As a black woman, when I see Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey or Beyonce, I feel understood. I see black women with power, who overcame obstacles and I recognize that that feeling of kinship is there because of a similar set of values, a historical connection, a brown, beautiful face. I use this powerful connection as a means to motivate myself when I feel like I’m struggling in the white professional landscape. Here’s how to find a community of people like you in your field, and motivate each other to success.
1. FIND and/or MAKE the Resources
I complained about representation on Facebook and Twitter for a long time, chastising the media for neglecting to highlight people of color in my field. That was, until I realized two things. The first thing- complaining won’t help! I realized that making a personal commitment to CHANGING would. This moment of social justice problem solving encouraged my ideas for a new, inclusive business venture. Two, the resources are always there! Ask around in your network for websites, magazines, newspapers, etc. that highlight people in your field. There is often at least one micro niche publication that focuses on a group of people from EVERY background. If there isn’t…start one!
P.S. Check out Writer’s Market. They have a comprehensive list of publications that can help.
2. JOIN the Community
It’s one thing to know that an organization supports and creates community for people like you. It’s another thing entirely to ingratiate yourself into that community, find support, network and engage in conversations that lead to change. We live in a world where community can begin in a classroom or even through a fantasy computer game. Take advantage of this and meet at least one new person that is doing great things on a daily basis. If that person is the same race as you and can support you through professional injustice, that’s even better!
3. REMEMBER your role models
I remember the string of celebrities that graced my walls as I was growing up. I remember Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, Hannah Montana and Demi Lavato. Though these people are amazing performers and continue to inspire me today (out of fierce, childhood allegiance), I always wished to see a face like mine in poster form. I longed to see black artists thriving and doing extraordinary things. Now, as I enter freelance writing and business, the representation pool has gotten even smaller. That’s why I keep the names and pictures of my black female role models above my work desk. This band of beautiful, motivated women consistently remind me that my dreams are possible and very much in reach.
4. KNOW, inherently, that YOU can too
To know is to “be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information”. If the information is in Point 3 (that representation of colored people is out there) then that means it’s now time for you to realize that success is inevitable. I’m not talking about knowing it in your brain. Know, in that deep part of your being where only you and your dreams reside, that success is inevitable. It is yours already- now put in the work to get there.
5. BE the example for someone else
Recently, I was approached by a girl who knew my name. “Tiara?” She asked, hesitantly. I scrambled in my head to remember her name, convinced that I knew her and probably just forgot. She giggled nervously and said that I didn’t know her, but she knew me. What she wanted was to have a meeting so I could discuss my theater background and my writing. I was completely flattered….and completely surprised! What I learned from this experience is that often, just by being unapologetically yourself, you can help others to gain that same sort of confidence. I exchanged numbers with the girl and we plan to meet soon. Who knows what kind of wonderful conversations we will have, or even, what we, as two brown girls, will gain from a professional relationship based on support and a shared racial experience.