My Trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day tomorrow, I wanted to share a quick post about my trip to the new addition to Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian museums – the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

As many of you may no, this museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016.  The museum has been so popular that even though admission is free, you have to register for a ticket in advance.  As of today, advance tickets are already gone through March 2017!  That’s how popular this museum is.

I was fortunate enough to land a ticket and go to the museum back in December. It was a very cold Sunday morning but I was so glad I went. I spent over 4 hours in the museum exploring everything from slavery to Motown to the Civil War to the great African-American influencers throughout history.  It was a very surreal experience for me to be honest.  Overwhelming even.  There are 8 levels of African-American history and culture that it made me realize how much history I don’t even know.  To read the stories of people who lost their lives so that I could live a life more free than they did really tugged at my heart strings.  To stand in front of the real casket that Emmett Till was buried in was an experience out of this world.  (His mom had his body exhumed and donated the original casket he was buried in to be displayed in the museum.)  It also reminded me of how history is literally repeating itself now.  All of the freedom that our ancestors fought so hard to OBTAIN is requiring us to fight even harder to MAINTAIN!

I know many of you may not get the chance to see the museum yet so I just wanted to share a few of the pics that I took that day in honor of all of those brave African-American souls who have paved the way for us today and have made their mark in history!  Enjoy the gallery of photos below and remember, black lives have ALWAYS mattered – yesterday, today and forever more!

~V.Davis

 

Being a Black Woman in Corporate America

I recently attended an accounting conference where the keynote speaker was Ms. Kimberly-Ellison Taylor. Ms. Taylor was named the first African-American chairperson of the AICPA, a very prestigious title. I watched how laughter turned to tears of joy for the crowd as they understood the historical significance of this event.  Blacks used to be seen as less than and now here were are, not only working in prestigious institutions but leading in them as well. It began to remind me of my own career journey.

I am a black woman in corporate America.  Yes, BLACK. As if being a woman is not already enough, I had to be “dipped in chocolate, bronzed in elegance, enabled with grace, toasted with beauty – yes a black woman!” (Dr. Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan)

I started my career in corporate America in Fall 2011 and I’ve learned several things that I want to share with other minorities as they begin their own journeys— three of which I’ve listed below.

The stereotype of a black woman precedes me.

In society, women as a whole are considered to be more emotional creatures. But being black on top of that? It’s like a double-edged sword.  Black women are often denoted in society as, well, let’s face it, “crazy.” Inside and outside of our race, we are stereotyped as being loud, boisterous, “ghetto,” etc.  So it’s no surprise that corporate America (sometimes) views us by the same token.

I remember getting upset with some last-minute instructions that my boss gave me a half hour before I was scheduled to leave.  Instead of verbally expressing my anger, I got silent as I tried to calm myself down so as NOT to have an attitude with her. Nonetheless, my boss told me that I had a bad attitude. However, that same boss went around, cursing about her superior (a partner) after the partner made her mad.  Yet she didn’t think she had an attitude?

How I Respond

I’ve learned that positivity is the key factor to ensure that stereotypes don’t precede me.  It’s unfortunate, but since people already see you as emotional (being a woman) and having an attitude (being black), you have to work twice as hard to display a positive image.  For me, this meant that I had to also learn to control my non-verbal reactions so that my mere silence wouldn’t be perceived as threatening.  Is it fair? No. Is it reality? Yes (though not in all situations).  We can’t do much to change corporate America’s preconceived notions but we can ensure that the stereotype stops with us.

My looks play more into my role than some of my non-African American counterparts.

Women are so objectified in society that it comes as no surprise that our looks play a huge role in our professional appearance by others.  But with black women, sometimes, this can be more challenging.

I am a black woman-all the way!  That means on some days I wear my natural hair, other days I opt for a sleek bun, and sometimes I will wear wigs/weaves.

There have been several occasions where my looks have come up in conversation with my non-black coworkers, specifically about my hair. One coworker asked me if she could touch my weave and if I took it off at night; one manager told me she liked my hair much better when I straightened it and my partner told me that I look so professional when I wear my hair in a sleek bun.  And to be honest, these comments greatly affected my confidence in the workplace. I had become insecure about rocking my natural hair for fear of not looking as professional as others.

How I Respond

As black people we are taught to suppress our emotions in order to be respected and not retaliated against.  However, in order to change some stereotypes, we can’t just ignore the ignorance of others – we have to educate them.  And that’s what I have chosen to do at my job.  Instead of being offended and upset, I now try to teach my coworkers the difference between black and non-black hair and why those differences are still acceptable AND are still professional.  We sometimes may be the only black women these people ever see so it is imperative that we do our part to minimize those stereotypes. I’ve had much success by educating my coworkers and I feel it’s created a more welcoming environment for me.

I have to work twice as hard for half the recognition and respect.

This isn’t just true of black women – this is true for most women. Women as a whole, oftentimes, have to work harder than their male counterparts in order to be measured by the same standards of success.  Being dipped in chocolate only means you have to work just that much harder.

No one likes to feel their work is not valued or they aren’t recognized for their successes but sometimes it’s easy to slip through the cracks.  There have been numerous times where credit for things that I’ve done was given to my coworkers and I just sat there and said nothing while my coworkers smiled brightly taking the credit as though they had done the thing all along.

How I Respond

One black partner at my firm told me this, “Videllia, while you’re out here playing checkers, your [non-black] coworkers are playing chess.”  Seeing the puzzled look on my face, he explained to me that I can’t be silent in my career. I’m going to have to actively take charge and make moves so that my skills and career successes are recognized.  I can’t just be basic; I had to learn how to be strategic, always thinking about my next move and that of my opponent (i.e. coworkers) so that I too can have a fighting chance at recognition within my company.

That was probably the best advice that I have ever received in my career. And look at me now.

I am a Manager in my firm at the age of 29.

I am actively involved in our firm’s hiring and recruiting efforts.

I am avidly using my intelligence to teach those in my firm who are ignorant to the black culture about the black culture. I don’t choose to get mad. I choose to educate.

I AM a black woman in corporate America.

~V.Davis

(This blog was first posted by Videllia as a blog contributor on fempotential.com on 12/6/16.)

#Black Lives Matter

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Here’s a quick post on how I feel about the latest events in our great country…

America-land of the free, home of the brave. We’re the country so many others want to flock to but for what?! I can’t even sleep peacefully anymore because I fear that someone I know, family or friend, will be the next “hashtag”. Whenever my mom calls me, I hold my breath, and often start any conversation that sounds like it’s going to be bad with “Mom, before you start, is everyone up there still alive?”  Literally, yesterday, my mom called me and was like are you sitting down? I felt my heart race as I gathered enough strength to ask her if my brothers, cousins and other family members were safe.  (Fortunately, it was just some bad news but was not bad news that related to death of any of my family.)

The fact that even my own mom calling me has me living in fear is such a sad life to live. Yes, I stay prayed up and pray for my brothers and cousins constantly but that doesn’t take away those feelings. In all of my 28 years of existence, these last few have taught me more about racism in America than I could ever read in a textbook. I’m so thankful for my ancestors fighting for our civil rights and liberties but who knew that we would still have to fight to continue to have them?

When this first started happening years ago, I must admit, I was desensitized.  It didn’t affect me personally so I felt sad for the moment and once the moment was over, I continued forward with my life. I mean, surely it was going to stop right?   There was no way justice wouldn’t prevail.  Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and the little black girl who was beat up by police right here in my home state of Texas – surely there was no way these cops would not be found guilty?  And now we add to the list Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile.  And these are just the incidents that I can recall – by far not the number of innocent lives that have been taken far too soon.  I know I say “innocent” and some people will bring up these individuals pasts or try to make them out to be these vicious human beings with a background that justifies the actions of these cowardly cops; however, if you are compliant with what a cop asks you to do, are unarmed, and are not dangerous, you are definitely INNOCENT.

With each new death of an innocent black person, I find that I’m outraged and saddened…gone is the desensitization that I once had. That is why I had to write this post. I don’t usually speak out about things like this, but this “ish” is out of control!! I sign petitions and support peaceful protests but something’s gotta give.  I’d love to live in the America my ancestors fought so hard for. The TRUE America. The America that so many other people from all over the world flock to live and prosper.  The America that is truly the land of the free.  The America that will finally recognize the equality of ALL human beings.  Hell, the America that will recognize that black people ARE indeed human beings.  And we deserve the same respect, justice and civil liberties granted to all of those around us.

Black Lives Matter. Why?  Because ALL LIVES (should) MATTER.

Point. Blank. Period.

My prayers to the families and friends of those once again victimized by police brutality. Justice needs to prevail…is it sad that I fear that it wont?

‪#‎AltonSterling‬ ‪#‎PhilandroCastile‬

-Videllia

There is NO Shade in Beauty

Courtesy of BuzzFeed.com (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)
Courtesy of BuzzFeed.com (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)

The world is talking Lupita.  In case you don’t know why, here’s an excerpt from a recent speech that she gave:

“My mother used to say to me, ‘You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you.’ And these words played and bothered me, I didn’t really understand them until finally I realised that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume. It was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant by saying that you can’t eat beauty is that you can’t rely on beauty to sustain you.

What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master. But it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even though the beauty of her body has faded away.

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”  –Lupita Nyongo  Continue reading “There is NO Shade in Beauty”