23 to watch in 2023: Kirstyne Lange, president of NAACP Santa Rosa-Sonoma County Chapter

The local NAACP chapter is considered a small branch of the overarching organization, with about 150 members. Nevertheless, under Kirstyne Lange’s leadership, the local nonprofit has some mighty goals.|

For more people to watch in 2023, go here.

Name: Kirstyne Lange

Title or position: President of NAACP Santa Rosa-Sonoma County Chapter

On the job since: She was elected president in April. Her term ends in 2025.

Age: 32

Hometown: San Diego. She has lived in Santa Rosa for 10 years.

Why Lange is someone to watch:

The local NAACP chapter is considered a small branch of the overarching organization, with about 150 members. Nevertheless, under Kirstyne Lange’s leadership, the local nonprofit has some mighty goals.

In collaboration with the Sonoma County Black Forum, another local advocacy group, it presented county leaders with unsettling data, which found that the life expectancy of Black people here is 10 years shorter than any other ethnic or racial group in the county. The data was published in January in the 2021 Portrait of Sonoma County, a well-being assessment of residents contracted by the county.

The life expectancy findings “put more flames in the fire for me, if you will, around the necessity and the responsibility, for all elected officials to take the ... data seriously and to really be intentional about how they engage with community organizations like the NAACP and the Sonoma County Black Forum, who presented the alarming data points to them,” Lange said.

Advocating for elected officials to establish county resources and programs to help alleviate such concerns within the local Black community, which is about 2% of the county’s population according to 2020 census data, have become key initiatives of the NAACP chapter and a priority for Lange.

The agency, in conjunction with the Sonoma County Office of Education, is also monitoring how schools are preparing for the roll out of their ethnic studies curriculum by 2029.

“Our Education Committee is ... working to ... develop training and open discussion programs for our educational leaders to participate in to get feedback from members of our committee who are teachers, parents and school board members,” Lange said.

“Our plan is to have something together by the spring time — to have something for review internally — and then hopefully by the summertime to be able to have a model released to really be able to put something concrete into place," she said.

What others are saying about Lange:

“Kirstyne Lange has brought renewed visibility to the Santa Rosa-Sonoma County NAACP chapter, building on generations of work since its founding in 1953. Ms. Lange is a (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) professional with an incredible ability to reach people where they are, and push the needle from understanding to action. She continues to build strategic partnerships throughout the public and private sectors, and utilizes commission and board positions to ensure that equity is a foundational component in spaces where the Black community has not had a seat at the table. Through her leadership, unprecedented visibility on Black health outcomes has led to first-time equity programming and strategic initiatives in the areas of education, housing and mental health. We can expect her to develop this work in 2023 as she holds a vision for a Black community that thrives, and where investment is made in Black futures, ” said Dimitra Smith, 2nd vice president, Santa Rosa-Sonoma County NAACP Chapter. "She is changing the conversation and the trajectory of Sonoma County. I see her work as a strategic turning point for Black and BIPOC history in this region. Black women can!”

What Lange says about making the list:

"I was immediately humbled (to make the list). I don't do this work for recognition. ... it's a really good way to help people understand things that they may not be paying attention to or may not be on their radar. I recognize and know there are not a lot of folks who pay attention to the Black community and its experience here in Sonoma County. So, it's really important to me to — wherever I can, where it feels authentic and good — to illuminate the work that we're doing, the ways that people can join us and recognize that we're on the move.“

For more people to watch in 2023, go here.

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