Marta Miranda describes herself as a “seasoned activist educator and administrator living at the intersection of gender, race and sexuality.” What she leaves out of that very profound description is her personality, her passion and her absolute magnetism, which have made her such a success after being in this line of work for over 40 years. After working in education and social work for most of her life, she took the job as the Chief Empowerment Officer at the Center for Women and Families. She seeks to educate and empower, hence the use of the word “Empowerment” in her title. Nobody is a bigger advocate for the people who cross her threshold, and she says she has spent her life’s work training for this very career, which she calls her “crown jewel.” The statistics of her job and the people she serves are staggering enough to overwhelm anybody. Marta has the perfect combination of compassion, fortitude and drive to handle all of it. What does the powerhouse do when she’s not working? She’s a recent newlywed at 62 years old, married for the first time and enjoying every minute of this chapter of her life. Meet Marta Miranda, today’s FACE of Louisville.
Tell us about your job as Chief Empowerment Officer at the Center for Women and Families.
My scope of work encompasses three major areas that support the vision, strategy and oversight of the Mission of the Center. This includes setting best practices, healthy infrastructure, working and developing the board of directors. Secondly, relationships with our community partners, establishing partnerships, developing efficiencies, collaborations and collective impact initiatives. Thirdly, identifying, cultivating, engaging donors, foundations and corporations in fund development, including major gifts and state planning. In addition, branding and media presence, so press conferences, interviews, promoting mission and projects on TV, radio, public gatherings and conferences.
Could you tell us the story behind your title — why the “E” is for Empowerment and not Executive?
The Center uses an empowerment and education model to work with our clients, who are survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, and their children. My role in leadership development, establishing critical partnership, sourcing funding, insuring best practices, measurable outcomes and educating the community and donors on the problem and the mission is critical. I do what I do to educate and empower. We are not a traditional nonprofit or for profit organization due to the disempowerment, lethality and cultural barriers that we address every day. My role, like the role of our advocates, is to provide education, resources, hope and vision to transform lives.
You say this job is the “crown jewel” in your 30-year career. How did you end up living in Louisville?
The Center led a national search for a new CEO/President in 2011, and I was chosen out of 1,300 candidates. I was honored for the opportunity. This role culminates 43 years of activism, leadership and advocacy in social and gender justice work as a social worker, in the role of executive, psychotherapist, community organizer, fundraiser and educator. So it is a culmination of my career and my last tango. I often say I trained 37 years before I came to Center in order to lead this amazing organization.
You have always been a champion for women. What drew you initially to this line of work?
Two important events did. First, when I was 8 years old, my favorite aunt came home from the hospital with a brand new baby, and I rushed in to welcome them home. She was breastfeeding Amalita, and my aunt had two black eyes and a broken jaw. I asked her why didn’t she leave and she said, “I can’t afford to feed my children.” She died 15 years later as a result of domestic violence.
I also was a child in Cuba during the revolution, and I saw the role of women change drastically. There is a mural in the Museum of the Revolution that reads, “We’d rather be carrying machine guns then washing our husbands’ underwear.” Although there are many human rights and freedom violations in Cuba the role of women was changed forever. I saw women in high positions in medicine, military, etc.
Both of these are hallmarks in my understanding of women’s rights and social justice and economic justice.
You are Cuban and immigrated to this country as a child. How has that perspective shaped your outlook on life?
It has shaped who I am in core ways. I grew up in rural Cuba and immigrated with my nuclear family in 1966 to New Jersey. We received political asylum, and Catholic Charities placed us with a sponsor family. I grew up living and breathing diversity, poverty and lived an urban ghetto experience, where drugs and crime were a daily occurrence. I learned to value differences, respect and fight for equity and justice. Later I found Kentucky and connected to my rural roots and found home. I identify as Cubalachian, Cuban by birth and Appalachian by the Grace of God.
Your job involves taking care of others full-time. How do you take care of yourself so that you can be fully focused on your job?
When the mission is to help others, to empower others, to work for justice, to heal trauma, self-care is a necessity not a luxury if we are going to be doing the long-term work necessary to change social norms, stereotypes, oppression and discrimination.
I learned early on (my first social work practicum was at age 20 and I turn 63 this month) that not caring for my body, mind and spirit was not negotiable. So I take quarterly silent retreats, yearly weekly retreat to the ocean with no one, write poetry, journal, walk, do yoga, seek therapy when needed and have meditated five times a week for the last 35 years. In addition, I have a close circle of friends who love me unconditionally and they are the ones that I cry and laugh with.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
Let me give you an example of a typical week: meetings with coalitions and non-profit partners, meeting with board members, speaking on TV or at a rally, leading a strategic conversation with my team, having coffee, lunch or dinner with a donor or potential donors. Supporting strategic direction and budget sustainability conversations. Meeting with folks helping us on the capital campaign and addressing agency sustainability.
What are three words that describe you?
Courageous, fun, visionary
What advice do you treasure?
“If you can’t dance, this is not your revolution” by Emma Goldman.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my _____.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
What are three of your favorite things right now, aside from faith, family and friends?
My brand-new shiny husband. I married for the first time last year at age 62, and we are having a ball! Cooking, writing poetry, staring at the river or the ocean and kick boxing.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Click on this link to see the ways you can help raise awareness and honor survivors.
Thank you to Adele Reding Photography for the wonderful photos.
Read about more inspiring women in Louisville in our FACES of Louisville weekly features here.