“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
As a 2nd generation college graduate, I know first-hand the challenges at play from my experience matriculating through K-12 educational system in Richmond, VA. Because of systematic injustices, I was shuffled around by my single parent mom just to gain a quality education she felt I deserved. During my schooling, I faced microaggressions, racism and often many times, the only person of color in my honor courses. My mom fought tirelessly to expose me to STEM opportunities and pair me with mentors. As I got older, I began to realize I was the lesser with tons of questions surfacing throughout my teenage and
“Why do minorities have to fight so much to gain a valuable education? Why do some teenagers have to give up going to college just to work to provide for their families? Something has to change. Something has to give…Why Is K-12 education still so segregated? Why are there so many low expectations for blacks to succeed in some communities? Why are only blacks receiving 6 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees and less than 4 percent of masters and 2% of PhDs…?”
And after my teenage years is when I knew it was my goal and passion to pay it forward to my community and to other communities that look like me…to bring wealth, exposure and critical resources to advance black and brown communities, women and other minorities— to make the US look more diverse and become inclusion for all. So I enthusiastically entered the STEM Nonprofit workspace and began shepherding initiatives becoming an intrapreneur in my organization. Then I began creating more professional opportunities to minority Tech students and others. My first experience in managing a STEM program was in diversifying Pharma, Merck & Co: UNCF/Merck Science Initiative— to date we have funded over 700 African American Scientists in various bio life science industries who are now paying it forward.
Fun Fact: I hold a Bachelors of Fine Arts and just launched an Etsy Store 🙂 In fifth grade, I created a paper doll set of my clothes and would set my daily outfits based on the doll set and weather.
What # would define your life journey?
Favorite website / app:
AnnTaylor. Yes I am a shopaholic and that is my go-to for quick fashion that I need for work events etc. But my number 1 go-to site when I wake up is Medium and then TechCrunch.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
Who else but my mom. She inspired me to 1. always innovate and think outside of the box creating opportunities for myself & to also how to be professional and adapt to different environments. She taught me to be fierce and believe in myself. Other mentors: Karl Reid, Exec Director, NSBE. Rich Clemmons, Chief of Staff @UNCF. Meg Brindle, Former Program Director and Professor, George Mason’s Art Management Program. Kelli Lemon, former VCU Advisor and lifelong friend.
Song that makes you want to dance:
7/11: Beyonce or Flawless: Beyonce
Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
Overcoming the Social Economic Status of my childhood. My mom gave birth to me at age twenty after dropping out her first year at an HBCU. She was the first of her family to attend college.
She did not have it easy growing up being the tenth child in a family of very meager means. She was placed in the foster care system after the government deemed it inappropriate for a widowed black male in the 70s to raise an eight year old child. But mom was a very strong and unique woman.
We lived in the projects until I was seven. But, for a 7 year old surrounded by love and attention, I thought we were rich. My mom masked the reality of our humble beginnings. Desperate to not become another statistic and to provide a better future for her own child, mom re enrolled in college classes at a local HBCU in Richmond, VA: Virginia Union University. Without the income to afford a babysitter, I attended her classes with her. I often joke with her that I should have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a masters’ in rehabilitation counseling in addition my own advanced degrees.
During my teenage years and throughout my undergraduate career, I tried to mask my upbringing because my mom was doing quite well then with her own private therapy practice. I thought people would not take me seriously if they knew where I came from. But as the years passed, I embraced my childhood and humble beginnings. It made me who I am today… A Diversity Advocate and Innovator.
I no longer became a victim to imposter syndrome. It made me strong, resilient and easy to adapt to any adverse situation or circumstance. I do not want others or the next generation who look like me to endure some of the challenges I did. I want them to be exposed to tons of opportunities and
hopefully, I can continue to be that link or connector.
Chief Diversity Officer
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Be true to yourself and discover your passions. Do not think you are a lesser to men. Women have the power to shake and move mountains collectively! We can change the landscape of the workforce/entrepreneurship and drive to the mountaintop in heels! Don’t try to fit yourself into a minority box. You have the ability to break barriers and the glass ceiling:) Keep fighting the good fight.