A career’s worth of experience in public health and community organizing will strengthen BPS commitment to support Portland’s most vulnerable communities.
After a thorough and competitive process, native Portlander Nikoyia Phillips has accepted the role of BPS’ new equity manager. Previously, Phillips served as the bureau’s community engagement coordinator and liaison to the Comprehensive Plan Community Involvement Committee.
Furthering our commitment to racial equity, the bureau created an executive leadership position to advance our equity work. We enthusiastically welcome Nikoyia to this role, in which her vision and experience promise to enhance our efforts, both at BPS and in the community.
Nikoyia is a second-generation Portlander who has spent much of her career in community organizing, nonprofit development and public health policy with the Multnomah County Health Department. She brings a combination of skills to the job, along with her focus on racial equity. Her work at BPS reshaping the Community Involvement Committee, managing the PSU internship program, and operationalizing our equity work to support the most vulnerable communities are testament to her capabilities and influence. Nikoyia leads by example and epitomizes respectful communication.
Said BPS Director Andrea Durbin, “Nikoyia is the right person at the right time. We’re so fortunate to benefit from her lived experience, wisdom and creativity. But we acknowledge the burden that accompanies this role at this especially difficult time, and we’re committed to ensuring that Nikoyia has adequate support from both leadership and our talented staff who are equally committed to truly transforming our work.”
In her words
Beyond sharing her time and energy with BPS, Nikoyia enjoys gardening, sings and plays acoustic guitar, has two dogs named Gemini and Aries, and volunteers as the Board Chair for Beyond Black CDC. We asked her a few questions about her new role, and we’d like to share her answers to them.
What are you most excited about in your new role?
As an equity practitioner I have been influenced by many other Black, Indigenous and folx of color in my approach to the work. I enjoy facilitation, sharing growth-oriented space, exploring innovative ideas – and I’m not afraid to take risks. I am most excited to apply the many lessons I’ve learned to BPS’ climate and community development work and the potential for positive and direct impact of that work on BIPOC communities.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
My favorite quote is from Audre Lorde and regularly lives in my email signature: “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” This quote reminds me that to be brave does not always come in the absence of fear and how important it is to acknowledge it, sit in that discomfort and move forward anyway.
It’s a difficult time to come into a leadership position in equity. What tools are keeping you grounded, and how can others around you be supportive?
I feel an immense amount of gratitude and responsibility to be in a position that is designed to serve our most impacted communities. That said, it’s a difficult moment for many of us right now — Black people, caregivers, elders, parents of school-aged children, housing-insecure folx and many more of us. I am doing my best to remind myself and others to take good care of ourselves by practicing mindfulness (whatever that means for you), staying connected with people I care about, and taking better care of my body.
Others can be supportive by continuing to think about the folx that are not and cannot be in the room, uplifting the voices and needs of Black people, and challenging yourself and others by speaking up in the face of any injustice no matter how uncomfortable that may make you. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”