Angelique Power: Designers of our own destiny
And so we begin.
Fall on the horizon. Leaves bursting into brightness. Sun stretching longingly across the tall buildings and lush backyards of Detroit. A sense of ending and beginning again simultaneously. Possibilities that come amidst change. Curiosity for what might be, palpable in the cooling air.
Today is my first day at the incredible Skillman Foundation, although I’ve begun thinking and planning with the fierce staff and board for some time now. And while this is a new beginning for my family (my daughter and I both picked out “first-day” outfits together), I know this fall, in schools and workplaces across the country, new beginnings await us all.
We’re stepping together into a new chapter. The pandemic has left us searching for hope in a world that has been turned upside down. In order to right-size it, we must also rethink it. We’ve gained a greater perspective on things that have long been broken, and with that, I hope, a greater will to reinvent toward our ideal future rather than return to our imperfect past. From our economy and the way we work; to our schools, the skills we learn and how we learn them; to how we care for our planet; to how we care for one another, heal our historic wounds, right our injustices, and bridge our divides.
For those of you who do not know me…Hi, I’m Angelique.
Like many of you, this past year of sitting still rooted in self and family changed me. In the midst of imagining what’s next, the opportunity to consider the work of The Skillman Foundation and the community of Detroit came into view. The concept of centering youth, especially Black and brown youth, to amplify their voice, their prospects, and their power, overtook me. In these moments, we do what we feel we are called to do. I feel called to do this work.
Moving my family to Michigan feels like a homecoming of sorts. As a child, I spent most weekends and summers in a small cottage on the state’s westside. The area was populated with a cohort of Chicago’s black police officers, my father among them. They came seeking quiet, reflection, and community. My mother, a white, Jewish public school teacher, made sure that between blueberry picking from our backyard bushes and swimming in the jubilant waves of Lake Michigan, we read stacks of books from the library, shucked corn, and snapped beans for blanching and freezing over the winter, and spent time rooted in self and family. Our love of Michigan led both me and my sister to attend the University of Michigan, and I’ve been lucky to work inside Detroit first when I was with the Dayton Hudson Corporation fresh out of grad school, and later as part of my role at the regional Joyce Foundation.
None of this means I have a claim on Detroit. I know enough to know I have to earn your trust and that won’t happen overnight. But I will tell you Detroit and Michigan, in general, has long had a claim on me.
Returning to this gem of a place I’ve known in different chapters of my life, I am profoundly grateful to join forces with the mighty warriors who work inside and alongside The Skillman Foundation, who’ve long been centering children and youth to create a more just and loving world. From the very first time I met members of the board, to each staff and fellow, the message has been clear. We do this for our children, every single one of them. What we give returns to us in abundance for generations. The work is made better by many minds and hearts shaping it and so we are grateful to all be in this together.
I know, and love, that Detroiters don’t suffer fools. You have seen many people come into this city with big ideas that are misplaced. People that enact an extractive relationship, taking from the city more than they give.
Some of you might be wondering, “Who is this non-Detroiter? How will someone who has not been steeped in education lead a Foundation that has education at its core?” Good questions; and I had similar ones too.
From my very first conversation – ranging from my long work in antiracism organizing and racial justice to my history of working across sectors, institutions, and in collectives – something clicked. The work we are charged to do at this moment in history is bigger than one foundation, one city, one issue area. It requires an understanding of how interconnected issues are, people are, and solutions must be. And so fresh eyes and a collaborative heart is what I bring.
My first order of business: Listening and learning from you.
While the rest of the country is newly thinking about how to recover from the pandemic equitably, Detroit has been at this for a long time. There are so many thoughtful visionaries and experts in this city. I am excited to spend the next year talking to Detroiters, especially youth, to gain perspective and understanding.
While I get to know Detroiters, I hope you will get to know me too. As a strong advocate for children and youth. A steadfast champion of racial justice. A notorious collaborator. And a trusted ally. I’m here to help Detroit youth write our next chapter. To make sense of this complicated and beautiful world. Every single one of us wants to be designers of our own destiny, as opposed to beneficiaries of others’ benevolence.
Here’s to what we co-design together.
President & CEO
The Skillman Foundation
Thanks to Detroit artist Miranda Kyle for their wonderful illustration of Angelique. Check out more of their work at MirandaKyle.com!