This post originally appeared in the PLACES Connection September 2023 newsletter.

BY Talissa Lahaliyed, Equity Programs Manager

My mother was my first country, the first place I ever lived.” ― Nayyirah Waheed

Three and a half months ago my husband and I welcomed our first baby boy into our lives. The happiness I’ve experienced is immeasurable, but so are my newfound worries for my son’s wellbeing and future.

During countless late-night feedings I found myself thinking about how my son, Mohammed, will navigate this world. How will he treat others and how will he be treated by others? Will he be accepting and accepted? Will he be inclusive and included? And will he be embracing and embraced?

Throughout my career in racial equity, I have strived to dismantle oppressive systems, and nurture spaces that are inclusive and celebrate diversity among our intersectional and multiple identities.

Baby Mohammed's feet when he was just 2 days old

Baby Mohammed’s feet at just 2 days old

My “why” has been shaped by my faith, my relentless desire for justice, and by my past encounters with bigotry and discrimination.

Now that I’ve become a mother, my “why” and my purpose has strengthened and shifted. It has become more communal, selfless, and nurturing. I would often catch myself being driven by anger and frustration for injustice and oppression. And while there is nothing wrong with that, love and hope are now at the center of my resolve.

Through unconditional love, I now have the responsibility and opportunity to raise a person that will continue his ancestors’ fight for justice and liberation, breaking down cycles of patriarchal and oppressive norms. We all carry a responsibility of making this world a better place for those who will come after us. Our desire to create change and seek justice should be driven by something greater than ourselves. What’s your ”why”? What’s at the center of your resolve?

Unlike the past, when I was paralyzed by helplessness and overwhelmed by inequities, I am now overcome with hope for our future generation of leaders. I am so excited to see what kind of person my little one will become. And I’m ready to watch him experience joy, resilience, and growth in his most authentic self.



PLACES — which stands for Professionals Learning About Community, Equity and Sustainability — uses learning, coaching and reflections to explore structural racism, community empowerment and equitable grantmaking practices. In addition to the PLACES curriculum, Fellows learn from the people and places we visit. Our Fellowship Cohort, selected annually from a highly competitive pool of applicants, embarks on year-long journey that includes four site visits to communities across the U.S. and Canada.

The PLACES Fellowship concludes with a capstone presentation and graduation — but that rarely marks the end of the PLACES experience. As any PLACES alum will tell you, the deep bonds and professional connections forged by the Fellows extend well beyond the end of their cohort year. Learn more about the PLACES fellowship and alumni here.

About the Author

Talissa Lahaliyed is TFN’s Equity Programs Manager, responsible for supporting the implementation of TFN’s Racial Equity Action Plan and contributing to the design and implementation of the PLACES Fellowship program, including alum engagement.