A panel of powerful female voices in the media space joined Undefeated Senior Entertainment Reporter Kelley L. Carter during the Entertainment All Access experience at the 2021 ESSENCE Festival of Culture presented by Coca-Cola for a conversation centered on breaking out of traditionalism and surpassing stereotypes in the professional sphere to seize opportunities that feel authentic.
MSNBC Contributor Brittany Packnett Cunningham, ESPN Sports Analyst/Host Monica McNutt, Pinterest Senior Global Lead of Public Affairs Alise Marshall, Founder of Unapologetic Communications Takirra Winfield Dixon, and Howard University PhD student Zakiyyah Ali each weighed in on creating spaces and opportunities to remain true to self and advocate for our communities. During the discussion,which was presented by ESPN’s The Undefeated, four key points stood out as a means to finding your own method to buck traditionalism for true authenticity. Scroll down to check those out and check out the video above to watch the conversation in full.
For more of everything you missed at the Entertainment All Access Experience during the 2021 ESSENCE Festival of Culture, click HERE.
Decide What Your Impact Will be, And Use Your Position To Make It
Marshall emphasized the importance of focusing on how you can use your position to be a vessel of change regardless of where you are in your career. “What I tried to do was ask myself, not what job do I want, not what title do I want, but ‘what impact do I ultimately want to have?’ I think no matter where you are, you can leverage your platform and you can leverage your access to address the structural barriers that exist for our people, and to give voice to the issues that we face.”
Show Up Authentically
McNutt bucks traditionalism in the sportscasting space simply by showing up as who she is: a Black woman with natural hair. She asserts that simply being unapologetically herself in her workspace is not only satisfactory for herself, but an act of progression for others. “I remember saying to people that I loved, ‘this hair is coming as it is. I am coming as I am.’ Could I say that perhaps some things didn’t bounce my way because it is such a visual medium and I didn’t fit the look? Possibly. But when I look at my journey and where I am now, there is not a single thing that I would change and I am most proud of being able to show up hoop earrings, bright lipstick, short hair, like ‘here I am. Hear me tell you about these sports because I know what I’m talking about.’”
Use Your Voice
Having written an academic article on Black athletes breaking the mold of traditionalism, Ali stressed that the use of your voice is essential.
“I think about people like Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson, who said ‘as an artist, I come to sing. But as a citizen, I come to speak for peace and nobody is going to silence my voice.’ The biggest thing any of us could ever use is our voice. Staying in the traditional model diminishes the voice because it tells you that you’re supposed to be seen and not heard.”
Don’t Be Afraid To Say NO
For Dixon, the most authentic thing she could do was leave corporate America altogether and forge her own path.
“I left the table. I created my own table. Sometimes saying yes means saying no, trusting yourself, and having that clarity of what is really going to help me thrive and succeed. For me, it was being part of white supremacist capitalism. It was not working for someone else.” She said. “As is the case for so many Black women in this country, right? The system is not set up for us, period. Like James Baldwin said, ‘I may not know you personally, but I know you historically.’ So for me, I’m trying to change what that history is.”
Embrace Surpassing Traditionalism
As Cunningham summed up, surpassing traditionalism boils down to unapologetically being the fully realized, multidimensional woman you are in all its layers. “The fight for freedom is the fight to fully be free. Which means that we can be ourselves in all of those dimensions. We know that many of the industries we work in want to flatten us, they want to create one dimension because then we are more palatable. If we are just the broadcaster, just the CEO, just the wife, just the mother, just the activist, just the voice, then it’s much easier for white folks to swallow us. But if we bring all our dimensions, not only are we more free, but guess what? We are setting everybody else free too. So I will not let you limit me…no baby, I’m all of these things, and you’re welcome.”