January Feature: Gina Humber

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Gina Humber

Gina I. Humber is a national speaker on diversity and education, a NYC teacher and an accomplished author. She graduated from City College of New York, where she earned her master’s degree in Special Education and a minor in African American History.

Gina has self published It’s All Good- A children’s book that helps buildGood self acceptance and esteem in children who look different or feel different in a world that minimizes people to categories and biases. While at the same time gives a true child’s perspective on diversity and opens up children to discuss and celebrate their differences. Gina has been a radio guest on the Maggie Linton Show on Sirius xm, and on the Manny Faces radio show here in NYC. She is also a highly sought after guest speaker on numerous other media platforms. Her expertise and frankness on race and education has catapulted her to creating Diversity Is A Verb LLC. This company works with schools and youths org, empowering them with books, educational material and speakers geared to improving academics, social behavior and self acceptance.

Gina is married to Reginald Frierson, they have 5 children. They reside in Connecticut at their home, and in Pelham Manor NY.

Find out more about Gina at: www.ginahumber.com

JRK: Can you tell us a bit about your background, where you are from and all that good introductory “stuff?”

GH: (Laughing) Well… to make a long story short, I was young and had five children, struggled going to college but eventually acquired my Masters in Education. I have always enjoyed education but not so much the educators, I am very much like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. And I taught with that in mind, keeping the mindset that we are all different in our perspectives and our learning, and gained much success in teaching that way. I am an African American woman who comes from a middle class entrepreneurial family who believe you work hard, believe in your cause, your mission, your dream, and the world will open up to you. However, big or small your perception of the world is.

JRK: You recently wrote a children’s book entitled, “It’s All Good.” What prompted you to write the book?

GH: Several reasons prompted such a book… both personal. Ten years ago, my daughter Bryana #4, struggled with her looks, and ultimately her identity in this world. And if you can’t find your identity, you become lost, and she at six years old felt lost. She couldn’t see herself in me or in sisters who were lighter in complexion than her, and I as her mother couldn’t find children’s books that addressed melanin and what that conversation looks like between a parent and their child. My second reason…my students…How many books can you count on one hand has images of children with a disability? Or children with a disability as the main character throughout the book? I actually can’t…and as a special education teacher I understood the importance of being visible in the world we live in, and what the voice of someone who is seen sounds like. And I know what not being visible in a world sound like….and I no longer could stand the quietness of voices, images and stories that should be heard and seen and weren’t.

JRK: You said “It’s All Good” got “much bigger than a book” and it birthed “Diversity is a Verb.” Can you explain what you meant by it “getting much bigger than a book” and what “Diversity is a Verb” is all about?

GH: It just means…I thought I’d do the book because I love to write, and I had something to say and be done (laughing) but it turns out what came out the book was discussions, and questions and a movement. People actually never thought about why children’s books didn’t discuss :melanin, disability, fat shaming, had Asian characters, muslim images etc…and with all the buzz of the Oscar’s it came right on time, so I started my company Diversity is a Verb LLC. Diversity is a Verb, does author visits to schools both virtually through skype and in person, and I discuss the book’s content in detail with students of all ages, while creating programs in their school to develop cultural sensitivity among faculty and students. At the same time, I help businesses understand to stop continuing the negative images in which they display across media as it relates to our diverse world/community. Images such as: fast food commercials targeted for those of color with demeaning verbiage in their content. To include those with disabilities in their marketing and to consider that broadening their images and building content that is relative and not dumb downing, actually changes the narratives that media has placed on the diverse community and it allows for our buying power to be global, which in turn, behooves them.

JRK: We hear the term “diversity” all the time. Diversity can be as simple as someone being set apart from others because they are in a wheelchair or wear glasses or as complex as racial, gender and sexual differences among people? How do you define diversity?

GH: Diversity for me, is simply diverse from the media’s comfortability.

JRK: How can one’s diversity and one’s acceptance of diversity empower people and society generally?

GH: It builds our humanity, which like everything has to be taught. You might think it’s instinctual but it’s not…acceptance not tolerance leads us to looking at each other humanely and accepting each other as individuals and not groups. The Blue eyes/Brown eyes experiment done years ago by Jane Elliott showed us that , what the children learned most or at least what stood out for me, was because I have been treated with badly, I don’t want to inflict that on another. Our lesson of being uncomfortable can not be desensitized, we must go through that feeling of uncomfortability to see how others might view things, and allow our perceptions to be changed upon new knowledge and experiences unlike our own.

JRK: What do you see as being challenges in actually getting people to understand the importance of diversity and embracing it as an empowering asset, especially now that we are on the verge of very uncertain times politically where the focus on diversity seems much less important to many?

GH: The challenges I see…are our selfishness, and the need to be right vs our need to be compassionate and humane. Either it will be the start of our nation or our downfall…like many lessons that came before it, we will die in our ignorance or be triumphant with our acceptance of embracing each other as one, understanding we are all connected. It will be the greatest story history will teach us.

JRK: How do we as a society create a new paradigm of thought which fosters the idea that all people are special and unique and that such attributes should be celebrated and enhanced, despite some trying times ahead?

GH: We begin to demand our media changes the story of what the “norm looks like” we write to our advertisers, we boycott products, we demand newsworthy stories from our stations, we make diversity a verb! We stop sleeping to the mediocracy and actual stand up and become visible in our words and actions. Use your media outlets such as facebook friends to send masses or letters to companies that aren’t using our images and stories in our best interest as a country. If you don’t like to see ads where they speak like “ aw honey chile don’t you like how this 99 cent burger taste” say something! You believe as a parent of a child with a disability that your child wears diapers too! Do something! You think books should include diverse children… support them, tell your friends. Become a conscious consumer, your money is a powerful voice!

JRK: How can we facilitate the development of solutions to challenges related to diversity by youth themselves?

GH: By supporting companies such as mine, and the many other organizations that do such that, the wheel is already invented, we just got to get behind it with oil so it doesn’t squeak. The support of this magazine is an example…it’s already around us, we are waiting for those with the visibility to speak up and out, the world is counting on our humanity.

JRK: Do you have any parting thoughts you’d like to leave with Diversity Rules readers?

GH: I am thankful, that you took out the time to get to know me and my purpose. I ask that you purchase our book, tell your neighboring schools about us, and use my children’s book “It’s All Good- A Book About Self Acceptance & Diversity” to start the discussion of building our acceptance for ourselves so we can accept others, wholly and completely. And isn’t that the beginning of self love? A love which ultimately taps into our humanity and allows us to love others as we do ourselves.

Please follow me @diversityisaverb FB, @ghumber720 Twitter, @GinaHumber IG and check out our site Ginahumber.com we have a great newsletter thats been acclaimed by parents and teachers and we like to open you to the conversation of making #diversityisaverb in your daily conversation.

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