Dionne Joyner-Weems has been marketing Baltimore City since she was 8 years old, the the Sandtown-Winchester native says.
“We are the most resilient city in America. I’m a bit biased, but there is a different type of attitude that people in Baltimore have than in any other city,” she says.
Joyner-Weems is the founder of Audacity Group, a marketing consulting firm whose clients include Morgan State University and Fancy Free Hair & Skin. It’s the perfect job for her because it involves all the things she loves, her city, community engagement and forward thinking.
In 2017, Joyner-Weems created and spearheaded the #MyBmore movement. The social media hashtag sheds light on the positive aspects of the city and the daily lives of its residents. The main idea was to change negative and misleading perceptions about the city, by giving residents the power to change the dialogue, she says.
“Perception really is based on the people that live in the city. Of the 25.6 million people that visited Baltimore in 2018, do you know that 70 percent of them used social media to make the decision on whether or not they were coming to Baltimore,” she says. “So, in their planning, they really did go through social platforms to see the vibe, the feel, the sentiment.”
In addition to #MyBmore, Joyner-Weems works with HACK Baltimore, an organization of “civic hackers” that uses technology to find solutions for issues such as housing, public safety and education.
“Civic hackers are looked at as civic disruptors, but not in a negative way. A person wakes up in their neighborhood and sees that ‘wait a minute, these people have not come to collect trash in three weeks.’ But they’re not going to get on the phone and continue to call the mayor’s office or the Baltimore City Department of Public Works and continue to beg them to come and pick up,” she says.
“What they wind up doing is talking to another person in the community that owns a truck hauling place, and they devise a way to, not only pick up the trash, but they want to engage their children and their youth to be more civically engaged.”
Through HACK Baltimore, Joyner-Weems received the opportunity to partner with DENT Education. The Baltimore-based organization promotes equality among students by providing educational resources and entrepreneurial opportunities for future business leaders. Currently, DENT students are manufacturing personal protective equipment for frontline workers.
“When they came to (HACK Baltimore) with a challenge, we were able to work out a solution that allowed the students to create PPE for frontline staff while at home. And, for every kit that they did, they would receive a dollar. In the last two months, they’ve received more than $2,000 per child. Here it is, we were able to solve a challenge and create workforce development,” she says.
Blogging Black motherhood
In addition to her marketing projects, Joyner-Weems runs “Mommy’s Open Diary,” a website she created after the birth of her first son to showcase the struggles of being a working Black mother. For Joyner-Weems, the website is a “no-filter” space for herself and other mothers. They talk about the highs, lows and moments in between they have faced and continue to face as their children grow up.
Joyner-Weems discusses difficult topics, such as postpartum depression, weight gain and loss after pregnancy, and the hardships of raising three Black boys. Joyner-Weems says she gets messages each week from readers who found something that resonated with them.
“’Mommy’s Open Diary’ was a way to adjust to these new changes without judgement. Right now, people need to be able to cry, people need to be able to curse, people need to be able to admit ‘You know what, I messed up today. This is not a good mothering day. I had to apologize to my child,’ or my child corrected me. I looked at Mommy’s Open Diary as a space for the Black female voice, the Black mother to speak openly and honestly about children,” Joyner-Weems says.
One issue that remains important to Joyner-Weems is the hardships of Black Americans. The death of George Floyd at the hands of the police and the resulting nationwide protests are perfect examples, she says.
“There is nothing that humbles you more than explaining to your 8 year-old son why he has to stop running in this particular mall,” she says. “Or that he can’t play with his brothers a certain kind of way in this restaurant Or that he can’t put his hand in his pockets as we are walking down a particular aisle. He knows. If his hands are in his pocket, they are going to think he stole something. If he’s playing with his brothers, it is really just three Black boys who are wrestling and it’s a threat.”
For Joyner-Weems, the protests have felt personal to her—but for a positive reason. The voices being heard and the powerful intention behind the movement have given her hope that change will begin to come, she says.
“There is a lot more conversations going on around the world at dining rooms tables, in Zoom calls, in text messages, that weren’t happening before,” she says. “This is a time for us to pull back a curtain on things that are broken, and now address them.”
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