The Junior League of Baton Rouge has a rich history of developing women leaders, starting nonprofits, and evolving our service to meet the needs of the community. When I was asked to serve as the 89th president 21 months ago, enthusiastically and tearfully I said yes. I began planning while continuing to observe and learn from our members. My planning process did not account for civil protests or a pandemic painted in the background of my term.
Some would see my presidency as proof that as a society we have evolved on racism. I know that the visible representation makes people feel good about progress. However, that thinking thwarts meaningful conversation. I have entered business meetings where I have been told I was in the wrong room, knowing that I was rightfully there. I have arrived to bid on construction projects only to know that a meeting (where the decision had been made already) occurred before the meeting.
This global conversation that we are being encouraged to have is not about overt racist acts. Those are easy to identify and to admonish—when we have the courage to do so. Rather, it is about a system that was intentionally built to advantage a specific group. As an organization of women, we know what that system looks like because it often makes it challenging for us to lead and succeed in the workplace.
As a diligent planner, I am ecstatic to tackle the work that we had scheduled for this year. As a leader, I know that this moment is not about me or my plans. I have an obligation to be responsive to our members who are struggling and hurting. I must also ensure that our group of women are part of the solution rather than contributors to the status quo. We have already engaged in uncomfortable conversations and have scheduled trainings related to equity, inclusion and intercultural competence. We are developing resources to share with our members who want to learn more. This will also require me to share my personal experiences with those who are being thoughtful and intentional about learning. This will not be an easy journey for any of us, but it will certainly provide opportunities for growth. In the end, I believe our community will be richer for it, and it will be a journey that I am proud to own.
Junior League members have always been known to meet the moment. When Baton Rouge needed a new museum in the 1960s, they were there to create what would become the Louisiana Art & Science Museum. When children with communication difficulties lacked a place to learn, the League stepped up to form what is now the Emerge Center. Now the League is ready to take on another challenge. Norisha Kirts Glover—a wife, mother and owner of her own construction company—took office as president of the Junior League of Baton Rouge in June, during a time when community leaders were called to contribute to tough conversations about diversity and racism. inRegister asked the new League president to share her thoughts on what it means to assume this role in such a time of change, and how the League is looking to participate in the transformation of our community once again.