Meet Bri Oldham, who joined the Cleveland Foundation Marketing & Communications team in September 2020 as Equity Communications and Engagement Fellow. In this role, she works with foundation staff and community partners to support equitable communications and community engagement efforts at the foundation. In this blog, Bri talks about her background, interests, and approach to her work.
Can you share a bit about your background and how these experiences led you to where you are today
Growing up I always knew I wanted to be a journalist. I think always knowing things and ensuring they come to fruition will be a common theme when telling my story, because I also always knew I wanted to go to Villa Angela – St. Joseph (VASJ) high school. Upon graduating from VASJ, I went to Eastern Michigan, but financial woes brought me back home. Whoever said you couldn’t go home again must not have met my family. When I returned, I was showered with support on the path to continuing my education. Over several years and a couple institutions, there were goals I had that I realized I may not be able to achieve unless I enrolled in a local college, so in 2018 I transferred to Cleveland State University. This is where I developed many of the professional relationships and got to have awesome experiences doing the story sharing work that I love. In May of this year, a pandemic later, I received my diploma in Journalism.
How would you define your professional goals and aspirations?
I would define my professional goals and aspirations as evolving to meet the needs of the times we’re in but being consistent. Whatever work I was going to do, I just wanted it to be meaningful and help uplift people wherever I could.
Why journalism and storytelling? What drew you to this field?
I have been an avid book reader and lover of film and television since I can remember. The stories I grew up reading and watching made me want to tell my own. When I thought about the stories that mattered the most to me, right after family was community. And what’s so perfect about that is if the scene is set just right, the two would go hand in hand.
What kinds of stories are you most interested in telling and why?
I am most interested in telling stories about the wonderful work people are doing all around us that may not be widely known. I seek to be a megaphone and amplify the voices of those who wish to be heard. I want to be intentional in my story sharing and help change lives one story at a time.
As a recent graduate, I was uncertain how quickly I would move into my field. I interviewed for a different position and though I did not get it, it was fate that Michael Murphy was on the call because the rest is history. He saw something in me that he really liked and later reached out and offered me the position of Equity Communications and Engagement Fellow. When I got the call out of nowhere from Wenzhu about the process, I was excited but nervous. I knew I was taking it even before I knew what I’d be doing!
Can you share a bit about the work you will be doing at the Cleveland Foundation, and how others can get involved?
I will be sharing stories from those who were involved in Common Ground this past year and helping plan the 5th anniversary of Common Ground. I will also be sharing stories of the people and programs right in our backyards that serve the community in which they live. My pieces will live on the Cleveland Foundation website and we plan to share them with other publications that will hopefully run them. If ever there is an opportunity to do story sharing, please send it my way. I am interested in telling stories that matter and move people.
What do you hope to learn, and what do you hope to teach others during your fellowship?
I hope to learn of the many resources available across the board for people in my neighborhood and beyond. I didn’t know how far-reaching the foundation was until I got here. Now, my goal is to help spread the word about all that the people the foundation supports do and how those around me can pitch in and get involved. I hope to teach people how much we all have in common and to get to know more of a person beyond where they live, what they’ve done, or how they look.
What does equity communications mean to you?
Equity communications to me means something simple: making sure to include an audience that looks like me and ensuring the language and tone is easily understood and relatable.
I love spending time with my family and watching movies. I thoroughly enjoy sharing our family history over laughs and great music that spans generations. I also like to take part in community service and activities with my organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
What is your favorite place in Cleveland and why?
My favorite place is the track at my alma mater, VASJ, because it has an excellent view of the lake and takes me back to the incredible four years I spent walking the halls and the grounds of that space.
What else do you want people to know about you?
I’m always excited to try new things! I love a good adventure. I also consider myself a foodie and will try just about anything once, and I believe everything happens for a reason.