By Jhmira Alexander
I’ve left journalism and I’ve left Chicago.
But I came back to the city I love and now it’s time to help shore up the profession I’m passionate about.
In starting my new job as co-president of Public Narrative with Susy Schultz, I am ready. It could seem overwhelming. After all, we have a simple but huge mission to change the public narrative on racism, sexism and xenophobia. Still, my background in media, community engagement and youth development paired with my passion for Chicago means I am set to go out and make change one project at a time.
I know this work includes the media. But I also know it can’t be done without Chicago’s people and its neighborhood leaders as well as its next generation of emerging leaders. That is where I come in.
I’m here to make a difference. In my work at Public Narrative, here’s what you can expect from me. I intend to:
- Talk to people directly and with respect.
- Listen. Not to contradict, but to understand.
- Attend meetings with the purpose of getting things done.
- Never give false hope.
- Contribute where I can be effective.
- Keep a good balance between my work and my life.
- Never abandon what I believe in.
I was born and lived in the South Chicago neighborhood for eleven years before we moved to Crete where I went to high school. I went to Bradley University in Peoria where I graduated with a degree in broadcast communication. Sophomore through senior year, you could find me at News 25, the NBC affiliate in East Peoria, where I learned to direct the news cast.
But I found I needed more than the television studio. So I moved to the East Coast and worked for Job Corp. There I realized how fortunate I was, how much support I had in my life and how the work I did for young people could change the trajectory of their lives.
I also noticed what people thought of my city, my town, Whenever I told people I was coming home to visit my family in Chicago, people would get sentimental. Sometimes I was hugged as if I was going off to war and might never be seen again. I knew people were reacting to the stories about the violence in our city, but I also knew it was ridiculous.
There was such a huge disconnection between perception and reality. The misperception my friends and colleagues had about Chicago took root in me. I knew, at some point, I’d return home to help bridge the gap. And I knew it would began with social media because it was what had kept me connected with family and friends.
I returned to Chicago to live in 2015, I decided I would dedicate much of the rest of my life to serving others. Not out of obligation but out of choice and heart.
Jhmira Alexander, who lives in the South Shore neighborhood, is co-president of Public Narrative.