November 1, 2013 | By wonkum |
Congratulations to our November 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month, Janaye Ingram!
Janaye Ingram is the Acting National Executive Director of National Action Network (NAN) and oversees NAN’s action agenda and legislative advocacy work under Founder and President, Rev. Al Sharpton. In this role, she focuses on various issues including education, criminal justice, housing, technology, economic development and healthcare among others. Janaye has been with the organization for two years, previously serving as the Washington, DC Bureau Chief, during which she led the organization’s efforts around the 2012 Voter Engagement Tour, coalition work on issues like Stand Your Ground, planning of the 2012 and 2013 conventions and most recently planning the “National Action to Realize the Dream Rally and March” in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.
Through her work with NAN, she has become a recognized voice on politics and activism with a weekly blog on Loop21 (www.loop21.com), a weekly segment on the syndicated radio show, “Keepin’ It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton” as well as appearances and features in other media including MSNBC, TVOne’s “Washington Watch with Roland Martin”, The Huffington Post and TheGrio.com. Prior to joining NAN, she held various positions with nonprofits in New York and New Jersey focused on fundraising and development, marketing, communications and government relations for several nonprofits.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University and a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from The New School University. Her strong leadership skills and commitment to diversity have landed her in the exclusive fellowships of National Urban Fellows America’s Leaders of Change and Give1 Project. While not working on NAN issues, Ms. Ingram serves as a National Board Member for the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (www.weenonline.org), an Editorial Board Member for emPower Online Magazine (www.empowermagazine.com) and a mentor for Brown Girls Lead. Her commitment to giving back led to the founding of Ambassadors of Hope, a scholarship and volunteer involvement campaign that benefits various national and international nonprofit organizations.
INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Janaye Ingram
As an advocate and public servant, what inspires you?
I’m inspired by changemakers. Heraclitus once said that the only constant is change. But unfortunately, not all things change when they should or without some assistance. I am constantly inspired by people who saw their way to create change even when the odds and the obstacles were stacked against them. And it’s not just in the famous names we know, but there are people every day who defy the odds, who change people’s minds, their perceptions and beliefs. When someone can do that, it’s truly inspiring.
What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?
I wish that I could say that I have this figured out, but in honesty, I don’t. I think for me, I try to balance all of the things in my life, but there never truly is balance. I try not to allow anything to drop completely and so the scales are constantly moving to adjust to what the priorities are. Even then, I don’t always get it right; there are going to be emails that might take too long to get answered, there may be board meetings that I have to miss or maybe a weekend with the girls is off the table. But, when I think that my plate has gotten too full, I allow myself to make the hard decision when to let something go and don’t guilt myself for not being able to juggle it all.
What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing a new venture?
I think a lot of young professionals want “it” now. We are hungry and persistent and we have big thoughts and ambitions, but our desire to not allow things to develop at a pace also can set us up for failure. It takes time to build a strong foundation. So whatever the “it” is – be it a new job, an affinity group, a program, a social organization – we sometimes see the potential in what the venture could be but don’t always think through the process of getting there. We start it with the possibilities in mind and it can be discouraging to have to deal with the setbacks or to not see a venture turn out the way that you saw it in your head. We have to remember that anything that is going to last needs a strong foundation that is built over time.
What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to diversify their skill sets and become involved with issues such as education, criminal justice, housing, technology, economic development and healthcare, especially people of color?
My advice would be to just do it. You don’t need qualifications to get involved. If you are interested in education, volunteer your evening at an afterschool program working with students. If you are interested in criminal justice, find a criminal justice program and set up an informational meeting with the Executive Director. Read up on technology issues or healthcare policy and find places where you can apply your skills. We live in an age when the information that we need to become educated on various subjects is right at our fingertips and there is always a community organization, church or person who is in need of assistance. Networking with other like-minded individuals helps and there are sites where you can find people who share similar interests like meetup.com. We are the ones that often stand in our own way setting up mental roadblocks as to why we can’t get involved in something. If you are willing to commit the time to an issue, find an organization, group or church that is doing the work and help out. And if there isn’t an organization, group or church doing the work, start one.
What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?
The best experience of my career was planning the 50th Anniversary March on Washington. It was truly an honor to work on something that both commemorated such an historic event, but also served to lift up the issues that are still plaguing our society today. The planning process wasn’t easy and there were many sleepless nights and moments where I felt like I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But through it all there were people there lighting the way by offering a helping hand or sending a thoughtful note and it made all the difference. Standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial that day and seeing the throngs of people who traveled from near and far to both commemorate and challenge the status quo made the experience rewarding.
What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?
I’ve recently been appointed as the Acting Executive Director so maybe people should look out for the removal of the “acting” part of the title. I’m also looking forward to doing more social justice work internationally. But I’ve learned through the years that life can be unexpected. What I thought I’d be doing 5 years ago is not what I’m doing now. So I am okay just going with what God has planned and allowing myself to be used in a way that can help my community.
Lastly, give me three words to sum up Janaye Ingram?
Inquisitive, determined, altruistic
How can people connect with you on Twitter?
You can follow me at @Janaye_Ingram.