Whitney - "#BlackPower"
Roots: Cape Coral, FL
Pin Drop: Brooklyn, NY
New Yorker Status: 1.5 years
Occupation: Associate Producer at a documentary film company
What was your hometown like growing up? Was it predominantly white, black, a mix of both? I'm from a pretty small town that was surprisingly diverse to some level - especially for what most people might think about Florida. It's a mostly white neighborhood but there were also a lot of Spanish-speaking families from Cuba, DR, Colombia, etc. and a sprinkling of black people. There was also a very small Korean population.
Who in the black community (dead or alive) do you admire the most and why? Ava DuVernay, Lauryn Hill and Michelle Obama (in that order) are my three favorite people because they are each fearless and authentically themselves in every way. They are unapologetic bosses and everything I've seen them do has inspired me to be a boss in my own way. If I had to choose just one, it would have to be Lauryn because her music has raised me! From the time I was born, I was listening to Lauryn Hill and since then, the meaning of her songs have changed as I've gotten older and understood more about life.
Beyonce has somewhat deemed herself to be the un-appointed 21st century civil rights and feminist leader for black women - how do you feel about this? I love Bey, her whole family and her style as a professional and artist. I think her music has always had some level of positive messaging for young girls, from Destiny's Child's Independent Woman (Pt. 1), to her solo tracks Single Ladies, Girls Run the World and Flawless. So I see feminism there. I don't know that I really think of her as a "civil rights leader" for black women, though. As Nina Simone most famously said, an artist's duty is to reflect the times. Beyonce has done that to some respect, but with her last two albums, I mostly saw two collections of work that were fearlessly about what she's been going through, with a high profile marriage and potential marital issues and her daughter Blue.
Have you ever personally experienced racism? If so, when and by who? When I was in the third grade a white boy, whose name I'll never forget, called me a nigger. I don't remember the conversation I had with my family but I remember my aunt going down to my school and setting that straight immediately. Thinking back on it, the most important thing was that someone was looking out for me and made it clear that no one was going talk to me that way and to never let anyone make you feel less than.
Photographs by: Frank Chiodo