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“Black Joy Is Limitless”: Meet Kendra Gaunt, Product Manager And Co-Chair Of [email protected]

BY: Trevor News
Kendra Gaunt

The Trevor Project is proud to hold intentional space specifically for Black individuals in our staff to foster collective care and joy. [email protected], one of The Trevor Project’s pioneer Affinity Groups, “leads with a mission to create spaces and resources for employees who identify within the Black Diaspora (and their allies) to connect, grow relationships, and build community.”

Hear from Kendra Gaunt (she/her), Product Manager and Co-Chair of [email protected], on the limitlessness of Black joy.

Introduce yourself and describe your role at The Trevor Project and your involvement with [email protected] 

I’m a Product Manager on the Technology team at The Trevor Project — which means I’m navigating context, technology, and the needs of LGBTQ youth to identify the best problems to solve. I decided to join Trevor because I reached a point where working for profit for the sake of profit-driven companies was no longer fulfilling. I wanted to take the knowledge and experience I gained over the years and apply it somewhere I could positively impact society, especially for the Black and LGBTQ communities I belong to and love.

In June 2020, at a height in the racial justice movement and call to liberate Black lives, Trevor employees wanted to carve out space for Black colleagues and friends to process our experiences. So we started a Slack-based group for our community to come together to express ourselves and heal.

A year later, our Slack community evolved into a formal Affinity Group. This intentional space allows members of Team Trevor to connect around their different intersectional identities, called [email protected] Serving as one of the inaugural Co-chairs, I’m committed to taking us to the next level in the name of supporting the health and wholeness of all Black people.

Over the past year, we’ve hosted educational events where we’ve learned about Black history and visions for the future. We’ve jammed out to music and watched tv and films that highlight Black brilliance. We’ve laughed, cried, and sometimes didn’t know what to feel, as the world took shape around us. We’ve also expanded our sense of community in an increasingly virtual world. I am blessed and honored to play a role in building this space for people of the African/Black Diaspora at Trevor.

What does Black joy mean to you?

Limitless. There is no cap to what Black joy is and how we choose to embody it. For me, sometimes it’s dancing to Afrobeats until I can’t anymore, spending time with my cats, trying a new recipe, or sharing memes with friends. 

It also means being unapologetically Black, especially in [historically] white spaces. For example: being a Black queer woman in the Technology space cultivates immense joy. But it didn’t start like that. Many times — and sometimes even now — I was the only Black/queer woman on a team or in a meeting. It used to be a source of insecurity for me, even more so because, as a young person, I grew up as one of few Black kids in PWIs (predominately white institutions) where I experienced bullying, isolation, and unjust treatment by people of all ages. When you’re in spaces where no one reflects aspects of your identity, and there are structures in place meant to limit you, it can feel impossible to bring your dreams into reality. The amplification of this obstacle grows when you peep the inequities at such a young age; it can be disheartening. 

As I learned more about myself and what Blackness means to me, I became more secure in who I am. The journey isn’t linear, and some days are better than others —  but I permit myself to feel that. I have since gone on to share my passions and experiences with youth, university students, academics, and professionals worldwide. Through this, I hope other Black people — especially Black youth — know that they can create anything they can imagine. So bringing it back, Black joy is the ability to take our experiences and transform them into wisdom for ourselves and others. It’s limitless!

What do you love most about being Black?

It isn’t easy to put into words the sheer brilliance of Black people. The versatility, the range, inherently dynamic natures, and celebration of differences! There is so much I learn from just listening to other Black people share their stories, movements, and talents. As each day goes by, my love for Black people surpasses what I thought was possible. It’s my connection to the past, gratitude for the present, and hope for the future. 

Kendra Gaunt is a Product Manager on the Technology team at The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people. If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, our trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386 via chat, or by texting START to 678-678.

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