MSEA ESP of the Year Ivory Smith

Ivory Smith is a humble guy. Soft-spoken, yet deliberate, he is often the person in the room who has made the biggest impact on his community both as an activist in Worcester County and as the president of his local support staff union, the Worces­ter County Educational Support Personnel Association.

Ivory Smith, MSEA 2024 ESP of the Year.

Here’s a short list of Ivory’s work, all focused on lifting up his community in different ways:

He’s the president of his local NAACP, where he meets often with local officials. Those meetings led to the creation of a much-needed county Diversity and Inclusion Committee. In 2021, after a reported use of excessive force by police that caught national atten­tion, the chapter organized a rally and march demanding that the police department be equipped with body cameras. That advocacy was successful.

He’s the president of the Judy Johnson Memorial Foundation, which provides a platform to ele­vate the important history of Negro League baseball players. Ivory organized several events where their stories were heard and documented, and their contribu­tions and legacies preserved. “As we elevate their voice and share their courage and excellence,” Ivory says, “it provides some of the recognition and dignity that these important athletes and have his­torically been denied.”

And he’s proud of the work he’s done to help preserve Ocean City’s Henry Hotel—until the 1960s, the only building in town that provid­ed occupancy for Black tourists and entertainers. Before that time, Black people could only walk the beach and boardwalk freely on “Colored Excursion Days.” “We’re very lucky the building still exists, but in recent years its structure has deteriorated. Through securing grant money and discussions with our local elected officials, we are working hard to preserve this historic building for generations,” says Ivory.

His union activism is similarly broad. Currently he sits on the MSEA and NEA boards of direc­tors, is liaison to the statewide ESP Organizing Committee, and is a champion of the ESP Bill of Rights campaign. Historic and systemic race and class struggles are well illustrated in the fight for fairness for public school support staff across the state and as the wealth gap widens, it widens exponentially for support staff whose pay relative to a living wage has diminished shockingly in the past 30 years. “Through our campaign, more and more school employ­ees are understanding and supporting the struggle for better contracts for every support staff in every county.”

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