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Staff Feature: LaToya Taris-James

LaToya Taris-James portrait







In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features LaToya Taris-James, Student Leadership Programs Coordinator.

What do you do at the Sabo Center?

I help coordinate student leadership programs in the Sabo Center. Parts of my work include administrative support for Campus Kitchen, and supporting the programming for LEAD Fellows through co-creating leadership development material, providing resources, and connecting fellows to partners in the community.

What’s one social issue that is most important to you right now?

An issue that I care about deeply and that has been very present in my own experience is the imbalance of power and access to opportunity when it comes to narrative, especially in the nonprofit and education sectors. We have a collective narrative in each of the communities we are part of; however, marginalized people groups, who do not hold the same economic power as others, are rarely given the opportunity to tell their own stories. This often results in an unhealthy culture of giving where wealthy people toss money at problems they don’t understand, for people they do not know, based on stories that were not told correctly. This creates a cycle of need that is not sustainable. Much of the work that I do outside of Augsburg centers around the power of narrative and helping under-represented groups use their voice to change unhealthy narratives. Wait, did you ask me to write an entire essay on this? I will leave it at that.

What’s your favorite place on Augsburg’s campus?

The meeting room in the Religion Department area in Hagfors. Very cool natural lighting with a view of the garden outside! I’ve only been in that room once and I decided it was my favorite.

If you could recommend one book, movie, or podcast, what would it be and why?

Black Boy by Richard Wright. I became familiar with Wright’s work back in high school, and this was the first book of his that I ever read. The book was helpful to me in my formative teenage years, helping me develop thoughts around what I was experiencing as a black kid navigating different spaces. Reading about Wright’s experiences really validated my own, as I had not been introduced to a lot of literature like that at the time. Reading this book inspired me me to dive into the world of black literature and enriched my life and work in deep ways.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Ride my bike! And read.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Thoughtful. Sensitive. Idealistic.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

Any room where my siblings are gathering. Also North Minneapolis 🙂

What’s the coolest thing you are working on right now?

Right now I am working to further conceptualize a storytelling/social impact initiative that I started a few years ago.

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you would consider a “must-see”?

The Skydeck at the Guthrie Theater.

Who would you most likely swap places with for a day?

Willy Wonka.

Have any last facts/favorite quotes/advice/etc. that you would like to share?

“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”–African Proverb