Q&A with Chris Kessell, our new Racial Justice Coordinator!
Chris is pictured below with his wife, Monica, and his three children, twins Alex & Jada (9) and Kaia (11).
Chris Kessell is YWCA Charleston's new Racial Justice Coordinator. A St. Albans WV born community organizer, activist, artist, and coach, Chris is a West Virginia State University graduate and an East End of Charleston resident. He has an over 15-year professional career in community development work that includes youth development and mentoring with WVSU 4-H along with homeless outreach and aftercare services with Roark-Sullivan Lifeway Centers. He also has more than a decade of experience in youth sport coaching and is currently the volunteer President of West Side Soccer Club in Charleston.
We wanted to know more about him, and wanted to share what we found in this Q&A session!
Q1: Why were you drawn to work at YWCA Charleston?
YWCA Charleston has a long history of doing wonderful work in the community and features some of the most committed board members you will find in the region. From observing the great work done by peers in the homeless outreach/care field during my time at Roark Sullivan Lifeway Center and seeing first-hand this outstanding commitment by board members, I knew that the YWCA was a place where I could not only grow professionally, but could achieve personal goals while doing work that would provide a positive impact on the entire community.
Q2: Why is racial justice important to you personally?
It is imperative that I, as a father of three bi-racial children, do my all to leave the world they live in a better place than it was when I entered it.
Q3: What is your favorite pastime?
I have quite a few hobbies that I enjoy, but coaching is by far the thing I like doing the most in my spare time. I currently am the volunteer president of West Side Soccer Club here in Charleston and coach young players several days a week along with mentoring new coaches in a program we have developed to help them be the best coaches they can be.
Q4: What’s next for the YWCA Racial Justice Program?
We currently are working on a series of educational programs called “Kitchen Table Conversations.” These are being designed to help people become more comfortable having uncomfortable conversations about race in our country.
Q5: What are some things people can do to eliminate racism?
At the individual level, a great first step is to listen to, validate, and ally with the people who experience incidences of racism. Listening to and then trusting those who report racism is necessary. Unfortunately, most people of color report that white people do not take their claims of racism seriously. Anti-racism begins with this most basic of respects - believing a person to be truthful - being extended to all people.
At the community level, it is imperative that we all learn about the racism that occurs where we live and do something about it. We can accomplish this by participating in and supporting anti-racist community events, protests, rallies, and programs.
At the national level, you can contact your representatives about changing systemic issues that affect communities of color disproportionally.