We had the good fortune of connecting with Briona Jenkins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Briona, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I was born and raised in CT by a very Pro-Black and Civically engaged family. I was taught that my voice mattered, that I could make a difference, and that I should always advocate for others. I grew up in a very diverse town, in a two-parent household (my parents owned our home) and had lots off access to activities and resources. In 2006, my mother passed, I was 15 (turning 16) and spiraled into depression, an eating disorder, and self-harm but I was fortunate enough to have access to a therapist at my school. I was very involved in high school (volleyball, mock trial, student government, yearbook) and balancing that schedule prepared for college. During college, my father and I stopped talking but fortunately I was able to find a community and became an RA, orientation counselor, baseball manager, and eventually became president of the student government association. After graduation I worked at a bunch of nonprofits where I was able to work directly with: adults and children with developmental disabilities, a school for children with autism, and then I got my first full time job working with adults and families experiencing homelessness. In May 2016, I moved to Austin and came out as queer, meaning I date all genders, after that pulse nightclub shooting. I had always questioned my sexuality but after moving to austin and telling myself that I would live my most authentic life I felt like it was time to tell my family. After reading the articles of the families who had no idea that their loved ones, who were murdered during pulse, where in the LGBTQIA+ community i didn’t want my family to have to find out that way. I was afraid to come out but thankfully they were all supportive and loving. Since living in Austin I have served on five nonprofit boards, started a podcast, spoken at graduations and other large events, and have gotten involved in my community in profound ways.
What should our readers know about your business?
What sets me apart from other DEI Consultant is my lived experience as a Black, Queer woman as well as having worked at several nonprofits were I worked directly with clients or helped to fundraise. A lot of the time, I have been the only woman, person of color, or LGBTQIA+ person in the rooms that I am so I have to show up and be a voice for the marginalized folks who are often forgotten. I have gotten to where I am today by faith, failing forward, and constantly challenge the status quo. It has not been easy. There was a lot of self-doubt and dealing with bosses and companies who belittle and didn’t support me. I overcame these challenges by reaching out to folks who could empathize, remembering that I was in the spaces as a way to create space for others, and by remembering that nothing lasts forever and that my current circumstance was temporary (if I wanted it to be). I have learned that change happens in the uncomfortable places and that we should constantly be challenging ourselves and the systems in place. I have learned that vulnerability is a super-power not a weakness and that we all have a story worth sharing and celebrating. I want folks to see me and know that it means that they have the right to be in any room that want to be in and that they have the right to take up space.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I have loved living in Austin because there is always something to do. If I had a friend visiting, I would make reservations at Buenas Aires Cafe (my favorite restaurant), we would go to Lustre Pearl East (my favorite bar), we would take a walk on the trail around Town Lake, and we would go to an Austin FC game and maybe see some live music or a performance.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to thank all of the women who raised me; relatives, the mothers of my friends, my mentors but especially my mother, grandmothers, god mother. I want to thank my mentors Erin Morrell, Kellee Coleman, and Pamela Benson Owens for seeing something in me, supporting me, and celebrating me. I want to thank my friends, families, and colleagues for their never-ending support and for challenging me.
photo 1 (black top, colorful background) – Montinique Monroe last photo (sitting on couch) – Gaby Deimeke