Although she is American, Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, known as “Terri” to her family and friends, had an unusual international upbringing. She was born in Accra, Ghana; started school in Adelaide, Australia; and as a Stetcher Scholar, studied and lived in Rome, Italy. She tutored high school Italian at the Boston Latin School, and has traveled to over 36 countries around the world and has been on all continents except for Antarctica.
Exposed to yoga, integrative nutrition and “green” living by her mom, Terri has followed a natural, holistic and positive lifestyle since she was 4 years old. She also grew up feeding her mind with books such as The Science of Mind, Emerson’s Essays, Tao Te Ching and The Prophet. The philosophy and habits she learned when she was younger has helped her succeed in business and life, and has greatly informed her current work. She was a dancer and competitive athlete in track, swimming and gymnastics; skipped two grades of school; entered Wellesley College at the age of 16; and was named one of GLAMOUR magazine’s ”Top Ten College Women in America” in 1988 appearing on the The Today Show with Jane Pauley. With the initial desire to become an entertainment attorney, she was a corporate law and litigation intern at Ropes & Gray in Boston, and a Complaint Mediator for the Department of the Attorney General in Boston. She then became the youngest staff member, and then student, at the Harvard Business School. Read more about her business experience.
Terri comes from a family of high achievers and is the third generation in her family to be involved in social change and pioneering work around the world. Her parents, journalist/entrepreneur Janie Sykes-Kennedy, and the late playwright/professor Dr. James Scott Kennedy, were international media trailblazers. For more than five decades, they worked on five continents teaching cross-cultural communications and leadership development, and introducing new and positive concepts of people through theatre, television, radio, academia and the pulpit. In the 1950s, they owned and operated one of the first multicultural theatre companies in New York City. In the early 1960s, as Dr. Kennedy taught at Brooklyn College, Mrs. Kennedy founded and operated ID: Inner Dignity in Brooklyn, New York, a learning center focused on promoting self-esteem in girls.
In the late 1960s, they lived in Africa, working at the University of Ghana and producing for the 1966 First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal, and the First Pan African Cultural Festival in Algiers, Algeria in 1969. In the 1970s, they were invited as Fulbright scholars by the Prime Minister of Australia to live in Adelaide and introduce new concepts of African-American and African people to that continent. The Kennedys were the first African-American family to live on the continent of Australia. They produced three plays for the Papau, New Guinea Independence Arts Festival in 1973. Later in the 1970s, Mrs. Kennedy was the Title I Coordinator of a pilot program for the State University of New York for “Learning Through The Arts” and taught acting at The College at Old Westbury in New York. In the late 1980s, Mrs. Kennedy was invited by the U.S. Housing & Urban Development and the Department of Commerce as one of 14 delegates to go to the People’s Republic of China on the first trade mission of American women. After that trip, she secured a contract from the China Building Technology Center and started a new company, China Today, Inc., which for five years, distributed Building in China. In the 1990s, Dr. James Scott Kennedy taught at the United States International University – Africa in Nairobi. All of the Kennedys spent time in Kenya. They also worked in the United Kingdom and the Middle East.
Terri’s uncle, Dr. Joseph C. Kennedy, was co-founder and former International Director of Africare, which has delivered over $1 billion in aid to Africa since 1970 impacting 36 countries Africa-wide. He was also instrumental in developing the Peace Corps in Africa and Asia under President John F. Kennedy and Sargent Shriver. Her aunt, the late Dr. Lillian Kennedy Beam, was Vice Chancellor of the United States International University Africa in Kenya. The school in Nairobi was founded in 1969 when it was granted a Presidential Charter by President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta making it the first and only secular university in East Africa. Dr. Beam built U.S.I.U.-Africa from a 60-student school located in a hotel into a fully accredited American University with 14 buildings spread over five acres of the 20-acre campus and over 2,500 students today. The library is named after Dr. Beam and now U.S.I.U.-Africa has become the best and most prestigious private university in all of Africa.
Terri’s great uncle, James A. Atkins, was a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet,” advising on education. He was a pioneer in the school system in Colorado, writing The Age of Jim Crow (1964), and the widely-referenced book Human Relations in Colorado: 1858 – 1959 (1961). The family’s emphasis on education and achievement started with her great grandmother, Mary Atkins, who graduated from Knoxville College in the late 1800s. Other well-known relatives include Adrienne Kennedy, the Obie Award-winning playwright, and Leon Isaac Kennedy and Jayne Kennedy Overton, the film & TV personalities. As a sportscaster for The NFL Today in 1978, Jayne was one of the first women to infiltrate that male-dominated profession.
An artist, photographer, writer and former model with a unique mix of creative and business skills, Terri has also worked in film development at Universal Studios, and worked as an Assistant Buyer for a fashion merchandising company. She has lent her expertise to various consulting projects including creating the financial model and private placement for a new film company and advising on a film festival in Cote d’Ivoire. She has shared her business and marketing knowledge as an Adjunct Professor at Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (LIM), a fashion college in New York. She was also privileged to grow up around such cultural greats as Muhammad Ali and Smokey Robinson, and hear dinner table stories about her parents’ friendships and work with people like Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington.
Support her latest book, Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master. Millions across the globe have been inspired by 97-year-old Tao Porchon-Lynch–World War II French Resistance fighter, model, actress, film producer, wine connoisseur, competitive ballroom dancer, and yoga master. Named “Oldest Yoga Teacher” by Guinness World Records in 2012, Tao exemplifies her mantra: There Is Nothing You Cannot Do. Dancing Light is an inspirational memoir that shows us what is possible – that we each can live to our Highest Potential and dance to our own rhythm. Learn more about Tao at www.TheTaoExperience. Terri is also directing and producing a feature-length documentary on Tao’s life.
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