BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Shyriaka “Shy’’ Morris is an artist, entrepreneur and community activist.
The 41-year-old divorced mother of four has a degree in early childhood education and has made a living selling paintings and sculptures and teaching art.
“I’ve seen many single women in my family and others outside my family succeed. I know that I can. I am a direct reflection of the communities that I serve. I’ve been on welfare, Section 8, divorced, kids, no money and a single mom for 12 years,” she told the Daytona Times.
“I understand what women are going through. If not for the support of my family, who knows where I would be. I try to use my own experiences to help others. I think the only thing I didn’t have was my kids’ fathers being in jail,” responded Morris.
Morris is the mother of four children – Sananda,18, Gabriel, 11, Messiah, 9, and Judea, 7.
Morris is the owner of P.E.A.C.E. Arts (Positive Education in Arts Creating Expressions), an arts program that promotes arts, education and motivation in children living in underprivileged areas.
“The program aims to inspire, educate and raise standards on how the children see themselves.
Then I go to the parents. I started it as a way to educate my son back when I was pregnant with my oldest,” she explained.
“Growing up, I saw so many intelligent Blacks get screwed over. Not all of it was on them, but their associations. I wanted to show that you can have fun while being educated.”
Busy in community
Morris is a community artist – the first Black permanent one working at the Atlantic Center for Arts (ACA).
She also is the first vice president of the Southeast Volusia NAACP, Art & Education Chair for the Mary S. Harrell Heritage Museum in New Smyrna Beach and serves on several other organizations.
“As for balancing things out, the reward is seeing my kids happy and successful, especially successful in education,’’ she said.
P.E.A.C.E. Arts was named Community Organization of the Year in 2016 by the City of Daytona Beach.
Divine Designs, a business event sponsored by the City of Daytona, named P.E.A.C.E. Arts the community organization of the year in 2016 and Morris as community activist of the year. The Come and Get It Image Awards Orlando named her artist of the year in 2016.
In addition, Allen Chapel A.M.E. in New Smyrna her its Martin Luther King, Jr. Heart of Servant award last year.
Morris was born in Daytona Beach but grew up in New Smyrna.
In the seventh grade, her family moved to the Pine Haven housing development in Daytona.
Morris graduated from Seabreeze High School in 1993 where she played basketball and was a cheerleader.
Morris attended Prairie View A&M University but left to do art.
She has traveled with renowned artists Frank Frasier, LaShun Beal, Larry “Poncho’’ Brown, Charles Bibbs and others.
She also has worked with other celebrities and even sold art to the likes of Erykah Badu, Regina Bell, Bell Hooks, Jaguar Wright, N’Dambi and Solange Knowles.
Morris has done showcases and conferences with the NAACP, National Black Caucus, HBCUs, doctors, fraternities and others.
Her work includes the Port Orange’s historic Black Freemanville district and Unite Mural in New Smyrna with the ACA.
On moving forward
Morris was married for eight years and said divorce wasn’t expected. She said art helped her get through it.
“I think that I am a great support system. I loved being married, having kids and being a mom, but I think that life sometimes takes a toll on relationships. Communication is critical. You have people telling you what should be done, but it’s not always good advice. They’re speaking from their perspective. I have no ill feelings,’’ she stated.
Morris added, “Divorce was very tough. My mind was set on being a housewife and professional artist. When my husband left, it went from two incomes to one. I was shocked.
“It took me a long time to get out of my depression. I’ve been around depressed people and I felt it coming. Art kept me positive. I am a positive person. I felt bad, but it kept me moving.”
Didn’t give up
As a divorcee, Morris decided to finish her education at Daytona State College.
Morris told the Times, “I took 22 credit hours in one semester. I went to a women’s center for help with books and child care. A woman told me I wouldn’t last and denied child care. I had to take care of my daughter. I ended up making straight A’s. I went back and showed her and she cried.”
Help a mom
On Mother’s Day, Morris plans to spend time with her mom Donafa Jenkins.
“I will go to Daytona and go to church with her. We will spend the day together. My mom is my rock. She was with me through all things in my life,” responded Morris.
Morris talked about the importance of honoring their moms.
“If you have a mom spend time with her. If you don’t, spend time with someone else’s mom. I think people should go outside of tradition. If you see a young mom or single mom going hard or if you think she is lacking, give her something simple. It can be flowers or gift basket. Tell her you see her striving. A small gesture or gift can uplift someone.”