Noni - "#BlackPower"
Roots: Manhattan, NYC
Pin Drop: Brooklyn, NY
New Yorker Status: 23 Years (3 years in NJ, 1 year in Boston)
Uniqueness: Caribbean American hodge podge
What was your hometown like growing up? Was it predominantly white, black, a mix of both? I grew up on the UWS on W85th street off Amsterdam. Back then the neighborhood was not so different than it is now, predominantly white but more diverse than the blocks on Central Park West or Riverside. I got most of my exposure to other members of the black community from my elders' friends and family visiting the house. My great aunt Nellie lived with us and was married to Thelonious Monk. So aside from the 2 other black girls in my Gifted and Talented program at the public school, and family my black exposure was predominantly old Jazz Cats reminiscing.
Who in the black community (dead or alive) do you admire the most and why? My mother. Predictable answer but she genuinely amazes me. She returned to finish college after having two kids. While getting her law degree she made it to every soccer game my sister and I ever had. She has been there for everyone her whole life and I have nothing but admiration for her.
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? Most of us have been listening to Beyonce since grade school. Through different parts of our life she has sung about the things that most of us were going through, using her music as almost a roadmap. I still to this day avoid any and all Bug A Boo. Yet somehow her singing about our strength (in formation) and then switching up the message (like in partition) and dancing in stilettos doesn't quite get her my vote for 21st century civil rights feminist leader for black women. For me Alicia Keys is a better representative of my personal expression of feminism. Not to discredit Bey, and I think a woman who can incite other women to feel stronger, and is donating to greater causes deserves props... she's just not my nominee.
Break down your ethnic background. My father was born in Jamaica. We believe his father had some ancestors from India but my paternal grandfather didn't talk much about his family. My paternal grandmother was born and died in the same house that my great grandfather built in Kingston.
My mother's family is part Dutch (by way of slavery), black foot Indian, and African ...though like most African-Americans we don't know where on the continent our family was from.
Have you ever personally experienced racism? If so, when and by who? There have been a handful of instances were I felt like I was being looked at differently. I was a black girl who spoke a particular way, and grew up with certain exposures that not every black girl my age got. I've been called an Oreo since I was 7, and have had a few white 'acquaintances' who have made a lynching joke in my presence. Only once have I ever been called a nigger in a violent way.
I was working as a manager at a prominent Italian restaurant near NYU. One sunny May day in 2016 this man came in and shouted "Nigger!" in my face and then the face of my black Maitre D', and then proceeded to bother other guests. It took myself and a few other teammates to get him off the premises without actually physically engaging him. Due to his behavior prior to this visit and general appearance I don't think he was all there mentally. Nonetheless having someone shout nigger in my face made my blood boil in a way that I can't compare to any other moment in my life.
Photographs by: Frank Chiodo