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"Opportunities like this—joining the Board of Directors of a nonprofit—just don’t come around for people like me, you know? When Rocking the Boat asked if I was interested in the position, I jumped at it."

— Taji Riley, was elected to Rocking the Boat’s Board in December

Taji Riley, born and raised in the Bronx and a Rocking the Boat boatbuilder since her junior year at Validus Preparatory Academy high school, is acutely aware of being in the minority many places she goes. She got a taste during a seven-week intensive pre-apprenticeship training program at Non Traditional Employment for Women. When she started a four-year apprenticeship program at the Carpenter’s Training Center, just six women from her NEW class also joined. In her work as a journey level carpenter with Local Union 157, Taji is often the only woman on the job site. And when she spent the summer of 2019 teaching boatbuilding to children on Maine's Little Cranberry Island, there were not a lot of people who she could immediately identify with. Still she was able to build meaningful relationships with the community.

Taji recalls a local union meeting four years ago when she first began to gain confidence in her voice. "Many men and women regularly attend our union meetings, yet Sisters are typically the minority in the room. The members have an opportunity to attend various activities funded by the council and union. The first time I advocated for myself and Sisters in my union, it was to ask my executive board for funding to attend Trades Women Build Nations. It is an international conference where women have the opportunity to build leadership skills, union identity, and support networks. When we received resistance from the membership on what the value of sending women to the conference could be, we stood firmly in our belief that we needed to experience what it was like to be the majority in the room. Four Sisters attended that year and, because of our solidarity, it has become a tradition for my local to send members to the TWBN conference annually."

With a seat on the Rocking the Boat Board, a position of influence she is increasingly comfortable with, Taji can continue to advocate for the underrepresented people that Rocking the Boat serves. Since her formal election to the Board in December, Taji's instincts as a builder are kicking in and she is eager to understand how all the various parts of Rocking the Boat fit together. Moreover, she is proud to be part of Rocking the Boat’s initial efforts to change the composition of its leadership to more closely reflect the demographics of its Hunts Point community.

"I've known Taji at many different stages during her time with Rocking the Boat—as a boatbuilding student, as an apprentice and teacher, and now as a freshly minted board member. As a coxswain for Rocking Manhattan, she steered my rowing team around the island of Manhattan for many years. Her unwavering voice got our team through all sorts of water and weather. And now, with her new board appointment, she’s going to lead Rocking the Boat into the future. It's hard to express how much I cherish her friendship, count on her judgment, and honor her leadership. While she may be the first alumna to hold a board seat, she will not be the last."

- Jennifer Galvin, Rocking the Boat Board member since 2012

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474
phone: 718.466.5799

Rocking the Boat is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Download Form 990.