What is your position with ABLE?
I actually wear two hats; when I joined ABLE in 2018, I was hired as Leather Director. Since that time, I’ve also taken on the role of Design Director. That means that in addition to creating our leather bags, I oversee the design and development teams for denim, apparel, footwear and jewelry.
Can you tell us a bit more about your background and what made you who you are today?
My parents raised me in an ultra-diverse environment, something for which I’m truly grateful. Our family– both biological and chosen– was every color and creed, so I learned from an early age to value difference. I didn’t realize what a gift that was until later in life.
What do you think about when you hear “Black History Month?”
It’s not my favorite term. It implies that black history is somehow separate from just plain history. America is the story of all of us, so black history– as well as white, asian, native, arab and latinx history– should be a year-round concept.
Why do you think diversity is important in leadership roles?
Representation in leadership is important for many reasons, but here’s my top two: 1) When people see themselves reflected in positions of authority, they’re empowered to dream bigger. 2) Different life experiences create different perspectives, which in turn creates innovation. We need changemakers in the driver’s seat because that’s how the world moves forward.
What struggles have you faced as a woman of color, and what have you learned from them?
I’ve definitely encountered racism, both overt and as microaggressions. The root cause of both is the same: ignorance masquerading as insight. As someone who’s never fit the aesthetic mold of the fashion industry, I’ve literally been taken at face value more times than I’d care to count. What I’ve come to realize is that when you make assumptions about someone who’s different than you, you’re the one who’s missing out.
What’s one thing everyone can do to participate in Black History Month?
One of my favorite organizations is LeanIn, which coaches women on ways to support and elevate each other professionally. This month, they’ve challenged their members to identify one action they can personally take to be better allies to their colleagues of color.
I think that’s absolutely brilliant, so I’m stealing it: find one thing you can start in February and continue doing all year to create a more inclusive community. It only takes one step to start the journey towards change.