There’s Always Room: On Being an African-American Ambassador
Jessica Honegger: On this day in 2015, my family joined friends – black and white – and marched in the Austin Martin Luther King Day parade. This was a first for me. But when our family welcomed our son Jack home from Rwanda, we entered into a journey of intentionally pursuing diversity.
As the Founder and Co-CEO of Noonday Collection, I am passionate about creating a community where all women – no matter where they were born or the color of their skin – feel connected and empowered. And so I am honored to introduce a series of posts on Flourish that will talk about how we can become bridge builders. This year, I want to be brave and I want to challenge you join me.
The first post is from Osheta Moore, a Noonday Collection Ambassador who lives in California. When Osheta joined our community two years ago, she was one of the first African-American Ambassadors.
There’s something that I do in social situations that’s almost instinctual. It doesn’t matter if it’s a party at a friend’s house or a podcast I want to listen to – because I’m a black women raising brown children, I pay close attention to diversity and racial sensitivity.
When I’m deciding on a youth group for my kids, I follow the church’s Instagram feed to make sure there are pictures of kids of color learning, playing and just being goofy with white kids. If I’m checking out a women’s conference to attend, I search the speaker line-up to see if women of color have a voice. When I’m deciding on an organization to volunteer with, I look to see if the only pictures of black women on the organization’s website are of vulnerable women in need of service.
Two years ago when I first thought about becoming a Noonday Ambassador, I began to pay attention to the diversity on the Noonday website. The big question for me was, is there room at the Noonday table for me, a black woman who loves justice – both for the vulnerable African-American woman and for the oppressed Ethiopian woman?
Initially I was worried. I couldn’t find many Ambassadors of color. I wasn’t sure about joining a community where I would be one of the few African-American Ambassadors. While I am comfortable with white women and I’m married to a white man, in almost every social situation I find myself in, I’m the only black person in the room.
Being “the only” often feels lonely. Even though I loved Noonday’s mission, I didn’t know if I had it in me to be one of the only women of color in the Ambassador community. Initially I was afraid that I might not fit in because of the color of my skin, but I couldn’t get Noonday off my heart.
“Babes,” I whispered to my husband one night as we lay in bed, “I can’t stop thinking about Noonday.”
He fluffed his pillow and turned to me. “Then become an Ambassador.”
“It’s not that simple,” I said.
“No, it’s not simple, but justice is never simple,” he whispered. “Do you believe in Noonday’s mission?”
I nodded. I knew he didn’t need to hear me say yes.
He stretched his arm out to pull me into his side. “Then Babes, go with your gut. Noonday is attracting you, a woman who loves racial unity and wholeness. I think you’ll find more women like yourself when you join.”
The next day, I prayed and made a promise to read every post written by supporters of Noonday like Jen Hatmaker and Emily Lex. I vowed to have an open heart full of hope and grace. After several hours of study, I noticed that Noonday was built on a unique foundation: connection.
“The world is big, but it’s small too. Noonday connects us all,” I heard in a video.
This immediately reminded me of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King:
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…this is the inter-related structure of reality.”
Noonday’s foundation spoke to my concerns: I saw how much value the company placed on connection and on passionately seeking to humanize the “other,” be she a Ugandan mother or an Ethiopian woman living with HIV.
“Babes,” I texted, “I’m buying my Starter Collection now.”
He only sent me back a smiley emoji and four simple words: “I knew you would.”
We are connected.
Me with some of my fellow world-changing Ambassadors!
As a Noonday Ambassador for nearly two years, I’ve been reassured that the women in our community are eager to love – and they love well. These women have humble hearts and eager minds and gentle words. They are captivated by a vision of a world free of suffering – a flourishing world is what we call it. We share a dream of a world overflowing with opportunity, dignity, and yes, unity.
Shortly after I joined, a veteran Ambassador reached out to me to encourage me. She said that she had been with Noonday’s leadership as they prayed, talked about and hoped for more diversity in the Ambassador community.
She told me that when she saw me introduce myself in our Ambassador Facebook group, she was overjoyed. She assured me that there was room in the Noonday community for me as an African-American Ambassador. She’ll never know how special that message was for me. All my initial fears were put to rest.
I’m excited about the direction Noonday is taking with inclusive, authentic diversity in their models and respectful representation by featuring Ambassadors of color in our community. In a small but meaningful way, the lookbook and website remind me that yes, we are all connected.
As a woman with a heart for justice, I balance my work with Noonday with my passion for racial reconciliation. I love being a part of this community, even if I’m one of the few Ambassadors of color. Now I join Noonday’s leaders in hoping and praying for more diversity in the Ambassador community.
Noonday’s vision is to build a flourishing world where we are connected – and this means women connecting no matter the color of their skin. Connecting is not always easy, but each of us can help something new to grow. We plant seeds of unity with gentle words and listening ears. We till the ground with hopeful prayers and honest stories of a world changed for the better because black women and white women came together and chose to love, listen and include one another. Together we can build a flourishing world where we truly are connected.