For Women’s History Month I will be sharing the stories that define and provide examples of women empowerment, uplifting stories of personal triumph and businesses that are inspiring and are making a difference for women. Women’s History Month is a declared month each year that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.
I want to introduce you to Buffany Hunter, President of The Junior League of Los Angeles.
Buffany N. Hunter is the President of the Junior League of Los Angeles, one of Los Angeles’ most recognizable, largest, and oldest women’s civic leadership organizations. As an entrepreneur and transformative change-promoter, Buffany has dedicated 15 plus years’ to inspiring and leading strategic initiatives and organizational change in local government and the nonprofit sector. She is a communications consultant who has also held positions with the City of Santa Monica, University of California, Los Angeles, and the United Negro College Fund, among other public sector organizations. Over the years, Buffany has established a brand as a strategic and critical thinker specializing in organizational development, policy, and finance. She draws on her lived experience and allows her commitment to women’s leadership, collaboration, community, and diversity to drive her work. And when promoting community change, Buffany prioritizes economic development, education, social justice, and housing. She has served in various participant and leadership roles with the City of Santa Monica, Cal Alumni Association, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the Empowerment Congress, and her local assembly districts. Buffany graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and minors in African American Studies and Education. And from the USC Sol School of Public Policy, Buffany earned a Master of Public Administration with a specialization in Financial Management.
Here is HERstory:
I have a BA in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley and an MPA from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. It took some time, but I learned that a formal education and working for someone else are not the only ways that one should invest in herself. After leaving a toxic work environment, I realized I did not have that much to show for all the creativity, and strategic thinking that I put into the organization. Fortunately, some of the best investments I’ve made have been around supporting my community. I currently serve as President of the Junior League of Los Angeles and I’m a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. In these spaces, I spent time connecting with other people honing my why and communicating it to those around me. This prompted my decision to go into consulting around storytelling. I believe everyone has a story to tell, but they may not have the platform and resources to encourage others to listen.
Her business is BNH Strategy Consulting.
What does women empowerment mean to you?
For me, women empowerment means supporting women where they are and as they are. It means treating every woman like she is valued and brings value. I’m extremely active in a lot of women led and operated spaces, this includes Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and the Junior League of Los Angeles. I love these organizations and others like them because I feel nurtured and challenged. These spaces have created opportunities for me to lead when I told myself I wasn’t ready and challenged me to to start new ventures. This is the essence of women’s empowerment to me, you celebrate and support other women.
What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share with someone?
I would share two thoughts as words of encouragement. 1) Be in the moment and try to stay ready because you only get one shot. In some ways, people may think these thoughts contradict one another, but I believe they support one another. I know some of us can be perfectionists and we are not ready to share an idea or launch a program until all the details are in place, but you are going to miss out on a lot of opportunities because you are betting on perfection. What I believe to be more important is that you are able to tell your story and convince people to come on a journey with you. When you know your story, I believe everything else will follow. 2) Know your why. For example, are you trying to create something that is sustainable? If so, what does that mean for the type of relationships you should be trying to build? And to what extent should you be trying to bring other people along with you on your journey?
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be that I cared so much that I didn’t remain silent and that I cared so much that I built community wherever I could. This quote by Shirley Chisholm speaks to what I want my legacy to be, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” I hope people say Buffany, acted in a way that helped inspire change.
What inspires you?
Community inspires me. I’m a woman of faith, so I very much believe in being of service to others, but I don’t think you have to be of faith to want to help others. When I see people supporting other people because they can rather than based on what they get out of the situation, it makes me smile. It also makes me wonder how am I contributing to the world in this way.
What kind of impact do you want to have on those around you?
The kind of impact I want to have on those around me is that I gave others the space to be themselves. I want people to be able to say that I helped design spaces that encouraged them to bring their whole self to an experience. I am Black. I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Black sorority, worship at a predominantly Black church, and I attended a predominantly Black high school. I also occupy many spaces where I am the only or one of few, I graduated from UC Berkeley, worked for the Santa Monica Fire Department and I’m a member of JLLA, a predominately white women’s organization. Regarding the predominately white spaces, some didn’t make me feel like an other while some I felt like I couldn’t be myself. I know what it’s like to feel watched, to bite your tongue and be misunderstood. I would never want to contribute to another person feeling this way. I think when we create spaces that honor diversity, value inclusion and stand on equity, we can sit back and marvel at the amazing things that are going to happen for all of us. I want to contribute to this. I also understand that part of my contributing this to spaces requires my acknowledging where I’ve been a gatekeeper, how I’ve played into respectability politics and why I failed to proactively support others. The book Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall helped me see some of this. I’m a work in progress, but my hope is that when someone does encounter me, they can’t say that I actively contributed to them feeling othered, I want them to say I proactively contributed to them feeling empowered to show up as themselves.
What does self care mean to you?
I’m convinced that we will be dealing with the impacts of 2020 for years to come – a global pandemic that shined a light on health inequities and the painful and blatant disregard of Black and brown bodies. It’s been a trauma filled year. And I have never felt more overwhelmed yet in touch with what my body and spirit need. I’ve unexpectedly cried so many times. This year has also offered me the space to sit with my feelings and process them in ways that I can’t when I’m constantly on the go trying to be superwoman. I’ve also struggled to process some very personal emotions while leading the Junior League of Los Angeles, an organization of 900+ women, many of whom do not look like me – that are not BIPOC. When the verdict in Breonna Taylor’s case was announced, I remember many details of that week. I cried for her, her family and other Black women. Because it speaks to how we are perceived yet who we must be in society. The contradiction of Breonna Taylor being someone responsible for preserving, stabilizing and protecting life, but she wasn’t afforded similar courtesies. It hurts. With that said, a lot of the language we use to describe Black women centers around our being resilient and self-sacrificing. 2020 has encouraged me to reject all labels, especially those around being the ultimate caregiver and having to be strong for others. I don’t think honor comes with it and it dehumanizes us. As of 2021, self-care is resistance for me. I love Audre Lorde’s quote “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I now see self-care as something that’s radical because it centers on me.
What obstacles have you overcome or hurdles did you personally face and how did you overcome them?
There have been a couple of pivotal moments that have really challenged my thinking.1) I made the decision to enter a new sector and I spent a lot of time with a particular organization making a name for myself and contributing to the organization. I received a promotion with a different department and soon discovered that it was a toxic environment. I had little recourse and all the time that I had invested into the organization all of a sudden meant nothing. I walked away from the organization with little to show for it, but a bruised ego. From this I learned the importance of investing in myself and identifying opportunities that align with my values, but more than this it made me realize how quickly things can change at work. This prompted me to start my own business. 2) I’ve struggled with being an introvert and someone who isn’t big on talking. For a long time, I felt like leadership was reserved for big personalities and it made me uncomfortable and question what I had to offer. I often get, “you’re so quiet” which made me think that was a bad thing. I’ve since acknowledged that I show up and lead in a different way and that’s perfectly fine. I overcame this self-doubt by focusing on my strengths.
What would you say is your most driving motivation to keep doing what you to do?
What drives me to do what I do is seeing people of various ages making a name for themselves around their passions. It’s been a beautiful reminder that leadership and exploring your passions aren’t bound by age. I see a lot of need in the community and I believe I can help amplify voices through storytelling. I spent a lot of time on the sideline being critical and waiting for someone else to do the work. I also spent time on the sideline trying to figure out how other people got to be where they are. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of wasted time. Time that I could have used to make an impact and invested in myself. I realized that you do not just wake up and everything you want is neatly placed in your lap. I also learned that systems and processes do not change because you believe they should. You have to contribute. When you spend your whole life waiting for the perfect moment or trying to follow the path that someone has taken, you miss your opportunity to do meaningful work. This is what drives me, seeing people be courageous and knowing that I can lend my voice to important causes.
What are you most excited or passionate about? (In both business and life or both)
As someone who was labelled as quiet and shy, I’m most excited about helping other people amplify their voices. I’m particularly excited about doing this from a social justice lens and telling stories that others may shy away from. I truly believe that storytelling can be an equalizer. Everyone just has to be offered the platform to tell their story and that’s where I come in.
What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?
I would like to continue to build my brand. Right now, I’m focused on supporting friends and family with their stories. Eventually, I would like to move into coaching. From my brand, readers can expect to be brought along on a journey focused on social justice. Even if the reader doesn’t have firsthand experience, my hope is that they can see themselves in the story, sharing their story and/or being moved to action.
Is there anything else you would like to share with me?
For a long time, I’ve played it safe and I’m not sure why. I’m using this time to put my thoughts into action. I would tell others to do the same, be ambitious. There is no reason to play it safe.