This Black History Month, I am sharing 28 stories of Black women who shaped me and showed me the way towards liberation. Because Black women are often not cited for their ideas, I thought this would be one way to give flowers to those who influenced me.
On Day 10, I would like to celebrate Jamie LaShaé Jenkins (Ms. J). J is an activist, artist, and educator fiercely dedicated to the liberation of Black people.
I met J in 2016. My organization was embarking on its first DEI strategy, and J was recommended to me as a consultant that could support our work. J had been one of the architects of the DEI work at Teach For America that first exposed me to anti-racism and changed what I thought about being Black at work.
When I met J for lunch to learn more about her work and share more about what we were trying to achieve, little did I know that my world would be changed forever. J was the lead DEI consultant for our org-wide learning strategy, and the learning experiences she designed and facilitated were transformational. Our staff repeatedly said that what they learned changed their lives. They learned to see systems of oppression in our work and in the education system, understand their role in upholding those systems, and begin to take actions to change. Witnessing our team build their muscles to act in solidarity with each other and the students we did our work for was truly inspiring to see. And it was all thanks to J.
J is a force and truth-teller. When she was working in the DEI space, she would often witness harmful practices and behaviors from leaders. She never faltered from telling leadership they needed to do better if they wanted to be in alignment with their stated commitment to justice and community. J stood in the gap for me when I needed it - calling out leaders who were causing harm to me and influencing them to change. J was another one of the Black women who told me to #GetOut (Yup - I should have listened! Listen to Black women, y’all.)
Ms. J is an artist. I remember one time she told me people didn’t realize she was an artist, and I remember telling her she was incorrect because she absolutely oozes artistry in how she works. In the trainings she created, she infused art and color throughout her sessions. At BOOM, the youth development organization focused on affirmation, decolonization, organization, and innovation to reimagine the world for liberation, J has infused the learning spaces with Afro-futurist artistry that is joyful, buoyant, and abundant. When I see photos and videos that J created of the students and staff at BOOM working together, it makes my heart sing. The worlds J creates are truly magical, liberating, and transformational. (https://weboom.org/power/)
Thank you, Ms. J, for the magic you create in the world, for your unapologetic and inspiring commitment to liberation and justice in the world, and for your solidarity with me and other Black women. #28LoveLetterstoBlackWomen #BlackHistoryMonth2023 #Day10