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Alum inspires

Kelsey Lindquist

Renel Brooks-Moon is no stranger to success.

A fixture of the Bay Area media circuit, she hosts the wildly popular “Renel in the Morning” show on 98.1 Kiss FM, occupies a highly-coveted position as the official voice of the San Francisco Giants, entertains millions of viewers through monthly television spots and has a vast collection of awards and honors for her professional and humanitarian contributions to society to boot.
She’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame for being the first woman to announce a championship game of any kind.

San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newsom honored her with her own day.
But ask Brooks-Moon to recount her trajectory to success and she will be the first to tell you that it was not a straight one.

“I had very little direction as far as what I wanted to do with my life,” said Brooks-Moon, a class of 1981 Mills alum, of her undergraduate years, “I was very confused, both socially and academically.”

Brooks-Moon says she might not even have made it to graduation had it not been for Professor Daphne Muse, who taught a course on literature by women of color.

“She was a friend, mentor and counselor,” said Brooks-Moon. “She changed my life and opened me up to a whole intellectual world.”

Under Muse’s tutelage, the Bay Area native and former Woodside High School cheerleader was exposed to literary giants like Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks and Zora Neale Hurston.

Now Director of the Women’s Leadership Institute, Muse remembers Brooks-Moon’s phenomenal sense of humor and comedic timing and recognized early on that she was people savvy and had the skills to navigate through the world and become successful. But Muse also recognized that Brooks-Moon was struggling to find her way.

“She had a stream of resistance,” said Muse, “[but] when she felt challenged here, I insisted and others insisted that she meet that challenge.”

Muse also recalls that the time when Brooks-Moon attended Mills was one in which the race, class and gender composition of the administration and tenure faculty positions were shifting, and the Ethnic Studies department was still in its infancy and was struggling to put down its roots.

“Even at that point in time, Mills was a place that was doing cutting edge work,” said Muse. “It was a grounding in this tradition that allowed Renel to be on ESPN with all the ‘testosteronies,’ as I call them.”

But at the time, Brooks-Moon couldn’t imagine a future for herself in television or radio.

“There were certainly no women of color on the radio,” explained Brooks-Moon. “Had I had role models in media, I would probably have studied broadcasting.”

Instead, she finished Mills with a degree in English Literature and the plan to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become an educator. Then, at a job fair sponsored by the Urban League, Brooks-Moon met a career counselor who told her about an entry-level job at KCBS. She got the job and quickly rose through the ranks to the newsroom.

Brooks-Moon’s career has since skyrocketed, and her distinctive voice occupies one of the most sought-after time slots in radio.

For Muse, Brooks-Moon’s accomplishments serve as a reminder that just because something has not been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. “Renel is a real example of what a Mills woman can be, and she chose a path that didn’t have clear lines of demarcation,” said Muse. “Renel has created something that will make it less daunting for the next woman who decides to forge that path.”

And for Mills students who are uncertain as to where life will take them after graduation, Brooks-Moon has some words of assurance. “It may not happen overnight, it may not happen in 1 or 2 years after graduation, it may not happen 5 years after graduation, but it will happen.”