Rising: From a Mud Hut to the Boardroom — and Back Again with Graci Harkema
2660 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512
Graci Harkema shares her remarkable story: from her birth during civil unrest in the Congo to being adopted and raised in Grand Rapids, to a successful career followed by becoming a consultant on diversity, equity and inclusion, racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and women in business, to ultimately learning to see her identity as her superpower, instead of her shame.
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About the Book
An identity that spans the globe.
In this astonishing memoir, Graci Harkema revisits her experience growing up as an adoptee from the Congo in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She traces her path to claiming and living her own story, becoming a successful consultant on diversity, equity and inclusion, racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and women in business.
Born amid civil unrest in a mud hut in the Congo and weighing a mere three pounds, Harkema was left at an orphanage, where she was not expected to live another day. But that afternoon, a visiting American missionary saw her sleeping in a doll’s bed and heard a voice inside her say, “This is your daughter.”
Her childhood was spent wishing to be lighter and blonder, like her siblings and classmates. Out of fear of standing out even more from her peers, Harkema kept her sexuality a secret, only coming out of the closet years later—during a job interview! Eventually, she learned to see her identity as her superpower, instead of her shame.
Today, Harkema helps embrace diversity and drive inclusion to ensure open and safe work environments. She is committed to empowering employees to perform to their potential as their authentic selves—setting an example as she continues to live her own story, journeying to meet her birth mother, to discover one more piece of herself.
About the Author:
Graci Harkema is the owner of Graci LLC, a consultancy providing training and speaking on diversity, inclusion and implicit bias for Fortune 500, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. The Grand Rapids Business Journal has named her a 40 Under 40 Business Leader of West Michigan, and one of the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders of West Michigan.
Graci received national media attention in 2019 for publicly resigning from a prominent Diversity & Inclusion leadership role to make a stand for racial equity and justice. Passionate about serving her community, she volunteers her time on LGBTQ+ non-profit boards and committees. She is also an avid supporter of her parents’ faith-based non-profit, Heart for Central Africa, in her hometown of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.A graduate in communications from Grand Valley State University, Graci resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her dog, Teddy Roosevelt.
Rachel Watson is the West Michigan reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, writing on multiple topics for the business-to-business publication’s Michigan audience, including economic development, real estate, tourism, manufacturing and nonprofits. Before joining Crain’s in 2022, she worked at the Grand Rapids Business Journal for nearly six years, covering diversity, equity and inclusion, women-owned small businesses and more. In 2019, Rachel wrote a profile of Graci Harkema for GRBJ about her work to lift up the voices of others, beginning a beautiful working relationship and friendship.