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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office of Equity and Human Rights

Realizing Equity. Enhancing the City of Portland.

Phone: 503-823-4433

Fax: 503-823-4420

421 SW 6th Avenue, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204

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Farewell Letter from Dr. Markisha Webster

Dr. Markisha Webster is joining the Sacramento Municipal Utility District as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and shares this farewell message:

Photo of Dr. Markisha WebsterLately, I have been thinking about my life in junior high school. I believe the memories of this period in my life are flooding back to me now because I am watching my 11-year-old daughter struggle with all the things it means to be in middle school. I am reminded specifically of times when I would travel to Kings Island (an amusement park outside of Cincinnati, Ohio) with my closest friends. On one occasion I visited the park with my two best friends and somehow, who knows, I ended up also walking around the park with a boy I had a huge crush on. I remember being nervous and giddy, clearly awkward and trying wayyyyy too hard to be cool. I had a deep fear of roller coasters and had avoided them on all my previous visits to the park. On this day, however, with the love of my life walking around the park with me and the desire to “fit in,” I was convinced to get on the most treacherous coaster in the park. I think it had some name like “Death Trap.” I remember shaking as we waited in line, nervously laughing with my friends until it was our time to ride. I got in that seat with my heart thumping and a frozen smile on my face. I couldn’t even truly enjoy that my crush had asked me to ride in the seat next to him because I was convinced this was it for me. There were a lot of screaming, tears, and silent prayers, it was not the ride of my life and I would never get on the ride again. And, to make matters worse, my new umbrella flew off the ride at some point when we were suspended in the air doing a loop-da-loop. 

I share this memory because it is a metaphor for life. I have often thrived on the predictable, on the practical, sprinkled in with a little adventure here and there. I much prefer the ease and predictability of a Ferris Wheel. There are no sharp turns or jarring moves. In fact, it is easy to take in the scenery around you and just enjoy the moment. You know where you are going and can take comfort in having a clear outcome. But this is NOT practical and is not the way life was intended to be.

I have quickly learned that there are moments in life when each of these rides beckons for your ticket.  My work as an equity champion has situated me on some of the most dangerous, unpredictable rides of my life (see all of 2020 as a reference)—it has been a mix of Bumper Cars, the Screaming Eagle, and the Fun House with all the crazy mirrors. In these moments I am reminded that the work is challenging and absolutely worth it all at the same time. And, in other quiet moments, I have found myself on the Train or the Merry-Go-Round watching the fruits of my labor come to life and smiling with an incredible sense of pride.

I will say goodbye to my work and colleagues at the City of Portland this week. This departure is fraught with lots of emotions and in the moment as I write this, I feel like a 7th grader again—apprehensive, scared, expectant, and excited. My time at the City has served as a key part of my journey. I could never have imagined the support and love I have received during my time here. In fact, I would never have imaged how much I needed it during what was a critical transition point in my personal and professional life.

I could spend time rattling off a list of accomplishments during my time here or implore you to be a leader and/or co-conspirator in the fight for racial equity and social justice, but you’ve heard a lot of that from me over the past 2 ½ years. Today, I would rather take the time to share some reflections that have guided and grounded me in recent times:  

It is not about the ride, it’s about the journey.

Run towards your healing!

So much more can be accomplished when we listen to understand rather than listening to react.

“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.” (Maya Angelou)

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” (Audre Lorde)

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” (Maya Angelou)

I wish you all light and love.  I encourage you to not shy away from the scary roller coasters of life or to get too comfortable on those slow, moving rides in the kiddie area of the amusement park.  I encourage you to go boldly and bravely into your purpose—knowing that whatever is on the other side was designed just for you.

—In solidarity and with the deepest gratitude, Dr. Markisha Webster