Mia Birdsong

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Mia Birdsong is a family activist who advocates for the strengthening of communities and the self-determination of low-income people. She has been published in Slate,[1] the Stanford Innovation Review, Salon,[2] the Huffington Post, On Being, the Good Men Project and also recognized as one of the Colorlines‘ “15 Remarkable Women of Color Who Rocked 2015.[3] Her 2015 TED talk, “The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True,” has been viewed over 1.5 million times.[4] Birdsong is co-director of Family Story, alongside Nicole Rodgers. Birdsong was vice president of Family Independence Initiative (FII).[3]


Mia Birdsong was raised in a family of writers, artists, and passionate individuals who want to do good and better their world.[5] This influenced Birdsong's practice as she became an activist for equality and acceptance. Birdsong's own family struggles with poverty influenced her decision to work with Family Independence Initiative (FII); an organization that strives to support hardworking, low-income people and communities so they can become stronger economically and gain social mobility. As a child, she didn't see herself represented in the world, particularly in the literary world.[6] There was no one of color in the school books that she was reading. This made it difficult to connect with the characters in these stories. There were books like Nancy Drew and Judy Blume that drew on gender invisibility, but not race. When Birdsong was a senior in high school, she read Richard Wright's Black Boy.[7] Though the book wasn't assigned for students to read, Birdsong chose it for her AP English class. Another influence was Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.[6] With the birth of her first child in 2005, Birdsong wanted to ensure that her daughter saw herself reflected in the world around her.[6] She wanted her daughter to have her first experience of reading books to represent a world that is filled with people of color. Birdsong wanted her daughter to grow up being comfortable in her own skin and to see herself in this world.[8]

The positive impact books written by people of color had on Birdsong's daughter was inspirational. Her daughter was able to see herself in the world in a way that Birdsong did not at her age. Birdsong made it one of her life missions to bring this awareness to families and their communities so every child can see themselves for who they are in this world.[6]

Birdsong is married to musician, recording artist, song writer, and producer Nino Moschella, who also runs the recording studio Bird and Egg. They live in Oakland, CA with their two children.[7] She is on the Board of Directors of the North Oakland Community Charter School and Forward Together.[7]


Mia Birdsong is a graduate of Oberlin College and an Ascend Fellow of the Aspen Institute. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center and the North Oakland Community Charter School.[3] She spent four years majoring in Black Studies and it had an extreme effect on her life by reshaping her sense of self and opened up new ideas and windows of opportunity.[3]


Mia Birdsong previously serve as Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative (FII), an organization dedicated to supporting the self-determination of low-income people and communities. At FII, she created and curated the Torchlight Prize, an award for groups of regular people working together to strengthen their own communities. She has spent time organizing to abolish prisons, teaching teenagers about sex and drugs, interviewing literary luminaries like Edwidge Danticat, David Foster Wallace, and John Irving, and attending births as a midwifery apprentice. Birdsong also co-founded Canerow, a resource for people dedicated to raising children of color in a world that reflects the spectrum of who they are. She advocates for strong families and communities, and the self-determination of everyday people. She is an inaugural Ascend Fellow of the Aspen Institute. She is also a New America California Fellow.[9]

Mia Birdsong has spent more than 20 years fighting and loving for social justice and liberation. She is the Co-Director of Family Story, an organization working to expand our understanding of what makes a "good" family to include a diversity of arrangements.[10] Meanwhile, she spent time in the publishing industry and worked as a trainer and educator in the youth development and heather education field. Her experience also includes apprenticing as a midwife while also studying and practicing herbal medicine, building houses, and performing her passion of country music.[3] She can also be seen as a frequent speaker and writer on low-income families and communities, social capital, and collective self-organizing. Birdsong has been published in the Stanford Innovation Review, the Huffington Post,[11] On Being and The Good Men Project. She has also guest lectured at UC Berkeley.[3] These are some of the many reasons that Birdsong was recognized as one of Colorlines‘ “15 Remarkable Women of Color Who Rocked 2015.”[12]


  1. ^ Birdsong, Mia (2016-05-06). "In Praise of the Auntie". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  2. ^ Birdsong, Mia and Nicole Rodgers. "Another 1 percent white privilege: The invisible advantage we need to discuss now". Salon. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Birdsong, Mia. "Mia Birdsong | Speaker | TED.com". www.ted.com. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  4. ^ Birdsong, Mia. "The story we tell about poverty isn't true". www.ted.com. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  5. ^ UTC, Rebecca Ruiz2016-02-18 12:03:00. "How to talk about race with your kids". Mashable. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  6. ^ a b c d "Two Rules for My Daughter's Library". On Being. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  7. ^ a b c "Santa Fe". Oakland Neighborhood Project. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  8. ^ "Mia Birdsong". On Being. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  9. ^ "Mia Birdsong". New America. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  10. ^ "Ted Speaker". TED.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  11. ^ "Mia Birdsong". Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  12. ^ "Family Visionary". Fresh Speakers. Retrieved 2016-03-31.