In honor of Black History Month, we're doing a series highlighting our employees' experiences and sharing what Black History Month means to them. Check out our previous Employee Spotlights of Katrice Gerald and Kevin Foster.
Nina was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism, and also has her certification in Interdisciplinary Dance. Nina is currently a Customer Support Associate at Notarize. Nina is passionate about reading, sports, helping others and bringing a bit of sunshine to anyone who needs it on any given day. She is the wife of an amazing husband, and mother to one super awesome son.
Black History Month is a 24/7/365 thing for me. To quote Beyonce Knowles-Carter, “Couldn’t wipe this Black off if I tried.” You see, I’m Black everyday. It’s just that in February, I’m “Blackity Black Black.” And while I try my best to be humble about it, I do take a healthy measure of pride in the way that I was created. With that said, I am also very proud to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses; so I do my best to be balanced, using the Bible as my guide. I love that my race is never an issue when I am with my spiritual family.
That being the case, I am consciously aware of the fact that I am Black everyday. Without a word, you first notice my appearance. And while we are taught as children not to judge a person by their appearance, but by their actions, we all know that as imperfect humans, we all prejudge people in one way, shape or form.
For me, being a black woman is truly a gift and a curse. On a positive note, I appreciate the random POC that see me and compliment my curly fro, or the “hey sis, your melanin is poppin” or vibing to songs like “Brown Skin Girl” on playlists that have been curated by Apple Music, Spotify, etc. I love wearing shirts by fellow college alumna, Kalilah Wright (owner of Mess In A Bottle, who has t-shirts in Target stores nationwide for Black History Month), as well as online with messages meant to invoke self-love and self-pride. On the flip side, my skin color is also seen as a weapon and/or a threat to some who do not look like me.
For me, being Black is beautiful, but not everyone thinks so. Insert the negative and not-so-fun-to-talk-about side of just trying to live in the skin I was created in. There are countless times that I can recall when I’ve gone places and dealt with everything from stares of confusion, disgust and rolled eyes. I’ve been followed by employees in retail stores, and pulled over by police, despite carefully obeying all traffic laws (I even spell out S-T-O-P every time I approach a stop sign just to be safe).
But this part is often left out of Black History Month discussions. This month is about being proud of who we are as Black people and celebrating our contributions to society, right? To each their own. I’d like to think that I’m a healthy mix of James Baldwin who once said, “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage,” coupled with Nina Simone who said, “To be young, gifted and black is where it’s at.”
At the end of the day, I truly believe that we are all wonderfully made and should have a healthy measure of pride in ourselves, an accurate knowledge of where we come from and what makes us who we are — and crucially, have the ability to acknowledge this in others. That is just one of many reasons why, despite the changes and progressive movements that have started or been joined, hatred still exists and impels society to designate months for different races and cultures.
Black History Month exists out of necessity. Necessity to validate the feelings of all those who struggle to find their place in a world that doesn’t readily accept them at, quite literally, face value.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary states that,”The man afflicted by phthonos (or envy) does not necessarily want the goods he resents another having; he simply does not want that other to have them… his aim… is not to win but to keep others from winning.” The envious man is often unaware that his own attitude is the main cause of his problems. More conversations need to be had, more opportunities need to be judiciously provided, more representation is required. Until then, the best thing that we can all do as individuals is follow The Golden Rule and treat others the way that we wish to be treated. If we all did that, we wouldn’t need to designate a specific month for anyone because the world would be a much better place for everyone — especially those of us who are Black and/or underrepresented and marginalized.
This is what Black History Month means to me. But being Black, or any race for that matter, is not a one size fits all experience. I implore anyone reading this to do the work: Reflect on your own experiences and then have the tough conversations that need to be had and work towards more inclusion, more understanding and more love. And, if nothing else, start by shopping and supporting Black-owned businesses (especially small Black-owned businesses) throughout the year, not just in February.