Spotlight for Darjai Payne

By: Zizi Phillips

This month’s spotlight is with Darjai Payne (she/her/hers). Darjai was working at Rush Medical Center for six years, from 2016- 2022 as a research assistant, and she is currently a research coordinator here at CCHE. She graduated from Chicago State University in 2015 with a master’s degree in public health. Throughout her curriculum at CSU she began to have interest in research. In the class “research methods”, Darjai had to create her own research study for her final exam. The topic she picked was comprehensive sex education classes vs. abstinence only classes. What she found was the aspects of how both methods can render a positive influence of teenagers deciding rather to engage in sex or abstinence. Going through the actual process of creating the actual surveys made Darjai realize how impactful the sciences can be to community.

Based on Darjai’s literature reviews, she learned that high schools that only taught abstinence had a higher pregnancy rates opposed to the schools that taught sexual education and science. “The more you tell a teenager not to do something will make them want to do it more,” Darjai felt that giving information about sexual health would better inform teenagers to make the best decision on what they want to do. This information is relatable to any teen, no matter how they identify. Darjai dreams of owning a medical facility that only uses natural ways of healing people, using plants and herbs as medicinal bases for her clients like many other cultures do. Darjai wants to heal people in ways that isn’t in traditional medicine.

What Darjai would change in the community is to take away stigmas, discrimination, and biases of the Black LGBTQ community. When asked who inspires her the most, Darjai responded: “My mom inspires me most in life; I am the only child, and she has always told me that it’s just me and you. Even when she was working at night, she made time for me to be a productive child. She showed me how to be a woman. She is my complete best friend.” Skating and reading bring Darjai comfort; it is her outlet from stress. Much appreciation to Darjai for doing this interview, and allowing us to know her better as a person, ally, and advocate to the Black LGBTQ community. She is doing amazing work and building community with the family here at CCHE/The Village.