Unity through faith, wellness, and love
Hans E. Hageman
I’m honored to have been asked to join the TCEC team. What follows is a rather long intro that reflects my hard-earned mileage :-)
I grew up in Harlem and East Harlem in challenging housing projects and, finally, in a home that housed "Exodus House." This was a ground-breaking residential community for drug addiction treatment. My Methodist minister father founded and ran the program until he had a paralyzing stroke. My mother was a Black woman whose large family moved from Georgia to Chicago. She went on to become a teacher. My father was a white man born in Nebraska who marched and was jailed more than once with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They were my most important teachers.
Through Exodus House and my parents, I learned early lessons about courage and the possibilities of the human spirit. I attended Princeton University and law school at Columbia University. I practiced law as a New York prosecutor, a public defender, and chief counsel for a United States Senate subcommittee.
I left the law practice and started independent schools in Harlem for children who were not successful in public school. Running these schools allowed me to directly impact the school-to-prison pipeline and provide a nurturing environment for creative students who were non-traditional learners.
Most of these students had never left their community. With our school, they traveled to Senegal, Ghana, and Nicaragua. They worked on service projects that helped those communities and expanded my students' horizons. The young people from my Harlem schools are now young adults raising families and working in construction, data security, social work, the military, entrepreneurship, and as college professors. I'm honored to now call many of them "friends."
I co-founded a girls' school in Lucknow, India, for lower-caste Hindu and Muslim girls. For several years, I was also a consultant for an innovative program in police training, where I worked with the Baltimore and St. Louis police departments.
I went on to lead other youth nonprofits, both here and in Africa and India. Most recently, I was the executive director for Land to Learn, a garden-based education program that works in 11 schools in NY's Hudson Valley. While there, I created a vegetable gardening and yoga program for teen boys in a maximum-security prison convicted in adult court of extremely violent crimes.
During my 15 minutes of fame, I was honored by Congress, and I was the recipient of the Robin Hood Foundation Hero Award and the Essence Magazine Award. I’m also featured in a couple of books, including one by a former FBI profiler in his book on people obsessed with good or evil. I still smile when I recall Maya Angelou telling me, “I see you have a flair for entertainment.” I’ll let you all decide if she was correct.
I’m the father of children ranging from 16 to 32 years of age.
My main goal is to become “an ancestor worth remembering.”
To that end, I’m excited and honored to join the Tutwiler community. TCEC and the Tutwiler community have a beautiful foundation of energy and spirit.
I look forward to working with you to build on those qualities. The work we can do here together can make Tutwiler an example for the Delta and the rest of the country of revitalization, resilience, strong communities, and the power of love.