Bradford proves that if one prepares, opportunity comes in many forms

Alumna+Quebe+Merritt+Bradford%2C+Ph.D.%2C+stands+outside+of+the+relatively+new+business%2C+Plant+Bae%2C+that+she+and+her+husband+opened+located+at+123+Lee+Street+in+Montgomery.++She+credits+every+day+and+every+course+in+her+college+experience+for+preparing+her+for+a+career+full+of+advancements+and+achievements.++

Desiree Mack/Chief Photographer

Alumna Quebe Merritt Bradford, Ph.D., stands outside of the relatively new business, Plant Bae, that she and her husband opened located at 123 Lee Street in Montgomery. She credits every day and every course in her college experience for preparing her for a career full of advancements and achievements.

Camille Zanders, Staff Reporter/Writer

Since Quebe Merritt Bradford’s graduation from Alabama State University, the family has increased to include her husband Eric Bradford and her two daughters Brooklyn and Sydney (Desiree Mack/Chief Photographer)

Some college graduates believe that their college years hold some of the best days of their lives, and that thought could be interpreted in many ways.  Some people would credit their college days to meeting their husbands or wives; some may have fond memories of becoming a member of a greek fraternity or sorority; while others think about their days as an athlete or a special homecoming celebration.

However,  Alabama State University’s pioneering alumna, Quebe Bradford, Ph.D., is proud to credit every day and every course in her college experience for preparing her for a career full of advancements and achievements that she holds today. On the university’s campus she might have seemed like any other aspiring journalist, but those “late nights in the newsroom” led her to a successful career as an educator, administrator, and local business owner.

Bradford is a Montgomery, Ala. native and a direct product of Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Ala.  In 1996, Booker T. Washington High School was awarded a federal grant giving them the status of a magnet school, and as part of this title and grant, they were given partnerships with various organizations and academies of deeper learning, one of those being the Academy for Communication Arts.  Being that Bradford had an early passion for communications, she took advantage of the journalism courses and programs that the school and academy had to offer. While talking with Bradford, she recounted her high school days with great appreciation for the high school journalism program. Her eyes lit up as she remembered the times where she interviewed,  then high school principal and now Alabama State University President Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Ed.D, and the affirmation that she gained from that experience.

“… He always treated me like a person, like a professional, and helped me see how important journalism really is … He helped to build my platform and give me that confidence in my craft.”  Those golden nuggets he provided her not only followed through her college years, but also created a meaningful relationship between the two parties as they continue to keep in touch and encourage each other’s endeavors.

Considering the fact that she grew up in close proximity to the campus, it was only natural that she officially join the Hornet family when it came time to select her place of higher learning.  Her invitation to be a part of the W.E.B. DuBois Honors Program only aided in her decision making. Following her passion, she decided to major in communications with a concentration in print journalism. Bradford attributes some of her most rewarding college experiences to her participation in the W.E.B. DuBois Honors Program and The Hornet Tribune.

As a writer for The Hornet Tribune she was given the opportunity to partake in a special program sponsored by the New York Times called the “New York Times Student Journalism Institute”.  In 2004, Bradford, along with other esteemed minority students from around the country, was invited to the campus of Dillard University to create a New York Times endorsed student newspaper.

“It was a great experience,” Bradford said.  “I was able to write stories and meet other journalists throughout the country. I’m actually still in touch with those students, who are now adults, today.”

Her life as a traveling Hornet did not stop there. She also remembers traveling to Charleston, South Carolina as a member of the W.E.B. DuBois Honors Program.  It was on this trip where she gained consciousness of the weight of African American history.

“It was totally different walking in the streets and seeing the shackles,” Bradford said.  “I think as a kid I was disillusioned … but there, we actually walked in the steps of our ancestors.”  The university provided opportunities such as these that sparked an interest in experiential learning, the process of learning through experience and reflection, which would play a key role in the next stage of her life.

After completing her time at the university, Bradford returned to her alma mater, Booker T. Washington Magnet High School, as a journalism teacher.  Her success in that subject led her to enroll in English and language arts classes. After teaching for some years, she was awarded the 2012 Teacher of the Year for Montgomery Public Schools and later as the District Teacher of the Year. Her newfound passion for teaching led her to further her own education.  She enrolled in graduate school at Grand Canyon University where she received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a focus on reading.   A few years later she received her doctor of philosophy degree in administration and supervision from Auburn University.  It was during her time at Auburn where she became aware of her own biases and “blind spots” and was able to address them.

Quebe Merritt Bradford, Ph.D., and husband Eric Bradford take a minute and reflect on the success that they are having with their new adventure Plant Bae. (Desire Mack/Chief Photographer)

“Looking back I realize that both the W.E.B. DuBois Honors Program and Auburn University’s Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology programs were pivotal,” Bradford said.  “They both provided the space for profound personal and professional growth through experiential learning and mentorship.”

Her career in the school system has allowed her to serve in her current position as the student achievement coordinator where she strives to implement experiential learning in more classrooms.

“I work by supporting both general and special education teachers in providing inclusive practices for students with disabilities.”

Her years in the field have shown her that the way to get children excited is to get them involved. In her grade school days, her interactions in the journalism program got her excited, and today she hopes to evoke similar feelings out of students through her Summer Learning Program, interactive field trips, and modified classrooms.

Though she has gained immense success in her administrative career, she refused to stop her ambitions there.

“My husband and I celebrated our 16th  anniversary this year and we have a new child, that new child being Plant Bae!” Bradford says.  Inspired by her adoption of the vegan lifestyle, Bradford, along with her husband Eric Bradford, opened a plant-based restaurant titled Plant Bae in downtown Montgomery.  On May 8, 2020, the doors of Plant Bae opened with no hesitation despite the pandemic or national social conflicts.

“Even in a pandemic people gotta eat,” Bradford said, and this holds true as both of them have received great feedback from the community.

Though the physical location has been up for months, the idea of it has been in the works for years. In 2018, Bradford transitioned to the vegan lifestyle after noticing the positive effects that being plant-based had on her body. The change was so rewarding that she wanted to share the vegan lifestyle and its effects with her loved ones.  They were open to the idea but were reluctant as they didn’t know how they could get fulfilling flavors from solely plant-based foods. So, to spread her love for her new lifestyle, the Bradfords decided to create Plant Bae, a place where all the curious people can gather with their loved ones, or by themselves, and enjoy healthy, yet flavorful food.

“We named it Plant Bae thinking about a bae, a person you love and care about,” Bradford said.  “To bring your bae, or yourself, to a place that really cares about cooking food that loves you back.”

Not only does the food love the customers, but the customers are bound to love the food as the menu holds a twist on America’s favorite foods. Bradford’s enthusiasm radiated through the phone as she talked about her inspiration for the “Rich Beau”, a vegan play on the Creole dish the Po’ Boy. She recounts her time visiting New Orleans.

“I was so excited to have real Cajun food!” Bradford said.  “I went to these different mom and pop joints where they had these Po’ Boys where they dug out the bread and had Remoulade they made on sight. So of course, I wanted to bring that to the vegan scene.” Her love for this initiative is apparent as she finds ways to share this concept with as many people as possible, whether it’s through her Granny’s Baeby initiative, where she gives complimentary meals to the elderly, or if it is through creating programs in schools to help disadvantaged children.

Bradford continues to be a busy and ambitious woman as she serves as a wife, as a mother to her young daughters Brooklyn and Sydney, an education administrator and a business owner. She credits her success to her good habits.

“It has always been important for me to set good habits …you must prioritize what is important to you,” she says, and it is this ideal that has led her to a life as a mother and wife, multiple degrees, esteemed positions, and a mogul of the culinary arts. She does also recognize various Alabama State University faculty who pushed her to stand by this ideal.  According to Bradford, David Okeowo, Ph.D., retired chairman of the Alabama State University Department of Communications Media,  retired instructor Coke Ellington, and former instructor Jennifer Fremlin were among the people who “cared and noticed” and according to Bradford, “that makes all the difference to a young woman with big dreams.”

Okeowo remembers Bradford dearly.

“There are some kids that come to college that have no idea as to what they want to do,” Okeowo said.  “She (Bradford) already knew that she wanted to be in the media. When she came to our program she was really one of our best students. She was very focused and very determined. She knew what she was shooting for.”

It is this ideal that she encourages current students to adopt.

“Alabama State University gives you the opportunity to hone your craft,” Bradford said,  “to create a future even greater than those before you.”