Shana: Embracing What is Real

We close out our end of year stories with a note from the newest edition to the fabric of staff here at Center on Halsted. This year, we had the opportunity to look in the mirror and make a promise to prioritize our community. This meant beginning a path of education for ourselves and others, and we are excited to introduce you to Shana Jones, our Racial Equity & Inclusion Director.

We look forward to achieving and learning more together in the years to come. We hope this story gives you a glimpse of the heart and passion that goes into this work.

Check out some of Shana’s why below:

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My anticipation stems from having worked within the field of diversity, primarily within higher education, and understanding that (1) there is often a misconception that you are the one person to carry the vision for the organization when it comes to any kind of diversity work and (2) People mean well and when they hear the words — race, equity and inclusion, there is a sense of responsibility within individuals to help make things better.

Well I do not attempt to answer the vision question 3 weeks into this role, but I do speak to why this is important work to me. I could always make up a response to such an intricate question, but I find that such kneejerk reactions contribute to the systemic and structural inequalities that exist today. Being a black woman from Chicago’s Englewood community, and a first-generation college student who struggled with having/feeling the love that I had for another woman for years, I can speak to my sense of belonging to this role, but also to this organization.

I spent many years of my life closeted and angry with myself for keeping the one person who made everything alright a secret. “She was my best friend” that’s how she was always introduced and although she was not closeted, she internalized the pain that I caused to ‘protect’ me. This went on for close to five years. I can’t get that time back nor can I undo the pain that I caused her over the years. I feel extremely blessed to still have her in my life. She waited unselfishly for me with no guarantee that she would ever be introduced as more than a friend. This still pains me today; having created an oppressive space for someone I love.

Center on Halsted supports people like me and I am grateful to be a part of an organization that creates opportunities for the LGBTQ community in such a comprehensive way.

To be black, a woman, and a member of the LGBTQ community creates various levels of oppression. I have embraced my years of struggle and continue to use my experiences as a platform to give voices to those who are still trying to find their way. This position allows me to tap into what’s important to me, while creating opportunities that are just as important to others. Achieving racial equity is a journey. This work will always be unfinished, so for me it is about recognizing that there is much work to be done and realizing that I can’t do it all while working to do what I can for affected populations internally and externally one day at a time. This work has no end date and neither does my commitment.

I look forward to bringing my personal experiences into this role, but also my professional experiences in diversity, conflict resolution, training & development, teaching, and community engagement. It is my hope that we will grow together as we work to embed racial equity and inclusion within Center on Halsted.

We hope that you join us on this journey and know that your dedication and commitment will not go unseen. Your contribution and willingness to learn and grow with us is what keeps Center on Halsted going. Please continue to support us, both financially and beyond, to continue creating our story.

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All donations are welcome

Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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