Jauqua Preston Wilkins

Vice President of Programs and Operations at the Urban League of Greater Kansas City

Where were you born and raised?
Kansas City, MO.

What is your occupation?
Vice President of Programs and Operations at the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
One of my favorite childhood memories was attending cultural events with my mother. Attending various events with my mother developed a strong foundation of belonging and acceptance through cultural celebration and education. Those moments in my childhood might seem small but I have a cultural appreciation and awareness which contribute to building a positive self image for myself.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
To me, Black History Month is a celebration of every single American of African descent. It is representative of our struggles, our resilience and our triumphs. It shows that we are all connected, that we all share the same problems and that we can all work together to find solutions. It represents our unity and our continued effort to do better and be better. It celebrates our will to push through adversity and also highlights how far we have come. Black History represents my connection to a part of my identity and also emphasizes the responsibility I have to both myself and my community to continue to strive for greatness.

What do you believe is the most important issue currently facing the Black community?
Systematic Inequality, unfortunately, wealth in this country is unequally distributed by race. Black families have a fraction of the wealth of white families, leaving them more economically insecure and with far fewer opportunities for economic mobility. Less wealth translates into fewer opportunities for upward mobility and is compounded by lower income levels and fewer chances to build wealth or pass accumulated wealth down to future generations.

When did you realize you were Black in America and what has that meant for your life?
I always knew that I was black. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I went to a predominately white grade school, however I attended a predominantly black church - St. James United Methodist Church, and I spent my summers in East St. Louis, IL. Being black wasn't an issue until I got to high school. We had a few race related issues at my high school. Being Black in America was empowering for me. My parents, my grandparents, my family taught me to be proud of the skin that I am in.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration to push for change?
I am blessed enough in my life to have incredible parents and have had amazing grandparents. But I was really blessed to have one truly inspirational person, my maternal grandfather. My grandfather was my inspiration. He changed my view of life. He challenged me to to always do better and always asked me if I was, "empowering or enabling" those that I was working with throughout my career.

How have you supported or contributed to the local Black community?
My greatest passion is to be able to serve those with the greatest need, which is why I devote a significant amount of time in closing disparities gaps in my community. The Mission of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City is to enable African Americans and other disadvantaged persons to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights. I support our mission by providing the following programs; Project Ready: ACT NOW!, Parent Education & Empowerment Center, Career Marketplace, Digital Spectrum Academy, and Financial Education. Though my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, I am dedicated to implementing programs of service that enhance the social, economic, and educational well-being of my community; HBCU for Life: A Call to Action, Women's Healthcare and Wellness, and Building Your Economic Legacy.

Season of Hope Toy Drive