In this interview, Feven Teklu, Senior Leadership Giving Officer in the Office of Advancement at Brown University, discusses her experiences as a woman of color and mother during the COVID-19 global pandemic and in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Teklu begins by sharing her personal background and talking about her childhood in Ukraine and Ethiopia; her education at Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania; and her dream to live and work in New York City.
Teklu then explains some of the preparations she took to prepare her household for COVID-19 in anticipation of its appearance in the United States. She recalls searching for shelf-stable milk for her 2-year-old daughter, learning that she was pregnant, and subsequently trying to research COVID-19 and its effects on pregnant people. She goes on to discuss how her family was impacted in March 2020 when the pandemic became an American reality. She mentions loss of childcare, diminishing family income, and the difficulty of grocery shopping.
Teklu turns to recalling an incident in Central Park when Amy Cooper, a white woman, called police claiming her life was threatened by Christian Cooper, a Black man who asked her to leash her dog. She explains that it was in discussing this incident with her friends that she heard about the death of George Floyd – a Black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Teklu explains that this incident felt especially personal because she recently learned that she was pregnant with a baby boy. Here, she talks about identifying as Black rather than Ethiopian, the difficulties of obtaining adequate healthcare as a Black woman in America, and the complexities and challenges of being a Black mother during this time.
Teklu closes her interview by describing a protest that took place at Morningside Park in Harlem and subsequently deciding to attend another protest with her husband and daughter. She emphasizes the pressures that are placed on Black women to explain the Black Lives Matter movement and to find solutions as well as the physical, mental, and emotional toll that pressure takes.