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February 20, 2023

Meet Tannya

你们好! Bonjour! こんにちは! Konnichiwa! 안녕하세요! Annyeong Haseyo! Hola! Hello! My name is Tannya Jenkins. My pronouns are she, her, ella, and I am currently serving as the Chief of People & Culture or the Chief Human Resources Officer here at FriendsPDX. I am a first-generation, African American born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. In 2008, I was recruited to join one of the world’s largest tech organizations. I had no idea that over a decade later, I would consider the beautiful, green-lush, Pacific Northwest, my home.

My parents were both born and raised in Detroit, Michigan as well. However, both my maternal and paternal grandparents were born and raised in the South. Growing up in the city of Detroit, some of my fondest memories were those spent with my elders, and my grandparents; listening to groovy music (Earth, Wind, & Fire); singing (The Temptations); dancing; and eating good food (baked chicken, green veggies, hot-water cornbread with buttermilk, and pineapple, upside down cake for dessert). IYKYK!

As I reflect on my favorite childhood memories, I can vividly recall summers and special occasions at my grandma’s house. My grandma was unconditional love, faith, hope, positivity, joy, peace, patience, determination, and perseverance personified. She was a powerful force of nature, and her very existence inspired me to embrace my culture as well as the cultures of those around me. Each of my elders taught me never to despise my humble beginnings but instead consider my journey a beautiful blessing—filled with infinite possibilities. “If you can believe, you can achieve” was one of the sayings my Mom and my elders taught me to believe in. I grew up knowing that there was no limit to what I could do, be, or accomplish in life. My Mom would often tell me that I had seeds of greatness on the inside of me and it was my responsibility to have faith, believe in myself and the beauty of my dreams, and relentlessly pursue my life’s purpose and destiny—all while encouraging others to do the same. As the eldest daughter of five, Mom had high expectations for me.

Grandma was a phenomenal storyteller, and like our ancestors before her, she would often tell us stories about her mom, who worked as a midwife in the deeply segregated South, or my great-grandfather, who worked as a sharecropper. Through the years, the stories of my ancestor’s determination, strength, resilience, and tenacity have long been a source of affirming, positive, inspiration, and constant encouragement for me. My Mom and elders once told me that though I stand as one, I come as thousands. This simple statement ignited a spirit of fearlessness in me which served as the wind beneath my wings as I set out to travel the world, study, and work abroad. My roots run deep down through the South, into the depth of the deep blue seas, and all the way around the world.

I am because of them! The spirit of my ancestors coupled with my faith, my belief in myself, and my insatiable appetite to learn, grow, and succeed have led me to dare to dream impossible dreams, learn to speak several different foreign languages, earn a few college degrees, and study and work on continents spanning across the globe, from Asia (China, Japan, Korea, etc.) to (South) Africa! I am so very thankful and grateful for so many things and I wouldn’t trade anything for my incredible journey!

With these four simple words, Mom and my elders passed the torch to me, when they said, "each generation gets better!" Although my formative years were filled with seemingly insurmountable trials, tribulations, and life-changing obstacles, with unwavering faith, perseverance, grit, belief in myself, and the will to fulfill my God-given destiny, I was first-gen and now my babies are second-gen! We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams!

February is Black History Month. FriendsPDX fully acknowledges that Black history is more than a month, as Carmen points out, it should be every month! Within our program, we have year-round cultural activities and programming for the FriendsPDX community to embrace, learn, and love their identity.