In the Spotlight



BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN

Kismet Loftin-Bell
What makes you YOU?
I’m a huge advocate for accessing and utilizing talents as strengths. My Superpowers aka Strengths are Strategic, Input, Futuristic, Intellection, and Ideation, which means I am constantly thinking through ideas and scenarios. Prior to learning about the Gallup Clifton Strengths Assessment, I thought something was wrong with me because I would always have ideas no matter what the topic was and could see connections in disparate concepts. I wanted to complete all of these ideas, but couldn’t. After taking the assessment, I was affirmed in who I am, so I began to embrace this part of me. I realized that maybe the idea is not for me to execute, but for me to share with others. So, that’s what I do.
Ironically, my lowest strength is empathy. While I find this somewhat comical due to my profession as a college professor and advisor, I know that I care, love, and serve others in a different way, and have done so since being in Winston-Salem by serving on a number of organizational boards and working and/or leading in a number of service-based non-profits.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of helping my son discover and go after his strengths and interests after he gave up on school in the 11th grade. By listening to him, he not only finished high school, but he took college courses as a high school student, made the Dean’s List, and graduated college with a certificate in welding. This was a child who had an individualized education plan (IEP) since 3rd grade in every subject.
What keeps you going when things are tough?
Knowing that other people are counting on me to show up and trusting in a power greater than my own.
What keeps you up at night?
Literally, thoughts, ideas, and scenarios of solutions and next steps.
Jillian Sechrest
What makes you, YOU?
I am steadfastly stubborn and maternal. I had my daughter, Isabel, in January 2018. I am unsure who I was prior to having her. Outside of being a mother my passion has been a defining factor in much of my adult life. People are the driver of much of my passion – discourse surrounding the greater mysteries and struggles in life and how perspective influences and manifests belief. It can explain so much regarding how someone sees a path from Point A to Point B.
What are you most proud of?
My daughter. Outside of parenthood, it would be the work of organizers and activists who I am fortunate to work with and learn from. I have been involved with Winston Salem Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) since around 2017 and have seen it blossom from a branch, helmed by dedicated organizers, to a chapter now touting over 100 members. Housing Justice Now started as a working group within the chapter, in collaboration with International Socialists Organization, and has continued to develop and grow. The work of Housing Justice Now and Forsyth Court Support is what I am most proud of – direct work with those impacted by active economic disenfranchisement that exposes the fissures and biases existent within our housing and judiciary systems. It is hard to describe the feeling that comes from fighting alongside people who have reclaimed their power despite the intentional hurdles continuously placed before them. It’s beautiful.
What keeps you going when things are tough?
Solidarity should be considered a verb and not a noun. It is an action and it has been the thing that carries me through the trenches. The people I am blessed to organize alongside, they keep the work moving. There are days when the emotional load is a lot to carry – on those days instead of screaming into the void I have an incredible group of fellow organizers who can help me process much of what I am feeling. It is not easy shifting from an atomized and stoic disposition to one that is more open to communalization and vulnerability. It has been a needed shift that has helped me grow not only as an organizer but as a mother and human being.
What keeps you up at night?
The work being done across the city from Prisoner Outreach Initiative to Triad Abolition Project, from Hate Out of Winston and Sistas 4 Change – there is so much that needs to be done.


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