Fay Twersky: Well, I don’t know everything. I don’t want to overclaim. You know I never like overclaiming. I’m not a micromanager by nature, so it’s not like I learned how to not do that because I don’t like to micromanage. I like to support people doing the work. But in this instance, I think I learned some new ways of leading from behind. You really were leading out front and I was really leading from behind. I was really taking your lead and knowing how to help support it to make you successful in this environment. You were probably going to do that anyway, but I was able to follow you and say, well, what can I do to really support her leadership, because actually, Jasmine is better suited to lead this work than I am. And so, you know, what’s the role that I can play and I feel like I just learned some new intuitions about how to do that. And I think that what you did and the way that you did it led to better material results than if I did it. I’ve heard that phrase used many times to lead from behind, but I never really experienced that until now, like you were really leading out front. And it was better. It was better.
Jasmine Sudarkasa: Well can I say something to you though, Fay, honestly, this fellowship works the way it’s supposed to because I don’t think I could have done this any earlier in my time. The posture of a leader I learned from you. When I came in, I don’t want to call myself temperamental per se, but it was very easy to activate me emotionally, and I think that was getting in the way of my ability to relate to people and to lead people, especially people who were older than me. And it’s something that I, you know, in my work prior to this was never going to be checked on because everyone’s afraid to tell the Black girl that she’s being mean. But I feel like very early in our relationship that’s something that we really were able to work on in a way that was very much honoring of my experience. But also, like, “Get your shit together.” And that’s skillful, Fay.
So I just, you know, I think this was truly a peer effort in that I needed all of my work with EPG up to that moment to be able to lead Hewlett in the way that I could. I knew I had the instincts around the anti-racist work, but to do it at this scale, at this institution—there’s no way. So, I’m heartbroken that my Fay is leaving me, but the only reason why I’m all right is because this process showed me that I will be okay in your absence. So I just wanted to reflect that back to you. Because really, like so many of my instincts, especially around challenging power dynamics, or how to listen to people or make people feel heard, these are things that I learned long before we were doing this anti-racist work. I had the framework and experience to apply it. So right back out.
Fay Twersky: I want to say something about the grantee calls. Every part of this was sort of like a book. They’re different chapters, you know, but there was that piece … Jasmine, you were on all of the calls with the grantees and different people—council members, Amy and I—joined for others. I was probably on six of the calls with you, and I just loved them. I loved hearing the stories from the grantees. I loved hearing Jasmine tell the story of the work to each of them, and the reactions.
Jasmine Sudarkasa: Yeah, I think I’ll share about one in particular, which moved me just on an incredible level. Souls Grown Deep, which works in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, with Gee’s Bend’s quilters as well as the community. I got on a call with the President, a few of their grantmakers, and their board chair—and their board chair is a third-generation Gee’s Bend quilter.
This woman is old enough to be obviously my grandmother (without aging her—I am polite). And at the end of the call, the President asks, “Is there anything else that anyone wants to say?” and she just says, “Thank you so much. From all of us down here. I can’t, I can’t even begin to tell you what this means to us.” And I’m just, you know, I’m not even 30 years old yet. This woman has been protecting my culture for her entire life—and she’s thanking me. And I just say to her, “Thank you for protecting our culture.”
So this for me was like a love letter to my upbringing, my culture. And I feel like I was uniquely privileged and prepared to do it. So the grantees … I mean, every one of those calls was magical. And that’s why I have such gratitude to them because I think in that moment, also, you know, this has been such an alienating year. I haven’t been active in protests. I used to be a protest girl, but don’t do that anymore. And so I’ve been feeling very socially isolated as a movement person. And so those calls and just having our community around me was so rewarding in that moment.
…Fay, I think this is an incredible testament to your work at Hewlett, I think this is like the definition of good philanthropy because it feels good and it does good work. And I just feel very honored that I got to work on your last big project with you at the foundation. It means the world to me. And I hope that you can take some of my love with you. Such appreciation, really, I think this is definitely the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. So I just have a lot of gratitude and it really speaks to the legacy of your work at Hewlett.
Fay Twersky: Thank you, Jasmine. I agree that it was really a magical experience. It really was. They always say: Leave when you’re on top. I can’t imagine a better project to conclude on and I’m definitely taking it with me.