As Black History Month draws to a close, AmPopsy had the chance to sit down with a few dynamic women who are making waves in their respective industries to discuss their thoughts and reflections on celebrating the rich history of African-Americans this month and every month.
Below, we speak with U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Marissa Scott. Born and raised in Louisiana, Marissa now works and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she serves as the Director of African media. In this role, she is responsible for connecting U.S. policy makers and experts with media in sub-Saharan Africa and the Francophone world.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
I celebrate Black 365… However, Black History Month allows me to share and celebrate in a corporate way. I can honor African Americans in my work; it’s something that I’m able to do while I’m serving my country abroad. For me, everything is global, so the fact that I can share my community with the global one helps me to be a better diplomat.
What brings you hope in this day and age when it comes to the ongoing fight for racial equity?
Like the editor of this online magazine, my family and I are Hamilton fanatics. The musical has been the backdrop for us throughout our quarantine in South Africa. It continues to heal us through COVID-19 and the changing of the guard; that is, the new Biden Administration. My children, ages 13, 5, and 3, know the lyrics of most of the Hamilton soundtrack, including the raps! What resonates with me is that “history has its eyes on [us]” and despite the national trauma that we’ve experienced, “I am not throwing away my shot,” and I will always be “young, scrappy, and hungry” just like my country. Through a diverse cast of storytellers, Hamilton brings me hope that I can change the narrative even when his-story didn’t, and in some case still doesn’t, include me.
Who are some of the black history makers who have most inspired you and why?
America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, is making history now. During her inaugural poem, she also referenced Hamilton, noting that “history has its eyes of us.” I am moved by her activism and focus on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization. She will not be a one-act play. Miss Gorman is here to stay.
Netflix is not a person, but it is definitely a history maker. The company has truly invested in African television and film. By doing so, the company is exposing new audiences to uniquely-African comedies and drama.
I am inspired by the new class of leaders in government who are not silent about their experiences.
Tianna Spears was a Foreign Service Consular Adjudicator and experienced various forms of racism in discrimination on the job. When she reported the behavior to her superiors, they dismissed her claims. Stories like Tianna’s, and there are many like it, are a reminder that the Department of State has a long way to go in areas of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Her story has already forced the Department to listen. Already, the Department has increased the number of Pickering and Rangel Fellows by 50%–an act that will bring more diversity to the Foreign Service. Though Tianna decided to quit the Foreign Service, her voice made ripples through the Department. We owe her gratitude for speaking out and not censoring herself when she knew that a wrong had been done.