Alumnae/i Feature

Designing Pathways: Kenyora Parham '10 Dedicates Career to Serving Marginalized Communities

What drew you to Simmons for your BA in Public Health?

At first, I wanted to be an architectural engineer to use my hands and build buildings and homes. I have always been fascinated with using my creativity to build. I attended an event for admitted students, and I participated in a mock class hosted by Cathryn Mercier. She facilitated a conversation about William Blake’s Tiger & the Lamb, which I was learning simultaneously in my high school AP English Literature class. At that moment, I knew Simmons was the right place for me.

As I grew to understand my path in life, I knew that it wasn’t building skyscrapers and homes — it was building systems and designing pathways for women and girls of color, who often succumb to society’s pressures and systemic oppression. That eventually led me to choose public health as my major.

Tell us about your work at End Rape On Campus.

The mission of End Rape On Campus (EROC) is to end campus sexual violence by providing direct support services for survivors and their communities, prevention through education, and policy reform on the campus, local, state, and federal levels. We envision a world in which each individual has an educational experience free from violence, and until then, that all survivors are believed, trusted, and supported.

Prior to becoming Executive Director at EROC, I was the Chief of Staff and served as the internal-facing senior advisor leading on executive leadership responsibilities. Simply put, my job was to create a work environment and space designed to shift the organization from a scrappy, young organization to a more mature and leading professional organization in the anti-sexual violence movement. In addition to this, it was my job to foster a culturally-humble work environment while overseeing key staff to ensure project management and timelines are met across all verticals — including formalizing a new human resources department.

As Executive Director, I’m responsible for elevating our mission to a new height by shifting the focus on students who, at the intersections of their identities, are historically marginalized and often ignored and silenced in this movement.

What are your goals as President of the African-American Alumnae/i Association (AAAA)?

The AAAA’s aim, in brief, is to lead the continuing development of alumnae/i of African descent. We direct a process that incorporates alumnae/i with students, faculty, and administration to further unify and strengthen the University, while fostering an inclusive environment that addresses the academic, cultural, and social needs of students of African-descent.

Before I led the AAAA (the four A’s), I served as the Vice President and Chair of the 2018 Black Alumnae/i Symposium, which happens every five years in April. It’s a weekend-long event that celebrates the power of our presence on this campus. It serves as a time of reflection while fostering a sense of community and belonging between alumnae/i and students. And it is powerful — for some, it’s their first time seeing so many accomplished Black women in one room. It’s a time where you can be your authentic self.

The AAAA is building and designing new systems that forge positive pathways to elevate our presence, especially for current students. It’s about creating space, learning, and sharing rich, historical facts and experiences to ensure that traditions continue to be passed down from alumnae/i to students. The ability to serve and create systems that can act as a vehicle for people who look like me is rewarding.

I can’t wait to design and develop a space that helps those who look like me to feel their authentic self and equip them with the tools to navigate their professional spaces.

What inspired you to found C-Suite in Living Color?

I founded C-Suite In Living Color because of both the rewarding and challenging experiences moving up in my professional career as a Black woman with Costa Rican roots. Most of my career has been working in nonprofits and higher education institutions where educational opportunities and access were a part of the services of which students, especially students of color, were provided. Within these institutions, I have had my fair share of organizational trauma especially caused by white women. I realized in these spaces that some of these women demonstrated white supremacist values and upheld white privilege actions in both subtle and overt ways.

James Baldwin once stated: “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” I wanted to create a space where others at the intersections of their identities, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are executives or aspiring to be, can come together and be in community with one another. Together, they can learn how to navigate a system that forces them to sacrifice parts of themselves, where they can’t be their whole selves and continue to produce high-quality work.

I can’t wait to design and develop a space that helps those who look like me to feel their authentic self and equip them with the tools to navigate their professional spaces.

What leadership skills did you learn while at Simmons?

While at Simmons, I was a highly engaged student: I was the Education Sparks Coordinator in the Scott/Ross Community Center, founder of the Honors Liaison, President of the Black Student Organization, Secretary of the Caribbean Culture Association, and was a student worker in the Registrar’s Office. I learned the importance of collaboration, strategic planning, engaging in and facilitating difficult conversations and conflict resolutions, and guiding others to tap into and enhance their own skills to help them be better at their craft.

How can alumnae/i connect with the AAAA?

Alumnae/i can connect with us via our Facebook group (closed for AAAA alumnae/i only), Instagram, Twitter, and our Simmons Network Group! For students or alumnae/i interested in joining AAAA: if you have self-reported that you are Black/African within Simmon’s internal systems, you are automatically a part of the group. As long as you have your information updated, you will receive email correspondence from us as well. To update your information, email [email protected].

If you are looking to get involved with the AAAA Executive Board and our committees (program, task force, develop and scholarship), please email [email protected]. We will have more information that will be disseminated out to our community very soon.

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