An Interview with Kenyora Johnson
Senior Operations Manager at Strong Women, Strong Girls
LIR: Kenyora, tell me about Strong Women, Strong Girls. What do you do there?
KJ: I am a Senior Operations Manager and have been with the organization for four years now, but I started off as a Program Manager.
LIR: How did you end up with the organization?
KJ: I was working two jobs in the summer of 2011 when I came across the opportunity to work there. At the time, I was a full time student at Boston University's School of Social Work, and knew even during my undergraduate career at Simmons College that I wanted to work in a nonprofit that empowered girls and women. So this was the perfect opportunity to come my way.
LIR: Definitely! What would you say are some of the challenges you face being a woman in your field?
KJ: I'm going to add the terms "Black" and "Latina" to this question, or as my aunt likes to say, "Afro-Latina", haha! The stereotypes of being "the angry black woman" or "loud" hover over me as a woman of color in a leadership role. But I embrace them and add to them "compassion", "love", and "justice". I mean, hell, sometimes I am angry! But other times I'm simply speaking my truth.
LIR: Haha, I can understand that.
KJ: There are many obstacles that I've overcome and tackled head on, and other instances where I had to learn to let go. I'm not afraid to challenge others or deal with difficult situations. I don't believe that I, or anyone, should back down or shy away from speaking their truth. You should hold people accountable to that no matter how they identify. But I do believe that you can only hold others accountable as long as you start with yourself first.
LIR: I like that. What would you say inspires you?
KJ: Since my time as a girl participating in Girls, Inc up into the present, I've always had positive female role models surrounding me, or being introduced to me in some capacity. It's because of these influential women that I've been inspired to continue to reach back and guide others.
LIR: Speaking of guiding others, what pearls of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation?
KJ: Ever since I heard Alicia Canady Adamson, fellow Simmons alumnae, speak about "walking in your own truth", that has become sort of my tagline for my personal motto: Deriving from the past, Discovering in the present, and Defining for the future. Within each of these three capacities you're able to apply Alicia's charge, and ultimately, be your best self. So, that's what I want to pass on to the next generation.
LIR: That's a great message.
KJ: You have to start with you first before you can help out the next person. So be you and be your best self, while also being who you know your true self to be.