Our fearless leader and Executive Director, Parker, is celebrating three years at the helm of Backline – though her work building the Talkline and growing the organization started several years prior. We are so fortunate to have Parker leading Backline’s important mission and expanding our vision of all-options support with such acuity and enthusiasm. Read on to learn a little bit more about Parker and her place in the Backline story!
Tell us a little bit about yourself! How did you come to work at Backline?
I have always been a huge fan of Backline’s all-options approach, and we often referred people to the Talkline when I was the Executive Director at ACCESS Women’s Health Justice. At some point I met Backline’s founder Grayson Dempsey at a conference, and we hit it off. In 2009 she asked me to join the Advisory Board, and later that year, I became the Board President when Grayson stepped down to have her second daughter. It was a hard time for the organization – we were facing a leadership transition, funding challenges, and overwhelming demand for our programs – but I felt like my experience with other grassroots nonprofit organizations could benefit Backline, and I wanted to help the organization survive and thrive. I spent four years as Board President and “pro bono ED” for Backline while also working as the Director of the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom. Then in December 2013, I was honored to have the opportunity to become Backline’s first Executive Director and build the organization and our all-options approach full-time.
What’s your favorite thing about the work you do here?
That’s a hard one. The thing I love most about Backline is that we embody the all-options approach inside and out. We do direct services AND social change work. We support pregnancy, parenting, abortion, AND adoption. There’s nowhere else that I can be involved with all these different issues and strategies, and I have learned so much as a result. I also love the people I get to work with. We have a really fantastic group of thoughtful, passionate, smart people as staff, board, and volunteers, and it makes even the tough parts of the job enjoyable.
Why is an all-options approach to reproductive health and support important to you?
I feel like an all-options approach is the only approach that makes sense. I’m someone who sees the connections and complexities of situations, and I have always been frustrated by the way we get stuck in false dichotomies and either/or arguments. Almost nothing is that simple, and certainly not our experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption! When you make space for people to bring all their decisions and feelings into the room, and you support people in all their paths and options, it’s good for everyone. It helps us envision what’s possible and to break out of our silos and the boxes we put ourselves in. It’s expansive. And that’s a mindset we need right now.
What’s your best Backline/All-Options memory to date and what are you looking forward to as we grow?
I have so many great memories, but one that stands out is when I facilitated my first Pregnancy Options Workshop. I was actually still working at CCRF, and I remember walking into the training space and feeling that perfect combination of excitement and anxiety, and I just knew at that moment that this was what I wanted to be doing. To be talking with crowds of people about pregnancy options and counseling and how to support each other without bias or judgment. It was inspiring and important and fun. And it still is! I haven’t gotten to do a Pregnancy Options Workshop in a while but it’s one of my favorite things.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise your Backline colleagues.
Hmmm. I’m a pretty open book, I think, so not sure what would surprise them. I don’t really like to cook. I don’t have any tattoos. And even though I love to talk, I also need long stretches of time by myself where I don’t talk to anyone. Oh, and I spent every summer from age 5 to 25 at Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia, where they filmed the movie Dirty Dancing!
What’s your favorite thing to do for fun?
I love to go for a walk or a drink with a friend to talk about anything and everything. I love playing games and goofing around with my kid, who is the perfect age (almost 10) where he is hilarious and weird and still willing to cuddle with me. And I love to watch a good one-hour drama. Right now my favorites are Queen Sugar, Rectify, and The Walking Dead.
If you could have any one person, living or dead, over to your house for dinner, who would it be and what would you make?
My mom died in February, so she’s the only person I can even imagine having over. We’d make margaritas and chicken salad and black-eyed peas and fried okra and fried green tomatoes and peanut butter cookies. But mostly I’d just like to tell her about everything that’s happened this year (well, maybe we’ll skip over the election…) and give her a big hug.
If Backline’s mission were achieved and all ppl had the support and resources they needed for pregnancy parenting, abortion, and adoption experiences, where would you want to give more of your time?
I would spend more time working for equitable, high quality public schools, or for compassionate options in end-of-life care.