We had the good fortune of connecting with Tiffiney Davis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tiffiney, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Growing up labeled “at risk” stood out to me. It was a stigma for me. Those are words used to make Black people feel less than. The risks that are meaningful are the risks that we choose to take. Writing this is also a risk for me. I’ve been told too many times that I don’t or can’t express myself well in writing, so continuing to do this feels like a risk to me. And taking that risk is also powerful because it allows me to challenge myself and to have grit, and to face this fear of being less than within myself. That also stops me in other areas where I know I can be successful! By taking that risk and putting my thoughts and experiences into words, I show myself and other Black people and especially Black women, that that is possible. During this pandemic, I took the risk of putting myself out there and reaching out to see who could put food in my hands that I could distribute to the community, and that allowed more and more restaurants and individuals to be part of the movement to feed Red Hook in a time of great need. That led us as a community to receive an award as a COVID Hero. I stood up and got it, but I couldn’t have got that award without taking the risk of bringing these people in. Leading while Black, there is the risk of whether other people are going to support you: will they doubt or undercut your ability to lead? If they demand that you reveal the stories of how you grew up, in order to demonstrate why your leadership and the work you’re doing is needed by your community, what position will that put you in and what will they do with those stories? And as I try to inspire people who look like me, will they respect me–will my own culture look at me like, “Who does she think she is? Does she think she can make a change?” The systems that keep us down are so much bigger than us, it’s hard sometimes for them and for me to believe that I can make a difference. I find myself facing two kinds of risks regularly: the risk of belittling or dismissal by others, and the risk of facing my fears within myself. I only have a GED, and I don’t have a degree. I’ve been told you can’t lead an organization or a business without having them. But I’ve been successful in this journey and I’ve been a leader for some years. I got my GED at the age of 34. My current dream of a community kitchen will be among the biggest risks I’ve ever taken. Building a space to share food, knowledge and power will not be possible without so many people’s work and care–everybody involved will have a stake in it. But if we’re able to build it and keep running, it will not only help to sustain and empower our community but serve as a model for communities across the country. My goal is to end world hunger, but we have to start somewhere.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
RHAP’s mission is rooted in the conviction that creative self-expression is a transformative experience that enriches individuals and communities. As an organization, we work to provide a space where young people feel safe and supported as they develop their voices through artistic projects and activities. We cultivate an environment of playfulness and experimentation, while challenging our older students to help each other strengthen their individual voices through supportive criticism. The experiences of creative problem solving and self-expression that underlie our program generate self-confidence and a sense of agency in our students. We believe that these qualities meaningfully contribute to the well-being of our students, their communities, and ultimately encourage engaged citizenship. As the director of RHAP, I am committed to providing programming that our students can grow holistically from. I want to build a sustainable community kitchen, I want to partner with Red Hook Farms, local restaurants, small businesses and community organizations such as Cora dance, NYCHA, schools…whomever) to provide our community with the dedicated space, training, and opportunity to ensure food security
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Southern comfort -eat Drinks -Amarachi Hang out Anywhere by the water I love jumping rope I’m more of a stay at home and chill out person. I enjoy family backyard BBQ’s
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The whole Red Hook Brooklyn community and My children