Kellye (Eboni) Mckinley is the single mother of two amazing sons, Zion, 23, and Ezra, 21, and the grandmother of Zion Jr. Eboni is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and moved to California in 1978, settling down in Marin City along with her mother and siblings. She is the fifth of nine children of a single mother.
Eboni’s childhood was full of challenges. In her earlier years, Eboni was a victim of physical and verbal abuse by the hands of her mother. She was regularly degraded and belittled, causing her to have very little self-worth. As a result of the trauma and pain she endured as a child she suffered from constant thoughts of suicide. It was in those darkest hours that she knew one day she would share her story with women and young girls, and help them overcome similar challenges.
The compassion and love that Eboni has for her community stems from her community loving her and protecting her from her mother. The community came together to support Eboni in her greatest times of need. Her neighbor, Renee Williams, was one of many that protected Eboni from her mother’s abuse. Others from the community took her shopping regularly to ensure she had essential items, and that she had food to eat. One community member, Peggy Wallace, styled her hair–reminding her that she was beautiful, and helping her to love herself again.
Eboni is deeply grateful for the love she received from the Marin City community at that critical stage of her life. These experiences are why she has dedicated her life and her time to her community. Eboni understands what it is like to grow up with a parent experiencing severe mental health challenges. She understands what it feels like to go hungry. She understands what it feels like to be bullied and teased. She understands what it feels like to be bruised and beaten. She understands what it feels like to be disappointed and never celebrated or even acknowledged.
Eboni grew up in the era of hip-hop and crack cocaine in the early 1980s. By the Grace of God, Eboni resisted societal pressures to use drugs or alcohol, but witnessed the devastating impacts they had on her community. Instead of getting angry and upset, she decided to be the change she wanted to see. She decided to be the light in a dark place. Eboni knew one day her community would turn around and become a thriving place for people of color to live. She strongly believes in the sentiment that if you believe something, it will come to pass.
In 2010, Eboni rose to action when she realized that there was a shortage of qualified daycare providers in her community. Many local women approached her with complaints about the shortage because they knew Eboni would hop into action. Eboni has 18 years of accredited early childhood development experience. The first part of her early childhood career was working at 19 years old for Marin Learning Center. There she was a teacher’s aide and later became a lead teacher. Her love for children’s well-being, safety, and education has been decades long.
In 2012, after realizing that the women in her community had to travel across bridges to get black hair care products, Eboni began Divine Diva’s Beauty Supply She realized that instead of complaining about this problem she could take it upon herself to create the environment she wanted to see. Divine Diva’s Beauty Supply was established to provide hair care products, wigs, and accessories for women of color. Eboni’s new business flourished, drawing in customers from all over Marin, including a surprise visit from George Lucas and his wife.
During the summer of 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Eboni felt a strong urge to provide a safe place for the children in her community. She saw a sad look and a need in the community. Children were becoming depressed staying home during COVID. She knew she needed to create a space where children were happy, could have fun, and be safe. Miss Eboni’s Sugar Shack was created, a youth center on wheels designed to engage and entertain young people. The Sugar Shack has been a learning hub for young African American children in the community. Miss Eboni’s Sugar Shack is where they learn courtesy, kindness, consistency, and trust. Eboni teaches them the fundamentals of life and how to love and respect their community. The children have also taught Eboni a few lessons. Eboni provides a movie night on Fridays complete with free nachos and drinks, so that the children have a safe place to hang out with friends. Realizing that children of color are not welcome in most places because of stereotypes, Eboni provides a place where it doesn’t matter your race, you are free to have fun.
Today, Eboni McKinley is the founder of Our Sisters’ Keeper (OSK), a peer-led, mutual support group for marginalized women in Marin City and beyond. Eboni has the relationships, connections, and deep community knowledge about the hardship’s women face, especially in Marin City. She also has the expertise and facilitation skills to bring women together and create an environment of trust and sharing that can lead to personal growth.
Eboni founded Our Sister’s Keeper (OSK) 9 years ago and has been generously providing informal support for women on her own time and with her own resources. The services she provides include career inspiration, support group meetings, life skills workshops, entertainment, and more. As the founder of OSK, she envisions a world in which all women regardless of race, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, income level, or socioeconomic status, are nurtured and empowered to reach their fullest potential. Eboni ensures that Our Sister’s Keeper is committed to the “whole woman”—mind, body, spirit, and future. This fosters social connection for women through support groups, individual life coaching, and access to ancestral healing spaces that address intergenerational trauma, social isolation, depression, the challenges of parenting, abuse and discrimination.
Eboni started these businesses with the intention of making her underserved community a more livable city. Her businesses were strategically created to serve specific needs in the community. Eboni’s tireless efforts over many years have made her the go-to person in Marin City for providing under-the-radar support services for vulnerable women, community building through shared learning with OSK, and entrepreneurial training for local youth with her small businesses. She envisions a world in which all women regardless of race, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic status, are nurtured and empowered to reach their fullest potential. Eboni lives by the motto, “let’s be the change we want to see”.