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With all due respect, Krystal Clark isn't the biggest fan of The Help, the best-selling book and award-winning flick. Clark doesn't have a problem with the writing or the acting, but the depictions of the Junior League in 1960s Mississippi perpetuate what she considers "outdated stereotypes" of the women's service organization. This year Clark became the first woman of color to hold the office of president for the 95-year Junior League of Nashville, so, clearly, her experiences differ from those on the big screen. We asked her how she intends to use her term, to work toward the Association of Junior Leagues International's goals diversity and inclusion.
Not your mother's Junior League: The Nashville chapter is the 15th largest in the international organization, with 1,600 members. It has two main initiatives: defeating human trafficking and developing "cradle-to-career" literacy by working with other nonprofits to serve those in need. For decades, Clark says, many women felt like the Junior League "was not for them."
Today the board and the membership are amongst the most diverse in its history (in terms of race, age, and sexual orientation), and women come to meetings and events spurred on by Clark's Instagram feed.
"I have a lot of merit and skill, it is not just my race or ethnicity. But I do think I have power to make some good changes. The Help was a catalyst in that it painted the Junior League in a negative light. We are working on that. Representation matters."
For example? Speakers on transgender inclusion would have been unimaginable in the Help era, but are on the schedule under Clark.
By example: "It feeds my soul to see women finding a seat in the front row of their lives," says Clark, who calls herself a "leadership executive." She moved to Nashville for a job in the Office of Student Leadership Development at Vanderbilt in 2011, and walked into a Junior League three times the size of the one in which she had last volunteered in Durham, N.C. "We encourage women to try things, take chances, and perhaps even fail."
The b-word: Clark is what she calls, euphemistically, "heavily scheduled," between work, a role on the board of the Belcourt, a fondness for Barre3 and CycleBar, and a determination to “eat [her] way through Nashville.” Clark says, “I don't think there is such thing as balance. I am all about prioritization. I schedule time to do the things I care about. I am young and I don't have kids or a husband, so I have a different level of demands on me.”
The f-word: "We stay away from being blatantly political," Clark says of the nonprofit, but concedes: “Being a woman right now is being political, whether you want it to be or not. We are pro-woman in the opportunities we provide, but we do not use the word 'feminist.' Personally, I am a feminist and I am very open about that. But the Junior League is about letting women be the people they want to be.”