Marisa Renee Lee
At a glance:Marisa Renee Lee is the CEO of Beacon Advisors, co-founder of Supportal, and founder of The Pink Agenda.
Marisa Renee Lee is the CEO of Beacon Advisors, co-founder of Supportal, and founder of The Pink Agenda.
Supportal is a platform that makes it easy for people to respond when someone they care about is faced with a life-changing challenge. With a focus on experiences that are difficult to deal with and difficult to respond to, Supportal features first-hand accounts of people who have experienced life-changing challenges. They detail the best and most thoughtful ways people in their lives responded and Supportal provides recommendations that will make it easy for others to do the same.
In addition to her work on Supportal, Marisa runs Beacon Advisors, a mission driven consulting firm that allows her to support a variety of institutions on organizational development, executive coaching and donor advising. Until 2017 Marisa served as the Managing Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK Alliance), a nonprofit born out of President Obama’s call to action to address the barriers to success that boys and young men of color disproportionately face along the life path. Through her work with MBK Alliance, Marisa led a collaborative, cross-sectoral movement that united business, philanthropy, nonprofit, and community leaders, to increase pathways of opportunity for young men of color.
In 2010, Marisa joined the Obama Administration first as an appointee at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and later joined the White House Domestic Policy Council and the White House Office of Public Engagement where she ultimately served as President Obama’s Deputy Director of Private Sector Engagement. During her time in the administration Marisa focused on a variety of issues including entrepreneurship and access to capital in underserved communities, implementation of the Small Business Jobs Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and developed a variety of public-private partnerships with the business community on behalf of President Obama.
Marisa began her career at Brown Brothers Harriman as an Associate in the Commodities banking group. In 2007, while working at Brown Brothers, Marisa founded The Pink Agenda, a breast cancer non-profit, in honor of her mother Lisa. Over a decade later, The Pink Agenda remains a national organization of young professionals committed to raising money for breast cancer research and direct care service programs in partnership with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
In 2016, Marisa was recognized in the Chronicle of Philanthropy 40 Under 40 as a “Rabble Rouser for Obama.” In 2017 she was named a member of the Ebony Power 100 amongst other Community Crusaders she greatly admires. In 2018 she was a contributing author to the book Modern Loss, a series of candid stories and illustrations on grief. In addition, she has been a featured speaker at several forums including SXSW. Marisa has also written op-eds on race, opportunity, economic mobility, and grief for CNN, Bustle, Option B, News One, and other outlets.
Marisa Renee Lee is a graduate of Harvard College, an obsessive home cook, and an avid Green Bay Packers fan. She resides in the Washington DC area with her husband Matt and their dog Sadie.
GRIEF IS LOVEMarisa is a highly sought after speaker on a variety of topics: racial equity, social entrepreneurship, infertility; but is most often called upon to speak about grief and its impact on us. Marisa defines grief as the repeated experience of learning to live in the midst of a significant loss. She believes we don’t have to, and shouldn’t even try to “get over” the loss of a loved one, but we instead need to work on deciding how we live our lives in a way that honors our grief, but doesn’t deny us access to joy. You need joy in order to heal, and while grief is full of limitless amounts of pain, it needn’t be absent of joy. After losing a mother and a pregnancy Marisa shows people what it looks like to live joyfully and fully, after experiencing a loss. At its core, Marisa has learned that grief is love.
RACISM AND GRIEFAs a result of her experience with grief, Marisa views racism as another form of grief, one that is written on the souls of Black folks. James Baldwin once famously said, “[t]o be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” Marisa believes that rage is actually misplaced grief. Black people grieve because they know even if they are “twice as good,” they still aren’t good enough. Black grief is rooted in the pain that comes when you are not only a part of a country, but when you’ve built a country that doesn’t truly love or value you. In addition to addressing racism as grief, Marisa discusses what effective allyship actually is and how white Americans can combat racism beyond simply posting a black square on Instagram.
Resilience: It's not about LemonadeSo often we are told that the key to resilience, to overcoming obstacles, to moving from surviving to thriving is that we should simply make the best of the situation we are handed and keep moving forward until the hard part is behind us. But what do you do when "powering through" is just that - movement without purpose or learning or healing? In reality true resilience is about learning how to face your pains, to accept them as a part of who you are, and then to incorporate the struggles into your life in a way that is meaningful to you. It is about not getting over the things that hurt us, but finding a way to let them transform us. You can live a big and beautiful life even after experiencing immense sorrow. You don't move on from the hard stuff, you move through it and you learn how to live with life's challenges. While the path through pain is individual to us all, there are common techniques that we can all apply to the situations we face; techniques that allow us to purposefully and thoughtfully embrace the things that challenge us the most and to incorporate them into the balance of our life. So if that means forgetting the lemonade and making a cocktail, going to therapy, climbing a mountain, building a tiny house, or just sitting quietly and breathing deeply - we all have the capacity and the power to figure out how to thrive in this miserable, broken, beautiful and meaningful world.