Member Spotlight: Nanjala Wafula
Updated: Apr 8, 2018
The word Nanjala uses most frequently to describe her experience in REAL Durham community is “amazing!” As an immigrant from Kenya, REAL Durham has been important to her in helping her understand the African-American experience and her immigrant journey. Learning about African-American history is helping her find her place and navigate life here. She says that having REAL Durham sponsor her racial equity training was “a turning point.” “I wouldn’t be where I am today” without it. She is now more outspoken about race on social media and more likely to speak up about race at her majority-white church. It has also spurred her towards a career working to improve access to healthcare for African-Americans and others living in material poverty.
The [racial equity] training liberated me.
Although Nanjala is a registered nurse and has a master’s degree in Global Health from Duke University, the obstacles to getting a job as an immigrant have meant she has not had a job in eight months. She gets emotional talking about how grateful she is that REAL Durham has stood by her during this difficult time, including making sure she had some emergency assistance when she most needed it. REAL Durham’s “being able to stand with me was so important.”
Nanjala also highlights how her network has expanded by getting to know the Leaders and Allies at REAL Durham. “The beauty and the blessing of being a part of REAL Durham is being able to meet amazing people, whether Leaders or Allies…. They have amazing insights. I get to think about problems differently.” Other Leaders have also helped her access resources she didn’t know about and figure out how to make a place for herself in Durham.
REAL Durham has also helped her learn new ways of coping with stress, particularly after a Monday night session last year on mindfulness. “I’ve learned to stop, or that I don’t need to answer an email today. Sometimes I just do mindful eating. I’ve learned to slow down.”
In her own words...
On REAL Durham. REAL Durham is needed for so many reasons. It’s a good way to help that is not patriarchal, in a way that is empowering. It also offers a good way for Allies to see the strengths of the Leaders. I also feel like we have very honest conversations about race at REAL Durham, even though we are Black and White.
On REAL Durham Allies. What is amazing to me about the group of Allies is that they see [REAL Durham] is a place made for them to lean in and to listen. This is a place where we [people of color] feel very comfortable telling Allies the truth. We say things that are sometimes very raw. It is not easy for minorities to find places to be vulnerable, but I can be vulnerable at REAL Durham.
To potential Leaders. Come and check us out. Come and listen. Sometimes when people see we have white people, they start to get scared, they already have their walls up. But I would say, come check us out. See our Allies. Our Allies are always willing to listen. You have to come and check us out.