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MOVERS and SHAKERS Interview with Kami J. Anderson, PhD



MOVERS and SHAKERS Interview with Kami J. Anderson, PhD

Tell us your name and a little about yourself.

My name is Dr. Kami J. Anderson.  I am a mom of four, a lover of orange, and the FORCE behind the movement to link language, identity, and culture in the Black community. I am an intercultural scholar by discipline and the Founder and Executive Director of Bilingual Brown Babies.  Apart from my business, I also have teamed up with Dr. Joy Wiggins to facilitate workshops and discussions about Women Supporting Women in the Workplace as a part of our recent book, From Sabotage to Support: A New Vision for Feminist Solidarity in the Workplace.

What exactly does your company do?

Bilingual Brown Babies is a language lifestyle program that helps Black families who wish to become bilingual in English and Spanish.  We also train university faculty with incorporating language and study abroad into their courses as well as facilitate workshops with students of color on how to pursue international education opportunities successfully and how these programs can impact and shape their identity as students and persons of color in this world.

What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?

It seems clichéd, but it was my biggest challenge.  I doubted whether or not I could really do it.  I questioned whether or not I could be successful with an idea, at every step.  Every degree earned, there was a moment of “Can I do this?” I sabotaged myself in many ways in when it came to those choices that may have blazed a trail instead of walking the trail most traveled.  When I was able to sift through and break up my own mental muck, I was confident about doing something different, even if I stood alone.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?

Don’t be afraid to start your own path for the sake of security.  I think there were places where I followed the crowd even though my gut said, “blaze your own path.” When I finally did, I looked back at some of the time I missed sticking with the status quo (but I didn’t look back too long!).

Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?

Of course my own mother and all of the other mothers, aunties, and women in my life who have shaped what it looks like to live and breathe in community with other women, and how that space can shape how we can better serve our communities.  Dr. Anna Julia Cooper is one of my biggest influences because of how she shaped her life’s work on serving her community through language activism and education.  I would say after that, Dr. Patricia Hill Collins for providing a space for me to freely be Black, woman and intellectual with Black Feminist Thought.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My biggest influences are the same ones who have helped me along the way.  We talk a lot about having a “tribe” that rallies behind us, but I think few of us really know what that looks like.  I have not only my family by blood relation, but also the family I have built over the years from college experiences, work experiences and just life in general. The women and men who stand behind me cheer me on AND absolutely bring me nurturing critique.  This healthy balance has made me a better scholar, facilitator, and mother.  It is the lens I used when Joy and I sat down to write our book.  I had firsthand knowledge of what support is supposed to look like and wanted to be sure other women had the same privilege.

What do you see as your greatest success in life?

Defying the odds.  I am the daughter of a teen mom.  Statistics would lead us to believe that little Black girls from teenage mothers just end up going down the same path.  That was not the case for me.  My mom has two degrees and I have three.  Defying the odds has left me optimistic for what we can do as a society.  It has shown me that we can be different and do differently despite the ways we may have been socialized.  This is why I am proud of this book that Joy and I have written.  It’s a game changer. It’s showing all of us, women and men, that we can defy the odds, we can buck the systems, we can change the narrative and we can support women in ways we may have not collectively done before.

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Founder & Editor-In-Chief of Kivo Daily Magazine