Minute Mentor: Change Agent and Social Justice Advocate Tami Sawyer

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams. It began with the simple idea that “seeing is being.”  When cofounders Rick and Faye’s oldest son was born, it was clear he was musically inclined. He was playing piano by ear at age 4 and neither of them ever even picked up an instrument! When Faye remembered an old neighbor who had gone on to become a Julliard trained musician, she immediately reached out to him and said, “What do we do?”  He patiently answered all of her questions on how best to nurture her budding musician.

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

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Name: Tami Sawyer

Age Category: 25-40

Occupation: Director, Diversity & Cultural Competence, Teach For America Memphis/Social Justice Advocate

Education: Bachelors, Political Science

Career Level:

  • Entry
  • Mid-level
  • Executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Retired

How hard do you work? 

  • Lots of Leisure Time
  • Typical 40-50hr Workweek
  • More than Average
  • I never stop working

Lifestyle/Income

  • Side Hustle/Didn’t Quit My Day Job
  • Getting By
  • My bills are Paid with Some Room for Fun
  • You get a car! You get a car!

Where are you from?  Memphis, TN

What kind of student were you?

I was shy in lower elementary. I did my work diligently and kept it moving. I felt out of place because I would get pulled out of class, because my parents taught me to read young. So I would go to reading groups. Coming back into classrooms was always tough. I didn’t really find my voice until 7th grade when I began school at St. Mary’s Episcopal School. Being in an all-girl school with a highly academic environment empowered me. I broke out of my shell, maybe too much!

“During my 20s, I dropped out of law school, I wasn’t sure what would be next in my life. I tried many different business endeavors, some which were successful, some which never made it out my notebook. What I learned during that time is that all I have to do when I fall is get back up. You only lose by staying on the ground.”

Describe your current job:

As Director, Diversity & Cultural Competence for Teach For America Memphis, I am responsible for setting our region’s vision on cultural competence development and social justice engagement. My current vision is to develop teacher leaders and staff who understand social justice and it’s role in education, acknowledge their privilege and utilize it for the greater good and eschew biases to positively impact our communities.  Additionally, I organize around Social Justice issues in the Memphis community, responding to social justice infractions and advocating for people of color.

What education level is required for your job? Tests? Certificates? Years of School?

Bachelor’s Degree [undergraduate degree attained after high school typically requiring four years at an accredited university].

Do you find your work fulfilling?

I find my job with Teach For America to be very fulfilling. It is truly a situation where I am getting paid to do what I love. Some days are tough as I am working to break down systems and biases, but I see the outcome of being committed to this fight daily.

Did you always know you wanted to be a Diversity Practitioner/Social Justice Advocate?

No. I knew I wanted to have a voice. I knew I saw injustice everywhere and every day. I knew black people needed a win. I didn’t know what my role would be.

What, if any, setbacks have you faced? How did you overcome them to accomplish your goals?

I face setbacks weekly. Working in the community, in politics and education all at once, means at least once a week, something isn’t going to go my way. I have a lot of resilience. During my 20s, I dropped out of law school, I wasn’t sure what would be next in my life. I tried many different business endeavors, some which were successful, some which never made it out my notebook. What I learned during that time is that all I have to do when I fall is get back up. You only lose by staying on the ground. Losing my campaign for TN State Rep would be considered a setback by many, but I have found it to be just the opposite. It has increased my network and ability to help affect change in my community.

“Let your children be who they are destined to be. Don’t push any career on them, but allow them to pursue their interests naturally.”

What advice would you give a parent of a child/young adult interested in pursuing a job in your field? What advice would you give them on pursuing any career goal?

Let your children be who they are destined to be. Don’t push any career on them, but allow them to pursue their interests naturally.

 

You can find Tami on Twitter @tamisawyer,  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tamisawyertn and Instagram: @tamisawyer.

You can check out her TED Talk below:

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

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