Leaders of Color Alumni Profile: Dr. Lessie Branch
The Leaders of Color program launched in 2018 to elevate the tremendous talent of community-based leaders of color. Since then, more than 200 leaders have emerged from the program ready to bring change to their communities. These are their stories.
Meet Dr. Lessie Branch, a Leaders of Color alum from our class of 2022 in New York.
What inspired you to get involved in civic leadership?
I was recommended to Leaders of Color. After reading up on the organization, I decided to apply because I wanted to be part of a community of forward-looking and thinking Black and Brown leaders looking to be impactful in a number of arenas. I wanted to be part of a group that not only offered professional development, but allowed me to be "fed" as well as to "serve." Leaders of Color is undoubtedly a competitive fellowship. I was delighted to be accepted.
How has the Leaders of Color program helped you?
For me, Leaders of Color's greatest asset is its network. Within this network resides a wealth of information. The fellowship has helped me to widen my network and working knowledge of the intricacies of mounting a successful election campaign. I'm optimistic about my future as it relates to engaging in the political process on the appointment side of the equation. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekly meetings; I looked forward to them. I am glad to have bonded with Leaders in my cohort, previous cohorts, and leadership at the organization. I am presently a Sitting Member NY-16 Veterans Advisory Committee, with Congressman Jamaal Bowman. I am also awaiting word on whether I will be selected for The Lower Hudson Valley's Hate and Bias Prevention Regional Council with the New York State Department of Human Rights.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about becoming leaders of their own communities?
Listen more than you speak. When you do speak, think before you speak. Speak from your heart. Don't be afraid to speak. Understand that [fill in the blank] issues are your issues. What happens to the group proxies for what happens to you.
Tell us about an a-ha moment you had about your own leadership abilities.
I am a reluctant leader and am not a fan of conflict. I imagine it is why I'm drawn to peacemaking and restorative justice kinds of work.
How do you support children and youth in your community?
One of my roles is teaching a doctoral level Leadership and Diversity course. Many of my doctoral students are educators in public and charter schools as well as those who teach in higher ed. The course I teach is kind of like the Capstone course and is framed in social justice. It is quite fulfilling to share wisdom and impart knowledge to these educators, especially in the educational climate the country now finds itself.
Please share some words of wisdom for our readers.
"If systems loved us, they would not pivot away from interest convergence, accountability, and equity, toward new forms of oppression, inequity, and neoliberal self-interest." - Dr. Lessie Branch