Pride Month 2021: The Allyship Story of La’Kenya Overton
Pride Month has been quite exciting at Goodera.
From engaging with our nonprofit partners working for the queer community to organizing corporate volunteering activities with these non-profits, Goodera has kickstarted its journey for Pride month and beyond.
As part of our Pride Month campaign #transcend – celebrating the freedom of identity and love, meet the trailblazer of allyship, La’Kenya Overton.
Founder of the nonprofit organization Open Rainbow Residence, La’Kenya helps the LGBTQ+ population who no longer qualify for youth services through her housing and guidance program.
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How did the idea of Open Rainbow Residence occur to you?
A: Open Rainbow residence is a nonprofit geared towards supporting LGBTQ+ young adults that have aged out of most youth programs. As a social worker by career, I work with a population that was struggling with substance abuse.
Back in 2017, a client of mine was looking for housing. She was a trans-woman and told me how hard it was for her to find a program in which she could continue her sobriety, start a career, and be comfortable. At the time, she was 32.
I have worked with the LGBTQ+ community for some years now. There is no program for people who age out of programs after they turn 25 years old. After some research, I discovered that in the entire world, there are no services you can access if you’re between 25 and 45 years of age.
That is when I decided that something had to be done. Opening a residency was the solution I found.
What motivated you to be an authentic ally to the community?
A: Well, I’m a human. And I feel that as humans, we have a right to education, a right to shelter, and a right to food.
The LGBTQ+ folks are like anyone else. No one should be allowed to judge you or tell you that you can’t do something based on their belief of how people should love.
This belief drove me to become an authentic ally to the community.
What challenges have you faced as an ally of the queer community?
A: I am still growing. Though I’ve worked in a nonprofit, I’ve never run a nonprofit before.
I’m a one-woman show. So it’s more of me, late nights and early mornings. I still have a full-time career where I’m working with another organization. So it’s about me having to separate my time and say, “Okay, I’ll do two hours of this, get a good night’s rest, call and ask for help if needed.”
These challenges will grow continuously but they are going to be mine and something that I’m going to have to take care of.
How can an interested party support Open Rainbow Residence?
A: Be open-minded and understand that we are all human at the end of the day.
Sharing my information, donating to my donation page, calling me up, or saying, “Can I volunteer to create a flyer or some content for you?” – small things speak volumes about motivation.
It takes a group of people to manifest stuff. You can reach us here if your corporate team wants to help La’Kenya.
How can people overcome bias and pursue active allyship?
A: Thank you for this question. These are questions and concerns that I asked every day because I am an ally – a woman who is not lesbian or gay.
To pursue active allyship:
- Find people who appreciate inclusivity. You gravitate towards people like you. Some will get it, some won’t.
- Do your research and find out who is willing to assist you or guide you in your allyship journey.
We have our beliefs. But most times, it is our gut feeling that prompts us to move to the next step. My gut feeling is that supporting the LGBTQ+ population who no longer qualify for youth services is a serious need.
Homelessness is all over, not just within the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone needs to understand. But I start where I’m at and I take it forward from there.
Tip: Here is a list of simple and actionable ways in which you can pursue allyship actively.
What are some things you unlearned and learned as an ally of the community?
A: I’m still learning how to approach people and address them. You need to understand what pronouns people use and be respectful of them. I am ‘she/her’. Some people could be ‘they, them.’
It’s about the willingness to listen to a community that has its own vocabulary and its own way of doing things.
People ask me all the time why I do what I do. The answer is that I love it. And when you love it, it’s not a job.
What is that one quote you would like to share with our readers?
A: Elevate your mind, I dare you.
Thank you, La’Kenya.
Start your allyship Journey with Open Rainbow Residence
Do you want to help La’Kenya make a difference?
You can volunteer for Open Rainbow Residence through the virtual volunteering experience curated by Goodera. The experience is impactful and engaging, and the perfect option to help your employees start their virtual volunteering journey.
Interested? Reach out to us here.