I Became My Own: Leader

Host of High Tea Series podcast shares how her experiences as a school leader led to creating her own platform


By Shanize Byrd

You ever have a moment to yourself, where you see your reflection and you think “wow, that’s me!” You feel warm and invited to the world. Only you’re not looking in a mirror or window. You’re witnessing someone else’s authenticity that resembles a part of you. That’s how I would describe Chastity, someone who many people, especially Black women, can look to and see pieces of themselves that are worth living out loud. You can catch her bumping just about any Jay Z song, rocking glamorous vintage clothes, speaking that “Black Girl Magic” vernacular and repping her beloved Louisiana. She is a multilayered woman, who has learned to embrace each tier of herself  in order to become her own example of a  leader.

Chastity George is a veteran educator and administrator in Baton Rouge, LA. She is also the host of the “High Tea Series” podcast, which is how I formally met her. A mutual friend connected us through social media earlier this year and we both adored each other’s pages. After months of commenting “yasss” and liking each other’s posts, Chastity slid in my DM and invited me to do an interview on her podcast. In our first conversation, we talked about “preservation of the Black woman” and how we both witnessed Black women tirelessly work for everyone else. We exchanged affirming “mmmhm’s” especially in those moments. Though she was interviewing me, I was intrigued by her and her background story. She talked about being a new principal and I am familiar with the politics of the East Baton Rouge public school system, so I could only imagine what she was facing in that position. Chastity also briefly shared about her grandmother’s legacy in education. I watched her bat her long eyelashes a little bit more swift than before, to keep those tears in. And she held her heart to feel that warmth she still has for her grandmother. Leaving that conversation, I felt inspired to include her in this series to talk about what it means for her to be in leadership as a Black woman and how her grandmother, Mordessa Corbin, served as her North star.

Chastity George is the creator and host of the High Tea Series podcast

“She was just the light of my life. She was an educator. Her grandmother, Lucy, which is my mom’s name, was the first educator in my family. So, I am actually a fifth generation educator.”

Chastity grew up in a rural town in Louisiana called Gilbert, with about 456 people making up its population. By this alone, I knew that George had to have come from a family of bad asses because can you imagine trying to be a Black woman educator during Jim Crow in the deep South? Well, I guess it would probably resemble a lot like today’s educational system. Yet, we are still going to give credit when it is much due. Growing up, Chastity lived on an old plantation with her parents and grandparents. She talked about how she trailed right behind her grandmother wherever she went and modeled her behavior. Chastity adored this woman and admired how well revered she was in their community.

“She was just a mover and a shaker; she was a boss. And I can proudly say that, not just because she’s my grandmother, but I have articles that people wrote about her, the textbook that she helped write and all the accolades. She was just phenomenal…but more importantly she was just my best friend.” 

Mordessa Corbin was a prominent educator in her community, who taught for over three decades

Her grandmother taught for over 30 years, consulted with nonprofits and wrote a textbook for Macmillan McGraw-Hill. The way Chastity describes her, she was a “spit fire” type of woman, not one for just the pleasantries. The podcast host also recounts moments that her grandma captured in a blue journal that she found. Corbin documented the early days of integration in their parish back in 1971, which was nearly two decades after the passing of Brown v. Board of Education. She was met with resistance from White students, but she let it be known that she wasn’t about to have an ounce of any of it. Chastity’s grandmother also understood the power and impact of a Black person receiving a quality education, which is why she held them to a standard of excellence. This is something that Chastity tries to live by in her own practices, yet she wanted to do it in her own way.

The veteran educator shares how her grandmother’s legacy influenced her path in school leadership

Originally, George was not interested in remaining in the “family business” as an educator. She knew that she was inspired to be someone that would be a pillar in her community, but she was resistant to the idea of being in a classroom. When Chastity graduated from college, 12 years ago, she was faced with the reality that she needed a job. One of her sorority sisters had an offer for a teaching position at an alternative school in her hometown.  I couldn’t help but chuckle while listening to her because I could definitely relate to this. I, too, resisted the idea of me becoming a teacher until I was offered a position to teach in New Orleans after undergrad. We both agreed that our placement in the classroom was something way beyond our human understanding, it was divine intervention. How else would you explain her beginning her teaching career in the same building where her grandmother once taught? And I asked Chastity what were some defining moments that shaped her as an educator?

“I literally was around 23 years old and I had a student in my class that was 22, so I had to act like a boss before I was a boss. I knew I wanted to help people, I knew I wanted to help them. But I didn’t really  know what that looked like.”

George says that her students’ perception on life was daunting and pessimistic; thinking their lives were going to take a turn for the worst. Yet, their performance that year said otherwise. The educator told me that the school experienced the highest number of students graduating with a GED. She doesn’t attribute it to exponential teaching expertise because she hardly had enough resources or experience. Chastity says that she learned it all boiled down to something very simple, something that changed both her life and the lives of her students. 

“Honestly, we just built a relationship with each other. I still talk to these students till this day. There is a study that TNTP (The New Teacher Project) did about the most important thing a teacher can have is confidence in their kids. If you believe in your kids, you can increase their test scores, their grade-point average. You can really make a difference in that kid.”

Halfway into Chastity’s career, she began to receive offers for a promotion to school leadership roles. However, these were roles that she hadn’t even applied for or found an interest in. Based on her performance with students, the school’s leadership thought she would be a good fit for administration. George made a conscious effort to follow suit when she moved up to leadership, meaning she was going to continue to show up as her authentic self like she did in her classroom. She strived to be innovative in ensuring that the environment was enjoyable, inviting and affirming for everyone. Like, how she named her classroom “Johnsonia”, a play on her madame name Johnson, and called her students “dukes” and “duchesses”. The educator wanted to cultivate a sense of pride and excellence, similarly to her grandmother. She says that she remained transparent about having a life outside of school, wore clothes that matched her fly and tried her hardest to be likeable to everybody. Yet, she describes how she started to develop resentment towards other school leaders and coworkers because of their attitudes towards her. 

Chastity has served in education for over 12 years and as a School leader for half of her career

“ I really started to have kinda a resentment towards school leaders. I had interactions with fellow admin and school leaders that were really negative. I got a promotion and some of the folks I was surrounded by, I really thought they were going to be excited for me. We all were going to be this one team. We’re going to be together. And it was like ‘nope, not excited’ And it really hurt me.”

One could agree that it is a different type of “sting” when a Black woman experiences other Black women tearing her down. When Chastity mentioned how some Black women flipped and started to be shady towards her after a series of promotions, I started to get triggered myself. Similar to Chastity, I have endured the mistreatment and bullying from other Black young women, who I thought were my endearing peers. Over time, you learn that the behavior is a symptom of a much bigger and deathly disease, White Supremacy. In White Supremacy culture, there is a perpetuation of the “scarcity myth”, in which many BIPOC are swindled into thinking that there isn’t enough to go around for them. Not to mention that White Supremacy thrives on “elitism”, in which they determine the “chosen” ones. It creates this idea that “if you get to have it, then the rest of us won’t have it.” Or, “if you’re special that means the rest of us are nonexistent.” Believing in those ideals can lead to violent behavior and intraracial conflicts or “crabs in the bucket” as many like to put it. There is a whole different layer when you factor in Black women because we are often the most snubbed or overlooked, especially in White dominant spaces.  Ironically, the culture bleeds over into Black dominant spaces, as well. Times when a Black woman is moved up in ranks, she can either be met with sugar or vinegar. In Chastity’s experience, she was met with sourness. I wondered how she grappled with going from an environment of Black women affirming and encouraging her to an environment where other Black women held their applause.

“I just felt like if I was nice to people, if I tried not to move with ill intent then everybody would like me. I eventually found out that wasn’t true. What I have learned is  two things: 1) everybody is not going to be  your tribe. And that’s okay. The second thing that I had to learn is that I can’t shrink myself or shrink my platform to fit your agenda. My calling and my assignment is so much bigger than people liking me” 

These were some bars and gems of wisdom that Chastity gave in her response. It reminded me of the timeless phrase “all skin folk ain’t your kinfolk”, which necessarily doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We don’t have to be enemies just because we’re not a part of the same tribe. You could visibly see her shoulders relax when she talked about finding peace in learning that it wasn’t her responsibility or within her control to make everyone take a liking to her. I couldn’t help but close my eyes and lean back in my chair because her words were sent to my heart. We related on being recovering “people pleasers” and how joyful we are in knowing that someone’s disliking of us does not chip away our worth or put a stain on our value. One of Chastity’s favorite words is “transparency” because she believes that by allowing her full self to be seen could encourage others around her to do the same, especially in the work environment.

“I am all these things and I don’t have to pick. I thought I had to pick and I don’t. I think leaders think they have to present this persona that ‘they know it all’ and that ‘they have it all together’ and that’s a lie. I think with me being vulnerable with my team and being honest with my team has helped me to build a cohesive unit.”

Chastity shares wisdom that she has gained from negative experiences with other Black women

George credits her husband for teaching her the power in transparency and being herself. I found this to be very intriguing because often you would hear women talk about how they “lost themselves” in marriages or struggle with communicating their needs to their partners.  She jokingly cautioned to “be careful what you ask for” because she had prayed for an “honest” partner before meeting her husband. And when they met, it’s like he held a mirror up to her for the first time, daring her to profess what she sees out loud to the world. And that’s how she positions herself as a school leader. She leads with transparency to help cultivate a mutual understanding of compassion and empathy. The principal implicitly says that “you are free to show up as you are and you don’t have to hide your imperfections” by coming to school dress in J’s , blasting UGK and being vulnerable with her staff and students. By setting this tone, teachers feel at liberty to take mental health days to attend therapy sessions and students can show up knowing that their wellbeing is priority. Chastity has realized that this is her chosen path in revolutionizing education.

The podcast host says that her podcast has helped her to connect with more likeminded women

As mentioned, Chastity is the host and creator of High Tea Series, a podcast where “she chats with guests about health, wealth, and purpose over the pleasantries of high tea.” The platform was an idea birthed in the middle of the pandemic back in 2020 and has reached its third season. The content creator confesses that originally she didn’t want Black women to be the focal point of the show because she had been “burned” by several of them throughout her career. Call it God, the universe or chance, but this platform has served as a healing ground for Chastity. Inviting Black women in to share their stories helped her to reconnect with the concept of Black sisterhood and women empowerment. It agitated her to step out of a place of isolation into a Promise Land that overfloweth with like-minded and mission-driven Black women.

“There are more of us than I thought! I thought that we were just alone out here in the world; like we were the only ones out here trying to spread this Black Girl Magic and really affirm each other. As I continue to build my platform, I continue to meet more women like me and I’m like ‘oh Lord, I’m not as much of an anomaly as I thought!”

Chastity’s grandmother passed away about five years ago and on her deathbed George promised her to carry on the family’s legacy. Most of Chastity’s life, she has looked to her grandmother for guidance and answers on how to lead and be a powerhouse of a woman. She was also her best friend. I wondered if Chastity reflected about the ways she has kept that promise to her grandmother and how she her grandmother would respond to it. 

She grew up with her grandmother in their hometown of Gilbert, LA

“I think more than anything she would say, ‘you know what I expect. You know what I taught you and as long as you remember those things, as long as you remember who you are and where you come from it will always serve as a guide and compass to where you need to go.”

From what Chastity has shared, I could imagine that her grandmother is covering her with so much pride. Just like her grandmother, Chastity encourages Black excellence from all of her students (Black students make up 100% of the school’s population.) But her way is to lead by example that you can be multifaceted and complex. She leads by celebrating the essence of her Blackness and dares others to take up room. Of course, I had to ask her one final question, “why you wanna fly Black bird?”

George launched High Tea Series back in 2020, which is currently in its third season

“I would say I want to fly because I know if I fly, I can lead other people to fly. If you can see someone tearing through the things they might have gone through. Tearing through experiences that should have torn them down. Continuing to lift other people up even though they might have experienced things that should have turned them away from wanting to help people. If someone else could see my fly, then maybe that would give them the courage to fly.”