Candace Osunsade: What’s in your purse?



Candace Osunsade

Senior Vice President
Chief Administrative Officer
National Aquarium

The Inner Harbor was elbow-to-elbow with tourists on a busy and beautiful Friday in April.

But a student whom Candace Osunsade had mentored through the Baltimore-based Building Steps easily spotted Osunsade in the crowd. There, in front of the National Aquarium, hugs and a reunion ensued.

The next 10 minutes were much of the same as Osunsade, a people person and former human resources officer, made her way through the building and past colleagues who wanted to say hi or to offer their assistance. Imagine trips through Target with this dynamic mother of three children, who carried a biography of Harriet Tubman in her purse and considered her spirit animal to be Calypso, the aquarium’s famous and friendly three-flippered turtle.

“I love the animals, but I have a strong reaction to people,” Osunsade said. “And the humane treatment of animals starts with the development of people.”

Osunsade believes that “moving the needle” on urban conservation involves reaching out to people of color as well as those who don’t identify as “tree huggers” or liberal, she said.

“Moving the needle” is a key phrase of hers, because Osunsade looks to make an impact with her work and her volunteer efforts. After her daughter was accepted at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, for example, Osunsade partnered with Dr. Tuajuanda Jordan, St. Mary’s president, to host events that would inform more Baltimore students about the school.

Osunsade also serves on the board for the Associated Black Charities and is an active member of the President’s Council of Cornell Women. Her alma mater is a university that she would never applied to had a teacher and mentor not encouraged her to do so.

“That was not supposed to happen,” she said, choking up at the thought of how someone changed her life story. That, she said, was why stories of women like Harriet Tubman spoke to her.

When the Long Island native came to Baltimore more than 20 years ago, the motto “Believe” on bus benches and bumper stickers empowered her, and it still resonates with her.

“I have to start with the belief that something good will happen,” she said.

osunsade-candice-purse32mfnewfeatThe purse

The blue Tumi bag is ample enough to hold items from Osunsade’s personal and professional lives. “Although I don’t live by brand, I spent many years admiring high-end bags,” she said. “This is a bag for working people, because it speaks to function.”

1)    Like her sorority sisters themselves, the red and white Delta Sigma Theta scarf protects Osunsade and adds style to her life, she said.

2)    This reusable bag folds into a fish. “It’s the perfect representation of the aquarium’s mission,” she said. “One small change can be the ripple for a tsunami of change.”

3)    A Black Lives Matter magnet: “We have to see the world through a lens of equity and care about humans who breathe air like us, but who may not look like us.”

4)    The red gem turtle represents Calypso, one of the aquarium’s most famous residents.

5)    An avid reader, Osunsade keeps a book of Oprah’s reflections in her purse.

6)    “The love of family is God’s greatest blessing” is the quote on her phone.

7)    Osunsade is married to a Nigerian. Her own family heritage is Creole, so no one should be surprised that she has a packet of Tabasco sauce in her purse. Living fully means adding a “spicy exclamation point to your life,” she said.

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