Ask Mandisa 30 – The Young are Watching

by | June 5, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Mandisa Thomas is the Founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc (Twitter & Facebook). One of the largest, if the not the largest, organization for African-American or black nonbelievers & atheists in the United States.

The organization is intended to give secular fellowship, provide nurturance and support for nonbelievers, encourage a sense of pride in irreligion, and promote charity in the non-religious community.

I reached out to begin an educational series with one of the, and again if not the, most prominent African-American woman nonbeliever grassroots activists in the United States.

Here, we talk about the ways in which the young are watching us.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: It has been about a year since leaving the former job to enter into activism. Your daughter asked, “Why?” I think that is an apt question. Not an apt question in and of itself, but, in that, the young are watching what you do. What are your thoughts one year on?

Mandisa Thomas:  Yes, my daughter Djenne obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in the summer of 2018. Which was after I had already left my job as Event Services Manager at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, one day we were talking, and she asked, “Why did you stay for so long?” I’ve often thought about this myself, because I was at that job for just under 10 years. I will put a decade on it. The environment at that place was very stressful at times, and I had considered leaving a few times before. But I had to consider the family, and income. We had bills to pay. This was the first job that I had that was steady, and that worked with my home schedule. They also worked with my burgeoning activism. I appreciate all of the consideration given for those factors.  

Also, I am not one for giving up easily. I know how to work through challenging situations, and making them work for me. I actually like testing my ability to navigate through tough situations, and seeing the outcome.

It was the perfect opportunity for me. At that job, I was a department manager. I was hell-bent on them not sending me out the way others had been. I did have something to prove. In doing that, and in being able to work through the difficulties, I accomplished what my predecessors could not, which was establishing longevity.

Djenne was at that time, about 10 or 11, and my oldest son Isaiah was 3. Before I started there, I learned that I was pregnant with her brother Myles. So, I had to consider that too. 

Even though my husband has a very good job, I had to consider that we have to make money. That we have to sustain our household. That was the reason why even after founding BN, I couldn’t just leave the job without considering all of those factors. It took time to develop the organization, and that is still the case. But eventually, the time came where I could leave and be comfortable taking the leap.

Jacobsen: Was it a better decision or the best decision in terms of jobs [Laughing] in terms of full-time running an organization and activism?

Thomas: It was one of the best decisions I ever made, though there were a few times where I did consider giving up activism and staying at that job.

It certainly would have been the most convenient thing to do. Definitely would have been very secure, because working for government entities are. However, I have never resolved myself in comfort, nor staying in a place where I am not growing professionally.I would have been completely miserable if I had stayed on. I do not like to feel stifled, which as what I was feeling. It wasn’t necessarily a bad place to work, and once again I appreciate the flexibility that I was given while working there. However I am already dealing with things in my personal life that are challenging. I couldn’t deal with the stress that was mounting at the job.

I am very liberated person, though I can make smart decisions – I think, lol. I needed to be on my own; to be in a place where I could work more on my professional development, and also help others.

While I am in my 40’s now, I am still young, and will not settle, especially when I know there is more work for me to do. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. And that is what I hope my daughter took away from our conversation.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mandisa.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Image Credit: Mandisa Thomas.

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