Catch us up! Tell us about yourself and what's happened over the last 15 years?
Salaam! Hola! Konnichiwa! My name is Acasia Barrett Olson and so much has happened since 2008! I attended and graduated from grad school (MPH) in 2010. Two weeks later, I got married to Chris, the phenomenal man I met during the Imhotep Internship at Morehouse (two days after I graduated from Spelman). He didn’t attend Morehouse, but funny enough that we met there.
By fall of 2011, I started a 3-year post graduate fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2012, within one year of starting my fellowship, my husband was commissioned into the US Navy. During my fellowship, my husband and I moved to “sunny” Seattle, where I directed and advised various efforts addressing racial health equity and social justice efforts (right before DEI was as well known as it is today). In 2014, I launched EmbRace Healing, via the Millennial Trains Project, and traveled the US to facilitate conversations on racial healing and reconciliation.
In 2015, my husband and I moved to Bahrain where I worked as a comptroller and managed a 40 million dollar federal military budget. While in Bahrain, I was a founding member of the Bahrain chapter of a new military spouse professional organization (formerly In Gear Career, now Hiring Our Heroes). We also traveled to 10 different countries before we moved to Spain in 2017 for another overseas military tour.
While in Spain, I worked as the Director of Religious Education, overseeing the children’s ministry for the base chapel. I also founded a book club for women of color where we read and discussed books written by authors of color. My husband and I traveled to another 6 countries and all over Spain.
I also became a mommy in Spain to my rainbow baby, Lavender.
What have been some of your major life milestones since our 10-year reunion?
Being able to travel to reunion was a milestone. I loved being back home. We were living in Spain at the time and I was pregnant with my oldest when I got to go back to Spelman for the first time in years.
Since then, my family and I welcomed our second daughter, Laurel and I wrote and published my first book The Book of Jo in 2022, but not before moving abroad again. We now live in Okinawa, Japan.
It’s also been a treat to host my Spelman sisters or meet Spelman sisters in various locations overseas! We’re everywhere – Bahrain, Spain and I’ve connected with sisters here in Okinawa!
What do you value most about your experience as an alumna?
I’m so grateful for this far reaching community. I’ve connected with a Spelman sister in every country I’ve lived in and remain connected with my Spelman sisters. I’m forever grateful for the legacy of empowerment, the rich and incomparable education and the unyielding reinforcement of Black Excellence.
Especially as we are reminded to remain undaunted by the fight against ignorance and dysfunctional systems. I’m grateful for the centuries of genius and the fact that you can’t tell a Spelman Woman much but you can always tell a Spelman Woman. We’re going to make it happen and can’t isn't’ part of our lexicon. We have so much flavor, finesse and fire.
What’s one thing about yourself that your Spelman sisters may not know?
I suffered a miscarriage while we lived in Bahrain. Away from family and stateside friends, I’d say it was one of the loneliest and most depressing experiences. And I suffered from anxiety while pregnant with Lavender, until I finally reached out to a therapist. I also experienced anxiety after we moved to Okinawa. It was the culmination of being pregnant during the pandemic, moving back to the US after living overseas for 5 years and writing a book right before moving overseas. I crashed in a weird way and always refer to that season as my tsunami period.
All this to say, always take care of your mental and emotional health. I was in the valley for months with this latest move overseas until I reached out to a professional and started working out and found my fitness community. I wanted to share that because “life be lifeing”! Protecting your peace, identifying and cultivating your community, and paying attention to your internal imbalances or flashing lights is critical. I’m so grateful for the gift of wellness and my wellness warriors near and far.
I’m also so in love with writing and creating. I sense this will be my full time focus until further notice. I majored in English at Spelman and it’s so rewarding to move in the direction of my dreams. I’m a published author, my book is available on Amazon and my desire to share my grandmother’s story, a story of resilience, has evolved into me wanting to work with more people to own, honor and connect with their stories. I remain in awe of this reality.
I feel like I’ve been so multi passionate and “dibbled and dabbled,” in all manner of professions.
Being a military spouse invites me to embrace that part of myself and I don’t reject it. I like the freedom of experiencing and exploring so many different career fields and gathering experiences and information from all of them. But I'm a creative and all these experiences contribute to my passion for creative expression. I will continue to write and publish.
Given how many countries I’ve both visited and called home at this point, I foresee branching out into travel writing. And given my identity and calling as a mom, I anticipate writing books celebrating travel through the eyes of my children.
What impact would you like to make on the world?
Healing, liberation and creativity are my priorities in this season of life and possibly until the end. So my prayer is that I will create and cultivate things that facilitate healing and liberation. For now, that’s in the form of writing and publishing more books and inviting people to sit with their story.
I used to joke with friends about being their ghostwriter. But I wasn’t joking. I think we all have a story worth celebrating and I’m beginning to see myself as a literary or (auto)biographical midwife.
What most excites you about your future?
I love writing and have a lot of writing projects in the works. I’m most excited about more family travels and documenting life through the eyes of my children via children’s books as well as other books that give light to hidden stories.
Will we see you at reunion?
Unfortunately, I can’t attend Reunion this year. I’ll be the matron of honor at my little sister’s wedding but I’m excited about seeing all the photos and hearing about it from friends who will attend. I’m praying I can attend the next one and looking forward to exposing my girls to all things Spelman because I’m that mom. As far as I’m concerned, their steps will be towards Spelman!
How can we support and stay connected:
Learn more about (and purchase) The Book of Jo on Amazon
Find author and random life updates here: @rhymeswith_acasia
Follow family travel and international (Okinawa) living updates here: @Olsonville.Adventure.Squad
Inquiries about author life (including scheduling book discussions about The Book of Jo and my publishing process), MilSpouse living and melanated motherhood abroad can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org