Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Vonzell Agosto, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William R. Black, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Zorka Karanxha, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Brenda Walker, Ph.D., J.D.


organizational autoethnography, appreciative poetic inquiry, transformational leadership, principalship, critical race theory, poetry, brotha circle, thirdspace


Entering a new school as a new principal, and the first black male administrator in a community since the desegregation era, was fraught with challenges that have a universal cadence. Additionally, the three-year school turnaround initiative I entered had its own unique barriers. My voice quivers, my head sinks low, my eyes averted but this no more, for I uphold the mantle of men of bronze, for I will lead within this challenge and my voice will go on (Anthony, 2020). Using critical race theory as a framework with counter-storytelling I examined leadership and different forms of racial and gender discrimination (Solórzano & Yosso, 2001). My path started with a dream turned nightmare which I documented through reflection and journaling. My dream turned nightmare begged for interpretation and questions that provoked further analysis. I answer two research questions: What perspectives did I develop as a new principal in a rural school district under differentiated accountability? What was my experience as the first African American male principal since desegregation? I turned to prose, poetry, and organizational autoethnographic research to express the myriad of internal and external trials that came with my first appointment as a principal, and the expectation I would turnaround a school in ten months that was faced with the imminent threat of closure during a national health crisis. Emergent themes are discussed: 1) Vulnerability: open up through reflexivity, 2) Authentic Assimilation: wearing the mask, 3) Mentorship: mentorless, and the 4) FEAR: make me wanna hallah, facing the fear. I discuss the implications of these lessons for the study and strategizing of black men seeking the principalship and provide recommendations for the broader educational leadership preparation and practice.