Dear WOC, You Are Not the Word No!
Dear WOC, You are Not the Word No.
It took me two years, (that's right, two years) to find a decent job after finishing college. Those two years were rough and filled with so many emotional breakdowns. I didn't think I could cry anymore than I did within those two years. And I'm not talking , I got a boo boo five-year-old cry, I mean, grown woman, ugly face sobbing. I’d get up and head to my 5am job to unpack boxes and deal with over-privileged managers. They’d let me know that my hard work didn’t protect me from shift cuts as they sipped their Venti Lavender lattes. Thankfully, however, I had a second job where the pay wasn’t much but it allowed me to splurge on a decent iced coffee.
It was a tedious job in Manhattan at a “luxury” denim retailer. The annoying amount of micromanagement and racist comments made my shift unbearable. My white manager (lets call her “Nicole”) would often utter nonsense like, “I am really a black woman and my family says when I speak they say I sound Black”. I still cringe today, thinking back about the comments she used to make. On a weekly basis, I had to deal with different "I'm a black girl" jokes with no regard to my presence. Me and my BLACKNESS were invisible in Nicole’s eyes. I’m still unclear on whether that was her attempt to relate to other POC at the job but I wasn’t having it. I had told her once how offensive it was, and she (of course) grew defensive. It took a toll on me, I felt overworked, insulted, and unappreciated in these spaces.
Two years ago, I was working from 5am to 9pm four days a week in order to achieve this “dream” of living in NYC. But the stress sometimes wasn’t worth it. I felt tired and depressed everyday. I would come home and just cry my eyes out. But, I still had to get up and show up because I wasn’t defeated. I would endure all of this to have two checks that sometimes didn't cover my rent and other necessities. But that wasn't even the cherry on top to my daily struggles. I still had my dreams that I was pursuing and it was all draining. Every time a door closed on me, it felt like a break up. The kind of break up where “What’s the 411?” would be on repeat with me crying along with the lyrics of Mary J. Blige. It felt like a break up with my dreams. It felt like my dreams were that guy that I loved so hard and he kept playing with me and my emotions. Nevertheless, I maintained my focus of pushing my writings to different publications. I continued attending events that I knew would be integral for my professional development. I even had the chance to do an on-camera interview for a radio station I admired. However, all of this effort didn’t feel like enough.
While most would have walked away and said “F*ck this”, it didn’t make sense for me to just hit the game over button. I knew by doing so, I’d be going back home to Las Vegas feeling unaccomplished. I was put on this earth to do many things and quitting wasn’t one of them. What we choose to do in our lives isn't easy and being an ambitious woman and a woman of color are two factors that sometimes cast out us out. It's been the story that's been told over and over again. Sometimes it could even just be the simple fact that we are not ready for the next level in our lives, which is a hard truth to swallow for most of us. But, that's never a reason to stop knocking on the door or creating another entrance for yourself. It’s hard to pick up the pieces when you feel broken from your dreams but when you look in today’s world, so many women are doing it.
'If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.' - Shirley Chisolm
Women such as my mother, Makelia Coleman, Maya Angelou, and Zora Neale Hurston, set an example for me and so many others on why the word “no” is unacceptable. Look at all of the women of color who chose to create their own paths when the door was closed. But if history isn’t good enough for you, look at what’s happening right now! Women of color, all over, are speaking up and setting out for what they have deserved for so long. 63% of podcasters are non-white, a 20% increase in women of color taking leading roles in television, and over 32.7% of women of color are earning business degrees.
Yes, we are creating new ways to get in the rooms that we were locked out of for so long. Seeing these phenomenal women, who were once told “no”, are now walking across that stage to accept awards and other accolades of acknowledgment that they genuinely deserve. This was all a broken girl like me needed to see to keep pushing. It took me two years to land a role in digital media where I can start to change the narrative for others that come after me. It took me two years to find great minded people such as our brand (AHUS) to hear my vision. It took two years for me to wipe the tears and to realize I was born from ancestors who pushed and thrived from the word, “no”. I am in great company everytime I look to women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Issa Rae, Malala Yousafzai, and other women of this era who continue to fight for their dreams.
So women of color, let this be my love letter to you. When you fail, and you feel lost, look to the many women before you who once were told: "you can't do that." Look into the mirror and realize your story is so much more than hearing the word “no”. For we are phenomenal women and let my story of pain and upward growth be my love letter to you.
here’s my last note to you:
Dear, ambitious women of color, you deserve everything, and you will soon prosper the fortune you have designed for yourself. So stop allowing the word “no” to shape how you see your life.