People often ask me when I decided to be an activist, that I personally needed to play a role in righting wrongs. And, I always answer: I don’t think I decided, it was baked into my DNA. As I look back, four affirming events have made me who I am and kept me focused on righting an unjust world.
Snapshot one. I’m eight years old, and I’m on my father’s shoulders at the March on Washington. I doubt that I knew who Martin Luther King, Jr. or John Lewis, or any of the notables were or what they stood for. I just remember being overwhelmed by a sea of people who all seemed to be passionate about something.
Snapshot two. I’m 14 and staying with my beloved grandparents. Despite many odds, they were successful caterers serving the segregated white establishments in Lewes and Rehoboth, DE. A white patron came to the house, and during a conversation with my grandfather, he calls him a boy. Filled with righteous indignation, I said to him, “My grandfather is not a boy, he’s a man!” After he leaves, my grandfather scolds me, saying that I very well could have cost them a job. Then he hugged me and said, “Don’t worry, I know who I am.”
Snapshot three. At 16, I picked up the phone to hear a series of clicks – my father smiles and says the phone is probably tapped. “They’re looking for your brother,” who was a Kent State student activist and had fled to Canada to dodge the draft.
Snapshot four. I’m 19 and have graduated from Hampton University. That fall, I enter The Ohio State University on a “Fellowship for Minority Students.” The day I moved to Columbus, OH, the Ku Klux Klan was holding a rally downtown. Two days later, I and all of my fellowship peers, most of whom had attended HBCUs, were called into a meeting where we were told we needed to take remedial English classes because “they” feared we would not be able to keep up with our white peers. If we took this class, our fellowship grant would have run out before we finished our program. I deferred and graduated on time.
Baked into my DNA. My life experiences provided no other choice but to fight against injustice both here and abroad. I’ve marched for civil rights and women’s rights. I’ve marched against police brutality and school shootings. I sat in at the South African embassy against apartheid. I’ve boycotted countless businesses, signed petitions and called my legislator. I’ve participated in voting drives, food drives and clothing drives.
From my parents, I learned that I had a responsibility to give back and that it takes a village. So, I created a girl’s empowerment program for 8–18-year-old girls at my church. I’m working with a group called VillageMed to build a pediatric clinic in Haiti and Change Foundation to develop and deliver women empowerment programs to Boko Haram victims in Nigeria. I’m the current chair of the Carpenter’s Shelter board of directors in Alexandria.
When I’m not trying to save the world, I’m a seasoned marketing and communications professional known for my creativity, strategic thinking and ability to motivate people. I have over 40 years of experience in brand management, advertising, integrated marketing, market research, public relations, digital marketing and event management working with a variety of corporations and my latest stint at the marketing agency Yes&. I love helping organizations actualize their brand by uncovering differentiators and turning those differentiators into impactful stories.
Earlier this year, I felt I’d come to the end of my work career. I’d told my boss that at the end of the 2020 I was planning to retire, planning to put all my efforts into my activism and sit by a beach. But life is full of surprises. One of the last projects I did for my previous employer was to conduct a communications audit for the ACLU of Virginia, where I was immediately impressed by the work and more so by the passion of the people. Then I discovered they were looking for a Director of Communications, and all thoughts of retiring evaporated. Finally, an opportunity to combine my skills and my passion.
And that’s what most excites me about joining the ACLU of Virginia. I get to combine my love of activism with my expertise in creating impactful communications. I believe that the ACLU does great work, and my goal is to humanize our issues and show that the work done by the committed team at ACLU of Virginia has an impact on real people in very real ways. We live in a world that needs warriors for justice, and I’m glad to be one of them.