One Mother’s Words of Wisdom: Black History in the Making

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:
Today, for me, is going to be a very touching program. For those of you who have read the promotion for today’s program, we are going to be talking to one of the most advanced, brilliant, beautiful, and soulful women that I have met in the last couple of years. I am so blessed to work with federal and national law enforcement agencies. We are not going to talk a lot about Ayana’s role within her organization, but we will talk a little bit about her more before we bring her on.

Our guest has recently become a mother and given her role in creating a future black male leader in this wonderful world that we see evolving around us, and working in a federal law enforcement agency with influence in her job over a team of individuals who come from different national and federal areas, this is such a profound experience for me today to have Ayana talk about what is important to her.

For the purposes of our show, her name and how I know her and I’ve always known her as Brody, so I’m just going to call her Brody.

Ayana Parham is an amazing woman. She served as one of the youngest chiefs of staff, as I said, at a major federal organization in national law enforcement. Her particular role in this organization is powerful because this is a multi-agency task force. It works across all national teams and international teams when necessary. It deals with the recovery of individuals who, in some instances, have been hostages for some time.

It’s very, very important for all of us to recognize that when somebody works in an organization as the center for this unified approach to recovery American hostages abroad, it is so critical for people to be committed to supporting those families, you know, whose loves ones are being held captive.

She was appointed to chief of staff on May 1, 2020. This is very recent. She provides strategic counsel on policy and planning and matters as well as public affairs while serving on several different liaison roles with the National Security Council, or the NSA, and other international agencies.

This is somebody who has a very critical role in helping others. Her appointment before that was serving as senior management and program analyst for one of these strategic organizations and policy coordinator. She’s led innovations in her organization which include the idea of emotional intelligence for team effectiveness.

Brody, let’s talk about how you got into this career and where did this come from? In your experience as a young woman growing up. Tell us about your background.

Ayana Parham: So, I grew up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. This is a very Italian, Jewish community. So, I grew up with probably about maybe 10 or 15 African American families within this entire town. It’s about 1,000 people, plus, so small, but yet very intimate. Law enforcement has always been the one thing that I wanted to do growing up. I knew from watching these different shows as a kid, like most people, you think this is the perspective that you have going into it.

As I went through high school, lots of different courses, I really realized that I loved working with people and I loved helping people, but I wasn’t really sure like most high schoolers, where to go, right?

From there I went to an all African American female college. There are only two in the country. It is our school. It’s Spelman in Atlanta, Georgia. So from right then and there, I knew that I wanted to hone these skills of being a motivator, being someone that can influence at a level where you are just able to love on folks, but still make sure that they are getting what they need, and I was able to get that at Bennett.

From there on, one of my favorite administrators, she fell upon a packet that came from a federal agency that was looking for honors interns and she pulled to the side and said, hey, I know this is something that you are interested in, I think you should just do it. Apply for it and see what happens. Jump with both your feet in.

Listen to the entire interview, above.

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