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Powerful Women: Let's Talk - 104: Kristian Grant

Kristian Grant.jpg
Kristian Grant for State Representative website
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Grand Rapids native Kristian Grant has spent the past 15 years of her life in public service and community building

Our powerful woman, Kristian Grant recently pulled out a win in her bid to take the 82nd district seat in the State Legislature. A Grand Rapids native, Kristian has dedicated the last 15 years of her life to public service and community building. She’s founded organizations, volunteered for causes she believes in, started businesses and invested in the growth of the Grand Rapids community.

***The outcome of the November 8 election was not known at the time of this recording. This episode was recorded before the general midterm election and held until it was over.***

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.


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>> Produced by women, about women. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world; transforming who we are and how we live.

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Jennifer Moss: Hello, everyone. Time for Powerful Women: Let's Talk. Thanks so much for joining us today. I'm Jennifer Moss and it is a pleasure to bring you today's powerful woman, Kristian Grant. Kristian was born and raised in Grand Rapids in the heart of District 82. She's dedicated the last 15 years or more of her life to public service and community building. And during that time, she's founded organizations, she's volunteered for causes, she believes in start-up businesses and invested in the growth of the Grand Rapids community. Now in 2016, Kristian joined the Grand Rapids Public School Board as the youngest member to be elected. She served as president for the Board of Education for two of what she calls groundbreaking years, which included the hiring of a new superintendent and the beginning of COVID, and has a GRPS student. Kristian created mentoring programs for other students. After college, she returned home to create programming for teen moms and GRPS. And she says that her goal has always been to provide tools and access and exposure for students who are brilliant, but often overlooked. And that's got powerful woman written all over it. Kristian, thanks so much for joining us today.

Kristian Grant: Thank you so much for having me.

Jennifer Moss: Now, a little bit more about Kristian. While she recognized that grassroots work was definitely necessary to create change in communities, she saw that policy at higher levels from officials who are invested in their districts was necessary to create even more change. She holds a BA in social relations and policy from James Madison College and Honors College at Michigan State University. And in August, she won a very, very close election race. She was victorious and became the first black woman in Kent County to be the Democratic nominee for the 82nd District State Representative Seat and doing these exciting things at such a young age making history. So glad again to welcome you, Kristian Grant, to Powerful Women.

Kristian Grant: It's awesome to be here. Thank you.

Jennifer Moss: So I am thinking about, you know, this, this journey that you're on, you have done so much. You're very busy, very accomplished. What motivated you to start to become so involved in your community?

Kristian Grant: I don't think I ever saw it being here. Me, me being here today. I think I'm still kind of taking that all in. But you just- you see a need, you see what you wish you had access to, and you get involved. And that's really how it started for me at Michigan State. Even before then at Ottawa Hills. While I was in high school, my friends and I were creating mentoring programs for students in middle and elementary school. And it was a way to pass time, but also to address a need that we saw and it's grown from there.

Jennifer Moss: And so how are you feeling after your election victory? It was a very close race.

Kristian Grant: Yes, that primary race was very close. I think that I feel- you know, it feels good to win, but it also- the process of running, especially in a primary in a close-knit community is really intense. And you begin to see what are the needs of your community. And I think it's also when once you get to the state level of politics, it's very eye-opening to the work that you want to do and the politics that are involved with it. So it's been quite a learning curve for me.

Jenifer Moss: I bet it has. And then it's a lot of work, too, I mean-

Kristian Grant: Absolutely.

Jennifer Moss: It is definitely a commitment as well.

Kristian Grant: Yes, yes.

Jennifer Moss: So one of the things I like to ask as you look at what you've done, where you're going, are you enjoying your journey? You've done a lot. I mean, you and we talk about, you know, you were the first and the youngest school board member then be became president; the Grand Rapids Public School Board doing those types of things. Are you enjoying this journey?

Kristian Grant: You know, I just had a conversation yesterday where I was saying a lot of times as women, and women of color, we show up where we're needed, and we take all that is included in that. And so I had a really tough primary race. And I promised myself that I would enjoy the rest of this. So there were a lot of lessons, but a lot of bumps and bruises. And I- I think as women, we have to remind ourselves that everything doesn't have to be hard. We don't deserve to always be fighting for ourselves or for others, but we also should be able to enjoy the process. So that is definitely a goal of mine to enjoy the rest of this journey.

Jennifer Moss: And as we talk about powerful women and you just talked about the bumps and the bruises along the way, what are some of the barriers that you've been encountered as you are traveling along your career path; as you're on your life path?

Kristian Grant: You know, I think that the biggest thing that has stood out to me in all the different titles or roles that I've played is that privilege is always present. And we have to find ways when we gain some privilege to negate that and to extend grace and opportunities to others the way that systems are created. So even in running for the state House Seat, being a business owner, um, being a single mom. You know, who's running the business? Who's paying the bills, you know, who has time to run across the state and still fulfill all of the everyday needs that are there. And so I've seen other colleagues in other races, you know, they've been groomed for this. They were trained for this. They knew to have a year's worth of salary set to the side or to have a spouse that would take care of things, have mentors who were there And so, whenever I find myself at a new level, I take note of new new things like, “Oh, I didn't realize this,” but I tried to remember it. So when someone’s coming behind me, I can say, “Here's something I wish I knew. Here's how you can prepare for that, you know.

Jennifer Moss: And you share that information with others so that they can and benefit from that. And the walk that you've been on. And as we look at the road in our journey and you move forward, you know, we do face those obstacles as you just mentioned, that and some of the challenges so for our listeners and viewers, what has it taken for you to kind of find your own voice and be comfortable in your own skin? Kristian Grant’s skin?

Kristian Grant: I think you have to stay grounded. You have to have people around you who are willing to be honest with you. You have to take criticism and be able to find the truth in it. So there's this balance of I can be really hard on myself sometimes. And I have to acknowledge the hard work that I've put in the commitment. But then you also have to be honest about this is where I can still grow. And that keeps- that keeps us grounded in balance. And something that I learned very early on at the school board, you know, someone told me coming, right in, “You're going to have hard decisions,” said in front of you. And you have to remember every single time you come to this table who you're here to represent.

Jennifer Moss: Mmmhmm.

Kristian Grant: And so in- in that atmosphere, when we're talking about all the things that affect adults, I've been able to say, “Okay, what’s best for kids?” We clearly know what's best for adults. Everyone here can speak to that. But what is best for the people that we are here to represent? And that is something that has really kept me on track because when we had to make the hard decision, it was easy to explain and stand by because it was what was most right.

Jennifer Moss: And it wasn't about you. It was about the kid.

Kristian Grant: Exactly.

Jennifer Moss: Absolutely. You know, you work with a lot of people you deal with a lot of people, are going to cross paths with a lot of people, what are some of the leadership traits that you like to see in people those that you work with, those that perhaps you mentor, those that are coming along the way?

Kristian Grant: Some of the leadership traits that I find to be most useful are…I think we've all come across someone who is a leader and when you're speaking to them, you're talking to them, the- the words that they say sound really amazing. But you don’t quite, like, what is the meat of what you're saying? Let's just get straight to the point. And I really appreciate coming across people who can just be honest. Don't say what I want to hear, but let's get down to the basics, because when we're sitting at these tables, people's lives are at stake. And so we don't need fancy language. We don't need, um, something that sounds good. But in actuality isn’t. Let's get down to the bullet points of how this affects people's everyday lives. And so I really appreciate that. And a leader that is the type of person to try to be. And also someone who can say, you know, “I don't know that yet,” or “I was wrong,” you know, we put this together, it sounded good, But the actual outcome is not right. I was wrong. That I appreciate that so much in a leader.

Jennifer Moss: What are some of, Kristian, some of your hopes and aspirations for your future?

Kristian Grant: I hope to really make an impact on the 82nd District. And so the 82nd District is the heart of Grand Rapids. It's a- it's the majority of the southeast side, a small portion of Wyoming as well. And I hope to create a space where people are proud to live. Um, you know, that there are pockets of the district that have had a lot of investment and development. But then there are other parts of the district where people will talk about it as a place that you can achieve out of. If I work really hard, my achievement can be leaving here, and that district doesn't deserve that. The 82nd District, the southeast side of Grand Rapids should be a place where you are proud to stay where whether you're making $60,000, you have a home. But when you make $600,000, you can also have a home. And so we see a lot of that community's wealth leave once it's created. And I want it to be a place where people stay and invest.

Jenifer Moss: Yeah. Making it home for real.

Kristian Grant: Yes.

Jennifer Moss: You know, a lot of women deal with the daily pressures of getting it all done. We talked about the journey and the like. You are a teen mom, you persevered. How did that impact your journey? What advice or what word of counsel do you have to other young moms out there who had part of your journey or are experiencing it now?

Kristian Grant: Being a teen mom totally shaped my entire perspective on life. For me, it has been my number one motivator. So when things were hard, you know, I can't stop now. It's not- it's no longer about me. My grandmother sat me down early and she said, “It is no longer about you. You have someone else to think of and take care of at the same time.” Looking back, because my daughter just turned 18. She just graduated-

Jennifer Moss: Which is so hard to believe.

Kristian Grant: Oh my goodness. I- we have, you know, college. And looking back, I think I worked so hard to prove to her what was possible. I wish that I would have taken moments to be a mom and to be there because we were growing up together, right? And so there is, there's beauty in that. But I encourage people who are growing with their children to- the biggest thing is time and experience is you can't get that time back. So that's something I look forward to in the future having more time with her.

Jennifer Moss: Absolutely. And those as part of the programmings too; programs too that you helped developed as a young person through GRPS back in the day.

Kristian Grant: Yes, so. One thing I realized when it was no longer about me, it was all about this baby, was that my peers had time to develop themselves from sixteen to mid-twenties. They had time for self investment. And that was something that you just had to fast forward ahead. So I was really blessed to have a family that is just amazing and there for me. But when I went back to work with other teen moms, I saw that there were some core skills that they were going to need, not only for their child's success, but their own that we were missing. And so that program was really about, yes, it's about your child. But today, when we have this hour together, it's about you. And that's not a space that really exists for teen parents or parents at all, you know, once you have that responsibility. So it was really wonderful to have those sixty minutes. It's about you. What do we need to do here?

Jennifer Moss: That's awesome. So, what is it that makes you laugh, or what do you do that makes you laugh?

Kristain Grant: My family. My family. I love being with my family. We are- we have a ton of jokes, and if we're together, there are laughs, period. So that is really a place for me of rest and where I'm able to reset.

Jennifer Moss: And comfort.

Kristian Grant: Yes, yes.

Jennifer Moss: Okay, so- so much happening as we know in the world today. What are potential thoughts or a saying; people are looking for that word of encouragement. What are some of the thoughts or a favorite quote, or favorite saying, or something that you’d used to encourage yourself; scripture, any of that that you use as your model for encouragement?

Kristain Grant: You know, *laughs* this isn't some brilliant term, but I would say something that has kept me grounded this year when you're, you know, glued to social media, there's for every something that you want to comment on or someone has commented on, they've taken your thoughts out of context. And so social media is really a place for conflict. You know, it's a place to connect and communicate. But there's also a conflict there, and when one thing that has kept me in line this year is remembering something my grandmother would always say was she says, “from a distance,” you know, “when you argue with a fool from a distance, no one knows who is the fool.” And so I have really learned to- you don't always have to overexplain yourself. You know who you are speaks for itself. Sometimes trying to argue your point just makes it worse. You just have to uh, ride some things out. Let some things go. It will be okay.

Jennifer Moss: Kind of live in your own truth.

Kristian Grant: Yes.

Jennifer Moss: Absolutely. Kristian Grant, thanks so much for joining us. I so enjoyed this conversation.

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So nice catching up with you. Want to appreciate you joining us today on Powerful Women. I'm Jennifer Moss, and thank you for joining us as well. We'll see you next time on Powerful Women: Let's Talk.

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Jennifer Moss: We should mention that since the time of this interview, Christian Grant did, in fact, win the 82nd District State legislative seat.

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>> Produced by women, about women, these powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are, and how we live. Want to hear more Powerful Women: Let’s Talk? Get additional interviews at wgvu.org or wherever you get your podcast. Please rate and subscribe. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer Public Broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University. The views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU, its underwriters, or Grand Valley State University.

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Jennifer is an award winning broadcast news journalist with more than two decades of professional television news experience including the nation's fifth largest news market. She's worked as both news reporter and news anchor for television and radio in markets from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo all the way to San Francisco, California.
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