My self, my daughter: A tribute to Dr. Kaire Poole-Besses

by Betty McGee

Dr. Kaire Poole Besses and her mother Dr. Betty McGee.We often tell our children, “I want you to do better than I did. I want you to make a difference and I want you to be more financially sustained than I am.” My name is Betty McGee and I earned a doctorate in business administration in 2004. The journey for me was five years of hard work, sacrifice and to some degree doubt around my ability to complete the work.

That question became more familiar as I spent long hours trying to keep up with the Chevron executives and other White guys working for big companies in the Bay Area. Consequently, I know the discomfort and fear that goes along with that hidden possibility of failure. However, my dilemma was not only my family and friends but accountability to the Bayview Hunters Point community.

I have to admit, there were times when I contemplated throwing in the towel; however, my desire to make my community proud of me was more overwhelming than second guessing myself. You see, people have a way here in Bayview Hunters Point of making public announcements about who is doing what and publicly voicing their expectations. Ena Aguirre told everyone I was working on my doctorate, which resulted in building a strong community watch over my academic achievement. By that time, failure was no longer an option.

My homecoming happened in Louisiana where I spent the first 25 years of my life. Did you know that education requirements in Louisiana for African American students allowed for early dismissal in the afternoon so as to report to the cotton field? I am talking about the 1960s.

I was never certain who was responsible for allowing disparate treatment of Black students by using early dismissal for the purpose of getting the White man’s cotton crop in before the cold weather. I concluded that the town’s mayor and possibly the city council had a hand in making and implementing policies around reducing the amount of education afforded to Black students during certain times of the year.

Since the majority of the Black families in Mansura, Louisiana, were dirt poor, we actually welcomed the idea of making money; however, we did not welcome the idea of having to sacrifice our education. Therefore, it was moments like this that kept me forging ahead towards my terminal degree when times appeared bleak.

Now there’s the case of my daughter, Kaire Joyce Poole-Besses, with her homecoming in 1977. She had her first child at age 16 and despite her devotion and dedication to raising her daughter, she understood early the importance of education. My goals to avoid Kaire becoming pregnant at an early age compelled me to send her to an all-girl school, Mercy High School. Knowledge of her pregnancy spread fast at Mercy.

Mercy High School would not allow Kaire to graduate with her class unless she completed the necessary classroom requirements that generally went a step or two above public school requirements. She was told by the school officials that it would be necessary for her to drop out of school until the baby was born.

Determination to avoid derailment of graduating with her class meant finding another venue to take the necessary courses for graduation. Our only option was City College enrollment for a 16-year-old, pregnant teenager. Kaire completed the two required classes, ultimately accepted by Mercy High School as adequate to fulfill the requirements for graduation.

Kaire later earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology from the College of Notre Dame. On June 6, 2009, she earned her doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Alliant International University. Congratulations, Dr. Kaire Poole-Besses.