New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Hawaii, the South Pacific. There is no end to the places Alfreda Harris has lived, worked, taught, and explored. Born in the Mississippi Delta, Harris’ family came to the Beecher area in the late 1950s. One of six children, her parents encouraged her to be self-sufficient and to “get a good job.” However, Harris also wanted to explore the world. After starting college at Central Michigan University in the mid-70s, she decided it was time for a change and booked a one-way ticket to southern California, starting a life-long journey of learning.
After graduating from UCLA, Harris worked a variety of jobs – everything from teaching in the Peace Corps, to working for the Postal Service, to business marketing, learning something new in every experience. Twentytwo years ago, she came back to Flint for what she thought was a short visit and hasn’t ever left.
Harris is now a well-known community figure and can be seen working in the Flint Cultural Center at the Flint Public Library and as a docent at the Flint Institute of Arts. A professional storyteller, librarian, and guest teacher, Harris is also a yogi, mindfulness practitioner, and woman of faith.
Harris reconnected with the Crim by completing the 10-mile walk to honor the tenth anniversary of her father’s passing. Simultaneously, she found mindfulness.
Harris said, “Mindfulness is something I always did in my devotional time but I didn’t know it was mindfulness.” By adding structure to her practice Harris said she “has strengthened her mindfulness foundation and has been enriched by the mindfulness community.”
She notes that being a part of this community has helped her through some very difficult times. Personally, she has dealt with illness, family troubles, and the recent passing of her mother and sister. She also finds mindfulness helpful as we collectively face the double pandemics of the new COVID-19 and the more longstanding pandemic of racial injustice.
Harris is one of 20 Flint Mindfulness Fellows and is eager to pay forward the compassion, focus, and mindful leadership she has learned. Harris noted she is excited to use her roles as teacher, yoga instructor, and storyteller to help youth “who need help being present and finding their way.”
As part of the fellowship, Harris will undergo extensive Search Inside Yourself Leadership Training, created at Google and based on the most current neuroscience, to teach hundreds in Flint and Genesee County over the next 3 years.