February: Black History Month
This February, in honor of Black History Month, we are honoring those advocating for, supporting, and celebrating African American heritage and culture in New York City. Congratulations to our February Spotlights, Thalia Y. Carroll-Cachimuel and Kyumon Murrell!
Thalia Y. Carroll-Cachimuel
I got to where I am today because of my community of mentors. My community of mentors consists of family, friends, professors, previous colleagues, faculty at my alma mater Northeastern University, current colleagues, faith leaders, and the list goes on. A mentor doesn’t always have to be the perfect person, with the perfect job, that has all the answers. These are the people that have invested in me. Their social justice values and their commitment to community organizing has inspired me and led me down the path I’m on today. My community of mentors continue to uplift me, provide advice and constructive criticism but most importantly they reiterate time and time again that my voice matters. Even in the moments that it’s hard for me to believe that myself. If it weren’t for these people, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I am most proud of all my fellow change-makers in the field. I’m proud of the people that speak truth to power, that hold themselves accountable. These are the people that are willing to stand-up against the injustices we see in the world today and that use their positions of power to advocate for the voices of the unheard. I am proud of the people that are working towards dismantling inequitable structures in place and those of us working towards building our just communities. I’m proud of us for standing up for what is right—even when it may feel like the world is against us. We speak up unapologetically and you all inspire me to do better.
Have patience, believe in the process, be intentional about the network that you build and find a mentor that you see yourself in. While building your network look for like-minded individuals, look for people in all types of sectors, find people both younger and older and trust your intuition throughout the process. My most important offering is that you should always ask for support when you need it—do not feel ashamed. We are all here to learn and grow. We all make mistakes and you must remember to use those moments as a learning lesson. We are only human.
The moment I realized I was a (true) New Yorker (at heart) was when I came to visit for a school trip at age 12 and I remember looking around telling myself, at that young age, that I knew I would move here one day and call it home forever. Now, having lived here for 4 years, this is my forever!
I am privileged to be where I am today by being a student of my surroundings and remembering to always seek the truth. Growing up, I watched as health-related issues plagued my family and communities. Whether it be in Barbados, where my parents are from, or the different neighborhoods of NY, I was always fascinated by why certain groups of people had better access to resources versus others. Unfortunately, I never had the language to communicate my concerns. Going to Northeastern University in Boston, and matriculating through the Health Sciences program, allowed me to understand that disinvestment and inequity were the broad answers to the questions I asked all my life. From then, I have moved through my career doing the same things I have always done: opening my eyes, tuning my ears, and searching for the truth. Oh, and eating lots and lots of Bajan food.
Professionally, I am most proud of having a career of working with organizations and people that push the fold, and work with a better future in mind. Whether it be in working in Boston on the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Leadership and Organizing for Change course, or New York at NYS Health Foundation’s Building Healthy Communities team, I have had the privilege of learning from the most passionate and intelligent colleagues I could ever ask for. I am proud to say that nothing has changed. I proudly now serve with ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities. Collaborating with an organization that centers shifting paradigms in how we serve the sector, investing in Black-led communities through prioritizing racial equity, and being responsive and innovative in how we produce change in the world, has been pivotal in my journey to provide more resources to marginalized communities, nationally and internationally. As I work, my dad’s words consistently remind me of my earliest understanding of equity: I am no better than anyone else, and no one is better than me. My mom’s gentleness anchors my heart. My loved ones fuel my soul. I’m proud to continue the work that so many have done before me. Personally, I am proud to have such phenomenal people pour their time, talent, and treasure into me. You all make me able to center, and inspire, joy and gratitude in every space I occupy.
Ask questions, partner, and innovate. The people that make up the philanthropic sector have been around for quite some time, and the money has circulated in the same places. Seek different ways to produce greater impact, and partner with a few good people. You will be fine if you center truth, love, and good trouble. This work moves at the speed of trust, and relationships. Good people attract good people and produce great things.
I realized I was a New Yorker when I went to Boston and heard “Sweet Caroline.” That didn’t do it for me. Coupled with the fact that I wasn’t able to easily get food at 2AM, I almost gave up and ran back to NY.