Jessica Turner

Student

Where were you born and raised?
North Kansas City, Missouri.

What is your occupation?
Full-time Rockhurst University student; intern at Youth Ambassadors, and part-time cashier at Hy-Vee.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory occurred when I was around 11-years-old. My family had joined a new church about six months prior and I was in bliss with all the new friends I had made. However, the real joy came when my church first started partnering with Toys for Tots. I remember unpacking all the toys from the plastic Santa-like bags and placing each toy delicately on the tables. I was prepared to give each family a little bit more joy for the holiday season. I remember helping each little boy, girl, or guardian find the perfect gift for their loved one. On this day, I knew I was made for that feeling. The feeling of spreading joy, watching each smile light up the room, and sharing the love I was shown from such a young age.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is SUCH an important month to me. I don't just see it as a month to learn about our great ancestors, but to also honor our brothers and sister who are working hard to create history. Black History Month is a month to dedicate specific appreciation to Black people from the past, the present, and the future.

What do you believe is the most important issue currently facing the Black community?
I believe that unity is one of the most profound issues facing the Black community. I think that the Black experience is not just one experience, but that the community should work to pursue more unity within itself.

When did you realize you were Black in America and what has that meant for your life?
I first realized I was Black in my community on the first day of kindergarten. There were four Black kindergartners between two classes of almost 30 each and those same Black kindergartners made up the Black population at my elementary school. It was a huge adjustment for me because inside my home I was Black, but it wasn't magnified to that degree. The first time I realized I was Black in America was in 5th grade. Obama was running for presidency against Mitt Romney and my teacher decided to have a mock election with real politicians. I remember casting my vote so confidently and in response to my confidence a white student said, "You're only voting for him because he's Black!" After former President Obama won the election, I felt this sense of separation even amongst my 5th grade peers. We were allowed to choose where we sat and those same four Black students sat at the table together. I think deep down we knew that we were all supposed to keep each other safe.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration to push for change?
A couple of years ago, I had the grand opportunity to meet Rachel Proudie. She was and is the most empowering Black woman I have ever met. She's blunt, encouraging, and very energetic. She also told me this very important statement, "The same people who will look in your face and say they support you are the same people who vote on bills that are meant to hurt people like you." I took this as a call to action. This very statement matured me beyond my years. I thrive on it and it is part of the reason I am where I am today. Some may take this as harsh, but it is exactly what I needed to keep going.

How have you supported or contributed to the local Black community?
I usually hate speaking upon what I've done for the local Black community because, to me, I am just getting started. However, most of my free time in the past was spent helping at food pantries, delivering food and other supplies to homeless, and just lending a helping hand wherever I could. I am so happy that I am able to dive in deeper and to continue to learn where the Black community needs my support.

Your home for the Tokyo Olympics!