Mia Birdsong has spent more than 20 years fighting for the self-determination and pointing out the brilliant adaptations of everyday people. In her current role as Co-Director of Family Story, Mia is updating this nation’s outdated picture of the American family (hint: rarely 2.5 kids and two heterosexual parents living behind a white picket fence). Previously, Mia worked as the Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative, where she created and curated the Torchlight Prize. Mia, whose 2015 TED talk–titled, “The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True”–has been viewed over 1.2 million times already, has been published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Salon, and On Being, and has guest lectured at UC Berkeley. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and an inaugural Ascend Fellow of The Aspen Institute.
Mia is also a modern Renaissance woman. She has spent time organizing to abolish prisons, teaching teenagers about sex and drugs, interviewing literary luminaries like David Foster Wallace, John Irving, and Edwidge Danticat, and attending births as a midwifery apprentice. She co-founded Canerow, a resource for people dedicated to raising children of color in a world that reflects the spectrum of who they are. These are some of the many reasons that Mia was recognized as one of Colorlines‘ “15 Remarkable Women of Color Who Rocked 2015.”
As a global community, we all want to end poverty. Mia Birdsong suggests a great place to start: Let's honor the skills, drive and initiative that poor people bring to the struggle every day. She asks us to look again at people in poverty: They may be broke — but they're not broken.
How we are represented impacts how we construct our worldview. Seeing ourselves—the complexities of identity, including our families—positively reflected in the world around us is a source of important affirmation and self worth. When our representation is limited, our existence and relevance is called into question.