Thinking of our Braven Nation this week

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Braven Fellows and Coaches,

I’ve been thinking about you intently this week. We’re quickly approaching back to school, a time of anticipation and hope. And yet, from the bigotry in Charlottesville to an incident of sexism from a now former Google employee, it has been a hard several days.

I happen to be driving with my family to North Carolina to spend time in the mountains before my three young children head back to school.  It has been a remarkable time to be driving through parts of the South as an African American family. We’ve witnessed—in small ways—the beauty and incredible complexity of our times.  I don’t have perfect thoughts yet and maybe never will, but wanted to share two moments.

On Monday, while visiting the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky, we were wearing Harvard t-shirts. My former 6th grade student Ketica got her graduate degree from Harvard this May. It was one of my proudest moments as an educator and so I bought my entire family shirts.  A white man, probably in his fifties and looking down on his luck, noticed us as we approached the museum. He let us know that he had never gone to college. “You are like Barack Obama,” he said. There was hurt in his voice.

The next day, at Mammoth Cave National Park, I asked a white boy, who was about 12 years old, if he’d take our family’s photo. I often ask preteens or teens to take our family pictures because they’re usually the most camera savvy. He stared at me blankly and his parents told him that it was time to go inside. They simply ignored me. An older white man and I caught eyes, and I asked if he’d be willing to take our photo. He happily agreed. Of the 150 people on our tour, we were the only African Americans.

Both events caused me and my husband to do one of the hardest things — explain to our children, ages 9, 8 and 5, that the very diverse community we live in outside Chicago is a bubble.

People across our country, like the man in Louisville, are feeling a lack of access and left behind. And there is far too much racial fear and mistrust as we saw at Mammoth Cave. These moments and the national events from the last week are a discouraging reminder of our painful past and how it continues to impact all of us daily.

As my husband and I explained to our children, there is also good and hope in the world, even amid these challenging times. I see it each day in you all and so many others who are building a more equitable and inclusive country; a country where the man in Louisville and my children all have space to thrive. There is tremendous work still ahead, and building Braven into one of the most extraordinary diverse talent networks is of the utmost importance.

Please take care of yourselves and one another, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me or your Braven team contact if there are ways we can support you. In case helpful, we’re sharing a few resources that we as a Braven team have found helpful in this moment.

I’m so proud to be building a diverse leadership force alongside you all.

Warm regards,

Self-care resources:

Reflections / thought pieces on Charlottesville: