Tasneem Grace Tweogblola.jpg

Tasneem Grace Tweogblola

Tasneem, please tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Washington, D.C., the second daughter of five children. Our parents — Jamal and Sahar Abdullah Grace — converted to Islam as teenagers and joined the North American Islamic Party based in Washington, D.C. I was raised, however, in Syracuse, N.Y., a child of the Great Migration. I am currently vice president of Mosaic Changemakers and live in Goodlettsville.

Family? Married? Children?

I am a divorced mother of four dynamic daughters ages 18, 15, 13 and 11.

Where did you graduate high school? College? Degree?

I am a graduate of Nottingham High School. I earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University and my master’s degree in civic leadership from Lipscomb University.

Tell us about Mosaic Changemakers.

About nine months ago, I joined Renata Soto, the founder of Mosaic Changemakers, to co-create a fellowship for black, brown and gold leaders of color.

What is its goals, objectives?

Our mission is to “weave a better South” by facilitating coalition and community-building throughout Middle Tennessee and, eventually, the entire region. During soul-enriching quarterly retreats we use intellectual rigor, restorative practices and personal development to ignite solidarity.

I read there are “fellows” in the program. How do you become one?

Our cohorts — our fourth begins in next month — include about 20 people of various ages, ethnicities, genders, careers and geographies who apply independently. Many are referred by alumni. There is no program fee. However, for those who are able, we ask institutions to invest in their employees’ development with sliding scale tuition.

How long is the program?

We create year-long experiences with engagements that build lifelong relationships. Pre-COVID, Fellows met four times a year at three-night, four-day retreats in various locations in Middle Tennessee. During COVID we gathered via Zoom. Both modes of connection create powerful fellowship families.

How many people have been through the program?

We have 32 alumni.

What is a changemaker?

Anyone who owns, and cherishes, their ability, and responsibility, to transform themselves and the people around them. Anyone who activates their ability, and responsibility, to involve themselves in personal and collective uplift.

You also co-host podcast TruthBTold with Andrea Blackman. How did you meet?

Andrea and I first met casually about 15 years ago. Our professional relationship began in 2015 when I joined her staff at the Civil Rights Center in the Nashville Public Library. She was director of the Special Collections department and I co-designed and facilitated experiences for folks interested in learning about Nashville’s prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement.

When was the podcast started?

Our first episode aired in September of 2020. We were excited to continue conversations we start, but never complete, about race, justice and identity. Our jobs in the Civil Rights Center allowed us to address some issues but we craved a platform that allowed for more time, more introspection and more confessions of knowledge and ignorance. We call ourselves “sojourners for truth.” And we understand truth to be amorphous, impressionable, shape-shifting, sometimes public, sometimes personal, always a paradox.

How do you choose your daily conversations?

Life! We pay attention to what’s happening in our lives and the lives of folks around us. Some of our topics are inspired by headlines, but many arise from our awareness of music, books, memories, prayers, conversations, daydreams…every and anything.

Why is this podcast so important now?

Many of us receive information in snatches, soundbites, tweets and posts. Truth B Told is an offering, an invitation to take the time to hear, and to have, a whole conversation about topics we sometimes give only half of our attention to.

When and where can we find it?

Anywhere you find your favorite podcasts: Spotify, Apple…Google us.

You are a performance artist as well. Tell me about that.

I was raised to be an artist by parents who infused our home with West African storytelling, poetry and music. My work often integrates all three. I perform “Soul Stories,” pieces — some I create, some I re-create — that exemplify the global connections found in univer-soul stories. My most recent favorite is “How to Catch a Flying Woman” by brilliant local playwright, Cynthia Harris.

Biggest career accomplishments thus far?

My journey from the Civil Rights Center to Mosaic Changemakers. In both positions my love of scholarship, art, history, community, liberation and revolution come together and come alive.

If you could spend an evening with anyone, past or present, who and why?

My father, Ted “Jamal” Grace, the most exquisite father a daughter could have. Ever walk into a room and feel someone’s eyes light up? My father did that for my mother, me, my four siblings and the grandchildren he lived to know and love. He thought we were fascinating, delightful gifts. I would ask him to tell me the story of all the love he received and gave in his 52 years on Earth.

Hobbies?

Running, laughing, crochet, cooking and growing collard greens.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Feeling at home in my new house in the country. We’re almost out boxes but still learning the landscape.

Best piece of advice you’ve received? Given?

Whenever I call my mother, Sahar Grace, with some woe to complain about she listens and “mhmmmm’s” in all the right places. Then she delivers the simplest, truest statements like, “Sounds like kife to me.” She teaches me to accept the smooth and spiky parts of Life because it’s ALL life. I teach my daughters to “shake, rattle and roll.” When life gets wild, we get to shake in disbelief, rattle in rage and then: inhale, exhale, flex new muscles and roll on.

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