“The kids that have everything need to be around the kids with challenges so that they can develop empathy for people. So they can understand other people's experiences of life. So that when they get into positions of power where they are making decisions, writing policies, they are sitting on the judge bench, they are a cop, they are a teacher, they can have empathy for other people’s experiences, and understand their own privilege.” — Lorez Bailey
From youth advocate to publisher, Lorez Bailey has extensive experience working with North Bay communities. Through her extensive community work she has touched the lives of many. Although living in Sonoma County has not been easy for her as a Black woman, Lorez’s presence and leadership here is needed and has been extremely impactful, especially for youth of color.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Lorez has been involved in the community since her youth. In high school she was part of Youth News, a radio program for, by, and about youth. Lorez was resistant at first, but after urging from her mother she applied and was offered a spot in the program. Throughout all four years of high school, Lorez was on the radio. It allowed her to meet a diverse pool of people in the community, including gang members, teen moms, the mayor, the gang task force team, and many other residents. Her time with Youth News was her first introduction to media and she fell in love with it.
During this time, Lorez also began to think about the future. She knew she wanted to go to college, but rather than finding support and guidance she sought at her school’s college and career center, the counselor questioned why she kept coming to the center when she was never going to go to college. Swayed by this, Lorez enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in San Francisco. However, after a year at FIDM, she decided to pursue her dream of college, always knowing it was a part of her destiny, despite what others believed she was capable of.
Lorez enrolled at Laney Community College in Oakland and then transferred to Sacramento State University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Telecommunications. It was also at Sac State where she met her husband Andre Bailey who was a football player. Andre transferred to Sonoma State University to play football and was immediately offered a position as a recruiter when he graduated. Lorez soon joined him after graduation.
After working in media for a few years, Lorez went back to school to earn her Master’s Degree in Education Technology at Sonoma State University. While in school, Lorez was very involved with the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) and had hosted various youth programs in the Bay Area nearly every weekend. When considering what she wanted to do after graduation, it was clear to Lorez that she wanted to work at a nonprofit and have a positive impact on the community.
When an opportunity to work with Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) arose as a Crew Supervisor in their summer work program, Lorez took it. While working at SAY, Lorez discovered how well she worked with vulnerable youth. She said, “Give me the most negative, the most ‘I hate humans’ kind of kid, and that’s my kid…what I learned from that experience was that I could do this. I have a talent for working with particular young people who have had some of the biggest challenges and difficulties in their life, and that is what I loved.” This is how Lorez went from simply volunteering with youth to making it a career.
Once Lorez’s seasonal position with SAY was over, she was recruited to work at West County Community Services as a Program Manager for Adult and Youth Employment Services. Lorez remembers wondering what it was going to be like working in West County as a Black woman, but it ended up being a great experience. She said she found success in her position through her knowledge of the community. Lorez’s ability to understand the communities she was working with allowed her to thrive. There she was able to connect youth to career focused resources such as mentoring, coaching, lectures and workshops.
A year and a half later, Lorez left West County and returned to work at SAY as the Director of College and Career Readiness. She started a new program called the College and Career Readiness Hubs. Together, Lorez and her team installed or revised the college career centers at every high school in Sonoma County. Elsie Allen High School did not have a college and career center so they created one from the ground up. Lorez says this is one of the things she is most proud of.
Lorez’s next chapter took her to Chop's Teen Club as Chief Executive Officer. As soon as Lorez was hired, she made it a priority to create a diverse staff which she succeeded in doing. Lorez knew diversity was a critical and often overlooked component of effectively serving youth, stating that, “[having] diversity across the board…we need diversity of perspective so if any kid had a challenge we had someone who can identify with that child and help them address their situation.” Under her leadership, Lorez ensured that Chop’s would be a safe place for youth, where they would have adults who cared about them and who checked in on them. Through that support a space was created for young people to thrive and grow.
Working at Chop’s was a transformative experience for Lorez, which taught her a lot about herself as a leader and gave her further insight on youth. Lorez learned how to cultivate a culture and environment for success, how to create high standards, and how to successfully identify and implement change in places that need it. Engaging with such a diverse group of youth at Chop’s also showed Lorez that it is important for kids of all backgrounds to be together and share space, so that they could develop empathy for other people. Lorez was a mentor and leader at Chop's for almost 5 years before moving on to her next adventure.
Although Lorez loved working with youth and the community on a micro-level, she was ready to do the macro-level work and serve the greater community. Being a Black woman doing community work in Sonoma County, which is only 1.5% Black, has not been easy. Lorez states that she is often not afforded the space and respect she deserves due to the color of her skin. She describes the struggle of being a Black person in Sonoma County and how both blatant and latent discrimination are a daily experience for her community. After the murder of George Floyd, the explicit racism that became renormalized in our community was both traumatizing and exhausting for her.
During this time Lorez seriously contemplated leaving Sonoma County and moving back to Oakland, where diversity wasn’t just a far-off dream discussed, but was a reality. “When I thought about leaving and not working here, I thought I’ve worked so hard to have the reputation I have, I’ve worked so hard to walk into spaces and have people acknowledge and respect me. And I thought, do I really want to walk away from that?” Lorez recounted experiences of facing overt racism and having to decide how to react. Learning to navigate white spaces, particularly in professional capacities is challenging, and enduring macro and microaggressions and still finding success was an ongoing challenge she faced. Lorez also considered her presence as a positive influence on youth of color, and how she was a role model and mentor to many young women of color.
Instead of leaving the County, Lorez recognized the significance of her presence as a powerful Black woman and decided to stay and continue doing the hard work to make space for future BIPOC individuals. Lorez left direct service community work and is now the Publisher of the North Bay Business Journal, coming full circle back to the world of media. As Publisher she manages projects, ensuring everyone has the support they need to successfully do their jobs by setting goals, expectations and providing resources. Lorez’s role is to help to keep journalism honest and true. She ended up at the North Bay Business Journal after serving on the Press Democrat editorial board where her love for learning was revived.
Aside from work, Lorez stays involved in the community through her membership on many boards such as the County of Sonoma’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO); the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber Leadership Santa Rosa Program; and the Women's Executive Director Leadership Group. She is also a former member of the Press Democrat Newspaper Editorial Board.
Lorez Bailey’s leadership has been exceptional in empowering youth and expanding opportunities for those in our community who have been traditionally excluded. The North Bay is fortunate to have such a nurturing and knowledgeable leader guiding us to a more inclusive and diverse community.
Lorez Bailey was interviewed by Daniel Chaparro, Community Outreach Specialist, and Madelynn Cox, Community Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA.
To learn more about this story and the important work of Lorez Bailey, visit the links below.
Women's Spaces Radio Show with guest Lorez Bailey, our Sonoma County Woman of the Year
Lorez Bailey - Publisher - North Bay Business Journal | LinkedIn
CHOPS - TEEN Club
Sonoma County nonprofit leader named North Bay Business Journal publisher