LACBC Welcomes Jesi Harris as Organizing Director
LACBC is happy to announce that Jesi Harris has joined our team as our new Organizing Director. Jesi comes to us from the LA LGBT Center, where she served in multiple capacities, including direct service, outreach, health education, and professional capacity building.
A native of North Carolina, Jesi earned her BA in Psychology and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and followed her studies working with adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping them feel safe and included in their communities.
We sat down with Jesi to ask a few questions to introduce her to the LACBC community.
What was it like growing up in North Carolina?
North Carolina is a beautiful place — a fact I didn’t fully appreciate until seeing other parts of the world. My childhood memories are replete with the verdant, rolling hills of the Piedmont region, the scent of pine in the forests, and the changing leaves of autumn. I spent a lot of time biking through bucolic dreamlands near Chapel Hill where I attended university. North Carolina, however, is still very conservative and segregated so, as a queer, black person, I always had a sense that I had to leave and find a more welcoming locale to call home.
What brought you out to the West Coast?
You’ll recall the 90’s and early 2000’s when MTV was obsessed with the West Coast. In fact, it was romanticized all over the place as the land of ultimate freedom and opportunity, so I think as a baseline I always saw California as a place that I could go and be myself. I also hate cold weather with a passion, so in the summer of 2013, when my LA-based brother assured me that he could help me get my bearings here, I jumped at the chance and I’ve been an Angeleno ever since.
What are some of the goals you hope to accomplish as Organizing Director?
I would like to see diverse and varied communities able to take part in cycling. I fell in love with riding my bicycle when I was 20 years old and, like most enthusiasts, I want others to be able to share that passion. I especially want more women, people of color, and youth to see cycling as a viable transportation/recreation option. This position gives me the exciting opportunity to empower underserved communities to advocate for cycling accommodations in the physical spaces where they spend time. I plan to do this in fun and exciting ways — through neighborhood bike rides, grassroots fora, and community-based events.
Coming from the LA LBGT Center, what work experiences can you apply to LACBC’s work?
In my four-year tenure at the LA LGBT Center, I worked in four distinct positions — starting in direct service with homeless young people as a Youth Advocate in 2013 and progressing to Outreach Specialist, Health Educator, and Training and Coaching Instructor. This gave me a variety of opportunities to learn about effective methods for reaching at-risk populations, enhancing community health protective factors, and advocacy-based education. I also directly experienced the grief, anger, and frustration associated with losing young people to careless drivers and poorly designed roadways which puts a fire under me to advocate for change.
When did you first ride a bike?
I’ll tell you this — my earliest memory is of my dad crying and rushing me to the emergency room after I’d fallen from my tricycle, busting my chin on our gravel driveway. I got one stitch and a piece of candy before promptly falling asleep. My dad was still crying on the drive home. I think I was three.
What do like about living in Los Angeles?
I hear people complaining about the heat a lot in LA and I get it — it’s hot. But it’s probably my favorite thing. That and how diverse it is. One of the first things I noticed on public transit here are all the different languages being spoken and the unlikely interactions people have when sharing public space with those unlike them. I’m also known to say that “LA is to food what Rome was to democracy.” Yes, that’s a direct quote from me and yes, you can use it.
You can congratulate Jesi and email her at: Jesi@la-bike.org