By Mayowa Aina
For the Black in Alaska Project
Google DaJonee’ Hale, and you’ll see pictures of her in a basketball uniform captured in motion as she drives to score. You’ll find her record-breaking stats as a collegiate athlete and achievements that include National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Player of the Year. An internet search will also reveal her triumphant journey from experiencing homelessness as a teen to playing professional basketball.
Today, DaJonee’ serves as a project manager and support specialist at the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, working with the very people and organizations that helped her out of homelessness and on a path to a successful education and career in sports, playing in Germany. DaJonee’ founded the Mat-Su Youth Action Board, which invites houseless youth to help create services. Where DaJonee’ once spent time practicing free throws, she now dedicates her days to young Alaskans navigating experiences similar to what she encountered as a teen.
“I love sharing my knowledge and what I’ve learned,” DaJonee’ said. “I just want other people who may be in tough situations, especially people of color, to have high quality opportunities.”
As an adolescent DaJonee’ said she didn’t realize all the barriers and obstacles faced by people of color, especially Indigenous and Black people. As she gets older, she sees it. She is leveraging the same drive and discipline that lifted her out of a difficult period to advocate for people of color and other vulnerable populations.
“You become empowered to start speaking up and start trying to make a change, and at the same time it pisses you off,” DaJonee’ said. “I definitely feel like I actually want to represent marginalized communities. I love doing that.”
DaJonee’ proudly represents her identity as Black and Athabascan. Her experiences in the social service system are also part of her identity and a guide for her advocacy. DaJonee’ represents many different types of people who live at the margins in Alaska’s communities.
That’s part of what makes her story so powerful. Her journey to success is an inspiration and a symbol of what can happen when you persevere, despite the odds. But DaJonee’ isn’t satisfied with simply being a symbol, and her story isn’t over. She uses her story and her experience to not only inspire, but also to ensure that others in Alaska can take their best shot at success.
Black in Alaska is a multimedia project funded by the Rasmuson Foundation and led by Jovell Rennie. The project highlights 50 Black Alaskans from all over the state who represent diverse backgrounds in age, gender and socioeconomic status. Through storytelling, Black in Alaska aims to dismantle stereotypes and create a deeper connection between the Black community and fellow Alaskans. For more, visit blackinalaska.org.