Hidden Figures- Women In STEM Scholarships!!!

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If you’ve been to the movies lately or happen to watch primetime TV, you have probably seen the previews for Hidden Figures, the biographical tale of three African American women who served as the computational brains behind the launch of Astronaut John Glenn into Orbit. African American? Women? Human computers?  Even today, the majority of us would equate that to seeing a unicorn, so imagine the struggles and barriers these women had to overcome in 1962. Feel inspired? Great, because PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox are partnering to help you continue the fight of breaking barriers in STEM and changing the world by awarding up to $200,000 in scholarships with their “Search for Hidden Figures” contest. The contest is open to all female-identifying residents of the United States, 13 or older who are interested in changing the world through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. To learn more about this contest, and to enter the search, click here . Applications are due by 12/10/2016. Be great!

 

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5 Gems From Angela Yee on The Combat Jack Show: Old Interview, Still Relevant

Episodic Introduction Of Darnaa Hosted By Angela Yee at Le Foret New Orleans on February 16, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

(Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images for Echoing Soundz)

Women in Radio: Entry #1

Most recently, I came across an old interview with Power 105.1 Radio Personality, Angela Yee, on The Combat Jack Show, and as an Angela Yee fan, and lover of Entertainment and Media (fyi, my educational background is in Mass Media and Communication Studies), I found the interview to be entertaining, as well as inspiring for those who may feel lost on their career journey. For the first post from my 3 post “Women in Radio” series, check out my 5 Gems from Angela Yee on The Combat Jack Show.

1) If they don’t get it now. They’ll get it later.

Angela Yee’s parents weren’t the most supportive of her career choice. Angela says that her parents were always big on education, so one could assume that her pursuit of a career in entertainment wasn’t what they had in mind when they sent her to the best schools. However, Angela says that now that she is successful, she gets along with her parents just fine. In fact, she recently bought her father a new car.

Key Note: Don’t wait for people to support you, or give you the “okay” before you chase your dreams. You have to believe in yourself first. They may not believe in you now, but they can’t deny the WORK.

2) Reject The Lie That Quitting a Job is Career Suicide.

Angela Yee worked several jobs, not only before landing her current position with The Breakfast Club, but before ever working in radio. Graduating with a degree in English and goals of becoming a writer and photographer, Angela Yee worked in a variety of jobs and industries, before landing in radio. In fact, her first job after college lasted two days. She hated it so much that she quit. Now, Angela Yee is a millionaire, working in a job that she loves but was not her dream job in college. She still has plans to write a book one day, but her path to getting there, has been full of even more fun twists and turns than she imagined.

Key Note: Don’t stay anywhere you aren’t being fed. If you can take care of yourself, don’t feel guilty for quitting jobs and trying new things until you find your perfect fit, and remember, what fits you now, may not fit you in the future. You have the right to explore, grow, and live your life. Never, ever live your life in fear of what others will say.

3)Take a Chance! 

Angela Yee was terminated from the job before her jump into radio, and a “jump” is exactly what landed her into the role that is responsible for catapulting her into the powerful voice you hear through your speakers today. While Angela was looking for her next job, and interviewing for other gigs that fell in line with her past experiences, someone told her about an audition for a radio personality at Sirius. Angela, who had no radio background, thought “Why not?”, took a chance, landed the gig, and is now one of the biggest radio personalities in the country.

Key Note: Are you playing it safe? Did an opportunity present itself that doesn’t make “sense” but it invigorates and excites you? Go for it! Take a chance and step out on Faith. Plans change, and your path is never as direct as you map it out to be. Don’t be afraid to change course in search of something better.

4)Brand Name? Know Your Worth.

Angela was offered a job at the famous, Hot 97, while she was still working at Sirius. Hot 97 offered Angela less money than she was making at Sirius, a show where she would have a limited voice, and no visibility or presence in the name of the show. Why would they think this was acceptable? Well, Angela believes Hot 97 considered the station’s reputation and popularity to be enough for Angela to join “the winning team.” Angela turned down the offer, and decided to stick it out at Sirius where she had her own show until a better offer came around. Shortly thereafter, Angela Yee joined Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club” and now it’s one of the biggest radio shows in the country.

Key Note: From personal experience, I cannot stress enough how important it is to not be fooled by the “brand” when accepting a job. Too often we fall in love with the status of a company’s brand and what they appear to be, only to find out after joining their team that their company culture or the job itself is no where near as glamorous or progressive as we may have thought. Remember to base your career decisions less on Brand Names and more on how they fit with your personal path and desires.

5) Competition? None.

The Breakfast Club personalities don’t try to compete with other stations and shows. According to Angela, she doesn’t even listen to other stations. They focus on doing what they do the best. Whether it is Charlamagne The God going farther than most are comfortable with in his quest to get genuine interviews and be transparent, or DJ Envy maintaining a presence in the clubs to play the music that people really want to hear, or Angela Yee providing the details on some of the biggest stories in pop culture while keeping the peace during dynamic interviews, The Breakfast Club and Angela Yee have mastered the art of staying true to themselves.

Key Note: Don’t crash because your head is turned worrying about what’s going on behind you or in the next lane. Your path is yours alone, so the only person you must compete with is the person you were yesterday. Be successful at being you!

 

If you don’t mind a little profanity and a truly raw conversation (Rated Mature), you can check out Angela Yee’s interview on The Combat Jack Show at https://soundcloud.com/thecombatjackshow/the-angela-yee-episode .

UPDATE: Angela recently interviewed with Combat Jack for Hennessy’s “Never Stop, Never Settle” podcast. Check it out here.

 

American Promise: The Struggle with Youth and Cultural Identity at PWI’s

American Promise (2013)

American Promise (2013)

American Promise is a pretty insightful film. Maybe not in the way the filmmakers intended, but it gave me more insight into the shared experiences of many students of color, especially Black students, in schools where they are drastically underrepresented. American Promise tells the story of two Black males from Brooklyn, NY, Idris Brewster and Oluwaseun (Seun) Summers, and their journey at a prestigious, historically White private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, The Dalton School. Both of the students begin the school in kindergarten, but due to academic challenges, Seun leaves Dalton after eighth grade to attend a predominately Black, public high school. While the documentary’s purpose seems to be to show the difficulty Black Males experience in a predominately White School due to a difference in treatment by administrators and teachers, to me, it more-so reflects the cultural identity struggles that students of color experience when attending predominately White institutions. As an African American whose educational background is somewhat similar to Seun’s (I started off at a private PWI in elementary and later transferred to a predominately Black school during middle school), I have selected three scenes in the documentary that I identify with. Hopefully, these shared experiences will shed light on a few of the cultural identity challenges many of us face during childhood, when we do not see a strong representation of ourselves in our schools.

1)     Seun’s mom wants him to feel comfortable around White people, because she does not.

Somewhere in the beginning of the documentary, when asked why she wants Seun to attend Dalton, Seun’s mom in true transparency tells the camera that she wants Seun to be comfortable around White people because she is not. How loaded of a statement is that? The belief that attending school with White people will make one more comfortable around them, can be argued, especially for me, but there is also the implication of the opposite of her statement. By being one of two or three Black people in a class, and one of a handful in the school, over time, how will that affect the way the child feels around Black people, specifically, Black people who are not being socialized by private, prestigious, predominately White schools such as Dalton and the like?

I related to this because of the well-intentioned beliefs of our parents who choose to sacrifice and work very hard to put us in schools like Dalton. I am grateful that my mother and grandmother worked hard to give me a “better” education, but where I can relate to Seun’s mother’s statement is in our parents’ beliefs of what qualifies as “better.” More challenging academics, exposure, and resources, yes, I agree that those qualities make for an awesome educational experience, but socializing children, especially students of color, to talk in a certain way, not have an opinion, look a certain way, “behave” a specific way, and basically fall in line with the majority to allow white people to feel comfortable around THEM (because it’s never about US feeling comfortable around THEM) is a crap-load of respectability politics that is extremely harmful to the child and can take a lifetime to unlearn.

2)     Idris is teased by the kids on his neighborhood basketball team (mostly Black) because of the way he talks.

This scene pulled at my heartstrings, not only because I’ve experienced it, but also because every Black person with a similar educational background can probably tell you the same story. There is a huge struggle with being true to yourself, which is speaking however you have been taught in school, to fitting in with those who look like you, live near you, and often, live WITH you. I don’t feel bad for adults of color who constantly complain and rant, usually on social media, about people saying they “talk white” because I have found that they typically fall into one of two categories, 1) those who want to be perceived as smarter, better, or in my mind “more White” than others in their racial group, or 2) those who typically sound stupid anyway but they need a reason to pat themselves on the back. It’s all a bunch of attention-seeking nonsense to me, but watching a middle school Idris, honestly explain learning to codeswitch hurt my heart. I wanted to hug that little boy through the screen and tell him to love himself, and don’t worry about those who are teasing him because its only their hurt speaking because they have not yet learned to love themselves. Love them and love you, but love you more because that’s the only way you can truly, genuinely love them.

 

3)     Idris asks wouldn’t it be easier to be white since none of the girls (White) at his school wanted to dance with him at the Bar Mitzvahs or seemed to be attracted to him.

I didn’t mention it earlier, but the entire documentary was filmed by Idris’s parents, Joe and Michele. In this one scene, Idris, who I believe was in eighth grade at this point, was speaking to his Dad who was holding the camera. His father asked if he ever kissed a girl or did he want to kiss a girl, which was extremely awkward on camera, and Idris went on to tell him how none of the girls like him, and everything would be easier if he was White. He asked his Dad was this true, in hopes of receiving some validation of his belief, but his Dad did not answer, he just let him ask several times with no response. I hope that his father spoke to him off camera, but it was one of the harder to watch scenes in the film for me. I remember being one of two and sometimes three, Black students in my class throughout my elementary education at a private school, and as ashamed as I am now, I experienced the same thoughts, only I did not talk to anyone about them because I didn’t think anyone else could understand, and at that time, I was right.

In first or second grade, one of my classmates had a birthday party at her house, and she invited most of the girls in the class, except for me. When me and my bestie at the time asked her why, she explained that her grandmother did not like Black people so I could not come into her house. I brushed it off and pretended not to care. I buried the experience deep, so deep that I didn’t even remember it until over twenty years later when my department did a team exercise where we had to talk about a painful time related to one of our identities. That was mine.

Would I place my own children in a predominately white school in order to provide them with the best formalized education possible? I’m not sure. I am not yet a parent, but I do understand the desire to provide your children with the best resources possible to better the chances of them having a successful life. The problem is that as I mature, my definition of success changes and therefore so do the desires I hold for my unborn children. Right now, my greatest desire is to raise a Black child who is self-secure and free. Free from society-imposed standards, free from living for others, free from self-doubt, and most of all, free to be whomever he or she wishes to be. Maybe raising my child to be free has less to do with the formal learning institution and more to do with the learning they do outside of the classroom. Either way, one thing I know is that we must work on being free parents in order to raise free children, regardless of the source of their formalized education.

 

American Promise is currently available on Netflix under “Documentaries.”

College is Not for Me!

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Photo Courtesy of https://unsplash.com.

 

“College is not for me.” is one of the most common statements I have heard throughout my higher education and mentoring career. Although a college degree is not necessary to claim financial independence and success, it serves as a letter of permission to suit up for many People of Color who strive to set foot on the corporate career playing field, let alone, attempt to even it.

A 2014 study, by the national non-profit Young Invincibles, entitled Closing the Race Gap reported that African American millennials have to earn two educational levels higher than their white counterparts in order to have the same employment opportunities. The report went on to say that African Americans and Whites have nearly the same chance of employment with high education levels (pg. 8). The findings of the first part of this report are nothing new to People of Color, especially African Americans. Many of us grew up with the same words of wisdom from our elders, “You have to work twice as hard to get half as much.” It’s a sad reality, but not many will deny that it is still a reality.

The second part of the finding, I find hard to believe (as did a few commenters who shared their feedback on the non-profit’s site). As a Masters-level professional who was led to career-writing to encourage others who may relate to my experience, I have come across countless People of Color, especially African Americans, who are highly educated and qualified, and drastically underemployed. At the risk of coming across completely crazy, I must admit that I have found underemployment to be worse the unemployment. This is very much due to my  past experience working the same job I worked in high school, years later, only with 2 degrees, years of internship and professional experience, debt that amounted to a pretty healthy down payment on a 3 bedroom house, and a defeated spirited.

Knowing what I know now, do I still believe college is for me and you? YES! YES! YES! Although my college degree did not pay off immediately after graduation,  “Sallie Mae” and “Navient” have been added to my list of bad words, and throughout my career most of my equally-paid (or so I think) peers have had less education and experience, I am finally at a place where I can say my degrees opened doors. My degrees got me in rooms that would not be open to me without them even if those rooms were made more easily accessible to those who do not look like me. My college experience taught me valuable lessons about business, networking, and life. That experience combined with my struggle in and after college have grown me, and I am a firm believer that your higher education experience will grow you as well. So yes, I do believe that college may not be for everybody, but I do believe it is for us.