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Nicol Russell

Color-Brave Community Facilitator

Nicol Russell adult

Nicol Russell (she/her) is the daughter of a Kanaka ʻŌiwi wahine and an Alabama-born and raised Black man. Her makua raised six children in rural Waiʻanae, Hawaiʻi and taught her that ʻohana and aloha are the ties that bond Kanaka ʻŌiwi, always, to one another and to Hawaiʻi nei.

Nicol is a mother to two children: a son, Nainoa, who was too magical for this life and passed as an infant, and a daughter, Makena Hōkūleʻa, a kind, loving, brilliant human being who teaches Nicol everyday how to stay curious about the world and joyous about life.

Nicol’s educational and professional journeys have led her to do some incredible work with and on behalf of young children. Her favorite role has been as a teacher and she has had the great fortune of caring for infants, toddlers, two-year olds, preschoolers, and kindergartners. Nicol has also been a childcare center director, a professional development coordinator, a state director of special education, a state deputy superintendent of early childhood education, and an educational researcher. In all of her work, Nicol tries her best to “choose the margins”—a phrase learned from Linda Tuhiwai Smith—and be a voice for Indigenous, Black, and other children of color who are often excluded, neglected, or otherwise overlooked. If youʻre curious about her thoughts on early childhood education, check her out on Linkedin:

Nicol has a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership, a Master of Education degree in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education.

An inspiration:

Nicol is inspired by music, an important aspect of her culture. While her parents taught her to appreciate all genres of music, mele Hawai’i resonates deeply for her. When doing this often heavy-feeling work of fighting for liberation and justice, she keeps this mele Hawaiʻi in her heart and head:

“Hawaiʻi loa, kū like kākou, kū paʻa me ka lōkahi e. Kū kala me ka wiwoʻole. ʻOnipaʻa kākou, ʻonipaʻa kākou. A lanakila nā kini e. E ola, e ola, e ola nā kini e.”

This is the literal translation:

"All Hawai'i stands together. It is now and forever, To raise our voices, and hold your banners high.

We shall stand as a nation, To guide the destiny of our generation. To sing and praise the glory of our land."

This song was written during the restoration, re-invigoration, and renaissance of the Hawaiian language and culture in the 1970s. It captures the profound elements of lōkahi (unity), 'aloha 'āina (care of and connection to place) and kuleana (individual and collective responsibility) then and always. Nicol’s mother was coming of age at that time and took on a spirit of staunch resistance to the US and determination to be Kanaka ʻŌiwi to the end. This song was a call to action and Nicol hears it over and over again as she does this work.