Strong/Gay/Christian/Woman of Color/Philanthropist/Athlete
As a strong, gay, Christian, woman of color, I identify with many labels that society would consider a paradox… and I love it. It has a way of shaking people out of their comfort zones and reevaluating certain stereotypes they may have. At a young age, I really struggled with who I thought I was suppose to be and who I really am. Once I embraced all the unique things that made me, me, I started to love life and all that it had to offer. I think the best way to explain who I am would be to describe what I love, so here it goes: I love my God more than anything I have ever experienced and I know He loves me even more. I try to live my life in a way that serves His purposes, and to love others the same way He loves me. I love women and the way they can be so gentle yet so fierce at the same time. I love basketball and I have been playing as long as I can remember, it is a big part of why I always chose to compete in life. I am currently playing ball professionally overseas, and it has been a blessing to travel and meet new people. I love my family and the person they have raised me to be. I have a White mother and a Black father. I identify most with the Black culture and I am proud to be a woman of color. I am proud of my strength: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I had to overcome many things to become exactly who I am today, and I would not trade it for anything in the world.
It has been a long, complicated process, but I first recognized my power when I left home to go to college. It was a turning point for me and I was tired of trying to fit into the box society made for me. This was my fresh start, so I decided to embrace my authentic self and all that it would take to stay true to that. For instance, this was the first time I was openly gay no matter my surroundings and I never felt so much freedom and confidence in my life. Sometimes random people would come up to my girlfriend and I just to tell us how beautiful and happy we looked together; it even happened at church a few times. It seemed like the more I embraced that part of myself, the more it gave others permission to do the same, but when I was unsure of myself they were as well. The same thing happened on the court, in the classroom, and through my outreach. As a kid, many of my friends did not think it was cool to get good grades so I would not try as hard and had doubts about my abilities as a student, but in college I completed my masters degree with a 3.8 GPA.
I still hope to embrace myself in all my complexities even more and I to encourage others to do the same. I believe this is a lifetime process and you can never really be done growing. Most people just need something to reach for and I want to be the kind of person that points them in the right direction. As for myself, I measure my own growth by who I was yesterday and who I hope to be tomorrow, with an understanding that some days will be better than others. As long as I am moving in the right direction then all is well. The best indicator of my growth is how much peace, freedom and gratitude I feel at any given time. If I do not feel those things than I know I need to reflect and adjust accordingly.
My advice to a person of color on how to be unapologetically themselves would be to own it! Embrace all that you are, even those things you wish were better or you wish you did not have to go through because they made you who you are today. ‘Fake it till you make it’ has a natural effect on your feelings and on others who witness the confidence you embody. I think too many times we try to change how we feel or what we think instead of focusing on who we are and what we do. Figure out who you are and what you want to be about then do your best to choose those things on a daily basis. My faith in God and wanting others to feel that same kind of love is what drives me. Once I started to focus on my faith instead of my fears so many doors opened for me that I never even dreamed of walking through. I have always felt a passion for helping those in need but never knew where to start, one day I just decided to go for it and I loved it! Now I have been working with Blessings Under The Bridge (homeless non-profit organization) for more than 5 years and I ran a basketball camp at an orphanage in Haiti this past summer. Those were things I never thought I would be capable of doing but once I started to put my beliefs into action, my confidence grew as I went.
People of color should be proud of all that we are and all that we have overcome, and at the same time we should be grateful for the opportunity to use that power to build up future generations to do the same.
Do you, be you, and enjoy the ride.
Want to stay connected to Haiden and her work?
Homeless non-profit organization: http://www.butb.org/