I was told multiple times that I’d never be able to achieve this type of success because I didn’t fulfill certain societal notions of what it meant to be “successful” or “worthy” of anything better than my current circumstances.
“You can’t enter here,” said a secret service officer stationed at a gate on the corner of Jackson Place NW and the 1600 block. I informed the officer that I was here to get my COVID testing done because I’d been invited to the White House by the President. I was confused as to why the officer allowed numerous white individuals through without a second glance. Though I was the only singular individual he denied access immediately after they passed through. He then proceeded to tell me that I needed to head to the 17th Street NW Main Entrance to be cleared to enter. I then waited for four other people who had also been invited to the White House, and we started our journey to have our COVID testing done, only to be turned around since we couldn’t enter until 12:30PM for our appointment.
Anxious to make sure we were on time, we were able to find the proper gate that allowed us to get tested. After the testing, the staff told us that if we didn’t hear from them, it was a good sign. I thanked her for her help and waited 30 minutes outside to see if we were all cleared.
30 minutes passed and there was no call. Excited, we rushed to check in, and as I proudly displayed my Certified Driver License (CDL), it was analyzed by the White House staff member where they checked a list, and said five remarkable words that I will never forget…
“Welcome to the White House.”
Finally, the first words spoken to me that held more weight than I could possibly fathom.
I was in a state of wonderment as I took in my surroundings. The architecture, pictures, and designs all held a certain aura that couldn’t be replicated. Thinking about how far my family has come, from my maternal great grandmother, Frankie Newman Durham, who was three years old at the time my family fled the Rosewood Massacre in 1923 –to my grandfather, George Watson, who was drafted in November 1959 during the Vietnam War Era and finally retired from Civil Service in 1993. Then there was me – who was invited to the White House by the President in 2022.
This is a true homage to all of the leaders that came before us and paved the road for this to happen. All I could think of as I strolled on theWhite House lawn was the words of Shirley Chisholm:“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Looking up at the sky and grinning, I said, “this time, Shirley, President Biden provided the chair. All I have to do now is take my seat and get to work!”
With only 4% battery life on my phone, I decided to share this monumental experience with three younger generations of my family via Facetime to inspire them and let them know that anything is possible now that the glass ceiling has been shattered! When President Biden took the presidential platform, all I could hear were the children’s stunned gasps from my phone and my niece exclaiming, “my auntie is actually at the White House!!”
As a teen mom with limited opportunities and resources, my dreams and aspirations had to take a back seat in order to provide for the development and growth of my children.
What started out as a personal goal to finally put myself first and enter the male-dominated transportation industry in search of financial stability and independence, quickly changed into something greater after encountering numerous disparities.
Each disparity reinforced my drive to further female growth and development in the transportation industry. One of the first adverse experiences I faced when trying to break into the industry was during training school. Despite failing my first official CDL driving exam, I was motivated to improve my abilities and overcome my shortcomings. During that time, another student who had not taken their driving exam yet was occupying the assigned training truck for an extended period of time.
I proceeded to request use of the truck, only to be met with my male instructor confronting me in an aggressive tone, yelling, “you’ve already failed, dammit!” as he pointed his finger in my face so close that I felt the heat of his breath and his saliva hit me. I had the distinct sensation that he was about to physically assault me at that point.The incident was humiliating in itself. Not to mention it occurred in front of 97% of my classmates, all of whom were men, and it left me in a state of emotional distress. Such experience was rather discouraging.
I was frightened that if I didn’t stand firm in my opposition to him, he’d continue his erratic conduct with other women who may join the profession. I partnered with a male classmate to immediately petition the school’s dean for a safe and secure atmosphere for all women in training moving forward.
From being on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic to the challenges that women encounter in the transportation industry, transitioning from a hospice nurse to a non-traditional career as a professional truck driver has been nothing short of a life-changing experience. Women in the industry face many inequalities such as extreme forms of sexism, sexual assault, verbal abuse, being placed in precarious situations, and misogny. This is associated with the feeling of being undervalued, bullying, and discrimination. These are all common experiences and feelings for women working in transportation.
My personal mission of helping 500 companies in developing or reorganizing their infrastructure, to position their companies for profitable growth is what led me to establish Cohesive Solutions, LLC, a compliance solutions agency specializing in DOT and FMCSA compliance management. But my deeper calling inspired me in wanting to assist over 1,000 minority women who have been cast off and classified as “futureless”, to consider entering the trucking sector. This would help to provide a career, financial security, and close the gender gap between male and female truck drivers.
The economic hardship that was brought on that had an outsized effect on a lot of minorities, particularly women. Through my first-hand experience, I aided and encouraged the need to build a table to allow minorities’ voices to be heard when it came to issues pertaining to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and provided an opportunity to give back to our next generation led – all through to the creation of the National Minority Women’s Association in Transportation, Inc., a minority women-owned advocacy organization.
Although the National Minority Women’s Association in Transportation is considered the “New Kids on the Block”, that does not negate the hard work that we are putting in behind the scenes. We’ve had countless meetings with industry leaders in an effort to have our voices heard about the continued issues that plague the transportation industry.
There have been many organizations that have worked directly with past administrations to combat the continued issues that face the transportation industry, though none have been founded by minority women. The data that continues to be provided, in relation to diversity and inclusion in the trucking industry, has been skewed and riddled with inaccurate information on the diversity breakdown of women and men in the trucking industry. Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the trucking industry continued to be an afterthought that past administrations have failed to recognize.
Over the last 90 Days, the Biden Harris Administration held a number of listening sessions and engagements with drivers, unions and worker centers, industry leaders, and advocates to ensure their voices and experiences are shaping future actions across key areas such as:
- Ensuring a safe and inclusive industry for women
- Truck leasing
- Detention time and compensation studies
- Truck parking
- Strengthening workplace safety and workers’ rights
The National Minority Women Association In Transportation, Inc. had the grandiose opportunity to participate and have our voice heard on several impending issues within the transportation industry closely related to minority women. And this certainly won’t be the last time. We’re here for the long haul.
Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the speakers/writers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Transfix, Inc. or any parent companies or affiliates or the companies with which the participants are affiliated, and may have been previously disseminated by them. The views and opinions expressed herein are based upon information considered reliable, but neither Transfix, Inc. nor its affiliates, nor the companies with which such participants are affiliated, warrant its completeness or accuracy, and it should not be relied upon as such. All such views and opinions are subject to change.