An Interview with Onika Jervis, National Field Director, GirlTrek



In this Black and Bold interview, Onika Jervis discusses her leadership journey, being vigilant about self -care, and the importance of having fierce conversations.

00:59 Tell me about your role at GirlTrek and a little bit about the organization.

  • Largest nonprofit movements focused on the health of black women.
  • Girl Trek is powered by volunteers and women who say yes to moving.

06:15 I want to go back to the point that you made about this moment that we’re in post-election and how movements are really the fuel that create change. You called in the legacy of Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer, and I’m just thinking about the ways in which your love of community manifest in the work that you’re doing right now. I’m curious about the other experiences you’ve had in your career that prepared you for the work that you’re doing now.

Can you tell us a little about your previous work experiences and all the tools and experiences you’re bringing to Girl Trek in this role?

  • I found myself taking on all the leadership roles in college. I realized that I loved doing that type of work so I ended up getting my Masters degree in Education Administration.
  • While I was in New York, I started to coach black girls at Title IX schools. This was probably one of the first place where I had to think about how I could take the leadership that I learned to make a big change.
  • Modeling whatever our beliefs are is important to me, and that is something that I really take pride in doing.

13:45 You mentioned earlier on that you have this love of community and that strikes me as a personal value that you carry. I know that working in the social sector is usually tied to a personal anchoring or a connection to one’s values. Can you share a time when your values were in tension and how you reconciled that tension?

  • As organizations grow, sometimes we may be challenged with fundamentally remembering why we’re here.

18:54 With your work, what is your approach to self-care? 

  • Surrounding myself with a group of people that have different self-care rituals and practices that I can join.
  • Self-care is a journey. We have to give ourselves grace and know that it’s not always one thing that fits. We need to be constantly vigilant about checking in with ourselves.

22:45 You have been deeply rooted in some really rich ancestral soil. How would you describe the type of ancestor you want to be and why?

  • I want to be the ancestor that was filled with joy. One that was supportive of everybody that came in her path.

25:01 My last question for you is as you think about navigating the social sector and black women who work in the social sector who are interested in amplifying their voices and becoming better self-advocates, what advice would you offer to them?

  • We have got to be physically healthy to do the work. Whether it is the job work or work on yourself.
  • Have a team that can support you in your self-advocacy.

Comment section

1 thought on “An Interview with Onika Jervis, National Field Director, GirlTrek

  1. Thanks for an informative message on the Girltrek organization and what we can do to incorporate self care in our everyday lives. And not letting our journey vanish but staying focused on what matters to us!
    Well done!

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