Jara descends from free, stolen and enslaved people. She can trace her people as far back as the 1600s working, living on and eventually owning land from the territories of the Appomattoc (Westmoreland, Va), and since the 1800’s, working and living on the lands of the Minocan (Nelson Valley, VA) and the Lenape (Cayuga Valley, Ohio). Today, she often greets the morning from the territories of the Coast Miwok, also known as San Rafael, CA. Sometimes, she awakens on the lands of the O'odham and the Yaqui, also known as Tucson, Arizona. She loves dawn.
She is a middle-aged, Black, cisgender, heteronormative woman married for 27 years. She grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA where she went to an all-girls preparatory school (she wore both a tunic and a kilt) and spent an inordinate amount of time recording music from the radio onto cassette tapes (she still has some of these gems). She is one of two children of still-married, college-educated professional parents happily retired on the seventh hole off a golf course in Arizona.
An understanding of from whence she came is as important as what she does.
By the age of 21, she had been a busser, server, hostess, bar wench, commercial office cleaner, babysitter, casting agent assistant, nurse’s aide in a nursing home for older adults and the requisite retail sales gigs. Then, she did the academic thing, returning for degrees after some Spring Break foolishness in Florida. For the past 25+ years she has straddled both the strategy and evaluation worlds, working primarily with folks in foundations and nonprofits across the United States. In the beginning she was often the only, and now is one of a few. In some rooms, she is still the only.
Working at the intersections of values, context, organizational culture, strategy and evaluative thinking to bring practices reflective of and in service of equity, justice and liberation is where she thrives. She does this by developing new approaches through Luminare Group and the Equitable Evaluation Initiative; advising people, efforts, and organizations; and sparking curiosity and conversation through things like her own musings and machinations.
She genuinely comes from, and increasingly operates from, a place of love, intention and abundance, and believes that if invited, almost nothing is off the table.
Jara sees nothing but possibilities. As she likes to say, she is just getting started.
Perhaps, most importantly, she does this work because she cannot imagine doing anything else.
Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.