An Interview with Tawa Mitchell, Senior Program Officer, Chicago Commitment, MacArthur Foundation
00:15 Give our audience a little bit of flavor about your current role.
02:54 If there was a soundtrack of greatest hits related to your career, what songs would make the list?
- Sometimes it Snows in April by Prince invokes the notion that sometimes unexpected things happen.
06:48 I’m wondering if you could tell us about a time when your values were in tension, in a work environment or on a project, and how you reconciled that tension or not?
- Controversial decision to close underperforming schools in the Chicago public school system. It was challenging and heart wrenching to hear how a closure could disrupt the community, but I had to believe that everybody deserves a high-quality education with the tools that some of us have taken for granted. At the end of the day, my focus was on the resources in the event that these buildings should close. That gave me purpose and made me feel good about my role and what would be possible if this decision was inevitable to make it less harmful.
16:30 As you reflect on the last year, what has been your biggest moment of reckoning?
- What is my agency and my responsibility and how can I do what I can from where I sit to prevent this?
26:55 We come from a strong and resilient lineage. How would you describe the type of ancestor you want to be and why?
- Honoring one’s parents and being a manifestation of all they poured into me is important.
- I would want to be of service to my community, my people, and my family. To have left that legacy of service that I gave of my time, talent, and treasure in every single way that I could.
32:28 What is your approach to self-care?
- A lot of the rituals that I had are now unavailable to me during COVID times, especially travel.
- I’ve been cooking more, which brings me great joy and I got a pandemic puppy!
36:19 If you could offer advice to other black women who are trying to amplify their voice and become better self-advocates, what gems would you offer them?
- Get yourself some girlfriends! Sometimes people see us in a way we don’t see yourself. My network of girlfriends help me to be a better me. To stand in ways that I would not always push myself.
- Have people who remind you of the power that you have in yourself.