The Hilliard P. Jenkins Fellowship (HPJ Fellowship) is a summer program that allows undergraduate students to take part in the work and efforts of Frontline Solutions. For this “Where are they now?” series, past Fellows look back on their summer experience and share what they have been up to since their time as a Fellow.
Alayah Glenn is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she majored in Public Policy and African American Diaspora Studies. While at UNC she served as the Associate Director of Mentoring for Movement of Youth, the Membership and Elections Chair of the Black Student Movement, and Co-President of the Caribbean Student Association. Currently, Alayah resides in Montgomery, Alabama where she works as a Justice Fellow at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a non-profit organization and law firm that challenges issues of racial discrimination and poverty.
Long before Alayah made her way to Montgomery she served as an HPJ Fellow in the summer of 2012, an experience she largely credits to 2011 Fellow and now Frontline Consultant, Khayla Deans.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the persistence and diligence of Khayla. We were in a class together on Racial Justice and American Law and we were both passionate about racial injustice and how it relates to American history. We would have conversations about social issues and I would express my desire to work to challenge those issues. Khayla said it [HPJ Fellowship] changed her perspective on what policy can do, direct action, and what non-profits can do. That’s not something I had ever considered. It had never occurred to me that you could work towards the symptomatic aspects of policy issues while things were getting done.”
As an HPJ Fellow, Alayah played a critical role in the Black Male Engagement Project, a project started by the Knight Foundation. As part of the project, she was able to travel to DC to work with Frontline partners and sit-in on meetings with the president of the Knight Foundation.
“Not only was I there as a support to Frontline, but as a face. My input was encouraged and valued. That was very generous of the partners but it affirmed a sense of confidence that I was here for a reason and that I did bring something that no one else brought to the table. That was really fulfilling because I felt that I had a lasting impact.”
One of her most memorable roles involved hiring program directors for the BME project.
“I had just turned 20 and I was hiring people. I was going through applications, I called people, and I had phone interviews with them. Marcus (Senior Partner) had complete faith in me, they felt that I was capable and they allowed me to show them that I was”.
Overall, Alayah recognizes the positive impact the fellowship had on her. For one, she notes she would have never met Bryan Stevenson (Executive Director of EJI) nor heard of the Justice Fellowship had it not been for Frontline’s annual Gathering of Leaders event. As a Justice Fellow, Alayah’s work has centered on research for their upcoming 2015 Calendar which aims to educate people on racial bias in the U.S and its continued impact on our society.
“The calendar includes provocative pictures and side-bar text that re-imagine what was happening during the era of Reconstruction, contextualizing what really happened so that when we look at issues like mass incarceration or racial bias we can say it didn’t just come out of nowhere. Instead, it is due to the kind of experiences that people of color had decades ago”.
In addition to her research, Alayah plays a role in supporting EJI’s clients. “We go see how they are doing [in jail], making sure that they are being treated well. It’s important that they know that the people who represent them, care about them”. As she delves deeper into racial injustice and poverty issues at EJI, Alayah is quick to note her continued dedication to working to the change the legal system and combat various social injustices- something the fellowship helped her realize.
“I can’t express how much the HPJ fellowship completely changed my perspective of what was possible for me and what change could look like. It was impactful to my career trajectory and what I could even dare to want in my career and how I can be part of changing my community. I don’t have to be stuck in just one thing, HPJ taught me that you don’t have to choice one interest, you can do it all.”