Introducing Jazkia: CENTER Youth Advocate

I feel like it’s important, when introducing myself, to get all of the surface level aspects of my identity out into the open. I’m biracial. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I’m a senior at Catlin Gabel. I have an intense love for reading and writing. These are the first things I tell people about myself, but just because they are the first doesn’t mean there isn’t an important story behind my connection to each of them. It’s funny, because I use these as an easy introduction to who I am, but they are far more complex than I present them. I am biracial. Three words that hold eighteen years worth of identity crises, a handful of people asking “what are you?”, and enough strangers feeling the need to touch my hair to make want to keep it up at all times. I tell people this because I feel like it’s something they need to know and to avoid inquisitive looks about how I identify when faced with the ambiguity of my skin color and hair. I’m biracial. My dad is Black and my mom’s white. Simple. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Portland, the city I call home. The city that has given me everything but taken so much.

I say I love Portland like how I say I love the United States, only sometimes, but the feeling I get when returning to my city after being somewhere else is like breathing again. I’m from Portland, Oregon. When introducing myself to new people, all of these parts of my identity come out, but whether or not my story connected to those identifiers is visible depends on my comfort level.

As the CENTER Youth Advocate, I serve as the connection between the CENTER and Portland youth, to spread city-wide opportunities aimed for education and action and am also responsible for researching youth programs or workshops, providing the CENTER as a hub for students to get involved. I do this work not only because I care deeply about my community, but because I want to give back to that community by affecting actual change. Voicing my concerns about the future of my community can only do so much, but being here at the CENTER and doing this work affirms that I am doing all I can to be a positive and helpful person in the fight to create change.


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