Black History Month 2022 | Dewanna Martin
SSC’s second Black History Month feature highlights Dewanna Martin, Facilities & Safety Coordinator at Prairie View A&M University. Dewanna has been a part of the SSC team since 2013, and a part of the family at PVAMU for almost 20 years. Read on to learn more about the people and experiences that have shaped her.
What does Black History Month mean to you, and why is it important that we celebrate?
Black History Month is a time where we get to celebrate and remember those who made sacrifices for our freedom. It is also a month to highlight the different aspects of our culture.
When I think about Black History, I think about my ancestors and the struggle that they had to endure through the years. That alone makes it a great honor to me to celebrate Black History because it is always a reminder of where I came from and a time to respect the achievements that these individuals made throughout the years. One of the things I have learned through the years, through school, storytelling, and movies, is that they had to sing hymns in order to communicate; No one knew what they were saying except for the brother or sister beside them. It’s an honor to know and learn my history and share that with others.
This University was a plantation, so I learn a lot just by being here, listening to others, and reading. It is an honor to even work here at this University. It’s amazing to go back and look at photo archives to see how it was all dirt roads, old wooden houses.
Who are some of the notable figures in black history that inspire you?
First, I’d say Martin Luther King. I learned about MLK as I was growing up, of course, he passed away before I was even born, but you learn a lot about the struggles he had. I love his heart and passion for people, and just for everyone to be treated equally. I could go on and talk more about him, but there are other individuals that I do honor and have the utmost respect for.
We wouldn’t even have Black History if it wasn’t for Carter Woodson. He was the first one to acknowledge black history. Through the years of studying and going over the material, he saw how African Americans strived and struggled to accomplish a lot of stuff that wasn’t being acknowledged. A lot of stuff invented by African Americans was not being acknowledged, so he was the one who introduced Black History Month.
I also get chills talking about Maya Angelo and her poems- her speaking through her poems to share with others is amazing. I Know Why the Caged Bird sings is about freedom, and for her to write these poems, a person really must have the passion and the drive to understand. I am a reader and a listener, so certain things just touch me. She was an individual that has impacted my life.
Who are some individuals who you have met during your time at SSC that you find inspiring?
One of the individuals that I met during my time at SSC who really impacted me, and just recently passed away, was Barbara Jacket. She was a teacher and track coach here, and as a field coach, she took the PVAMU track team to the Olympics. She was also a church member I met in my personal life. It’s an honor to hear the stories of the struggles and what they had to do to even have a track team here at the University. She had to take money out of her own pocket for them to start a program here. She left a legacy here, which has impacted me in more ways than one. Just to see her going across campus and knowing her from the church in my childhood, getting advice from her to carry myself a certain way and speak a certain way as an African American woman, and stand boldly no matter what the situation. She made an impact in my life, not just on the professional level but also on the personal level.
How do you strive to instill inspiring ideas within your local community and SSC team?
I continue to celebrate and acknowledge our holidays and educate others on what I do know and what I have learned over time, watching other people walk in their lives and learning what they have done, struggled through, and overcome. My goal is always to educate younger adults and make sure they know the history, their history, their ancestors. What better way is there to do that than by celebrating and sharing material whenever I can. I have reading material that I keep on my desk all year, and when people come in and pick up the magazines, I encourage them to take the time and read.
What is one thing that makes you most proud to work at SSC?
SSC accepts me for who I am and respects Dewanna Martin. This company respects my work ethic and gives me the opportunity to learn. There’s so much I can say, but I really do love SSC, and I am not just saying that because I am being interviewed. I have had so many opportunities to go several other places, but it isn’t just about working; You end up developing a family, and SSC has become my family, ever since the day I got my letter on July 1, 2013. I will never forget that moment, it was a scary moment, but as you learn and you introduce yourself to something different, you always must be prepared for change and accept change. That was a big milestone for me, to accept change, and April will mark 20 years of me being here at the University. Saying yes for me was kind of scary, but at the same time I did pray and ask God to give me the spirit to accept change, and I am so grateful that I did because I have met so many people and I have been adopted into a big family, a family that I love, and that is SSC.
What have you learned at SSC?
I have learned how to be a better leader, how to be more involved, and how to give more of myself. When I say giving myself, I mean that I came through the ranks and learned how to treat people and how to be passionate when it comes to others. Overall in life, some people higher up in organizations only go to a certain extent and don’t really give themselves to their people with customer service. Customer service is more than just providing service to me, it’s developing a friendship. Sometimes people just need someone to listen, so when I say “giving myself,” I‘m not just saying working hard for SSC, I am saying giving my heart and passion to each individual, listening to them, and volunteering.
Across campus, they know Dewanna Martin, because I am one of those individuals who gets out there and gets to know people. You never know what an individual may need, they may just need to see your smile, so I develop relationships beyond just customer service, and I love it.