Aces Interview: Davida Ingram, Gates Foundation Visitor Center

No matter where you go or what you do, your experiences are always punctuated with the memories of the people who left an impact on you. Whenever I go to the Gates Foundation Visitor Center, I make sure to catch up with my friend and one of Seattle's culture savants, Davida Ingram. Davida is an educator at the Gates Visitor Center, meaning her days there are filled with meeting people from all walks of life, taking them on tours and providing them with the richest experience they can possibly have there. Davida and I met way back in our careers, and I'd say the Gates Visitor Center is the perfect place not only to meet Davida, but to get a true sense of her passion for educating others. Definitely take a tour with Davida next time you're at the Gates Visitor Center, and today, get a peek into her life:

What's on your playlist right now?

  • Lake Street Dive (I love their cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back)

  • NighTrain (go see them live)

  • Thee Satisfaction

  • Meklit Hadero (Abbay Mado)

Who is your biggest inspiration today?

Oh, dang. That is really hard. Right now, I am inspired by actors like Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover for their commitments to social justice. I also love that we live in city that is constantly making connections between civic life and social justice.

Describe your style.

How would I describe my style? Fashion-wise—eclectic. I love mixing and matching vintage and contemporary. I was raised by women with style—I have my own and it’s very different but it’s my way of honoring them. People-wise, in terms of style, I love making connections so understanding what’s important to others and what motivates them really matters to me. Like a lot of educators, I think it’s important to keep learning, so I often think about my learning style. I am definitely the person who’s computer is slow because too many things are open.

What's your favorite way to unplug after a busy day of tours?

I am a not-quite-closeted introvert. So, one-on-one conversations really help me unwind. But Thursdays and Sundays are all about Scandal or Game of Thrones. One of my favorite Scandal times is gathering with other community workers who like to bug out about the latest plot twists.

What are you reading?

Honestly. Facebook. In the sense that I curate my “current events” content based on what my friends are posting. Their links take me to places for news. Crunk Feminist CollectiveImpatient OptimistsSalon are regular reads for me. I am also a (proud) nerd so I am usually reading more than one book at a time. My new books are Singing Plants  and a book of poetry called Twerk. Anything by Toni Morrison or Toni Cade Bambara is a good stand by book for me.

What's your favorite meal & beverage?

My favorite meal changes—right now it’s all about smoked salmon, wakame and white rice topped with sesame oil and chili flakes. And I loves cherry Kombucha with chia seeds.

What are you most excited about in the coming months?

We have a teen action fair  coming up on May 10 at the Visitor Center and two teen workshops. I see our programs as passports to a global context with an emphasis on young people as change makers. So those two things have me really excited.

Davida Ingram - Gates Visitor Center

Davida Ingram - Gates Visitor Center

Can you tell us a little about the Gates Foundation Visitor Center from your perspective?

On my tours I often share that the best part of my job is that I have learned about so many issues that existed under the radar for me, until I got here. If you walk into our bathrooms, you will see photos of different toilets from around the world, along with info about the over 2.5 billion people who don’t have toilets. I’ve seen myself as a global citizen for many years in terms of my interest in cross-cultural dialog, art, design, music, fashion and more. But my job, and the conversations I have here with staff and especially our visitors, helps me see ways of building affinity with mothers who want to raise their children’s standard of living because they live on less than $2 a day.

What's your favorite thing about the Gates Foundation Visitor Center?

The people. Buildings are nothing without the people. The vision for this place was to inspire our visitors to share and discuss the things that they want to consciously do to make a better world. Now, I almost said the Visitor Center’s public programs were my favorite thing—but *surprise* they are all about people too, whether it’s visitors or our partners from the community. Our recent work parties, family days and teen events are people-centered things that I love about my job, aside from touring.

Is there a specific Gates Foundation Visitor Center visitor/group who's inspired you?

One of my biggest joys comes from working with our teens. We have workshop and special teen committees, and they are filled with really remarkable young leaders who want to make a difference now and as they grow into adulthood. I just had to sit down and tell one of our participants Malaya that I was so proud of her for her recent volunteerism with a group called Birthday Dreams. She’s been helping to organize birthday parties for children in families and foster care that struggle. Birthdays are always big for me so when she mentioned that it really moved me, like I teared up. She and other amazing youth will be presenting at our May 10 Teen Action Fair, and I would encourage anybody to come and check their stories out. They will inspire you.

Any events coming up at the Gates Foundation Visitor Center you're excited for?

Well, if you could not tell, the May 10 Teen Action Fair has me pretty psyched. I love giving young people an opportunity to shine. And it’s incredibly powerful when they have their communities surrounding them and cheering them on. We have a range of different topics that teens will be tackling at the teen action fair—health care in poor countries, education, arts & culture—but at the heart of each of these issues is a young person who sees his or her part in turning the tide. And that is definitely something to get excited about. It’s boring to be cynical.

Thank you!

Find Davida at the Gates Visitor Center.

Read all of my Aces interviews here.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center is open Tuesdays - Saturdays, 10:00a.m. - 5:00p.m. at 440 5th Ave. N. Street and garage parking are aplenty. 

Register online for a group tour of the Gates Visitor Center.

Check out their events calendar for upcoming special programs.

Join the dialogue! Follow the Visitor Center on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center.