Ujima Fund Investor Report Interview: Joyce Clark
December 13th, 2021 -- This quarter for our Winter 2021 Investor Update, we sat down with a group of four esteemed Ujima Fund Investors.
Joyce Clark is a lifelong resident of Boston. She is an avid member of the NAACP, currently serving as an Executive member and Climate Change Environmental Justice Chair for the New England Area Council of the NAACP.
After serving as the Boston NAACP Health Chair for four years, as the Health Chair she implemented a program with The Alzheimer Research and Memory Loss Team. With Joyce’s guidance, the program lasted three years. In addition, Joyce and the NAACP Health Committee with McClain Hospital implemented a Destigmatizing Mental Health program where portraits with stories of and by individuals, who were willing to tell their own story, displayed throughout Boston Public Libraries. Joyce had the courage to have her own portrait down and distributed throughout Boston, MA.
Joyce also sits on the Health Equity Advisory Committee (HEAC) with the Boston Public Health Commission. Joyce is on the Community Standards Committee of Boston Ujima Project and ran her seat as a health initiative. Joyce has been with Ujima since the beginning and she loves it!
Joyce became a Doula in 1998, inspired by her own experience with the birth of her first child, she knew there was a better way to birth. She received training at the Cambridge Birth Center in Cambridge, MA. Joyce is also a Lactation Educator with Vital Village in Boston, MA. Joyce has most recently become the Birth Ambassador for Doula of North America International (DONA).
Paige Curtis: Can you share in your own words who you are, and why you do the work you do?
Joyce Clark: I’m a Black woman and Boston native who grew up in a family of healthcare advocates and educators. My life has always been about giving back. I know that sounds cliche, but that’s really what it’s always been about. My mom was a teacher, so she would notice neighbors or children in the community who needed help. I’m the same way with my friends. If they need something people are always welcome to it. My first job was in healthcare and I’ve been in healthcare ever since. Now I’m 62! My own children also work in sectors where they help people: nursing and education.
I’ve always liked being on the front lines, working at the front desk or as a medical assistant, or program coordinator. I’ve never necessarily sought to climb the ‘ladder,’ and not doing so affords me the time to help outside of my job through volunteer work.
I’ve served as a doula since 1998, and it’s a huge passion of mine. I help birthing folks access care they might not otherwise have because of medical biases. I’ve also started a business endeavor to support Black and brown doulas through a resource library. Needing to purchase books for certification can be a barrier for aspiring doulas. I’ve also done volunteer work with the NAACP around community care for eight years.
I’m the type of person who needs something to do; I don’t have enough to do, it doesn’t feel right. But as an older person, I know I should slow down in certain aspects. So now, I’m trying to figure out what my balance is, and how much I should be doing. But that’s who I am, I’m a giver.
Why was it important for you to invest in the Ujima Fund?
I truly believe in the Ujima Fund, but the main thing for me was the fact that I could afford to invest in it. That was huge. Banks will tell you that you need a certain amount of money to be able to invest. This is just a lie, and even though you know that, you don’t know how to move through that.
Luckily at my job, I’m able to invest through my retirement fund, and that’s how I first learned how to invest. To be able to invest in something you believe in, where you know what the outcome will be and you can afford it… why wouldn’t you do it? I know I’m not a huge investor, but my money makes a difference. So that’s really the reason. Because Ujima can make a huge difference and I don’t feel that way about many things.
Date yourself! Name an initiative that you recall from the past.
Something I think has changed in recent years is this increased concern over climate change. I started to take more notice in conversations about climate change and how it’s impacting us: chemicals in the hair products we use, the elevated asthma rates in certain neighborhoods.
These issues became more prominent for me in my volunteer work, but I’d say sustainability in buildings is an issue I deeply care about now. I actually have an environmentally-induced emphysema because of the rubber factories in Roxbury, so air quality really impacts me. I’ve always felt that we should pay more attention to the emissions and air quality associated with buildings. The NAACP actually came out with a new initiative around sustainability and buildings. They put out a great plan, and we worked on it for three and a half years.
What does “sustainability” mean for you, personally and for your community?
For me, sustainability means letting like minded people help build solutions that work over time, so more people can come behind them and keep adding to it. There are so many community programs that get limited funding, then go away but come back by another name. I want to see programs be able to fund themselves with the help of a neighborhood. Like [Cousins], the Ujima Timebank, where everyone has something to contribute, as opposed to waiting for somebody to fund a program.
I think Ujima has a great approach to sustainability; this isn’t just about democratic processes, but really about doing things together. Everyone has a piece of the pie. Everyone has a voice. And everyone has some part of the responsibility. That’s why I chose a business that’s sustainable, a resource library to support doulas.
How do you feel about the future and the legacy you want to leave?
That’s a loaded question for me right now. But, I actually don’t think too much about the future. I’m more of a day-by-day person. I do think about the future in terms of estate planning, and having a will and preparing for when I’m not here.
I lost my son two years ago, and he had a baby girl. That was my future: watching her grow up. So when thinking about the future, I don’t look too far out. Everyday is important, and I say thank you for being able to see another day. Not many people get another day.
My legacy is going to be just how much I’ve done with my life. Everybody knows me as someone who wants to make things better for people. People know my true passion and that is a pretty rich legacy. I don’t have anything else to really hand off. I don’t own property; I have my retirement, I have myself, and my passion, and hopefully that’s enough. That’s my truth and all I can live by on a daily basis.■