Angie Torain: My Ancestors’ Wildest Dream

By Angie Torain

Angie Torain is the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Compliance, Legal, and Risk Management. She joined Notre Dame in January 2017.


It seems that every time I open Instagram, it’s there staring back at me. Maybe it’s the algorithm or maybe it’s my luck. But there it is, the words, plainly written on a graphic that always seems to call to me.

I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.

As we celebrate Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy — these are the words that stay with me.

I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.

Growing up in Elkhart, Indiana, just nine miles east of Notre Dame’s campus, I thought it was a pretty diverse place. It was a small city where everyone knew everyone. I was a three-sport student-athlete and racism, I thought, had little place there.

Education, however, was paramount. Education, my mother believed, was the first step on the road to equality. My mother would tell me that I could play as many sports as I wanted, but if I came home with anything less than a C, then no more sports. That C was only acceptable if I proved that I worked hard and that was the best that I could do. 

When I arrived at college — a predominantly white institution — the lessons I learned outside the classroom began immediately.

It was there that I learned I was viewed differently than my peers.

It was there I was judged for coming from a single-parent household.

It was there that I heard the first racial slur hurled my way. 

There, I learned that being a student-athlete didn’t matter, but the color of my skin was what people judged.

And yet, I pushed through to get my undergraduate degree and then my law school degree, understanding, as my ancestors’ believed, that the only way we would create equality was through educating ourselves.

As a basketball and track student-athlete, I learned firsthand that being a student-athlete is hard and that the balance of academics and athletics can be difficult to master. 

There are always extra pieces to balance — you have to fit in, be competitive on the field, and be competitive in the classroom… often when others don’t think you deserve to be there.

You push through.

You remember what the goal is.

You gain more drive to prove people wrong.

When I graduated law school and started my first job, I thought of my ancestors, who did all this, who fought so hard so that I could live the “American dream.”

I am my ancestors’ wildest dream.

In my career, I have been the only minority in the room, the only minority on the staff, and at times, that felt like being back in college all over again. The constant self-talk returned — I’m different than everyone else, I must work harder, smarter and not make mistakes.

Those experiences never deterred me. Instead, they helped me grow and find my voice in that room, pushing people to have uncomfortable conversations. Fighting for equality for me and others.

Because that’s what my ancestors stood for — to have the rights that others had, to have the voice that others had.

My philosophy was always the same — be a good teammate, be a good worker, and never forget to lead and speak up.

My husband and I are raising three incredible girls and sharing the lessons we’ve learned. They know, just as I did, that education comes first. That they will go to college and that they have an obligation to let their powerful voices be heard.

It is our job to stoke their fire, their voice, their understanding of what is right and wrong and teach them to be an advocate for all.

Our story — the Black story — is full of pain, full of resilience. 

You don’t have to understand. 

You don’t have to relate. 

You don’t even have to agree. 

But I ask that you look at the fight for racial equality with a heart focused on love.

We have taken everything our ancestors stood for and our charge is to bring it to life for those who never got the chance because of racism, because of slavery, because they did not have the right to vote.

Lives have been lost in this fight, in the fight for voting rights, in the fight for equality. That legacy is something I carry on from the work that’s been done before my time.

That has become my charge, to reach back and ensure that I’m providing the same opportunities for minorities, for women, and all who are oppressed.

The time to have tough conversations and to create real change is here.

Because, after all, I am proud to be my ancestors’ wildest dream.


– Angie Torain

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