Most hated stereotype: Black women don’t workout or care about their health.
Disease has left its mark throughout Tamika’s family tree, from her father who has had a heart attack and throat cancer, her mother who is currently fighting her own battle against breast cancer and an aunt who passed away from complications of diabetes.
“There is a history of almost every disease and illness in my family, many of which can be prevented ad controlled with proper diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.” she said. “I decided to do everything I could to decrease the odds of developing these illnesses and diseases.”
Counting her health as her prized possession, Tamika enjoys exercising, especially Zumba and other group classes, and cooking.
Currently a teacher, her dream career would be in educational outreach with a focus on engaging minorities in mathematics and science, a field that continues to be deficient in minorities.
“I began participating in summer enrichment programs at local HBCUs in middle school and they kept me interested in math and science. Being able to see people that I can identify with is probably why I developed a love for mathematics and have degrees in Physics.”
Tamika experienced many lessons in stereotypes while obtaining those degrees, including managing the shock and awe that some experience when they realize she’s black, a female and holds advanced degrees in physics. In school, she often found herself in situations where people immediately assumed she would not understand something, stereotypes based on her race and gender.
“The fact that people treated me this way used to weigh heavily on me. It was stressful and frustrating but I got through it and eventually stopped caring what they thought. Situations like this are why I’d love to have a career in math and science that focuses on recruiting and retaining minorities and women.”
Making snap judgments based on someone’s appearance could be harmful to the person doing the stereotyping, Tamika warns.
“I love getting to know people for who they are because when you assume things you miss out on getting to know the person that is actually there.”
If you started a nonprofit, what cause/issue would you want to benefit? Why?
I was lucky to learn about opportunities in math and science, usually because I found myself in the right place at the right time. Getting more minorities, including women, into mathematics and science and making sure they stay in those areas has always been important to me. If I could start a non-profit it would be a mentoring program that allowed middle and high school students, students and professors at colleges and universities and those working in math and science to connect with each other. Our children need to see and have access to people that they can identify with in these areas. They also need access to people that won’t assume negative things about them because of their race and gender. Those in these areas at higher levels can serve as great mentors while ensuring that the next generation is diverse and talented. I would love to be able to provide a venue for each of these groups to interact and meet.
Proudest moment of your life so far:
Meeting my Weight Watchers goal is the proudest moment of my life so far because it represented so many things.
It took 13 months for me to lose over 60 lbs. and rediscover myself. For the first time in my life I was actually able to look at myself in the mirror completely naked and smile at what I saw. I became much more in touch with my body. I’m confident and informed about food decisions and when I make bad choices I’m well aware of them. I didn’t know that I had issues with food. I didn’t know that I was a stress eater and that I used food as a coping mechanism.
Meeting that goal showed me that I can have the things that I want if I put in the work. It was the beginning of me being happy, taking care of myself and getting my life back on track.