It all started when...
I talked my way into the top-ranked public university in the world.
My sons were 2 and 3 years old when I stepped into the undergraduate admissions office at UC Berkeley and said, "I think you want me to go here." My family didn't expect me to go to college. I barely graduated from high school with a 1.85 GPA. I had kids with my "high school sweetheart" when I was 21 & 22 years old. But when my babies were babies and I had no job, no car, no friends, I looked at my life and said there's more to me than this. I enrolled in night classes at a local community college. My desire for an education caused the father of my children to act out in an unforgivable way and that's when I became a single-parent. I earned straight A's in school. Within 3 semesters I was ready to transfer to a university. I chose UC Berkeley and despite an incredible amount of pressure not to even attempt attending a school away from my hometown, I walked into the admissions office uncertain of myself and walked out confident that I was on the right path. I was admitted for the Fall 2014 semester. I relocated my sons and my mother, who was my dependent at the time, to the Bay Area. After that, well, you couldn't really stop me from doing anything I put my heart into.
I went on to be the first woman in my family to graduate from college. I graduated with double-major Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and English Literature. My undergraduate focus was the intersection of cultural studies and legal systems. I wanted to understand how marginalization is codified through literature and law, so I took on the mighty challenge of double-majoring all while parenting full time.
While at UC Berkeley I was elected the President of the Student Parent Association for Recruitment and Retention. As President, I transformed the association from a social support club to a recruitment and retention organization. On behalf of underserved, nontraditional and underrepresented students that student parents are, I spoke at national education conferences to advocate for us.
My senior year I was able to teach courses such as "It takes a Village" and "Once Upon a University" to incoming undergraduates bringing their children with them to the academically rigorous and competitive institution that we affectionately call "Cal." I taught these courses because I understood that even highly motivated students need real empowerment, real practical support, and real strategic advocacy delivered by a peer in real time.
As an acknowledgment of my dedication to both personal and academic achievement, I was selected as the Undergraduate Speaker for the 2007 Cal Anthropology Department Commencement Ceremony.
My first job out of college was in Philanthropy. I worked for a private family foundation that specialized in educational grant making. I had learned a lot about grant writing, but this was my opportunity to understand how grant making worked. What can I say about that experience? Not much due to NDA's and all that. But, it was my first time ever being in personal contact with an actual billionaire. And all of my suspicions about the power that the wealthy wield in our society turned out to be true. I prepped powerful executives for board meetings and assisted in coalition building. I reviewed grants and proposals and developed an eye for which orgs had a chance at securing funding and which orgs would be dismissed on sight. I witnessed firsthand how diverse stakeholders have to work together and how easy it is for community initiatives to fall apart if the funders aren't pleased with outcomes. It was an illuminating 3 years. Equal parts infuriating and inspiring.
So, of course I went on to graduate school.
My Master's degree from San Francisco State University in Sexuality Studies was a very unique graduate program. While it required rigorous research in the social science of sexuality, it also contained a strong focus on social justice. I was able to dive into Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, Public Health, Queer Studies and Reproductive Justice.
Having a graduate level education based in multidisciplinary perspectives on human sexuality ranging from the biology of sexuality to sexual health education, from the history of sexuality to social justice movements for sexual and gender minorities, from sexuality in the arts and literature to cross-cultural explorations of sexuality, gave me a wide spectrum of knowledge to pull from and apply.
My master's thesis was an original ethnographic research project of interracial families in the East Bay where the heads of the household identified as a member of a sexual minority group. My goal was to document the strategies that multiply-marginalized people create while navigating stigma and creating family. Families, I have found, are located at the nexus resistance. Family dynamics are powerful illuminations of both oppression and resilience.
Throughout my academic careers, my mentors were women who lead without apology. Brilliant women who are also mothers, who are dedicated to changing systems of oppression, who have faced systemic injustice and are committed to sharing their knowledge.
In my undergraduate years at UC Berkeley, I was fortunate to assist Dr. Laura Nader. She was the first woman to receive a tenure-track position in the academically famous Anthropology department. Dr. Nader's teaching on power and controlling processes changed my life. When she took me on as a research assistant, it was the first time I felt seen as an academic with something to offer. She believed in me as only a woman balancing parenting and academia could. Once when I was doubting my ability to be ALL the things I wanted to be, she told me the story of when her children were young and she was cleaning the house when the assistant to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States called her home and she took the call with a toilet brush in one hand and the telephone in the other, all while her children ran up and down the hallway around her. "That's what they get for calling me on a Saturday", she told me.
In my graduate program, I spent a summer learning from Professor Ericka Huggins. Being able to learn from a human rights activist, poet, educator, Black Panther Party leader and former political prisoner who is also a mother, again, changed my life. She demonstrated that we can live a life of insubordinate service. I learned from Professor Huggins that we each can be a voice of compassionate reason and an example of ferocious peacemaking. We can strive to be "firsts" so that others can follow. I learned that being the "first of many" is far more powerful than be "the only." She taught solidarity. She demonstrated mutual support. She encouraged showing up and not showing off. I am forever grateful for the mentoring I received at the critical time in my professional development. Professor Huggins continues to be an inspirational force in my life.
The same month I graduated from my Master's program in 2012, I launched The Sex-Positive Parent with a url and a dream. Through writing articles and strategic partnerships, I became one of a handful of international experts on sex-positive parenting. My focus has been teaching consent and boundaries as a way to end sexual violence by working with parents and professionals all over the world. As a younger parent with young children, I remember looking around at what resources were available to me. What I saw was profoundly narrow and I didn't relate. Most resources were from white, hetero-normative, transphobic, upper class, steeped in fear-mongering and patriarchal control. Fuck that. To me, sex-positivity must be intersectional, multi-faceted and inclusive to all genders. Parents come in all genders and sexual identities, as do children. It only makes sense that educational resources should too. From that lens, I have led workshops, taught classes and presented at conferences throughout the United States. In addition to founding and running my own sexual health education resource for families, I've provided research support to anti-racist think-tanks and facilitated anti-oppression trainings.
I am committed to the continuous process of facing my own racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Living in a patriarchal, white supremacist world means unlearning all the time. I've worked with organizations to radically diversify their leadership teams and become attractive to a greater client base. I've created mentorship pipelines, developed communications strategies, and led women's leadership trainings.
What is the common theme amongst these varied enterprises? I specialize in developing diversity and accountability. I've brought integrity, authenticity and intersectional awareness to every position I've held and endeavor attempted. And now I'm making myself available to you.
I'm the kind of leader that makes shit happen.