Meet Our Communications & Development Intern, Tia-Lynn Rounsoville

In order to help our supporters learn about the staff they’re supporting, our super volunteer Jean Jeffress did a series of interviews with the OPC staff to learn about our work. Check out this feature on our communications & development intern, Tia-Lynn. You can reach Tia-Lynn at tia@oaklandpeacecenter.org. And you are always welcome to support our work by clicking on this link to donate. 

Season’s Greetings, friends, supporters and lovers of the Oakland Peace Center! For the third installation of the OPC staff member highlights we will be with Tia-Lynn, OPC’s fabulous intern for 2017. Tia is the person who makes sure all our communications about OPC news and events make sense before we put them out. They updates our social media, helps plan, set up and run events, and they makes sure that they has a conversation with someone from one of the OPC member organizations every day that they is in the office to try and learn what they know about peacemaking and social justice. Tia and I had a wonderful conversation one morning about all that they does at OPC, why they believes in the work, and why it should be supported. Most of what you will read is their words whether or not I use quotation marks.
Tia comes to us from St. Louis, where they is a junior at Missouri State University seeking a double major in Communications and Psychology. They’re taking a little study break which is part of how they came to be here with us in California. Tia became connected to OPC through a program “XPLOR,” which is for 21-31 year-olds within the Disciples of Christ denomination. Tia says, “It’s like discernment plus social justice – I don’t really know how to explain XPLOR but basically it’s this 10 month residency program that allows you to discern while also working with a non-profit that works toward social justice.” When Tia applied for the program, they had no idea in which organization they would be placed. But they knew that they wanted to be at OPC, and luckily for us, this is where they were placed.
Tia likes being in California because it is vastly different in the Midwest where they are from. They appreciate the hospitality they have been shown in Oakland. They say, “Here in Oakland I’ve just been shown a lot of hospitality even just like on the street, and I’m like ‘is this supposed to happen? Are people supposed to talk to me?’ Like I’m used to waking down the street without necessarily being recognized in either a positive or a negative light – in Oakland it’s kind of just like people talk and engage rather than just ignore. I really like that.”At OPC, Tia also finds a spirit of hospitality. Even though Tia didn’t know they would be placed at the Oakland Peace Center, they felt drawn to OPC by the mission statement and the “community building aspects of getting non-profits to recognize it’s not all about their one central mission, it’s about the overall goal of making the world a better place for us, creating a sustainable peace, like a true peace.” Right now I’m kicking myself because I did not ask Tia in our interview what about the OPC mission statement drew them to the organization. So, I read the mission statement again and I was going to try to pluck a sentence or two to quote but the whole statement is awesome. Here it is:
“The Oakland Peace Center provides needed space, hosts collaborative events and trainings, and creates a network of emotional and spiritual support for the 30+ organizations who partner in its work. These organizations pursue access, opportunity, justice, and inner peace throughout the Bay Area each in their own way. They can turn to the Oakland Peace Center to fortify and amplify these efforts through solidarity and cross-pollination. The OPC inspires these organizations to participate in a vision larger than that of any individual or member organization.”
I can see why Tia was drawn in. Communities building community – if I was preaching about this I would say that’s what creating the realm of God here on earth looks like. But I’m not preaching. I’m telling Tia’s story. Let me get back to it.
Tia believes that as people consider continuing their support of OPC, they need to ask themselves, “what brings you back and why were you here in the first place? Whether it was the space – I think a person would want to be able to give money to make the building expand especially if space interests them or it was just the engagement or the possibilities of what the space could be, meaning being like a central hub for people and a central hub for resources. But I think what I would really harp on is the investment in community.” The OPC model – a community that bridges whole communities of peacemakers is unique, and a vision worth supporting.
I asked Tia if they had a fun Sandhya story. They said, “I’m pretty sure it exists. I mean we have great talks and conversations. I was just thinking of it – like it’s just, I don’t know – like nice and kind of quirky conversations – like those are just funny tidbits. Or I could just ask a question and Sandhya takes time out of them day to either answer the question or just answer the question with a question. I’m in her class right now for Writing in Revolutionary Times. That’s been an experience that has challenged me outside of this job. So, I would just say that she is a powerhouse changemaker in finding leaders in order to progress the way forward.”
Before we could close our interview, Sandhya, who was in the room with Tia and me during the interview listening on headphones to the 50 best hip hop songs of the 1990’s asked Tia if they had observed any connections between what is going on in St. Louis with the Black Live Matter movement and what they has experienced going on in Oakland. The brief exchange between Sandhya and Tia went like this:
T: It’s kind of strange. I wasn’t really involved with the Black Lives Matter movement cuz mostly out of fear and my mom was like “I don’t want you in the streets.”
S: Whereas you have been in the streets here.
T: So it’s really an interesting dynamic of like am I doing this because I feel like I have the freedom to, or because I feel safer to? What if this was in the heat of the moment and something was going down immediately? Would I still be actively in the streets or is it that?
S: I wonder if the reason you’re asking yourself those kinds of questions is from stuff like the faith-rooted organizing training and the Kingian non-violence training – stuff that OPC partners are offering? So you don’t just have access to the actions but you have access to a framework so you can do the kind of thinking you want to?
T: Yeah, it makes it more accessible rather than just being like, ok I’m going to put my body on the line for this one moment or instance. But I’ve been given tools and access to knowledge that makes it more accessible, and makes me less fearful for myself in the movement.
S: In the conversations we’ve had I feel like you’re getting to know who you are within the movement.
T: Yeah, and I totally asked that question before I even came to California because I was like okay I know I want to be involved in the movement but what does that mean for me as being a part of the movement, am I out in the streets, am I the person taking care of the person’s kids, am I the one putting out fliers, what is my role?
S: Awesome. Thank you for going through that with me.
I loved witnessing this moment between Sandhya and Tia because it was a live demonstration of mentor and mentee working out real life questions and issues of discernment together. And this is yet another part of the worthwhile work that OPC does in helping to form and nurture young minds to find their place in the movement for peace and justice. Supporting the Oakland Peace Center will mean that this kind structure, environment, and attention can continue to exist for young people like Tia-Lynn and all of the other folks who get the opportunity to intern at OPC.
Again, you are always welcome to support the work of the OPC here, especially during this matching grant week!