Cassandra Thomas is a business owner and creative director of her company Kreativ Tonik. Cassandra currently resides in Tampa Florida, but grew up in Northern California with her mom and 3 siblings. As a woman of color, who lost her father early on and was raised by an immigrant mother, Cassandra faced obstacles that she took head on and defeated. She has worked hard from the bottom up to get to where she is now, and her story brings light to women empowerment. The interview entails her life growing up, her expression of feminism, how she navigated the workforce, and the barriers she’s overcome.
Cassandra is 38-year old African American Latina who has faced hardships growing up, but has become an inspiring and amazing woman! Losing her father early on and growing up in a single-parent home, Cassandra explained the importance her mother had in her life.
“She grew up very poor. So becoming self sufficient was something that she learned early on. And then, I lost my father, um, at a very young age and so she was tasked with raising four kids in a very foreign place. You know she was born and raised in Mexico so there was a language barrier, there was an economic barrier, there were all these challenges, and watching my mom overcome those, um, it really made me proud.”
Recording clip: 2:14
Hearing the extraordinary challenges that her mother faced was inspiring. We’ve learned about economic barriers and language barriers that immigrants faced in this class and this quote relates to the text, “Speaking Spanish with Pride”, by Yara Simon. Cassandra’s mother, being from Mexico, had to learn English herself and people would refer to it as “broken English.” Simon explains the feelings of despair and not being understood, especially within vulnerable and marginalized groups. The harassment of immigrants as well as the rise of hate crimes during the era of President Donald Trump, has also been another barrier for the oppressed, as discussed in Simon’s article. This progressed my conversation with Cassandra into what she thought of the 2020 election.
“The past four years have been very divisive, there’s just been so much tension, just so much craziness and so I was really engrossed with this election just because it was very important for me to do my part ensuring that our current President not have a second term, I’ll just be honest. I just didn’t want to see that happen. He does not fit the ideals that I live by, his moral compass does not align with mine and those are the things that I look for in a President. Somebody that is going to unite the country not divide it, somebody that is going to, you know, encourage love not hate and I just think we have not seen a lot of that these past four years. For me it was a very emotional time. I mean, this was the first election that I cried about.”
Recording clip: 7:04
Cassandra’s views correlate with Simon’s, in the understanding of how much hate has been seen throughout our country in the years of President Donald Trump. Especially relating to immigrants, like Cassandra’s mother, who faced discrimination and unfair playing fields.
Feminism & Navigating The Workforce
Furthermore, Cassandra absolutely defines herself as a feminist. Feminism defined in Bell Hooks book, Feminism is For Everybody, is defined as a struggle and movement to eliminate sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression. (5). Relating to Bell Hook’s book, Cassandra explains what it means to her to be a feminist. Cassandra stated,
“I think it’s a word that has a really negative connotation um people often associate it with emasculation of the man which is I think is so silly. To me being a feminist means promoting equity, establishing a level playing field you know, it doesn’t get talked about enough the fact that women continue to get paid less than men in the same positions. Everything from professional sports down to you know traditional office jobs, corporate jobs… I do agree that it is a struggle and it is also a movement. I think women, we. struggle everyday. We continue to be expected to act a certain way and look a certain way, behave a certain way, it’s not the same expectations I think fall on men and we continue to, you know, not reap as many benefits as men.”
Recording clip: 9:20
Cassandra is absolutely right. The playing field is not even and men get more benefits than women, like getting the promotion or even just having their ideas being taken seriously and valued. Me being a woman who is Black and Mexican, I too consider myself a feminist and often worry about some of the disadvantages I will run into as I navigate through life and Cassandra gave me very insightful advice.
“Don’t sell yourself short. I did that in the beginning because I was scared…Just believe in your work, believe in what you’re doing and stick to it. Don’t allow anybody to tell you what your worth or what your value is when it comes to whatever you’re doing professionally. Whether it’s you working in a corporate office and you’re going after a raise or a promotion, if you know you’ve earned it and you deserve it then you fight for it.”
Recording clip: 22:34
This advice was helpful in how to hold myself to a standard in the workplace no matter what barriers my gender or race might create. Knowing the unfair treatment that women face in the workplace, it is an obstacle that every woman will run into. However, knowing how to handle it and continuing holding yourself to a standard is vital. Cassandra’s words are empowering and motivating in knowing your worth and fighting for what you deserve.
Valuable Life Lessons
In the interview I went on to ask Cassandra what the greatest lessons women in her life instilled in her that helped shape who she is today. She explained a great lesson stating,
“Probably a sense of independence um and also self-identity you know just really discovering who you are being open to it and embracing it uh not allowing society standards or the expectations of your family or you know even social media and what people may think online uh kinda determine where you go or who you are. Um I’ve always been surrounded by very strong women uh women who speak their minds and you know are not afraid to follow their own path um and and I love that I absolutely love that. So I would say that’s probably the biggest lesson.”
Recording clip: 12:35
This wisdom passed down to her is valuable in recognizing your own independence and loving who you are. There are outside pressures from society to be a certain way, but finding love for yourself and what makes you happy is key according to Cassandra. This reminded me of a TedTalk by Luvvie Ajayi, called “Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable.” Something that Ajayi said really resonated with me and made me make a connection to Cassandra. Ajayi stated, “Because being quiet is comfortable. Keeping things the way they’ve been is comfortable. And all comfort has done is maintain the status quo. So we’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable by speaking these hard truths when they’re necessary.” (Ajayi 4:44). These quotes from Cassandra and Ajayi connected because they both are talking about changing the status quo and speaking the truths to who you are. Being comfortable with yourself and not keeping quiet on things that are important to you is something needed that both women talk about.
Speaking with Cassandra was extremely insightful to what it is like to be in her shoes. She has experienced many of the things discussed in my class, so it was great to hear the topics from another perspective. I am thankful to have been able to interview her on her life growing up and her professional life now on what it’s like being a strong, independent woman of color.
Mota12.11.20, Jennifer. “Why the Aaron Schlossbergs of the World Won’t Stop Us From Speaking Spanish in Public With Pride.” Remezcla, 22 May 2018, remezcla.com/features/culture/why-we-wont-stop-speaking-spanish-in-public/.
Hooks, Bell. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library, 2016.
Ajayi, Luvvie. “Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.” TED, Nov. 2017, www.ted.com/talks/luvvie_ajayi_get_comfortable_with_being_uncomfortable?language=en.