By Tammy Pitts - MNA Director of Communications
*Taps mic* Is this thing on? Hello. I am Tammy Pitts, Director of Communications at Michigan Nonprofit Association and you’re reading the first post of MNA’s new blog: MI Nonprofit Lowdown. As chief writer, I took the liberty of sharing my story with you in the inaugural post.
I can sum up who I am in two words: Unapologetically Black. Despite the challenges and struggles Black women face, I am proud to be part of a group of women who are the backbone of their community.
Because I am a Black woman, it is important that I am always afforded the opportunity to be my authentic self. After all, this pandemic has taught me to live each day to the fullest and that is how I begin every workday at MNA—as my authentic self.
In this era of racial reckoning, companies and nonprofits alike are asking the question, “How can we be better?” Nonprofits are reexamining their mission statements and taking a closer look at their values. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, nearly every organization issued statements that trounced racism and vowed to reaffirm their own DEIJ efforts. In fact, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) became the new cool buzz words, right? But it is so much more than that. Racism is real and people of color experience some form of racism almost daily. So, it is time for nonprofits and corporations to back up those DEIJ statements. After all, if you’re going to talk the talk- you need to walk the walk. And for DEIJ initiatives to be a success- it must come from the top.
I started at MNA last fall. My career background includes a 17-year stint in broadcast news where I was senior producer of a top-rated morning show in mid-Michigan. What initially sparked my immediate interest to work at MNA was President and CEO, Donna Murray-Brown. When a person of color is deciding whether to join an organization, we immediately browse the staff section to see if there are other minorities and we look at their ranking in the company. We also look at the company’s mission statement and values. The first face I saw on MNA’s staff page was a Black woman. Representation matters.
It’s not just Donna leading the team here at MNA- look around you. Black women are doing big things in 2021. We are leading. While breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings isn’t an easy feat, we are getting the job done. Black women are being named CEOs of major corporations, we are being appointed to all sorts of prestigious boards, we are getting our PhD’s and we’re starting our own businesses.
My own mother, Shirley Pitts was a trailblazer. She was a schoolteacher, but her day didn’t stop when the school bell rang. She was busy- choir director, community organizer and founder of the nationally famous Jackson High School Black History Tour Group. Oh, and she was raising four kids too. She formed her famous group in 1994 and traveled the country with her students singing and educating people about the importance of celebrating and elevating Black History.
She was known for informing people that Black History was 365 days of the year- not just in the month of February. She made several stops at the White House over the years where she performed for Presidents Clinton and Bush and performed at President Bush and President Obama’s inaugurations. My mother once said, “to be an effective teacher, you’ve got to be a role model all around. I teach by precept and example.”
I ponder on the words of former senator and now Vice President Kamala Harris who said, “Being Black is understanding your role and responsibility to an enduring and thriving legacy.” Again, representation matters. Shirley Pitts was a pillar and left quite the legacy in her community. And I am what I am because of my mother.
I hope you will follow along and read the MI Nonprofit Lowdown weekly. My intention is to share the inspiring stories of the work that you do as well as to inform and educate on issues that matter. I hope you got to know me a little better by me sharing my story and I look forward to meeting you.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from one of my favorite poems by the late Dr. Maya Angelou.
“Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman