Working at the intersection of community, policy, and social good, Jamira Burley is a social justice activist and head of youth engagement and skills at the Global Business Coalition for Education. As a graduate of Temple University, Jamira has worked for the School District of Philadelphia, City of Philadelphia Youth Commission, Amnesty International USA, and Hillary For America.
Due to a fervent yearning for wanting to improve the lives of others, Jamira was appointed by former United Nations Secretary General, Ban Kim-moon to the United Nations Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group in 2014. In addition to her international recognition, Jamira is also a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, MIT Director’s Fellow, and White House Champion of Change.
In this episode of our Take Ownership Podcast, Jamira chats with us about having the heart of an activist and head of a strategist, contemplating thoughts of suicide, and staying grounded through friendship.
Heart of an Activist, Head of a Strategist…
“I think that some of the best strategists of our time have been those at the forefront of change such as activists,” says Jamira. “I’m in this work for my heart because I am passionate about it. I am also bringing the skills that I learned in a range of different backgrounds including my time at Temple as a business major to help facilitate the change that I want to see.”
Jamira started doing the work that she does on a daily basis for the purpose of dealing with her own trauma. In 2005, Jamira’s brother was shot and killed in Philadelphia, PA. “I remember feeling so helpless,” says Jamira. “I did not have money, I was not a politician, no one would listen to me.” Through this experience, Jamira was motivated by many of the mentors and elders in her space that told her that she can do something. Ever since Jamira has been working adamantly to ensure that fewer lives are being lost to gun violence. “30,000 Americans are killed every year due to gun violence and it is preventable if we had the political will and capital to make the change,” says Jamira.
Contemplating Thoughts of Suicide…
“There was a moment for me at 15 years old where I had become exhausted,” says Jamira. “I think that we put burdens on young people. They have so much responsibility that often times, adults should be carrying.” In Jamira’s case, she had been caring for her siblings as much as her parents should have, while being faced with a myriad of other challenges as a teenager. Due to the overwhelming demands of her life at the time, Jamira considered suicide. “It was a moment for me thinking about how bottled down, exhausted, and tired I was,” says Jamira. “I also just felt as though we did not have anything. For a moment, I picked up the handgun, went into the bathroom, and closed the door…”
As fate should have it, Jamira fell out of her trance when the police knocked on the door moments later. This made her realize that often times we don’t realize the burden, the trauma, and the weight that people are carrying around with them until it’s too late. Now Jamira realizes the more work she does that is aligned with her calling, the more she realizes there is so much to live for. “When people are dying so readily in our community, they need a champion that can fight for them. They need someone that is here and alive” says Jamira.
Staying Grounded Through Friendship…
“What keeps me grounded, humble, and sane is my circle of friends,” says Jamira. “This is a circle that I have curated over the last few years which consists of people who are doing amazing work in their own right. They remind me of the complexities of the experiences that we are all going through. Being surrounded by people I admire, people I love, and people who check me when I need to be checked helps.”
The advice Jamira would offer to people who are trying to determine their own self-care routine, includes the following: “I think that the biggest part of self-care is surrounding yourself with people who care about you enough to not just ask you how you are doing, but rather…make the time to ask, “How are you really doing?”
Owning Our Power…
“The issues that are happening in Philadelphia are happening around the country. The issues that are happening around the country are happening around the world” says Jamira. “There is something to be said about finding the creativity, resources, and skills that we have in addition to where our passion lies and seeing how we can bring this to a movement. Being woke requires us to learn about an issue through our own lens, come to our own conclusion, and take action based on the information we have concluded. Being aware is not enough!”
(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking brand strategist, curator, and educator. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he is extremely passionate about bridging the gap and building value between brands, communities, and culture. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.