On graduating from Obama University…
Today, I am embracing uncertainty, betting on myself, and saying farewell to my team as tomorrow will be the first time in more than seven years that I will not be working for former President Obama. I left Wall Street for the Obama administration during the financial crisis. I had planned to use my finance background to support the President’s economic recovery efforts. I figured I would work in D.C. for no more than two years before returning to the greatest city in the world, and a fancy job in the private sector. I think it’s safe to say the number one lesson learned is that I shouldn’t try to predict the future!
It’s been an honor and a privilege to support the vision and leadership of Barack Obama. At the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) we worked to foster entrepreneurship and increase access to capital for small business owners following the financial crisis. I then moved on to the White House, where I focused on urban economic development and private sector engagement. In 2014, I left the Obama Administration — again with a plan to return to the private sector — but instead wound up working with corporate leaders to launch an independent not-for-profit to continue the work of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative beyond the White House.
The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK Alliance) quickly grew into an independent organization focused on leveraging the resources of the private sector to increase access to opportunity for our boys and young men of color. In two short years, we raised significant capital — in cash, mission-critical assets, and in-kind resources — to support our mission. A national movement has grown resulting in nearly 250 cities, counties and Tribal Nations accepting the MBK Community Challenge. We have hosted events connecting young men of color to a variety of resources in cities across the country. We drilled down on four priority cities and focused on building collective impact in Oakland, Detroit, Memphis, and Albuquerque. These efforts have reached more than 10,000 youth, through access to employment opportunities, technical assistance, and career-related support services. We also worked diligently to build a world class team, create effective systems and processes to support our programmatic efforts, and build an organization that will outlive any one of us. My gratitude for the team I worked alongside for these past two years cannot be adequately quantified. As a founder and now former Managing Director of MBK Alliance, I struggle with being “proud” of what we have accomplished, because so long as our young men are still 6–9 times more likely to grow up in poverty, and 5 times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, there is still more work to be done. That said, I am without question very proud of my team, and know they will continue to fight for boys and young men of color to have access to the American dream.
My grandparents are 94 and 96 and escaped the Jim Crow south in the 1950s. The fact that they lived to see Barack Obama become President gives me hope. The fact that they’ve also had to witness the ongoing state-sanctioned assault on black bodies and events like Charleston and Charlottesville breaks my heart. Which is why the only thing greater than my hope in our nation is my desire to see that hope realized. The ideal America that Barack Obama led me to believe in unfortunately is not the America of today, but I do believe we can get there.
In my next chapter, I will continue to use my skills to fight injustice, increase access to opportunity, particularly for our most vulnerable citizens, and do my part to support to the building of an America we can all believe is truly great. I will be working with a variety of organizations and individuals who are leading important work around social justice, racial equity, and access to opportunity. Primarily I am going to be focused on supporting organizational development, community engagement, and public- private partnership strategies. I will continue to use my work and professional contributions to fight for the America that I believe in — the America that Barack Obama taught me to believe in — because I know we are better than this moment
I am deeply thankful to all my family members, friends, colleagues and most importantly my husband for supporting me on what’s been a truly magical and oftentimes completely insane ride. There will be more to come soon, but for at least the next few weeks I will be focused on cooking, napping, and the Green Bay Packers.
Please stay in touch!