When it comes to making an impact in the community, The Practice Space puts that at the center of our mission. I am Ja’Mes Williams, the new Digital Strategist at The Practice Space, and I am so happy to be a part of this team.
As a young woman who was raised in Richmond, California, I believe the voices of our youth are often silenced and we only see the negative part of this community. I was fortunate enough to be afforded many opportunities that helped develop me as a great orator. At a young age, my parents put me in voiceover classes, singing lessons, and I had to give speeches all the time at church. In our community, schools have debate teams but children from the community don’t typically participate. Students are usually afraid, and tackling that exact issue is the heart of The Practice Space’s work.
In my matriculation as a brown–skinned woman, I didn’t always feel confident in speaking up. In my elementary school years,I attended a school made up of predominantly white students, and I always felt my voice would not be heard based upon looking different. As a third grade student, a teacher-accused me of being incompetent and said I needed to be in a special needs class. Now as a child who was able to hold conversations with adults since the age of 4, it was ironic to me that I was being accused of not knowing how to effectively communicate. My teacher had solely based her opinion on the fact that I wasn’t responding when it was time to read out loud.
As a child, I did great work and was capable of speaking. I felt uncomfortable because people would laugh, make little comments, and it seemed my opinion was inferior. I was then put in a special needs class, and solving the question of why I was in this class was based upon me excelling in my work. As a kid, I learned early that I had to do a little more to prove I was smart, I had to carry myself a certain way not to seem “ghetto” and that I had a voice and I needed to use it. As a Richmond native, I think it is important to have programs that help underrepresented youth for kids that feel they lack a voice.
In 2019, I met the founder AnnMarie Baines through a mutual friend ( and Board member at The Practice Space ), Todd Groves. I was so moved by the mission and I wanted to be involved. As someone who is big on seeing change in my community, I have found so much joy in knowing I am associated with an organization that takes pride in creating a better community. From being a youth voice at Practice World Events to now being the team’s Digital Strategist and a Mentor for high school students in our Expressive Leaders program, I am excited to see how we impact the community through public speaking.