“Real courage comes not from turning on each other, but by turning towards one another.” — Pres. Obama, Funeral Speech of John Lewis
Below we continue discussing the topic of race with Winthrop Town Manager Austin Faison.
Q. This is our fourth interview. How does your family feel about how publicly vocal you’ve been on the topic of race?
A. My wife Nneka supported my decision to address these topics. She is an empowered Black woman and speaks to these same issues at her own workplace. Her high school outside Philadelphia recently appointed her to its board and she is working on a diversity assessment of the school. My father’s response was pretty simple—“Well said.” We have talked about these issues for most of my life and he has helped inform my viewpoint. Since I am in a position where people listen to my voice, I am passing along the same information that he shared with me. My mother was also very supportive of what I had to say.
Q. In our first interview, you recommended some books to white people who want to be better allies. What do you consider to be essential reading for Black youths and why?
A. There are many stories that haven’t been told, or that have been suppressed. If I were to name one thing, it would be the Ta-Nehisi Coates run on the graphic novel Black Panther. It is interesting to consider a world where a country like that could exist and how it would deal with the current state of global affairs.
Q. In “Between the World and Me”, Coates says he cannot comprehend his son’s Blackness any more than his own father could comprehend his. Can you relate to this idea of different generations of Blackness, and if so, how does this play out within your own family?
A. I can relate to the feeling of different generations of blackness and the diversity within the Black population. My father had two Black parents; I have a White mother and a Black father; my son has a Black mother and a mixed-race father. Within the generations of my family that I can touch, we look a little different and we have been afforded different opportunities. The world has changed around us as we have strived to achieve the American Dream, and it seems like we are getting closer with each generation.
Q. What would you say to young Black men and women who are considering going into city management?
A. I would encourage them to pursue a career in the industry. There is a need for more diversity in appointed leadership positions.
Read the other interviews in this series:
Let’s Talk about Race: A Conversation with Town Manager Austin Faison
Let’s Talk about Race: A Conversation with Town Manager Austin Faison – Part II
Let’s Talk about Race: A Conversation with Town Manager Austin Faison – Part III
Let’s Talk about Race: Winthrop to Lose Black Resident