"We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest"

I saw Sweet Honey in the Rock perform “Ella’s Song” in college and the words remained in my consciousness for many years. It never occurred to me that life would come full circle, and I would again be stirred by the lyrics at an organization named for the woman who inspired that song.  I am the Policy Manager of the Ella Baker Center.

I also happen to be a Black woman who grew up in Oakland on the edges of poverty. I always walked a fine line between the abject poverty and socialization that comes with living in the center of violence where highly concentrated economic deprivation resides and the working class reality of my southern foreparents who owned a home among other upwardly mobile Black families. I am a contradiction because I occupy space in a world where poor Black girls in public schools don’t graduate with honors, obtain degrees from Spelman, Princeton, and UC Hastings. Nor do they travel to Russia or speak Arabic and Spanish.

I love this work because I recognize that I slipped through the filtering system that was meant to catch me and hold me back from my dreams. I am excited and happy to do the work of the Ella Baker Center. Work that will free my brothers and sisters locked away from their dreams. Filtered out by a system that was never meant to serve them. 

Tunisia Owens is the new Policy Manager for the Ella Baker Center. You can learn more about Tunisia here