Jessica - "#BlackPower"
Roots: Derby, VT
Pin Drop: Bushwick, Brooklyn
New Yorker Status: 7 Years
Uniqueness: Sperm Donor is African-American, Birth-mother is French, German and Native American
What was your hometown like growing up? Was it predominantly white, black, a mix of both? I was adopted and grew up in Northern Vermont - a very small, mainly white town. I would say growing up that there were maybe 10 black kids in my entire town. No one really identified as Italian or German, just French-Canadian, white or black. It wasn't very diverse.
Who in the black community (dead or alive) do you admire the most and why? When I was in 2nd and 3rd grade learning about black history I was always drawn to people like Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and Dr. King Jr. The idea behind someone like Tubman risking her life to help free her people, or Ms. Parks refusing to give up her seat to a white person on the bus, and Dr. King's powerful freedom speech - made me empowered by my black heritage at a young age.
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 have always loved Destiny's Child and Beyonce since day 1. I had this sort of high epiphany one day where I realized how powerful Beyonce was. I studied music in college so my love for her is two-fold. She dominates the music industry but she's become this leader for young black women. From the beginning she was always about women being strong without a man, and then when it came to Lemonade she really began to embrace her status as a feminist and black leader. It took her awhile but she finally used her power for the good. I personally believe all celebrities should. They're given this platform to reach the masses so why not proactively make a change.
Break down your ethnic background. As I mentioned I was adopted so I did not know my ethnic background until about 4 years ago when I found my birth mother. My birth mother is white with blonde hair and blue eyes and informed me her side comes from French, German and Native American ancestry. My birth-father is African-American. I'm essentially an ethnic mutt but I love it because it makes me unique.
Have you ever personally experienced racism? If so, when and by who? Since I grew up in a town with mostly white red necks I experienced a lot of racism. This one kid that was in my class from 4th until 6th grade constantly told racist jokes in front of me and used the N word thinking it was hilarious. Once we got into middle school my mom had to ask the school not to have us put in the same classes. When I was little I never really knew how to respond to those types of comments but once I got to college I really made it a point to stand up for myself. My friends now know that I will not tolerate the use of the N word in any kind of setting - or any form of racism for that matter.
Photographs by: Frank Chiodo