In an effort to leverage our platform to amplify the voices of Black women in our Octopi community, we are so excited to feature Brittany Opeloye. Like many of us, she is a working woman who "does it all", juggling the responsibilities of a mother, wife, IT supervisor, non-profit board member, and activist. And as we continue to educate ourselves and prepare to recognize Juneteenth on Friday, June 19th, we are especially honored to learn more about Brittany's story below.
Tell me about yourself. Where do you consider home?
Houston has been my home for over a decade, but Tulsa will always have a piece of my heart. From my childhood to attending The University of Tulsa, Tulsa laid the foundation for the woman I am today.
How has 2020 been for you?
I’ve deemed 2020 as my year of self-care. In the midst of these pandemics (COVID-19 and racism), I’ve decided to focus on what I can control which includes taking care of my mind, body, and spirit.
Who do you lean on to get through these times?
My husband is my best friend and my biggest supporter. We will celebrate 9 years of marriage this month and 2020 has only brought us closer together. Not only is he an incredible husband and father, I admire his strength, courage and positivity during these trying times…it’s contagious!
My husband is my best friend and my greatest supporter especially during these trying times
What is your relationship with the Black Lives Matter movement?
Maya Angelou once said, “you can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” Much of my life has been dedicated to learning about my history, Black history. Growing up in Tulsa, I studied the Tulsa Race Riot which remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history that destroyed the thriving Black Wall Street business district. In college, I had the opportunity to study Black history, literature and culture through a Certificate program in African-American studies.
As a mother, I am part of a large group of founding members that seek to educate our children on a different Black History theme each month through our monthly subscription to the Because of Them We Can box. It is the first Black history and excellence subscription box for kids, created by Eunique Jones-Gibson. Each month kids can use the contents of the box to learn about trailblazers, organizations or movements that paved the way!
My personal call to action has been educating myself and others on history and current issues, mentoring disadvantaged youth, donating to organizations that help people respond to racial injustice, supporting Black-owned businesses, and championing change and equality in my professional endeavors.
Because of Them We Can is a way to teach and refresh Black history while connecting the dots between the past, present and future
What has changed in your life since you’ve become a mother?
Before motherhood, I would describe myself as a perfectionist. I wanted every project, every position, and every relationship to be perfect. Being a mother has taught me to be content with “good enough” in many areas. It’s okay if my house is not always neat and tidy, it’s okay to miss my friend’s events, and it’s okay if my boys don’t have the best homemade Valentines to give to their classmates. The store-bought Valentines are “good enough” :)
As I raise my two sons, these words of wisdom from Michelle Obama's mother resonate closely with me, "I wasn’t raising children, I was raising adults”
What is the role that women and mothers play in the Black Lives Matter movement?
Former First Lady Michelle Obama often recalls how her own mother told her that “I wasn’t raising children, I was raising adults.” One of the best things we can do as mothers is to prepare our children for adulthood by talking to them about what’s going on in the world. This includes having those uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism and police brutality. Perhaps more importantly, children are taught by who we are more than by what we teach. Children watch our lifestyles. Make sure your lifestyle reflects support for those who are often targeted and mistreated as a result of the color of their skin.
Can you share your experience as a Black woman in corporate America, and how has that role evolved in the last few months?
Being a Black woman adds an additional layer of complexity to navigating a corporate career. At times, I have had to assess how being my authentic self might impact my professional advancement. Black women often take on a much heavier workload than our peers to demonstrate that we can perform just as well, if not better. In addition to an already heavy workload, recent events have opened the door to engage in uncomfortable yet necessary conversations about the challenges that Black people face. The burden of leading these conversations or consulting with those who have questions is heavy. I’ve had to remind myself that it is okay to not have all the answers. It is okay to be truthful and intentional when asked those rhetoric questions such as, “How are you today?” Instead of going through the motions and saying, “I’m great! Thanks for asking,” I’ve decided to challenge myself and be more honest and forthcoming about how I’m really doing. If that means my response is not the most upbeat, I’ve given myself room and permission for that to be okay. Being a black woman in corporate America can be a form of systemic oppression within itself and until we acknowledge that, I’m afraid nothing will change in the workplace.
SENREVE was built on the brand pillar of empowering “women to do it all”. What does being a “woman who does it all” look like for you?
In the past I’ve tried to “do it all” to ensure that others could see the value of my work. Over the years I have learned that being a woman who does it all means having the courage to NOT do it all. One of the most empowering things we can do as women is to say yes to ourselves, by saying no to others. I now have what I like to refer to as “the gift of no” and a result I have more time, freedom, and energy to say yes to whatever serves me.
One of the most empowering things we can do as women is saying "yes" to ourselves by saying "no" to others
Can you share any resources that you personally recommend reading or watching that you’ve found to be helpful in fostering empathetic and productive discussions?
In March, I read “The Memo: What Women of Color Need To Know To Secure a Seat At the Table” by Minda Harts. This is the first book I recommend to those seeking to be allies because it provides insight into the unique barriers, microaggressions, and office politics that Black women in corporate America deal with. I also recommend an article by Danielle Cadet titled, “Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay – Chances Are They’re Not.” It summarizes what much of 2020 has felt like for Black people as we’ve dealt with witnessing higher death rates of COVID-19 and witnessing the unjust killings of Black people, sometimes caught on camera.
When everything around us seems out of our control, it’s helpful to practice gratitude, name 3 things you are grateful for this week.
1. Health – my family is healthy while safe at home
2. Peace – I am grateful for peace that surpasses all understanding in a world that often seems to go from bad to worse
3. Rest – Naps are my favorite home remedy :)
Amidst all that is happening, I am grateful everyday for the health of my family
I have been encouraged by the glimmers of change that I am already beginning to see over the past few weeks. I’ve seen parents talking to their children about racism. I’ve seen an increase in the number of people seeking to understand the history of racism and the connection between racism, economic issues and injustice.
Change is complex, but it starts with educating yourself and identifying ways that you personally can make a difference. Everyone cannot do the same thing, but everyone can do something. What is your something?