedy is a 45-year veteran of international media/culture as an actress, journalist and business executive. She studied writing at the New School for Social Research under Don Wolf, has a BA degree from Howard University in Economics and Accounting, MA in African Culture and Theatre at the University of Ghana, and MS degree from the Graduate School of Journalism–Columbia University. She studied screenwriting with Samson Raphaelson who wrote The Jazz Singer, the first talking movie. She also did professional studies with Lee Strasberg Actors Studio and the Herbert Berghof Studio. After spending the 1960s and 1970s working in Africa, Australia and the U.S., in 1982 she joined Muhammad Ali on his trip to the United Arab Emirates for exhibition bouts. It was unusual for a female journalist to be part of the entourage at that time.
President of Sykes-Kennedy & Associates, Inc. since 1984, she has served as a consultant and has produced marketing materials, written articles and books, including the EXCEL series of books on excellence in Black achievement which had over one million in print. In 1987, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Commerce invited Mrs. Sykes-Kennedy as one of fourteen delegates to go on the first trade mission of American women to the People’s Republic of China. After that, she received a contract to distribute the journal, Building in China, worldwide. In 2010, the President of Senegal invited her to participate in the Third World Festival of Black Arts & Culture in Dakar, Senegal as an historical thought leader, and she was covered extensively by their media. She co-authored two award-winning books, Dancing Light (2015) and Shining Bright (2017) with her daughter Terri and yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch, and is currently working on various media projects while seeking justice for her sister who died in a fraudulent guardianship in Florida.
Terri has a predominance of educators and entertainers in her family. Her uncle, the late Robert “Bobby” Sykes, was a singer and member of The Ink Spots. Her aunt, Dr. Lillie Sykes White (who was isolated and exploited under guardianship), was the supervisor of instruction for the public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland–one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S. Terri’s aunt, Adrienne Kennedy, is a playwright who won two Obie Awards. Terri’s cousin, Leon Isaac Kennedy, is an actor and producer known for the movies Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), Body and Soul (1981; which included his then wife Jayne Kennedy, as well as Muhammad Ali) and Penitentiary (1979). Her uncle, Dr. Joseph C. Kennedy, co-founded Africare with C. Payne Lucas in 1970. He worked closely with Sargent Shriver in the growth and development of the Peace Corps from 1965 through 1971, and was Deputy Regional Director for Africa, Director for Sierra Leone, and Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific. Her aunt, the late Mary Kennedy Carter, was a teacher who started doing work in Africa in the early 1960s and built schools in Uganda. Her aunt, the late Dr. Lillian Kennedy Beam, became Executive Director of the United States International University-Africa in Kenya in 1984. In 2009, the school’s library and new School of Science and Technology, was renamed the Lillian K. Beam Building in honor of her work. Terri’s great uncle, the late Dr. James A. Atkins, was a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet,” advising on education. He authored Human Relations in Colorado (1961, 1968) and The Age of Jim Crow (1964).
Find out about Terri’s speaking/moderating, individual coaching, yoga/mindfulness, VIP Options, and media. Also, check out a sampling of her inspiration, as well as products at www.powerlivingmedia.com. For even more, go to her blog at www.iampowerliving.com. Go to www.elderdignity.org to learn about her elder justice advocacy.