Lady of The Day feature is written by Magdala Chery (one of our very first lady feature who is also a board member of Far More Precious)
It is with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Gianina Jean Baptiste. She is an accomplished Harvard and Fordham graduate who has grown to become a dear friend of mine. Our relationship has become a pure example of the power the exist when women empower one another. Each time we get together we literally spend hours recapping on our struggles as growing black women in society! And on a personally note, she helped me through some of the most difficult times as a medical student and helped me stay focused as I was preparing for my boards. I am convinced that God divinely aligned us to become friends and I would not have made it through this past summer without her! With that said, please enjoy her responses on the blog! Learn about her journey, what keeps her going, and the advice she has to share!
1. Were you nervous about attending Harvard for college? Was that always your goal?
As a child, my parents taught me that the proper response to the question: “Where do you want to go to college?” was Princeton. In my home, college was a part of everyday discourse and with time, the idea of attending an Ivy League, if I worked for it, became attainable. In high school, I applied to as many schools as I had fee waivers! Frankly, I almost didn’t apply to Harvard, but with my mom’s urging (aka demanding), I applied. She said “You can do it! Why not?!?”.
Regardless of how hard you work, getting into the college of your dreams is always a shock. The day the email came I was sitting on the floor of my family room, and I just kept laughing – overcome with happiness, a sense of purpose, and pure disbelief. My mother was right! Needless to say, if you’re a parent, speak into your children’s lives. They are listening.
2. As you embark on the journey to your professional career, what is the most important thing you have learned about yourself? About God?
One of the most important things that I am learning about God is that my relationship with Him is like every other relationship I have. It needs to be nurtured and constantly tended to in order to grow. God is faithful and He will always be here. However, if I want to be in tune will His Voice, I need to make sure that I am familiar with it. For example, when my phone rings oftentimes I can tell exactly who it is without looking at the screen – that is where I’d like my relationship with God to be. I’m working on building up a consistency and rapport with Him, in every facet of my life, so that when He speaks, it will be so undeniably clear. It is a daily work, but it is so worth it! In regards to myself, I’ve learned that I am resilient. I am at my best when I feel challenged and underestimated. In all that do, my goal is surpass expectations. I will be the first to admit, that this is tiring and comes with its costs. However, I know that if I keep focused and get up every time I fall, I will be successful.
3. What serves as your motivation?
My family. They literally motivate me to wake up everyday and try harder. I think a lot of children of immigrants can relate with this sentiment. My parents have worked so hard to build a life for my family that I am moved everyday to go further and push harder. In my darkest moments I can literally hear my father saying “GO KIKI GO”. Some days I just want to give up – say uncle and stay in bed. But I can’t! They simply won’t let me give up on dreams or myself.
4. Why did you choose to pursue law as a career?
I chose to be a lawyer because of my love of advocacy! As a child, I was always the one to speak up on behalf of someone I thought was misunderstood or being wronged. My mouth got me in trouble a few times, but I’ve always known that speaking on behalf of others was a strength. Throughout my entire childhood, my mother referred to me as “ ti avocat-m nan” (my little lawyer). Fortunately combined with my love for writing and speaking, a career in the law has always been my dream. My ultimate goal is to have a positive lasting impact on my environment and the people around me and for me, becoming a lawyer was the first step in achieving that goal.
5. What are some of the challenges you face as a black Haitian Christian female in the professional world?
There are so many challenges to EACH part of this label: Black Haitian Christian Female. From sexism, to micro-aggressions, to loneliness from being the “only”, to religion in the workplace that I honestly think that a conversation about this can go on for days.However in the interest of brevity, I’ll say that the hardest challenge, of being all of those things at one is remaining true to myself, my beliefs, and my culture while relentlessly fighting to find success in a world that oftentimes feels like it was not built for me. There are so many external variables constantly shaking, challenging, and threatening who I am and what I hold to be true on a daily basis. Everyday, the goal is to struggle through, listen to my heart and mind, and remind myself of my purpose.
6. What would you consider is your biggest accomplishment?
I don’t know if I feel “accomplished”, there’s a finality to the term that I am not yet quite comfortable with. A lot of the things that I’ve done, I feel blessed and privileged to have had the chance. However, one of my proudest moments happened after my law school graduation. I was sitting on the couch chatting with my parents before they went to bed, and frankly falling in and out of sleep. As they made their way upstairs, they both stopped and told me that they were proud of me and who I was becoming. Given that they have had front row seats to my life story, this meant everything to me. They have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and they gave me the affirmation that I was doing okay, and that so far, I’ve done well.
7. What is your favorite scripture?
My favorite scripture hands down is Jeremiah 29:11. It reads: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Because I am naturally a worrier and planner, the notion that I already know the end of the story is amazing. If God’s plans for me are good then that means that as long as I remain in tune with His voice, I’m going to be fine. Also, can you imagine what God’s “plans” look like?! Well, if it is good to God, I am sure I’ll be awed. I am already awed by my 26 years so far! Lately, however, I’ve been stuck on Philippians 4:12. I always read around it but never focused on this verse in particular. I heard it in a sermon and it embodies where I want to be, in regards to my relationship with Christ. It reads, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” SELAH. Did you guys catch that? I want a faith like Paul’s; a faith that preserves. Whether it be good times or bad times, I am content. What’s the secret, Paul? I’ll let you guys know when I find out. I’m working on it!
8. How important do you think it is for women to empower one another?
I think that it is *vital *to our continued success and growth as a community; we will not survive without it. Jesus gave us two commandments: 1) To serve Him with all of our hearts and minds and 2) to love our neighbor (paraphrased). I think that one way we can “love” one another is to empower, pour into, and encourage one another. Whether it be through writing, tutoring, or mentoring, it is important that we build each other up – pulling up those following in our steps and pushing on those who are forging the way ahead of us.
9. Imagine there is a young girl out there reading this blog who is discouraged and doesn’t believe some of the things you have accomplished are obtainable for her…. What would you like to share with her?
God’s plans for you are GOOD. He is faithful and constant. Rest in Him, lean on Him, and you will find your purpose. It’s going to get hard; it’s going to get dark. You won’t always have the answers, in fact, most of the time, you won’t. But, GOD. Always remember, BUT GOD. When your heart and mind are anchored in Christ, you may be shaken but you cannot be moved. Lastly, when you are at your worst, take action! Put on your cutest dress, a fly pair of pumps (the higher the heel the closer to God), straighten your back, and speak life into your situation! Remind yourself that you are a queen and that building an empire is NEVER easy. In the words of my mother, “you can do it! Why not?”