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  • Writer's pictureTina Bryson

My Existence is Resistance

Folks in my generation probably grew up having a fear of sharks after the likes of JAWS. So forget wanting to pet a shark or study a shark. According to GreenPeace, destructive fishing practices have resulted in the killing of up to 100 million sharks every year and are in large part responsible for the 70 percent decline in shark populations globally over the past 50 years. But in 2020, in the whole world, there were just 129 shark-related incidents (57 unprovoked, 39 provoked). That’s a lot of sharks just doing their thing and not thinking about humans.

So now, take Jasmin Graham, she is a marine biologist who studies sharks and works to create awareness to dispel fears that we might have. Jasmin also happens to be a black woman in this field. My eyes were wide when I saw her on Facebook because I wanted to know how a young black woman would even discover a field like this. But I am also struck by the life lesson that a narrative can be painted of a vicious predator that largely is in its own community trying to just live. Sound familiar?

Jasmin has an amazing story, and along with 3 other women of color, have launched Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS). The goals of MISS are to help women of color overcome the financial barriers that have historically kept women out of the field of shark science, create a network of support for women of color in shark science, and promote career growth among women of color in shark science. They not only reached for something that they had not seen widely, but they are creating pathways for others to follow.

When we choose to use #blackgirlmagic, Jasmin and her co-founders embody that sentiment. This is a space that many people could not have imagined them in, and not only did they show up, but they did it in spades. I am so proud of the example that they are setting by not letting anyone define what they can pursue.

Jasmin’s story is a reminder to me that sometimes you may feel like you are the only one, and you may be in the space that you operate every day. But don’t be discouraged. Keep at it. Show up. Be excellent. Don’t shrink back. Be you. And what you will find is there is community out there, sometimes it just takes a minute to find it. There are others who feel like they too are the only ones, and it is the isolation that can seed the discouragement that causes us to walk away from our dreams. Well, I am glad that Jasmin Graham, Amani Webber-Shultz, Carlee Jackson, and Jaida Elcock are leading the way.

And honestly, there’s a lot for us to learn in the oceans that make up 96.5 percent of the Earth’s water. I’m glad that these young sisters of color are doing just that and helping us gain a greater appreciation of sharks beyond Shark Week and SharkFest.

Listen to Season 5, Episode 5 of Soapbox Diaries

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