Parents Who Inspire: Melissa Giraud

Y’all. What a week it has been in our country. Like so many, I’ve spent the past days immersed in the news, struggling to focus on anything else and not knowing how to respond in my own words here on the blog or on social media. Instead of writing, I’ve been listening, reading and absorbing all I can from people of color in particular and from the organizations and individuals who are seeking to help parents address race within the sacred context of their family.

One of my go-to resources has been EmbraceRace, a burgeoning non-profit and online community of discussion and practice around caring for and raising kids in the context of race. The content on their Facebook page and their Medium publication are incredibly thoughtful and in my opinion, often ground-breaking. I was honored to be asked to guest author, and under their editing prowess, I was pushed to be more honest than I ever have before about my privilege and implicit participation in systemic racism.

The co-founders of EmbraceRace are a husband and wife team, Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud. I’m so thrilled to be featuring Melissa as this week’s parent who inspires. 

Tell us a little about yourself: 

I am a co-founder (along with my husband) of EmbraceRace, a community of support around race and raising kids. In addition to my experience as a biracial person and parent raising multiracial kids, I am a former teacher, NPR producer and education equity consultant and I bring these lenses into my work at EmbraceRace. I live in Amherst, Massachusetts with my husband, Andrew Grant-Thomas, and our two children, Lola and Lena.

As a parent, what’s your favorite part about living in your city?

I love that my kids are growing up in a naturally beautiful place and that they spend a lot of time exploring the natural world. Those were not my childhood experiences! They teach me a lot with their observations and growing knowledge of our local ecosystems.

What are your passion projects or in what ways do you engage with your local or national community?

Lately, I’ve been all about EmbraceRace – definitely a passion project! EmbraceRace is a new online community of parents, caregivers, teachers and other caring adults who want support and conversation around their everyday experiences of raising kids in a country where race still matters so much in terms of life outcomes. My partner and co-parent and I started EmbraceRace because we couldn’t find the resources and support we ourselves were looking for online.

We had helped to start a face-to- face parenting and race group with other parents at one of our daughter’s school. But we quickly realized that 1) parents of small children have difficulty finding time to meet; and 2) the collected resources we found online were few and were geared mostly to white families raising white kids. We decided to step into the void and to recruit parents like you, Striving Parent, and like your readers to be part of that effort.

Our goals are to provide adults with resources on the pervasive impact of race on kids, to nurture resilient kids of color, to raise racially literate children of all stripes and to help caring adults become effective racial equity advocates for kids.

So far we feature a blog from diverse perspectives on race and raising kids by thoughtful caregivers, a bimonthly newsletter full of articles and resources to use with kids, an active Facebook page and more features to come. We are national in scope but aspire to have local chapters and regional and national conferences for face-to- face meet-ups around the country, too. We really consider ourselves part of a larger movement fighting against systemic racism and other intersectional oppressions for the liberation for all humans. We’re hoping to do that one child, one family, one community at a time.

What do you enjoy most about your civic engagement activities?

I find this work healing and even restorative. In the course of doing this work, I’ve met many inspiring kids and adults leading on racial justice in their various communities. Parenting can be super isolating! Doing this work makes me feel less alone and less worried about the world today’s children inherit.

What inspires you to engage in these activities?

My babies, Lola and Lena! In raising them, I’m very aware that, like many adults today, I grew up in a “colorblind” and colormute household. In my experience, and current research confirms, not talking about and accounting for how race works with kids leaves them to make sense of inequities on their own. The common result: kids of color look around and feel inferior while white kids look around and feel superior. It’s more challenging to be resilient and to counter implicit, systemic or personal biases if you’re taught not to name them and not supported in developing an analysis around them. I want to involve my girls in a justice movement that’s getting smarter about how racial and other oppressions work in order to act every day to create a more racially and otherwise just society. What’s the alternative?

Any words of wisdom for parents wanting to create space for civic engagement in their own busy lives? 

That’s a tough one. Lack of free time among caregivers is why we’re starting EmbraceRace online – so join us there! Otherwise, I’d say try to involve your kids in your community work when you can. What you do will make a bigger impact on them than what you say.

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Melissa’s above words and the work she is doing at EmbraceRace inspire me greatly. I am incredibly appreciative that EmbraceRace exists and offers support and resources to parents of all races. But I especially appreciate that they center the voices and experiences of parents of color within their framework. As a White parent striving to raise my kids to be racially and socially conscious, listening and learning from Black, brown, queer and other marginalized populations is crucial work. De-centering my own experience as a White person of various privileges is crucial work.

During times of crisis, Fred Rogers (otherwise known as Mr. Rogers) famously shared that his mother told him to “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’. To be sure, we are in a time of a crisis in our nation. But there are helpers out there; people and organizations willing to shine a light on injustice and do the difficult work needed to change the status quo.

Melissa and EmbraceRace are most certainly helpers. Please support their work and join in the conversations happening here and here. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

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