On behalf of the SJF board, we are excited to share the news that Interim Executive Director Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes has accepted a permanent role as Executive Director at SJF. The new title is effective August 1st.
The board’s decision to offer this permanent leadership role took into consideration a few factors. Notably, Valériana received high praise from board and staff members in a 6-month review of her time as Interim Executive Director. Exemplifying the overall feedback, one person shared, “Valériana’s presence at SJF has truly been a game changer. There is now a sense of stability and cohesiveness that I had not felt previously due in large part to how she’s guided our transformation.” Truly, under Valériana’s leadership, SJF has indeed transformed and begun to write its next chapter.
All interim phases must come to an end, whether by searching for new leadership, extending the interim period, or making a temporary position permanent. As a board, we explored the options, and recognized that Valériana’s ongoing leadership brings the most possible stability for SJF staff in a time of large-scale uncertainty – from the ongoing pandemic to devastating attacks on fundamental legal protections.
We recognize that while we have navigated many challenges and transitions over the last few years, our goal is to ensure that SJF staff, the organization as a whole, and our grantees receive the support to grow and flourish. We believe that transitioning Valériana into the role of permanent Executive Director is a major step in the right direction.
Way back in October of 2021, after a months long search, many (many, many) internal conversations about SJF’s future and leadership structure, and tremendous contributions of time and labor by board members, SJF welcomed Valériana Chikoti-Bandua Estes to our staff as our Interim Executive Director. We are now incredibly honored, proud, and excited to celebrate her shift to from Interim to permanent Executive Director!
When she first joined, she shared this message with community:
“Our current civil rights chapter is asking each of us to interrupt oppressive mechanisms and re-examine how we center our wellness, make room for change, and decolonize systems that only serve the very privileged. Moreover, this pandemic chapter has caused us to humanize so many of the things that we would have otherwise left on auto pilot mode. This chapter is asking us to be kinder to each other, to make room to grieve, to make room to heal while simultaneously confronting things that are hard, to hold on dearly to the those we love, to make more room to rest, and to make more room to dream audaciously.”
Valériana has lived up to these words every single day of her nine month tenure at SJF. She shows up to the work with audacity, compassion, humility, warmth, humor, and expertise. Her leadership demonstrates the effectiveness of rest and boundaries as cornerstones of transformation. With Valériana’s guidance we’ve moved closer and closer to embodying our central principles of Black liberation and wellness.
Look out for Valériana’s letter to community about the first season of her time at SJF in our upcoming annual report. Until then, please join us in celebrating Valériana as our Executive Director!