A Conversation with Tai Harden-Moore, JD, MBA, the New Program Officer for Black Student Success with OCF
By Marcy Bradley, Vice President of Equity and Culture, Oregon Community Foundation
Marcy Bradley, Vice President of Equity and Culture at Oregon Community Foundation (OCF), had a chance to sit down with her successor for Black Student Success — Tai Harden-Moore, JD, MBA — to have a conversation about what drives her passion to help Black students succeed in Oregon.
“Tai brings educational background, legal acumen and lived experience as well as a deep understanding about and a passion for advocating on behalf of Black children and families,” said Marcy Bradley, Vice President, Equity and Culture, OCF. “Tai is a strong community voice for improving the educational experience for all students in Oregon. We are thrilled to have Tai join our team. I have every confidence that she will excel in her new role as Program Officer for Black Student Success with OCF.”
Congratulations on your new role.
Thank you, Marcy. It’s truly an honor to join you at OCF and help advance the important work that you started with Black Student Success.
Tai, can you please talk about what attracted you to the Program Officer role with Black Student Success at OCF?
The opportunity to serve Black students drew me to this role. I believe every student deserves to receive an education free of discrimination and harassment, and unfortunately that is not the case, especially not for Black students in Oregon where we’ve seen how racism, both on the personal and systemic level, can negatively affect the educational outcomes for students of color, particularly Black students. So, the opportunity to serve Black students and have a hand in ensuring that programming that supports Black students in their educational success is funded are the things that drew me to the role. As well as the opportunity to learn from you, Marcy, and join the OCF team.
You have impressive credentials and qualifications for this role Tai. What about your background and lived experience do you think will serve you well in your new role as Program Officer with Black Student Success at OCF?
Thank you. I believe the thing about my background that will serve me well is that I know that without my education, I wouldn’t be here. My education is a large part of who I am, and it has opened so many incredible doors. But I also know how harmful the educational experiences of Black students can be when they are not properly cared for or cared about because that was my experience as well. As a 7th grader attending an all-white school, my teacher very clearly told me I could never achieve my dream of being a lawyer because I am Black. Her words were hurtful, and they affected me deeply, but they didn’t stop me – but I was lucky.
Now as a mother with children of my own navigating the educational system, I am deeply invested in their success and the educational success of other Black students across the state of Oregon, because I know the doors that having an education has opened for me. We know that Oregon has a deep history of racism, and how it affects us today is no longer something we can ignore. Last summer, we saw the Newberg School District School Board put forward a policy that many believe took aim directly at Black students by banning Black Lives Matter symbols in schools. With actions like these potentially on the horizon in other parts of the state, we can no longer wait to invest in the success of our Black students, we must do it now.
As you think about the months and your first year ahead, what are you hoping to accomplish with Black Student Success?
Well, I have only been in the role for a few weeks, so I haven’t had quite enough time to flesh that out, but my goal is to build on the success of Black Student Success and find ways to take it to the next level. I have a lot of ideas and some things cooking...stay tuned.
What gives you hope and inspiration Tai?
So many things give me hope, but one of the things that gives me hope in this work is that it is Black-led, and when things are for us and by us, that gives me hope because as a community we know what we need. Black people are resilient, we are smart, talented, brave, and beautiful; and our Black children, our Black students, need to know that! I am hopeful because the investments that OCF and its partners have made and will continue to make in Black student success is just the beginning.
“Black people are resilient, we are smart, talented, brave, and beautiful; and our Black children, our Black students, need to know that!”
Tai Harden-Moore, JD, MBA, Program Officer, Black Student Success, OCF
What guidance would you like to offer Oregon educators to help Black students succeed?
That’s a great question. Every student and every educator are different, so it is difficult to come up with something that fits all. However, I will offer that it is time to let Black students shine. It is time to remove the barriers to their success and allow them to shine and reach their full potential in every way.
Tai, do you have any words of advice or inspiration that you’d like to share with Black students in Oregon?
My word of advice to Black students in Oregon is to hold tight to the understanding that you are enough. Just you, as you are - you are enough; so, don’t let anyone ever diminish you or tell you that you are not enough because you absolutely are, and I see you — we all do!
How can people support the Black Student Success program at OCF?
What’s Next for Black Student Success at OCF
The work of Black Student Success at OCF involves multi-year grants to Black-led, Black-centering non-profit organizations that are a part of the Black Student Success Network (BSSN). Our 2022 renewal process will bring 24 organizations nearly $500,000 in awards towards the research, development, and programmatic support of best practices of Black student success across Oregon.