We had the good fortune of connecting with Chiany Dri and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chiany, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Growing up in the child welfare system, as a mixed race Black Latina, having been a teen mom, a lot of the messages I received were that I was not worthy of pursuing big moments for myself. I think that’s a similar experience for a lot of people who have have faced early hardships and adversity. So, with this said, taking risks for me isn’t just about taking the plunge or diving into the unknown. It’s about re-parenting myself into believing that I am worth the risk to begin with. Taking risks for myself is part of how I also model what perseverance, resilience, and community can look like for others who are facing similar challenges in their own lives.
Just recently, I took a risk in applying for a job after three years of doing consulting and trainings in anti-racism work. I came across this job randomly, that I thought of as my ‘dream job,’ and I decided just to go for it and apply. I forced myself to shift my thinking to “The worst you can hear back is ‘no'” to “you never know what could happen.” I took more risks in using my interview time to tell my personal story and to share my work and I ended up getting the job. Risk taking, for me, has been fruitful and worth it. When I have perceived failures, I shift my internal language from failing to learning.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Over the course of the past 8 years, I’ve dedicated the majority of my work to community-centered care and equity work in Ventura and Santa Barbara county. I started this work in 2014 while designing and running programs for teen and young parents in Ventura County with an organization called Secure Beginnings. I later joined the team at The Empowerment Workshop to write and develop programming and curriculum for their comprehensive sex-ed program that focused on anti-racism and anti-oppression for middle schoolers and high schoolers. During this same time I co-founded two social justice groups, The Ojai Alliance for Education Equity and Juneteenth Santa Barbara, then about three years ago, I moved this work into anti-racism consulting work under the name Impact for Justice. In this role, I was going into my community, into non-profit organizations, and school systems to train educators in anti-racism curriculum and facilitate workshops for youth. I also have been providing consulting services and one-on-one coaching with a variety of clients from different occupational, educational, racial/ethnic backgrounds. I will be moving my consulting work to selected clients only in May 2021, as I recently accepted an offer to become the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. This is a new role for the organization as well, allowing me creativity in developing a thriving DEI culture at Planned Parenthood. I’m really proud of all of my accomplishments, as each accomplishment led to bigger opportunities and moments in my life. Without one of these moments in my life, there would not have been the other and with that, all of my work has felt so interconnected.
Was it easy? Definitely not. It’s still not always easy. I am 27 years old, which means I’ve been working in community-centered equity work, professionally, since I was 19 years old. What this means is that I’ve typically been the youngest person in every space I’ve occupied and many times I’ve also been the only woman of color in the decision making room. It’s empowering to know that I could sit in these spaces and create some impact, but being heard, seen, and taken seriously in these spaces has been a huge challenge that I continue to overcome to this day. Even more, being someone who has been deeply impacted by so many of the issues I teach and train around, I recognize how hard it is to be seen and heard when you are someone who, statistically, shouldn’t even have access to the opportunities I’ve been provided. With this understanding comes a huge and important responsibility to lifting others into the work and into these spaces, as I make my way into them as well.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One of my favorite spots to go with friends is Barsha in Hermosa Beach. Barsha is an amazing Tunisian restaurant that is Black owned and serves the most amazing Tunisian and Mediterranean style food and drinks. I really recommend trying their orange wine as well. The couple who owns Barsha is also wonderful and it’s important that we are actively support BIPOC businesses in the South Bay and all throughout Los Angeles County.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to give a shoutout to Healing Justice, Santa Barbara, a Black led and Black centered organizing collective in Santa Barbara, CA working toward collective healing and liberation for Black people and communities as well as El Centro, a Santa Barbara non-profit offering mutual aid and rapid response to Santa Barbara’s most marginalized communities. Both of these organizations have continuously helped me to learn more and more about what it means to be compassionate and fearless in change-making work for our communities.
Image credits to Marc Alt Photography, Brandi Crockett Photography and Two Fish Digital