The Women's Center finally has a new director

    Sekile Nzinga-Johnson has joined the Women’s Center as their new director, according to an email announcement from the Women’s Center. She officially started on September 12.

    The center had been conducting a search after director Renee Redd retired in Winter 2016 after 21 years of leading the center. Interim director Alecia Wartowski had been serving as interim director and director of programs in the meantime, as the Women’s Center celebrated its 30th anniversary. Last Fall, an email from the Office of the Provost ignited controversy when it announced the “integration” of the center’s counseling services with Counseling and Psychological Service and and Sara Walz left her position as the center's counselor.

    Here are some highlights from Nzinga-Johnson’s biography:

    Her work focuses on the intersections of race, class, gender and public policy. Before arriving at the Women’s Center, she was the senior director of programs at the Chicago-based Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, an independent policy center that aims to “impact health systems to improve the health status of all people,” according to their website. She’s particularly focused on Black women’s and girls’ access to health care, including mental and reproductive care. She’s even edited books in that arena, including Laboring Positions: Black Women, Mothering and the Academy. She’s also currently on the board of the pro-choice Chicago Abortion Fund and a member of the Campaign to Save Our Mothers & Babies (CSOMB), an Englewood-based network dedicated to “addressing the racial disparities in infant and maternal health in Chicago and Illinois.”

    She has a background in academia, too. Before her time at the research group,she was an assistant professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago for around four years. She also worked at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.  for nearly 10 years as the director of the Women & Gender Studies Program and an associate professor of social work.

    She’s the owner of vintage clothing and accessory pop up store in Oak Park. It’s called Polyester Soul Vintage, and it’s been a “joy project” of hers since 2015. “Wearing vintage is soulful, timeless, affordable, and minimizes harm to the environment. It also tells an intergenerational story of style,” her LinkedIn description says. “My carefully curated collection embodies fashion history, celebrates fashion icons, and honors women's labor and activism.”


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