Michael is quite the HBCU success story. Today, he keeps busy as the founder for Inspired Apparel. This Florida A&M University alumni has also made incredible strides in education as an author, changing the way young students see themselves and their future.
Michael A. Woodward, Jr. grew up with a passion for school and a drive to succeed. When we asked if there was anyone who he felt passed the torch during his upbringing in Miami, he credited his father for molding his early drive for success. “Thankfully, my father was a consistent figure in my life who constantly reminded me of all the “special” things that made me a dynamic young black man growing up in a low-income community.
Michael often drew the strength he needed to excel in school from his father’s assertion that he was special. After high school, he chose to go to FAMU just like his father. He excelled in academic programs, became a campus leader at FAMU, and even joined the Beta Nu chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.
After graduating and moving to Las Vegas to join Teach for America, he realized that others weren’t always so lucky. The program was created to stand for equality in education for scholars nationwide. It was there that as a Black male educator he found himself serving as a father figure to his students. He relished in it and used the experiences to learn some lessons himself. Personally, even Michael grew up with mostly white women as his educators. This context also caused him to flash back to the impact of seeing his first Black male teacher, “Mr. Smith,” and the connections created from seeing a great educator that looked like him. He saw the lack of diversity in the books his students were using, and it bothered him.
The experiences Michael had led him to write his first book, King Monte: Are You My P.E. Teacher?” Monte is a determined and talented little boy with chronicles like conquering self-doubt and finding the right role models. Passionate on ending educational inequity, Michael saw this first book as accomplishing many things. For one, the King Monte character was a creative way for his students to see themselves both in terms of race and social life. He also wanted them to relate to the struggles they experience through a voice they could recognize and relate to.
Becoming an author was a part of a larger mission for change. He connected with fellow FAMU alumni Trey Causley, to create Inspire The Masses, LLC. The company has been made to impact their communities in several areas. For their peers, they do well selling custom apparel that pays tribute to their alma mater. They’ve taken a portion of those profits to create a scholarship for students majoring in education. That has supported the goal for more Black male educators by assisting them with teaching certification fees. This is also the third year of Inspire the Masses’ partnership with “Manhood On The Go,” which is run by his close friend Iman Sandifer. That pairing has given thousands to ease the financial burden for scholars at FAMU.
Michael uses Inspire the Masses to self-publish his books. He found a fire within himself to keep going after King Monte and published three more short storybooks: “There’s Something About Mommy,” “Forever A Scholar,” and “Father, Father.” His newest book, “The Talk: Conversations Between A Black Father and His Son,” helps kids understand events in today’s society, from racism and protesting to police brutality. He is also working on his 6th book, “Through The Window” which will be released two weeks after on Friday, July 10th, 2020.
HBCUs are full of bright ideas, but often the balance can be difficult. We asked about how he handles his multiple passions and home life. “The road to becoming a storyteller and author has been interesting. I’ve had to balance having a full-time job, being a Ph.D. student, running a small business and proudly serving as the father of three incredible boys.” Wherever he thinks of more ideas, he’s been known to immediately jot down the notes in his phone. He ultimately says he learned that organization is key, and that you can’t do everything.
We asked Michael what he believed his biggest accomplishment was, and you might want to grab a tissue. “…if I had to choose, it would be the impact I have on children. To see them get excited as they flip through the pages of any one of my books, puts the biggest smile on my face. I never saw people of color, portrayed in children’s literature. Being a part of a movement to change the narrative on how children see themselves, to me is priceless.”
To learn more about Michael, his books, and Inspire the Masses please check out the links below:
Instagram and FB: @kingmontereads