Meet Jamala Henderson, Storyteller

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By Christena Coutsoubos, Housing Alliance Board Member

Jamala Henderson joined the Housing Alliance staff May 6 as our new communications specialist. Her background is in journalism, where she spent fourteen years as a news anchor and reporter at KUOW. Jamala holds a B.A. from The Evergreen State College and is working towards a master’s degree in Digital Media Communications at the University of Washington. 

Meet Jamala Henderson, the Housing Alliance’s new communications specialist and self-described “geekiest of geeks.”  Visitors to her office are greeted by a line of figurines from her favorite science fiction franchises. She’s a frequent speaker at GeekGirlCon, moderating panels such as “Geek Elders Speak.”  Her Twitter feed is consumed with discussions of Game of Thrones and Star Wars. She’d love to talk with you about that episode of Star Trek: Discovery that was written by two women of color. 

What does sci-fi fandom have to do with housing justice? Jamala says it’s all about the power of storytelling. “The stories we read for fun, to take us away from our lives –those stories can get people to think about issues, things they might not necessarily think about otherwise,” says Jamala, “if you do it in ways that make it compelling.”  

In her 14-year career as a journalist, Jamala loved telling stories of real people that might not otherwise be heard. “I believe a story well told is what helps human beings grab onto an issue, helps us get a bit of understanding. I get really excited about the ways in which stories can reach us and help us think creatively.”  Jamala’s determined to bring her love of well-told stories to her new work at the Housing Alliance. “Listening is my superpower,” she says, and she intends to use it to uplift the voices of people who have struggled with housing insecurity. 

The switch from journalism to advocacy may seem unusual, but Jamala is eager to embrace the freedom she sees in this new field. “There was a tension in me. I needed a position where I could advocate for what I believe in, express my opinions and what I see in the world to the fullest,” she says. Like many of us, Jamala has been distressed by the visible suffering of people experiencing homelessness and struggled to know how to respond. “I’m excited to expand my knowledge of what I can do. Getting deeper into how we as people of color can uplift ourselves and others to live decent, happy lives and have homes, friends and support.”  

In addition to her work at the Housing Alliance, Jamala is pursuing a master’s degree in Digital Media Communications from the University of Washington. She hopes to use it to develop the next generation of storytellers. “For me, most important part is that I want to be able to teach. I want to be like Yoda and pass on what I have learned!”

You can welcome Jamala to the housing justice team at JamalaH@wliha.org, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.  She’ll be listening for you!

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