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Trina

Finding My Voice Again

Tags Youth at the Center

It seemed like the perfect life:two kids, picket fence, great career, making money, I’m out in California with Apple. As I neared my 29th birthday, I was just feeling like “Something is missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but this was not what life is supposed to be about.” I started doing some self-reflection. I started journaling. I went through The Purpose Driven Life process that I want to say was a 40-day process. I came out of all that realizing what I needed to do was leave engineering, leave California, and come back to St. Louis to be a part of a solution otherwise I was just as much part of the problem. The first examples of inequity I really saw, I didn’t know how to put a name to. Differences I saw in the schools I had come from in the city, where everybody told me I was smart and needed to get out. I didn’t understand. “Why are you trying to send me away from my community?” What I saw when I was at Clayton High School, where I was kind of separated from other blacks being bused out from the city, and I would end up the only black student in honors classes or AP classes while most of my friends riding the bus with me were going to remedial classes. A lot of things in my childhood education had shown that there were very big disparities within the St. Louis region. That’s originally why I wanted to leave. But that was also what I was thinking about when I finally realized what my purpose was:to be a part of some really transformative work here in St. Louis, to stop complaining from afar, and come back in order to try to help achieve equity in education.

…everybody told me I was smart and needed to get out. I didn’t understand. “Why are you trying to send me away from my community?”

I initially found my voice when I returned to St. Louis and then I lost it again. I started out very strong and bold. I didn’t care who you were, I was always going to tell you what I believed and what I knew about our kids and our families. When trouble started with the sponsor of our charter school — we felt like we were being treated unfairly. But, our first year was no different from all the other public charter schools during year one. I tempered myself out of fear. Now, people might say, “That was that girl who pissed off a couple of people in power because she did not go along with their charter school movement agendas.” When it came to applying for the Forward Through Ferguson board, I wasn’t even concerned that I might not be selected. Being a part of this, I’m finding my voice again. And it’s because I have come back into feeling like if it’s going to happen, it will. Knowing I’m accountable to God, not to people in power, who am I to back down? To lessen what I know I have been told? I’m supposed to be here to be part of positive change. If it means I’m not in high favor with certain people, or there’s some pain caused, I have to keep fighting. I’ve even told my parents, “I’m going to get on that board and be very real about what I believe we all need to be discussing, and, hopefully, come together on what we all need to do.”

Trina Clark James, FTF Board Member, photos by Lindy Drew

Trina Clark James, FTF Board Member, photos by Lindy Drew