Recently in a conversation with some young women of color, I was informed of instances where they felt further marginalized in the workplace, so I told them to act up. *Pause* Before you begin to get in your feelings rooted in historically oppressive thoughts about appropriate behavior, journey with me. I’m a 28-year-old woman of color who works in the nonprofit field, for an organization rooted in social justice. I mentor, advise and coach other women of color who are from all walks of life. With a strong foundation of who I am, I will surely justify why I told these magnificent, engaging and trusting young women of color to act up.
In an hour long conversation, they both told me about how the intersections of their identities were not being taken into account by a white female supervisor. I’ve been there. I listened as these women spoke about their religion, mental health and what to me sounded like a toxic work environment, and I gave my honest opinion. ACT UP! One of the young ladies happens to be from the city. She mentioned not wanting to "bring the city out" in these interactions with her white female supervisor. I stopped, and I questioned, "why not"? She then paused to ponder on the question. Why is it that our feelings have to be suppressed so we aren't deemed an angry black woman?
As a proud North Philadelphia native, I’ve taken the city with me wherever I’ve gone and realistically it hasn’t failed me yet. Over the years, and having attended a PWI for college, I’ve been told that my city demeanor was always too much. Yes, I’m blunt, and I don’t like small talk, however I am also trustworthy, loyal and respectful. I sincerely engage with others and they have my support to the fullest. City girls can be multifaceted too.
I ensured this young lady that there is nothing wrong with the "city girl" coming out because at the end of the day it is rooted in wanting to be respected. Stay with me. I was NOT directly advising her to engage in any of the stereotypical outrage that you’re thinking of. If you're thinking that, just stop. I was merely telling her that there is nothing wrong with self-advocacy. Historically Black women have been casted and categorized as angry, loud and so forth. In reality, those feelings if expressed in those ways comes from thousands of years of being unheard. I can be loud if I want to.
In my professional opinion, I told these two promising Black woman that acting up is truly redefining what it means to be a Black woman who shows up authentic to themselves and can advocate for their respect. I often work with women of color who, specifically in the workplace and higher education have been taught that you must conform to a timid, and soft spoken way of advocating for yourself and that’s not always realistic. In fact, that may make some so uncomfortable that they choose silence as a means of coping.
As a woman of color, self-advocating may feel like a burden however it is necessary. You are deserving of respect and I urge women of color to understand that the idea of professionalism is rooted in oppression therefore how you choose to show up to advocate for yourself may not align with societal norms and that is OK. In my true North Philly fashion, that translates to acting up, and disrupting the systems that are set against you. The young women I spoke to recently helped me to see that I need to follow my own words more closely and while I know they left the conversation inspired, I left feeling eager to get this message out to others:
To the young girls in the all-white high schools who feel unheard, act up.
To the young professionals who are entering the workforce and want to be heard, act up.
To the women of color who are constantly cheated of promotions and accolades, act up.
To the women of color who are constantly silenced, act up.
You are your strongest advocate, and you deserve respect.
A North Philadelphia native, Ms. Tamika Austin serves as the founder and CEO of Embracing You, LLC. With over 10 years of experience as an educator, Ms Austin takes an innovative approach to working with students and stakeholders. Her experiences include working with Education Works, Americorps, Montessori Genesis schools, and state and private colleges. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Interpersonal Communication Studies, and Master of Education in Counseling and College Student Affairs. Having presented at conferences, and audiences of over 500 participants, she possess the experience and training needed to thoroughly engage with others. As an advocate for college access for those of marginalized identities, Tamika provides consultations and assistance for college campuses and organization on how to best support these students.
FB: Tamika Austin
Sometimes you may have to take a moment or two to sit back, observe, evaluate and redirect yourself. When you really want something you have to put in the work and make things happen for yourself. Throughout my journey of restarting my blog I have learned I must be consistent and push myself to keep going.
When I moved to North Carolina in 2015 I had a game plan. I told myself moving to a new location will be rejuvenating and allow me to get back to writing more and re-branding myself. However, my idea of a fresh start didn’t take off as quickly as I hoped it would.
Upon my arrival I was focused on perfecting and developing myself for the job I moved to North Carolina for. I put all of my time and energy into developing myself into the leader I would love to have and who my staff wanted to have.Therefore, my game plans were paused so I could focus on my current situation in order to learn how to balance it with the things I wanted to do. To gain a true restart on my blogging I wrote down 6 things that would help me birth my ideas.
1. Less Talk More Action!
Revamping my brand and blog was not easy. It took several long talks with my friends and line sisters to make things happen. It got to the point where I realized I was making a lot of noise but not making any progress. Meaning, I was talking about the things I wanted to do but was not making any movement. Therefore, I flipped things around and started planning the revamp of my blog. It took a lot of scratch paper of planning and thinking about my audience, topics, things I enjoy writing about and the things I am knowledgeable on. I wanted the content I was putting out to my audience to be valuable, positive and uplifting.
2. Gain Knowledge
Becoming knowledgeable in the area you are pursuing is the key to enhancement. I wanted to gain knowledge on content development so I did my research on different seminars and online classes for content development. I found several courses that lead to certification in my area of interest. I finally found a program through Cornell University that I was amazed with however, the amount of the course was out of my budget. Since I didn’t have the money for the course up front I began to look into the free route which lead me to Hubspot Academy’s free online courses for content development and marketing. I took the classes to learn how to improve the content of my blog and to reach an audience of readers who was not already following my blog.
3. Believe In MySelf
Throughout my revamping I had to learn to be my biggest cheerleader and motivator. There were times when I got into my head and asked myself questions like “What if no one reads my content? What if I offend someone? What if I am not good enough? What if people laugh? Or, what if my readers trash my work?” Those questions made me move slow in the process. However, one of my friends at the time was consistent with asking me every time we talked when was the last time I wrote something; I would always use my tiredness as an excuse for not writing. However, the truth was, I was writing but there were several things in my draft box not posted because I worried if my work was good enough to share with others. One day I was staring up at my quote wall in my apartment and my eyes landed on the quote, “ If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.” From that moment I started editing and posting everything in my draft box. Come to find out the articles I worried about the most were the ones I received the most feedback on.
4. Write and Read Everyday
I pushed myself to write everyday to get my creative juices flowing even if I only wrote about the things I did throughout the day. When it comes to reading, I am a firm believer that reading helps to stimulate the mind. I use to be an avid reader but during college somewhere between studying for exams and writing 2-3 papers a week reading for fun was nowhere in my thought process. In order to increase the amount of books I read I signed up for a library card in my new area of residence. I even search for relatable articles online through LinkedIn and several other platforms.
5. Stimulate My Desires
I work a lot and sometimes I forget to play so, I started to make the attempt to do things I enjoy. One of the main things that really fuels and stimulates my life is travel. Traveling is rejuvenating and opens the mind to new things. Every since the decision was made to travel more I have traveled to several places to my own surprise: Montego Bay, Jamaica, Cancun,Mexico, Los Angeles, CA, Asheville, NC, New Orleans, LA, and the list goes on. I want to share my experiences with my audience so I began to plan more adventures locally and internationally.
I have been working with people for years however, I still find it hard to network at times. In order to make connections with other bloggers, influencers and entrepreneurs I joined several networking groups and attended a few conferences which allowed me to unleash my skills. Most of the networking groups are online but a few of them meet up once a month. Making connections with go-getters and bouncing ideas off of like minded creators is such an amazing feeling. Two of the first online networking platforms is Muses and Black Bloggers United which really helped me to communicate and collaborate.
Restarting and re-branding is not easy. There are so many things to add into the equation such as figuring out who you want your audience to be, marketing, content development, ROI and etc. However, I personally found out when it comes to restarting and really revamping anything putting in the work and having consistency is the key. You have to be dedicated and really want whatever you’re going after.
Qualatrice is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She is originally from South Carolina but resides in North Carolina where she works full time in retail management. She spends majority of her free time traveling, blogging and hanging out with her friends & family.
Her favorite place is the beach and she dances when no one is looking!
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Website: I journi Blog