The Black Unicorn... Career Reflections with Charmaine Mercer

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Nine Black women, nine different careers, and nine stories with striking similarities, of career struggle, self-doubt, mental and physical health issues, and general unhappiness caused by varying forms of work related stress; nine stories of fortitude and resilience that eventually morph into nine stories of rejuvenation. These women form the inaugural part of a multi-layered interactive media project titled BlackFemaleProject—a project attempting to peel back the skin of the often unseen effects of racism and sexism, not only in the workplace, but also in terms of how these issues elbow their way into other areas of Black women’s daily lives.

Charmaine Mercer has focused her career on education policy, practices, and tools that advance outcomes for those furthest from opportunity. In  The Black Unicorn, Charmaine talks about facing racism in the workplace and how it affected her career advancement.

All of the women who share their stories in our inaugural collection have found themselves in a battle for sanity, cultural autonomy, or simply professional courtesy. These women have also found their own strategies of success; some are still developing these methods and share their experience with us in real time. Let’s join them now.

The Black Unicorn

Charmaine Mercer

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Who are you and where do you live?
I am Charmaine N. Mercer, a mother, wife, and daughter, sister, cousin, and friend to many. I live in Long Beach, CA.

What’s your career focus?
My vocation is to help ensure high-quality educational opportunities for all children, but especially those who are furthest from opportunity. In my current role as a program officer for William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, I am able to use philanthropic funding, combined with my knowledge and experience of policy and practice, to help advance my vocational aspirations.

What’s something positive that came out of writing your story?
It’s hard to say just one thing. If I had to choose, it was the ability to reflect on my professional journey and realize how much I have experienced and grown from these experiences. I rarely take time to reflect, so that was nice.

Three words of advice for your 18-year-old self?
I would tell her “Be You.” Just two words. I even tattooed them on my body to remind myself.