Kim Hunt, MPP'04
Mentor, Community Builder, Social Justice Advocate
After earning her MPP from the Harris School in 2004, Kim Hunt co-founded the consulting firm O-H Community Partners, which grew to take on a national scale of work in transporation, infrastructure, community planning, and capacity building. She also was one of the driven optimists who brought the Gay Games to Chicago in 2006. Since 2009, she has been executive director for Affinity Community Services, where she engages Black LGBTQ communities and queer youth in social justice work.
Tell us a little about your background.
I moved to Chicago a little over 30 years ago after being raised in Kansas City, Missouri and graduating from college in Iowa. So, I’m a Midwesterner through and through. I came to the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies to learn how to influence social change a different way. I am now executive director of Affinity Community Services where I get to use my education and previous work experience to engage Black LGBTQ communities and queer youth in social justice work.
Since I became executive director six years ago, Affinity has been much more involved in advocacy and public policy work. We were very assertive in uplifting race and gender inequities during the fight for same-sex marriage in Illinois and are currently engaged in advocacy efforts to ensure that the Illinois General Assembly and the governor find a humane balance between the state’s financial challenges and the basic needs and quality of life of its residents.
Prior to coming to Affinity, I co-founded the consulting firm O-H Community Partners. While there I grew the firm’s work in the transportation/infrastructure sector and government practice area to a national scale. I developed and implemented community planning processes, policy/advocacy campaigns, and capacity building projects for nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies. My leadership in fundraising was instrumental in raising over $14 million for client programs and general operations.
The first 13 years of my career were in transportation planning after earning a masters degree in urban planning from the University of Illinois at Chicago. I have written and presented research papers on public policy, transportation planning and policy, and social justice. I have also taught mini-courses at the University of Chicago in social justice movements and fundraising. On a lighter note, I have the honor of co-hosting OUTSpoken! a monthly storytelling event at Sidetrack the Video Bar in Chicago’s Lakeview community. It is thought to be the only regularly scheduled event in the country where all the storytellers identify as LGBTQ.
I live in Hyde Park, two blocks from the UChicago campus. I have three children and am married to my partner of 16 years, Mary.
How do you stay involved with UChicago these days?
I remain very involved with UChicago. I teach two mini-courses at the Harris School during winter quarter. One is on fundraising for nonprofit organizations and the other is about LGBTQ social movements. I have also been a mentor for Harris students and for UCPIP Fellows. I am honored to be a recipient of the Minorities In Public Policy Alumnae of the Year award in 2013 and to be one of the featured alumni in the new “Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles” exhibit in the Special Collections area in Regenstein Library.
How did you get involved with the LGBT social justice community? What have you learned/experience that surprised you?
I initially got involved in 1999 when I joined a group of optimists who believed the Gay Games should be in Chicago in 2006. The Gay Games are similar to the Olympics in that they are held every four years over two weeks and include several dozen individual and team sports as well as cultural events. This project brought me in contact with LGBT people from around the world, especially here in Chicago where I met people who have been on the front lines for LGBTQ liberation for decades. It was a good thing that I was newly out and not very versed in the history of the LGBTQ social movement because I would have been awestruck and unable to focus on my part of the project. After an initial setback, the Gay Games did come to Chicago in 2006. I was extremely moved during the opening ceremonies in Soldier Field when Mayor Daley welcomed several thousand LGBTQ professional, elite, and weekend athletes to Chicago.
I joined the board of Affinity in 2007 after volunteering for the organization and became executive director in 2009. Affinity, which was founded 20 years ago, is one of a handful of organizations still in operation in the US that was founded by, and has its primary focus, on Black lesbians, bisexual women and gender nonconforming individuals. Affinity has been a leader in bringing awareness to intimate partner violence in same sex relationships, organizing the first mayoral candidate forum on LGBTQ issues, putting together a summit on LGBTQ youth homelessness, drawing attention to “stop and frisk” and other policing issues experienced by African American youth, and so much more.
My experiences with the LGBT social justice community have demonstrated to me how desperately people want an entry point for social change work and that once they find it, they show up, as long the goals and tasks are clear. On the flip side, if that clarity is missing and the framing is off, it is challenging to pull people away from the complexity of their lives for the task of holding their government and institutions accountable.