Meet Tai

Tai Harden is a dedicated educator and diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion advocate. With an unwavering commitment for changing the way individuals and organizations approach diversity, equity and inclusion, Tai is dedicated to helping others deepen their knowledge and develop the strategies necessary to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments for all.

While earning her Juris Doctor degree from Florida A&M University College of Law, Tai served as the Lieutenant Governor for Non-Traditional Students for the American Bar Association Law Student Division, which afforded her the opportunity to work with and be an advocate for under-served student populations, particularly, students of color, women, LGBTQ students, and part-time law students in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Puerto Rico.

Since graduating from law school, Tai has demonstrated her commitment to diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion, social and economic justice and, racial equity, by being involved in and giving back to the community in various ways. Whether it be through her work as an equity trainer and facilitator or adjunct instructor at Portland Community College, her service to local non-profit boards, her research concerning legal issues surrounding gentrification and displacement in North and Northeast Portland, her work as a Conversation Leader for Oregon Humanities, or using her voice to bring attention to social justice issues through articles published by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Huffington Post, The Skanner News, and Medium; Tai has chosen to use her voice to effect change in our community.

Message from Tai

Growing up in a working-class neighborhood in west Seattle, the daughter of two steel workers, education was viewed by both my parents and me as a means to a better life. Neither of my parents were college educated, but they were the smartest, most compassionate, and most dedicated people I have ever known. They understood the importance of education, and did all they could to ensure that I received a quality education that would lead to a successful career.

During my 7th grade year, my parents made the difficult decision to remove me from public school and enrolled me in private school so I could focus on my studies. As the only Black student at the school, I was often the target of racism from some of my classmates, but one racist interaction between me and my 7th grade teacher would change my life forever. During a class discussion we were talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I said I want to be a lawyer. My teacher looked me in the eye and said, “you can’t be a lawyer, Tai. What else?” I responded by asking her why and without hesitation and most certainly without thinking, she said “because you’re Black.” It was as if time stopped and my heart shattered. Here was my teacher, a person who I thought believed in me, telling me that I can’t do what I want to do in life simply because of the color of my skin. I was devastated but I knew I had to make a choice. I could either allow that teacher’s words to be the thing that stopped me from achieving my dreams or allow those hurtful words to motivate me. I chose the latter and made it my mission to prove that teacher wrong. I went on to college and eventually to law school and business school; and yes, education has been my means to a better life. Despite the negative experience I had in 7th grade, throughout my education, I have had the fortunate experience of having incredible teachers who have supported me, guided me, and helped shape me into the person I am today. From Ms. Corbley, my high school debate coach; to Retired Judge Hubert Grimes, who was instrumental in my law school success; I would not be the person or the educator I am today without them. That is why earning your support and a seat on the Newberg School Board is so important to me, because every student should have access to an education free of discrimination and harassment, where they can thrive and feel supported. As a Newberg School Board director, I will work to ensure that all policies are viewed with an equity lens and that all students are considered in every policy decision.