All through college and up until recently I was known as “the girl with the afro who loves the kids.” I cut my hair this spring so that part of my reputation is gone, but the other part couldn’t be more true.
My upbringing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, included lots of diverse experiences, model examples of resiliency, navigation of different and difficult spaces and witnessing inequities before I had the language to talk about them.
When I left Michigan to attend Howard University in Washington, DC, I learned more about the history I saw manifested as social issues and quickly got involved on and off campus. First, I got a job building literacy skills with preschoolers who were not on track to be kindergarten ready. I later revived a student organization called Students Advocating for Youth, or SAY. In one year, I recruited a new executive board and we threw over 20 educational events and participated in the national Children’s Defense Fund 10-10-10 March and Rally for Children with the Marian Wright-Edelman.
Since then, I’ve worked in schools, done research and communications, led nonprofit programming and expanded successful workforce development programs in DC, Grand Rapids and abroad. I regularly volunteer in advocacy spaces, too. For example, I work with the only political action committee in the nation focused on equity, helped make way for fairer elections in Michigan, serve on the Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission (which helped make biased reporting illegal), and graduated from the Michigan Political Leadership Program.
In all I do, I see the connection between policy and people. I have a mind that always asks “why” and a heart that pays attention to outcomes and inequities. I’ve learned that the “right thing” isn’t always as straightforward as we might like to think, we can’t demonize people we disagree with, and using reliable data is key to building a strong economy with thriving families and communities. The League specializes in using data to make informed budget and policy recommendations to benefit all Michiganders, especially children.
In a full circle moment, I recently joined the League as the Kids Count Project Director where I get to lead data and advocacy efforts to improve the lives of children throughout the state. As the “[woman] who loves the kids”, I’m excited, humbled and ready to bring a sharp mind, challenging voice, and sincere heart to advocate for youth in this way.
As Edelman says, “I’m doing what I think I was put on this earth to do. And I’m really grateful to have something that I’m passionate about and that I think is profoundly important.”