What does it mean to know who you are?

In speaking with the newest Energy Assistance Program Client Advocate Jada Stevenson, we dig into her background, her family history, and the role she believes Black women play in creating an equitable future for Black Washingtonians.

Jada’s great great grandmother Lonnie (left) and her sister (right)

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I was born in Hot Springs Arkansas. My dad was in the army, so we moved around quite a bit. We’ve moved to Texas, Georgia, back to Arkansas and then up here to Washington state.

I have some pretty deep Southern roots, most of my family lives in and around Arkansas and has done so for generations. I’m blessed to have a fairly in-depth family history, my family has done a lot of research on my ancestors and as a result, I have the privilege of being able to trace my family back several generations. One of my ancestors was a doctor and commander in the Civil War, another took part in building the White House. 

There’s such pride in being Black, in knowing my history so I can stand in it. I thank my ancestors every single day. Without their strength and ability to persevere and survive, I wouldn’t be here today. It’s a big part of who I am today, and why I am so passionate about working with the Black community.

What does an average day look like in your role at Byrd Barr Place?

I have served as a client advocate for the Energy Assistance Program at Byrd Barr Place since October 2022. It’s been a great learning experience. On an average day I usually get to Byrd Barr Place pretty early, take my breakfast to work, and eat while I catch up with my coworkers. Once the day starts I check emails and voicemails that have come in from various clients and answer any questions they may have.

I work to ensure that all our clients have the support they need to complete their applications. Basically my job is to break down the process. It’s a lot to remember and folks are often coming into Byrd Barr Place during a stressful time in their lives. My role is to be kind, gentle and understanding so people feel comfortable getting the assistance they need.

How does it feel to be a part of Byrd Barr Place, specifically being able to connect the community with essential services like electricity, rent and water?

I love Byrd Barr Place, it’s one of the best places I’ve ever worked. I am so honored to get the chance to learn about people’s backgrounds, stories, and see why they are here. My family has gone through tough times, so I’ve been in similar situations. I get it, I understand how hard things can be.

I also understand how much of a relief it can be to have these types of bills paid for. Energy bills can be very expensive, especially in Seattle. Many people are still bouncing back from the COVID pandemic. It’s good to know that there is a place where people can go and receive financial assistance and have that burden taken off their shoulders so they can focus on other things.

Jada and friends at a lunar new year market.

In fact, I really wish there were places like Byrd Barr Place back where I came from, especially in Arkansas where people don’t necessarily have access to these kinds of services. It’s absolutely amazing what Byrd Barr Place is doing for the community.

March is Women’s History Month, what does an equitable future look like for Black women in particular?

Black women are having a moment right now where they are prioritizing healing and finding themselves. So many Black women have been and continue to be healers in their communities, and their work is finally being recognized. I see it with my friends, sisters and mentors that we are collectively on a path towards reclaiming our health and happiness. My vision for Black women is that this continues and grows.

Byrd Barr Place plays a special part in the lives of our Black women clients. I’ve spoken to clients who feel that they are finally being heard and welcomed. They feel that this is a safe space where their specific needs are addressed.

Who is your favorite woman leader/inspiration and why?

bell hooks is a personal hero of mine. Her books have been a wonderful help in dealing with relationships, love, friendship and the Black family dynamic. Her work has allowed me to formulate my own opinions and thoughts without questioning their validity. She gives me context, her books reveal why things are the way they are. She was incredibly unapologetic, fearless, humble and spunky. More than anything, she was authentic, and that’s why I look up to her.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?

Mind the business that pays you!” 

Sometimes you really just have to mind your own business. If it ain’t got nothing to do with me, then I’m focused on staying in my lane.