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Howard Brown’s Channyn Lynne Parker Says Chicago Embodies Individuality

Written by on January 29, 2020

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Channyn Lynne Parker is a human rights advocate, public speaker, community-centric leader, and Manager of External Relations for Howard Brown Health Center.

She also serves on the board at Equality Illinois. Prior to her current role, Channyn served as manager of the Broadway Youth Center’s Youth Development Program, and manager of Chicago House Social Service Agency’s TransLife Project in 2017.

Channyn is the first openly transgender woman to work in the Cook County Department of Corrections, working with populations in protective custody. Channyn has been honored with several awards and accolades, including the inaugural Trans 100 (2013), the Henrietta Lacks Award, Women in Health in Chicago (2018), and the Equality Illinois Freedom Award (2019). Channyn has had the privilege of speaking at the White House on national HIV/AIDS strategy in 2015 and at the Chicago Women’s March in 2017 and 2018.

We sat down with Channyn to chat Woodlawn, her work at Howard Brown, and the ties that bind us all …

 


 

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Where in the city did you grow up? Describe your neighborhood. 

I live in the Woodlawn area. I love my area because it’s so rich in culture, so rich in community. I see the steady improvements and the advances that are being made when I look at all the historical occurrences that happened in the Woodlawn area, it makes me really proud to be a part of that. Right now the community is going through quite a transformation. What was once largely a community filled with underserved individuals is now becoming a thriving booming community where there’s lots of new construction, and lots of new enterprise as well. With that being said, I will say that Woodlawn is not without its struggles. There are still individuals who are below the poverty level. But with the leadership that is in place right now, I think that there’s so much happening in terms of reparations and restoring stolen wealth back to the residents of the Woodlawn.

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Channyn pointing to the window of the first apt. she lived in after moving out of her mother’s basement.

What has it been like growing up/ living in Chicago? 

Chicago in itself is this really interesting mix of triumph and challenge. The city was born out of this need for independence. I always say that Chicago is a city that embodies rugged individuality from its amazing food to the uniqueness of how we serve it. You know, there’s still so much contention of who has the best pizza Chicago or New York. I personally think it’s Chicago … but I’m biased!

What do you love about Chicago?

Chicago has been good to me. Chicago has given me my platform, my start. It has allowed me to serve community and also be served by it. Some of my struggles have been navigating individuals who don’t necessarily have a good understanding of the different intersections of disenfranchisement … all the way from individuals who might be financially struggling to individuals who are experiencing oppression due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. So again, Chicago is this really interesting mix but at the end of the day we are good people and that is what I hold on to. That’s what encourages me to fight the good fight.

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Channyn on the bench where she used to sit to contemplate her life, where she was going, and what she wanted to do…

Talk about your work at Howard Brown, how did you get involved with HB, and what is the work that you do? 

How I started at Howard Brown … A couple of years ago I started off at the Broadway Youth Centers’ Youth Development Program. The Youth Development Program is a program that serves young people between the ages of 12 and 24, who are experiencing homelessness and or housing instability or who are just in need of community resources.

After that, I moved into more of an external relations role for Howard Brown Health, we are the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ+ clinic. We have eleven clinic sites that span throughout the city of Chicago. Our northern-most location is in Rogers Park and our southern-most location is in Englewood. We provide services that range from primary care, to social services, dentistry, psychiatry, youth services, and beyond. So we’re really proud of the work that we do and we invite anyone to come and receive services from us.

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Howard Brown Health Center’s Loop Location

 How has the city shaped you and your art, career, mission, etc.?

If you travel throughout the city of Chicago, and you see the various neighborhoods, you will see an array of different living situations, a host of different circumstances. And above all, just a lot of different people. Whether that’s identity, race, you know, ethnicity, so on and so forth. Traveling throughout the city of Chicago I realize that even amongst our differences, we are more the same than not. At the end of the day, people want to have a Life. Everyone has a tie that binds them. We all have someone that we love. We all have hopes, we all have dreams, and everyone wants to be seen and heard.

At the end of the day, what would you like to give back to the community?

It’s really important to me, above all things, that people walk away knowing that they’re valued. Not just from a theoretical lens, not just being poetic, but that they actually feel valued and that they see their communities thriving. For me, it’s really important to acknowledge those pieces of everyone’s humanity. It’s important for me make sure that I am doing the best I can and serving the best way that I can … to meet the needs of the individuals who live throughout this city.

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What does Chicago Sound Like to you?


 

 

Follow: Howard Brown Health

Shot by: Thomas Gavin

Audio Produced by Fyodor Sakhnovski

Edited for Length and Clarity by: Seamus Doheny