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Inspiring Conversations with Chiany Dri of Impact for Justice

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chiany Dri.

Hi Chiany, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, bouncing back and forth between mid-city and the South Bay with my mother who was a single mother of two. My mother struggled with substance abuse and mental health which landed my brother and I in the child welfare system multiple times throughout our childhood. In middle school, I began attending schools in Manhattan Beach and realized I was one of the only people of color at my schools very early on and I struggled to find my place. In addition to this, I faced ongoing racialized harassment from middle school through to my time at Mira Costa High School, being called racial slurs daily coupled with never learning anything about my own history as a young mixed race Black Latina. For my last two years of high school, I was sent to school in Ojai, California, about 1.5 hours north of the South Bay and I became pregnant in my last year of high school. I soon became houseless and was challenged by poverty and homelessness until my young daughter and I found a permanent landing place in Ojai when she was just under two years old.

I decided at this point that I wanted to go to college and that is where I found my passion for Black studies and Ethnic studies. I became very interested the idea that young people of color could be better reflected throughout their educational studies and experiences. I spent time working with various organizations doing anti-oppression work with youth and then began developing and facilitating curriculum for educational non-profit organizations focused on anti-racism. From this point, I began working with other non-profit organizations, businesses, and community groups on anti-racism work. I am a founder of the Ojai Alliance for Education Equity and a founder of Juneteenth Santa Barbara. In 2020 I authored a small book called ‘The Little Guide to Anti Racism’ and I ran for School Board in Ojai just this past election. Today I work as an anti-racism educator and consultant and am developing work with a collective of women of color to further support anti-racism work in the Central Coast.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Definitely not a smooth road. While I consider myself so much closer to what I could have dreamt for myself and my family, there have been a lot of painful lessons, loss, and challenges along the way. As I mentioned previously, I was a young person impacted by the child welfare system. I have distinct memories of being picked up at schools by social workers and taken to homes that were not mine. I remember being separated from my primary caretaker, my mother, many times. That is trauma and it’s actually at the core of why I do what I do. That trauma is racialized trauma, especially when we consider the ways that the child welfare system and legal system disproportionately target and harm people of color.

Struggling with homelessness and not being able to afford essentials for my daughter when I was basically a kid myself, being a teen mom, experiencing age bias, classism, racism, and sexism were experiences that deeply challenged my sense of self, of self-worth and self-esteem. I lived in survival mode for a long time while trying to keep a brave face for my daughter. I’ve started and stopped my college education many times, I’ve given birth to two more children, I’ve experienced educational and career barriers in a world that doesn’t adequately support young women or young mothers in achieving for their families. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail for what I have and there were many moments when I thought I would have nothing. It takes a lot of strength and determination to pull yourself out of that place over and over again.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Impact for Justice?
My business, Impact for Justice, lives and breathes on its own and under a collective of women of color doing anti-racism work in various capacities. I specialize in anti-racism education, mediation, and business consulting. I have and do work with non-profit organizations, businesses, educational spaces and community groups on anti-racism. I break my work into six major areas: Identity, Privilege, Power, Intersectionality, Racism, and Allyship. Typically, you’ll see people doing Diversity and Inclusion work as part of Human Resources for a large business or corporation or in the setting of an educational institution or organization, but I do my work for and from within my community. This is a huge factor that sets my work apart from other similar work. I am not ‘Diversity and Inclusion,’ but I am anti-racism. I’m focused on how racism informs our lives, experiences, and behaviors and because of this, my work has to be community-oriented and inspired. What I am most proud of being able to offer through Impact for Justice is support for parents and children in an upcoming series of group courses that will be open to the community at large. These group courses will help parents have brave and bold conversations that tell the truth and work towards a more just future. One of the most important impacts anti-racism work has on future generations and I plan to invest heavily in anti-racism for the future in this next year.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory is spending time as a young kid at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the Science Center. I actually spent a few summers participating in an entomology summer camp there as a kid and those were some of my favorite memories. I was convinced that I was going to become an entomologist one day because of it. Really, when I look back at that experience, it was so special because it was a moment in my life before I could fully comprehend any of the limitations or barriers ahead of me. I felt like an expert in something and I felt seen and heard and like I mattered. I want all of our babies to feel that way and for that feeling to be sustained throughout life.

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Image Credits

Marc Alt Photography

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