Meet the New GARE Senior Director!

By Nadia Mohamed posted 04-18-2024 12:00 AM


Periods of transition present opportunities to engage in self-assessment, forge new pathways forward, and build our collective strength. GARE has responded to each wave of change by asking, “How can we meet this moment and continue to rise?” The newest addition to GARE leadership is a testament to this principle. This week, GARE welcomes our new Senior Director, Marsha Guthrie, who joined GARE as the Deputy Director of Network Strategies in 2022. A former GARE steering committee member, racial equity practitioner in government, and longtime community organizer, Marsha embodies the skills and spirit of the GARE network, as well as its practitioner-led ethos. As she steps into her new role, Marsha joined us to reflect on her leadership and vision for GARE in the coming years.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Tell us how you came to this work of advancing racial equity in government.

My journey to advancing racial equity in government was a personal and professional evolution, shaped by experiences, education, and a growing awareness of systemic inequities. It began in my formative years; my earliest recollections of navigating a racialized world emerged upon migrating to the United States. It was through field trips beyond my predominantly Black community that I was confronted with the stark reality of racial disparities for the first time. As I advanced in my education, I gained a more nuanced understanding of systemic racism and its profound impact on communities of color.

Starting my career in special education, transitioning to juvenile justice, then child welfare, and eventually settling into local government where I cultivated a career spanning nearly 15 years, provided me with the context and mature vocabulary necessary to articulate and comprehend those early childhood experiences. Each role in public service and government progressively provided me with the tools to critically analyze policies, research racial disparities, and develop an informed perspective on how government actions and inactions perpetuate inequities.

However, the collective movements and the voices of communities advocating for justice and equity truly inspired and sustained my dedication to this work. Without my commitment to community organizing, I doubt I would have persevered as long as I did in local government. Witnessing the power of organized, community-driven demands for social and racial equity and justice underscored the importance of my governmental role in creating, implementing, and sustaining equitable policies.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My leadership style is rooted in justice and deeply values human dignity. As an advocate and leader for racial justice, it is crucial to me that individuals are recognized and appreciated for being their authentic selves. I strive to embody the principles of servant leadership, investing in my team and encouraging every member to achieve their highest potential while contributing to our shared goals. I aim to foster a culture where prioritizing each other’s needs is integral, alongside a firm dedication to ethics, excellence, and accountability.

Why do you want to step into the GARE Senior Director at this moment, political or otherwise?

At this pivotal moment for the GARE program, as we solidify our new strategic direction and build upon the robust legacy that GARE has developed through its commitment to transforming government via racial equity, the opportunity for impactful leadership is immense. The future success and sustainability of GARE’s contributions to advancing racial justice will rely on visionary leadership, robust partnerships, engaged network involvement, and creativity across all our endeavors. 

In today’s challenging climate, when racial equity practitioners in government face backlash, fear, and regressive policies designed to undermine racial equity efforts, the imperative for GARE and its network of practitioners committed to advancing justice has never been greater. I am passionate about leading GARE into its next phase, ensuring we firmly establish the foundations of our movement for generations to come.

Over the past few years, GARE has been engaged in a process of transformative change. What is your vision for the network in the coming years?

As the new Senior Director, my focus will be on building a responsive, durable, member-led network that honors its foundations but is adaptable to future work. The vision for the GARE network to be a leader in social change in government is both ambitious and forward-thinking. To meet this work, the GARE network must leverage creativity, innovation, and collaboration to develop initiatives that address current challenges with the potential for scalable and sustainable impact.

In moving towards our vision of “We are GARE” and “Building a Bigger We,” we are also building a better we. We want to engage in constructive dialogue as a network, listening to differing perspectives, and continuing to advocate for a more just and equitable society. “Building a bigger we” means, in part, that the GARE Network will build on robust collaborations and partnerships, actively welcome change and innovation, and draw on the collective expertise, resources, and skills in our network and the field at large. We should be on the leading edge of developing and testing whole-of-government approaches that address backlash against our racial justice efforts and help us to recenter those most impacted by the failures of government in finding solutions to current crises.

Change is never easy, and it often faces resistance and backlash. Our network must remain steadfast in our mission to confront systemic racism in government and promote inclusivity. The GARE network of the future are agents of change – members and practitioners charting the course for what is needed to transform government and driving toward a future where justice, fairness, and opportunity are accessible to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or background.

Let’s all engage in it–We are GARE!