“Over the years of being here in Santa Barbara, I was often one of the few blacks in the workplace or at an event,” says Quienna Broadnax. “I wondered if anyone else felt the same and wanted like-minded people to meet.” 

The vibrant, charismatic founder and president of Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals (SBYBP) tells me about the genesis of the organization. “It all started as a mixer in 2016,” she explains. “Six months later, it became a nonprofit.” 

The goal of the organization is to facilitate advancement, networking, and community service amongst the black millennials living and working in the Santa Barbara area. Besides their mixers, SBYBP holds quarterly workshops on varied themes like financial literacy, mental health, and professional development. They also do community service activities like beach clean-ups and site work for Habitat for Humanity. 

“Our reach is wide,” says Quienna. “We have members from Ventura and the North County. Our first mixer only had 15 people. We now have over 240 currently in our mailing list. We haven’t started to reach our full potential.”   

She points out that SBYBP is one of the more active black organizations in town. “It’s important for us to let Santa Barbara know that we’re here, for the black community to be visible,” she says. “A lot of people don’t see a large demographic here.”  

Quienna explains that Santa Barbara lacks cultural linkages for the black community as well as basic needs like cultural amenities. “What is this town doing to cater diversity?” she asks rhetorically. “Where do we get our hair products? Where is a good barber? Black people have to go to L.A. to see themselves reflected in the community.” To counter this, last February, SBYBP hosted their second annual pop-up art exhibit in Paseo Nuevo entitled “Black Art Now.”  

Quienna also addresses how expensive it is to live in this town. “We hope that SBYBP is able to give people resources so they’re not drained of their money and talent while they’re here,” she explains. “We want young people to be mentored by the older members in our community.” She dreams of a permanent center for SBYBP “that inspires pride and identity, a community-oriented space offering resources, like info about health care and owning a home.”

Quienna was born and raised on Edwards Air Force Base. “I was a military brat,” she says. “Sonic booms were a common thing.” A childhood friend whose family was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base introduced her to Santa Barbara, and she has fond memories of spending time on State Street. 

When it came to college, she went to UCSB and got a degree in feminist studies with a minor in education. In 2011, she started working part-time for the Goleta company Inogen and was hired full-time after she graduated in 2012. In 2014, it was time to try something else, so she got her current job as a certified property appraiser for the County of Santa Barbara Assessor’s office.

“It’s a very diverse group,” Quienna tells me about SBYBP. “Black isn’t one size fits all. We have members from different geographic regions, people from different religions, from Europe, Africa, and all across the U.S. So we’re very diverse and there’s a lot of diverse perspectives. It really makes the group special.”

Quienna Broadnax answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Aside from helping to cultivate community in Santa Barbara over the past few years, I would say running the Paris Marathon some years ago through involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Team in Training.” It’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever experienced so many different emotions in a short amount of time. Plus, if you knew me growing up, running 26 miles would be one of the last things you would expect me to do.

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is not using my God-given talents to their greatest potential. Life can get so busy sometimes, but I never want to be so busy that I am not making the most of opportunities.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I cannot pick just one because there have been so many who have sacrificed and caused a change in the climate, so without abolitionists and civil rights leaders, without educational pioneers, without the suffragettes, without trailblazers in the medical field, I could not have gotten this far.

What do you like most about your job?

During the day, I am a property appraiser with the County of Santa Barbara and I have had the opportunity of seeing many different types of properties from Lompoc to Carpinteria. After work, I serve as the president of Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals (SBYBP), which I founded in 2016. SBYBP serves as an uplifting, community meeting place and it gives me joy when I receive positive feedback that a member found housing, services, network connection, employment, or just had a great time at one of our monthly events.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I experience the most happiness when I am with friends and family sharing a meal on a nice warm day. There’s nothing like being with loved ones, laughing, catching up, and enjoying delicious food.

Who so you most admire?

I would have to say my mom (or “momager” as I lovingly call her)! She instilled very valuable lessons in me and is my biggest supporter.

What is your greatest extravagance?

After the rent I pay each month to live here, my biggest extravagance is travel. I make it a point to see someplace new each year.  A couple of my favorite destinations have included Istanbul and Athens. I definitely have a thing for the Mediterranean.

What is your current state of mind?

Inquisitive and optimistic. A mentor recently advised me to ask myself, “How?” when dealing with a problem in order to see the possibilities and to arrive at creative solutions.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Depth. I seem to vibe more with people who are honest, real, and willing to have meaningful conversation.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

I’d say I am a pretty good judge of character so if someone is being disingenuous, I can tell pretty quickly.  

What do you most value in friends?

Humor. I love friends who can make me laugh and get my, sometimes corny, jokes.

What is your most marked characteristic?

People tell me they enjoy the faces that I make when I’m reacting to stories. I guess I can be pretty expressive.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Emojis! I use a lot of them when I’m texting. I definitely overuse the laughing, prayer hands, and heart emojis!

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would love to be able to sing or paint well. I greatly admire the arts and how expressive one can be through different media.

I would love to be able to sing or paint well. I greatly admire the arts and how expressive one can be through different media.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’ve always been the short one in my family so, if anything, I would want to grow a couple inches in height.

Where would you most like to live?

I think it would be nice to live abroad in Paris and travel across Europe, but, of course, there’s no place like Santa Barbara.

What is your most treasured possession?

A treasured item is a cartouche I received from my dad when he was stationed in the Middle East. This is one of the things that really made me interested in other cultures and seeing the world at an early age.

What makes you laugh the most?

Right now, a good joke/meme/post will crack me up. There are some gems out there on the internet!

What is your motto?

“Keep going!” I’ve been finding that life is about perseverance and learning from challenges. It’s always a good reminder for me to keep pressing on in the midsts of hard times or even when navigating uncharted territories.

On what occasion do you lie?

In the morning, almost every morning, I tell myself it will only take 15 minutes to get to downtown Santa Barbara from Storke Road and find parking. #wishfulthinking

411 | SBYBP will host a Black Table Talk event on February 12 at 6:30 p.m. Location TBD. Visit sbybp.com.