Important Announcement from Camisha Jones, Managing Director
Image Description of Photo of Camisha Jones: Camisha Jones smiles while sitting outside in a park. There is a body of water to her right and behind her there is grass, trees, and a bridge in the distance. She has brown skin and her hair is styled in two-strand twists. She wears glasses, dangling earrings decorated with jewel-toned stones, a necklace, and a v-neck purple dress.
After 8 years and 8 months of incredible, dynamic, challenging, and heartening experiences at Split This Rock, today I write to share that I will be leaving the organization on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. Being recently named a 2022 Disability Futures Fellow provides a rare and incredible opportunity to embrace the spaciousness I’ve been deeply craving to devote to my artistic life, well-being, and family. While this transition is bittersweet, I believe my departure—positioned within the organization’s return from fallow season—opens a doorway for an exciting new era at Split This Rock and I hope you will rally around the organization as it makes its way forward.
Finding the Managing Director position at Split This Rock in 2013 was an irresistible dream come true. I discovered Split This Rock on the internet after a career advisor encouraged me to search for organizations doing what I wanted to be doing—instead of searching for jobs. So I did! I learned about the upcoming Split This Rock Poetry Festival which was being held during my birthday weekend in 2014 and I promptly decided that’s where I wanted to be for my celebration. Little did I know, just a short while later that year I’d come across Split This Rock’s opening for a Managing Director and I’d not only be at the Festival in 2014 but I’d be planning it and immersed in the delicious heart of it all!
Even with all my enthusiasm, I had my hesitations. I’d made an intentional choice not to work at nonprofits—knowing it meant working without adequate resources and immense challenges to maintaining work/life balance. The Managing Director job description was long and complex but I believed I had become equipped with sufficient skill at holding my boundaries. As you know from reading messages from the staff these last few years, those concerns I held were valid. I’m proud of the work we’ve been doing to disengage from unsustainable work practices. It’s important that when we applaud Split This Rock’s successes that we aren’t simultaneously applauding a culture of staff exhaustion and overextended resources.
Having had the privilege of working side by side (and desk by desk) with founding director Sarah Browning, I know the adjustments that are being made align with the heart of what the organization was born to embody. Throughout the years, I’ve been fortunate to witness Split This Rock leaders modeling the core values of the organization in ways that disrupt norms and power dynamics which would ultimately uphold oppression. I leave holding those lessons the closest and knowing that legacy will continue on.
I came into my identity and consciousness as a disabled person while at Split This Rock. That shift affected every aspect of my experience—personal and professional. Being at Split This Rock during this awakening was a gift. I had never worked anywhere that made it a point to prioritize accessibility or connection with people within disability communities. I am so grateful that Split This Rock’s founders—guided early on by long-standing community supporters like Kathi Wolfe—included accessibility as a core value. Being at Split This Rock gave me a compass that’s helped me find my way to disability justice advocacy. It provided a framework to build upon and helped me find people I can call kin and collaborators. I am immensely proud of the work I’ve done to expand accessibility at Split This Rock and how it opens a door for more progress into the future. Thank you to everyone who has carried this work with me.
As the organization moves forward, what I wish for most is that the work of fallow season continues to flourish—that the organization would not return to the glorified days of being over-programmed and understaffed, that its work ethic and culture continue to be reimagined through the wisdom of disability justice. If there is anything I ask of you, dear community, as I transition to my next phase it is that you release your previous expectations of this organization and show up for it as it finds its right pace of growth and offerings.
I want you to know I believe wholeheartedly in the leadership of Alexandria Petrassi and Chelsea Iorlano: two audacious and powerfully skilled people with the ability to dream beyond what the nonprofit industrial complex deems as best practices. There are no better people I could imagine steering the organization through these pandemic times to take it to its next stage of being. Please offer them your heartiest levels of support. They will be in touch soon to share the organization’s next steps.
As I reflect back, I am astounded at all that’s been held over these 8+ years: almost 4 biennial festivals, 400+ published poems, all the DC writing workshops, virtual & in-person open mics, outstanding youth poetry, public actions—so many, many memories! I am holding so much gratitude in my heart for colleagues, volunteers, board members, partners, and Split This Rock community members who have bolstered this work. Thank you for your belief, encouragement, volunteered time, expertise, accountability, donations, friendship, kindness, poetry, fire, and unyielding readiness for resistance! I am proud to call you kin and I’m eager for new ways to stay connected in the future.
Camisha L. Jones
Photo above of Camisha Jones by Brandon Woods.
A Message from the Board of Directors
Image Description of Collage: Split This Rock Board members appear in collage above from left to right as follows: Susan Scheid, Regie Cabico, Danez Smith, Charles Doolittle, Lauren K. Alleyne, Marlena Chertock, Taylor Johnson, and Dwayne Lawson-Brown.
Camisha’s work has been critical to the spirit and effect of Split This Rock since she arrived in 2013. From being a marvelous mind behind our literary programs to introducing and instilling key disability justice practices in the organization, Split This Rock is and will continue long into the future to be indebted to the work of the wonderful poet, organizer, curator, and human that is Camisha Jones.
In an organization that has accomplished the work of many with a staff of a mighty few, Camisha has risen above and beyond the call of her duties to make sure that Split This Rock stayed possible and moved forward toward being a better community dedicated to action and poetry. She has helped engineer sustainable work models that will assist us in carrying this work forward as she moves on to new exciting opportunities.
Camisha is an irreplaceable ally and a stellar mind on all sides of the poem, whether championing poets or crafting magic within her own work. We wish Camisha all the best on her continued journey and will remain grateful, awestruck cheerleaders as she continues to move and transform the world.
Thank you, Camisha, for all your effort and magic. What a pleasure it has been to build with you.
Split This Rock Board of Directors
Charles Doolittle, Danez Smith, Dwayne Lawson-Brown, Lauren K. Alleyne, Marlena Chertock, Regie Cabico, Susan Scheid, and Taylor Johnson
Photo of Marlena Chertock by John Consoli. Photo of Lauren K. Alleyne by Adriana Hammond. Photo of Taylor Johnson by Sean D. Henry-Smith.