A Podcast Interview with Tierra Mac on Becoming Water
Join us for Episode 5 Season 3 Woods & Wilds: The Podcast! In this episode we’re joined by educator and business founder, Tierra Mack. Tierra joins us to talk about the children she works with, about creating comfortable and safe space to be a kid in this current environment, and becoming water.
Tierra Mack (she/her) is a Georgia native with a passion for digital media, reproductive justice, and environmental advocacy. Tierra is a first generation college student. She’s a senior at the illustrious Hampton University. She’s majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish. Her advocacy for women and children began during her youth in Savannah. Today, Tierra is an aspiring nonprofit leader and entrepreneur with a passion for community activism and youth programs. She has served as the administrative assistant for the Southeast Care Coalition in which she organized grassroots campaigns for community leaders. Tierra is also the founder of WP Lincoln, a business consultancy firm, and Ms. Mack’s Loving Arms, a transportation service. These two business endeavors help to holistically bridge the gap between small business and the global community at-large.
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Read the full transcript of our interview with Tierra Mack!
Full Transcript featuring Tierra Mack:
Elizabeth Lashay: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Woods and Wilds: The Podcast. I am Elizabeth Lashay Garland, and I am really excited because I get to work alongside my wonderful co-host who is…
Kimala Luna: I’m Kimala Luna and I’m with Dogwood Alliance, and we are here today with Tierra Mack. Tierra is a Georgia native with a passion for digital media, reproductive justice, and environmental advocacy. Tierra is a first-generation college student, senior political science major. Spanish minor. Attending the illustrious Hampton University. Her advocacy for women and children began during her youth in Savannah, Georgia.
Today, Tierra is an aspiring nonprofit leader and entrepreneur with a passion for community activism programs and youth programs. During her service year, she, she served as the administrative assistant for the Southeast Care Coalition, in which she organized grassroot campaigns for community leaders.
Tierra is also the founder of WP Lincoln llc, a business consultancy firm and Ms. Mack’s Loving Arms, a transportation service. These two business endeavors help to holistically bridge the gap between small business and the global community at large. Welcome Tierra.
Tierra Mack: Thank you. Welcome. Hello. Greetings everyone.
Kimala Luna: So happy to have you with us today. So our podcast this season is largely focused on youth and opening space up at the table, and it looks like that is a big part of your focus as well. And so can you talk a little bit about your inspiration there?
Tierra Mack: So my inspiration definitely comes from my family. I come from a family of teachers and educators who work in the school system, so making an impact on the youth has always been one of my dreams to just run programming and be able to change the minds of the youth and encourage them to sort be more than their environment around them, that they can be anything they wanna be.
Elizabeth Lashay: I absolutely love that, and I think it’s so important whenever we are talking about how are we including those that are younger and how are we fostering that experience and growing and nurturing that. I know that this podcast is also talking about nature and the power of outdoors and so. If you remember whenever you were younger, was there a memory that stood out in your mind of your experience in nature?
Tierra Mack: So when I was younger, I was a girl scout. One of my favorite memories is going to Girl Scout camp for the first time when I was about eight years old in second grade. I always loved going outside and star watching, being a part of nature, going to the playground.
But at camp it’s like I was around other like-minded women. Who wanted to think and see the world, like how I saw the world, in nature. I remember we were walking through the marsh and we got to play with periwinkle and see possums crawling in their environment and to know like we are also in their home and not to be afraid, but to protect their homes, like how the government officials.
Adults around us always protected us. And just to build that trust with nature from a young age shaped me into this person who always wants to view the world around me. From that experience in the wood and being emerged into nature and knowing that the nature protects me and I should protect it in return.
Kimala Luna: Are there ways that you incorporate that same mentality and philosophy in your youth programs?
Tierra Mack: Yes. So in my Ms. Mack’s Loving Arms program, we service ages four through 13. In that program we talk about the social emotional learning a lot since the Covid Pandemic. We noticed that sometimes it can be socially awkward for some students to interact with each other since during that time it was a lot of big isolation.
Teaching them that you are a product of your environment and you should protect it. And to be who you are and know who you are, knowing your identity within your community and in your environment is definitely important during this time to reshape that social emotional learning curve that has been created since the pandemic.
Elizabeth Lashay: I absolutely loved your bio because it is multifaceted and it really shows that you have a range of passion and love to give. Please tell us a little bit about your passion of digital media.
Tierra Mack: In middle school, I started a blog. This is back when Tumblr was popular and Instagram, when the whole social media way just had begun.
In my generation, I feel like we grew up with social media and not just like Facebook, but like the expansion of all the different media outlets and even in school, we were always challenged to make a video, record it, learn how to edit, be digitally involved, get a Microsoft certification. I think through blogging through always using my youth voice, I just found advocacy within my blogging to just share my story and share the stories that were being told around me. Always kind of empowered me to keep going and to never forget where I am from a coastal port city in Georgia originally. And, just sharing that story in general, as I traveled to a bigger city and then out of the country and through study abroad and different excursions, I realized that sharing my story was more important because not a lot of people have a passport or go traveling or go explore out of their city limits. I found my voice within my blogging, but also it strengthened how I shared my stories and how I developed, during that time. Through my blogging, through my website, through my different service learning programs, I learned how to be a better writer and try to digitally organize myself online to not just post for fun, but post with a purpose.
Kimala Luna: As an entrepreneur, I’m sure that you’ve had this moment where you had this idea and it just so made sense and it felt like it was part of your purpose. Can you describe the last time you’ve maybe felt that way and what that experience was like and what the idea was?
Tierra Mack: So my other business, WP Lincoln, I guess that was one of my biggest ideas around my college tenure. It’s a business consulting firm. I felt like a lot of people would come to me with their big ideas and they wanted to have time to process that big business idea and go to the drawing board and create the design and the brand awareness. I think from my blogging experiences and just sharing my story, I understood how to conceptualize. Different business plans digitally and how to think about how do we wanna present this idea to somebody. I think with that business endeavor, I get to explore myself creatively, since I did just begin as a blogger, but also bringing on new clients and taking on new businesses. Like I intern with lighting and production, which is a , It’s totally different from what I study. It’s, it’s about lighting and media, but my focus is in politics and I think stepping outside of that political arena and learning how to navigate different arena inspired me to think, oh, I really can do things outside of my major and connect to my community better because we are digitalizing every day as like the markets are globalizing.
Elizabeth Lashay: As we talk about the world that we’re currently navigating and what we’re constantly seeing, we’re immersed in conversations around environmental justice and what does that really mean, and also reproductive justice and what does that really mean? How are you fighting for that justice in your personal pursuit?
Tierra Mack: Personally, I love lobbying. That was always my dream job to be a lobbyist when I first went off to school. I try to stay involved with different non-profits, the YMCA, the NAACP, or even working for the Girl Scouts. Just doing different youth programs to bring not just awareness, but highlight and advocate for those people who are not being represented in those areas.
So as a woman, reproductive justice just means to me to fight for being a woman medically and to be seen and to be heard when I have concerns about my body. Advocating for those different areas. We get to see how, you are just literally a representation of your environment and how that looks for you. You bring a different perspective to the table when you’re discussing these bigger ideas and you’re representing not just yourself, but your community and what you come from.
Kimala Luna: Absolutely. So it is, it is a heavy time for everyone right now in the world. What are some of the ways that you cultivate joy in your daily life?
Tierra Mack: I have a very strict morning and afternoon routine. My morning routine consists of me drinking coffee and going out in nature and gardening first thing when I wake up in the morning and practicing some yoga.
I think practicing mindfulness during this time and decluttering and just being aware and taking some time in nature and breathing and just knowing the power of your breath is just something that I try to focus on during this hectic time. Reconnecting with my family and moving closer to home and being in my community again, cuz I was, living in Newport News, Virginia, and then I came back to Savannah, Georgia to continue running programming.
Being in my community and being uplifted by them during this time and being reminded of where I’m from and the impact that I can have is getting me through each day and practicing having that gratitude for each day and my environment.
Elizabeth Lashay: I love that. So when you think about, trees, flowers, anything in nature, if you could be one thing, what would it be and why? Why would you want to be that element of nature?
Tierra Mack: If I could be any element of nature, I would definitely be water. I think water is so powerful. It’s such a small element. It’s so transformative. with it being transformative, you get to take on different roles in the environment. It’s not easy to go through a different metamorphosis or a change and to become even stronger than you were before. It’s just so hydrating and water just makes me radiate.
I love water so much. Having that power to create change just like water, like even just drinking water or sitting in water is so relaxing. It brings such ease in that I really truly think humans were definitely fishes once upon a time, , because we just crave water so much and it fills us up with so much joy. So definitely water.
Kimala Luna: So this connection was made, through Erniko Brown, who is doing incredible work in the South. Can you talk a little bit about your connection with Erniko and also the environmental, advocacy work that you do?
Tierra Mack: I met Ms. Erniko, via phone call. I was talking to one of my mentors Ms. Angela Harris, who’s a community grassroot organizer with the Southeast Care Coalition. I’m her administrative assistant and we were talking about my programs that I was running with Ms. Mack Loving Arms and how we did a youth convention through our church to get the children back tapped into their spirituality and just to give back to the community. We did a creative dance and we focused on STEAM in Ms. Mack Loving Arms which is science, technology, engineering, arts and math. I feel like arts is always the first thing to get cut in the educational system. So we try to focus on art and expression and how are they really, truly feeling throughout this whole post pandemic lifestyle that we have now. And so we were talking about the environment and how it is holistically viewed and it’s more than just trees and nature and bees. Through that conversation we called Ms. Erniko and we were talking about the children and how we were creating a garden this summer through the Ms. Mack’s Loving Arms because we are a transportation program, but a student not going straight home, they do come to our facility and we like help them with homework and we work on their social emotional development and we talk about different things of nature. But during this particular day we were talking about our garden. We currently are growing, celery, green onions, white onions, and ginger root. So we’re doing our different plants and we’re looking at the house, the facility that we are in, which is my home. We’re in coastal Georgia, so we were talking about coastal plains and the importance of the water and the different elements. I was sharing this story with my mentor and Ms. Erniko about how the girls were just so interested in the soil and like in the rollie polies and in the different elements in nature.
They were just like, oh my goodness, I didn’t know that these things were around me. And I’m like, Yes, but we’re in their home. And just knowing that you are safe in your environment. It’s just so beautiful to watch the girls light up. Be excited about their environment and knowing that they wanna protect it and learn about fire safety and water conservation, these big things. Cause climate change is definitely affecting all of us, even at young age. I mean, it’s skyrocketing gas prices and food shortages, and it’s just all connected to our world today. Something that you cannot ignore. So bringing up these conversations of energy and water and recycling. It’s definitely big ideas that children can understand and that they make a change by the little things that they do at home.
So that was how we connected. She was like, Wow, you should share this story. And I was just like, Okay, I’m just doing the work here. I’m just doing what I’m passionate about. Just giving back to my community. I didn’t wanna like draw any attention to myself, but I was just like, I’m just proud to continue the work of the Southeast Care Coalition and viewing the environment, than more than just trees in nature, our culture and our history and the social awareness that goes into protecting our community.
Elizabeth Lashay: That is extremely important and I love that you’ve created this garden. And I also wanna dive a little bit deeper into the Ms. Mack’s Loving Arms. Before I do that though, I also want to know, has there been someone who has extended loving arms to you, and helped nurture what you’re currently doing?
Tierra Mack: Yes. So that person would definitely be my mother. She is my, she is my rock, she is my business partner. My mom has always been a teacher in an after school program. Youth engagement has always been her passion. Running the STEAM program. I think she drives the force behind what programming we do, and she always signed me up for different community programs when I was growing up to be involved in my community since I was the only child. We work with families who are single parent homes or recently divorced or any type of emotional hardship that you can really go through. The families that we tend to are experiencing those things and we just want the girls to have an expressive outlet, because no matter if your family unit is changing or your family issues are happening, your economic hardships or whatever the case may be. You don’t wanna have to feel that pressure as a child. You wanna keep your innocence. So knowing that their environment is the natural, but also the cultural and the social and the economic and the political. Bringing all of those components together and making them aware of life and the different life experiences that you have in nature. Every child just wants to have fun and play and keep that childhood innocence. So I think my mom allows children to be children, to provide a safe kid environment and we’re always outside. We’re always staying active and doing different things so that they know who they are ethnically and how we operate in our different public spaces and how economics does not have to impact your experience as a child.
Kimala Luna: What is something that brings you comfort or makes you feel safe?
Tierra Mack: Honestly, what makes me feel safe is fitness and food. Those two things are definitely equal, I think, as a woman, as a Black woman, I think me feeling strong, physically, mentally, It’s definitely something that I chase after every day. I feel like I used to chase happiness, but then I realized that it was the strength within the happiness that I felt. So, I do strengthening yoga and I practice in my breath and I try to always keep calm. Just having that routine of strength training kind of brings me some some peace about how I navigate through the world because I am a traveler and I do solo trips sometimes. it’s adventurous and different, but having that confidence within myself to know that I work out, I am strong. I am confident enough to walk down the street and feel safe in myself. I don’t necessarily need weapons, but I am strong and I am okay. Having that safety and confidence within myself definitely helps me navigate every day.
Elizabeth Lashay: Going back onto, the element of nature and then intertwining that with entrepreneurship, how do you see yourself incorporating elements of water like the description that you provided within your entrepreneurship journey.
Tierra Mack: I just love water. I’m sorry it’s so abstract. You can just do so much with it. In my business I see water flowing and I translate that to financially how money just flows in and out. And when it comes, it’s just like, it pours so heavily. It replenishes the nest and it, it flourishes [00:19:00] out and it continues to flow through me. When it comes to my business, I think the water is definitely how we interact with each other when we’re all in this giant pool also we’re all together and we always need the next partners. And I think of us as little water molecules sometimes. Working together to just create this safe space of coolness. I think nature wise, I think water represents how we interact with each other and how we always need each other to come together and bring more to the table.
Kimala Luna: That reminds me of that water experiment where you have like two jars of water and one water. You’re saying I love you to, and another water cup of water. You’re saying I hate you, and you look at it under a microscope and the water that you’ve said I love you to is usually beautiful crystal patterns and the water that you’ve said negative stuff to is dark and looks like it’s getting bacteria. Are there ways that you practice that kind of positive affirmation to the youth that you work with?
Tierra Mack: Yes. So we actually come up with affirmations twice a month. Most of them are like, I am kind, I am intelligent, I am beautiful. I am at peace. I am still because with the emotional, social, emotional awareness, different students kind of separate, different, I wouldn’t say mental illness, but the anxieties are kind of high. And having those affirmations and taking time to breathe and to say, I am statements like I am strong. I am adventurous. I am brave. It encourages them to be demanding of life and to demand the adults around them to provide safe space for them. I think even saying, “I am Tierra Mack.” that is the strong statement within itself because I am whatever I want to be. I am a digital community organizer. I am entrepreneur. I am a nomad. I am a woman. I think those statements, acknowledging that I am all of those things and not just one entity. I’m just so powerful. And I think passing that on to the youth encourages them to say, Yes, I am London Brown. I am Zanaya Rivera. I am me, and I am a woman and I am talented. And we always use this like king and queen analogy, that they’re divas, that they’re dedicated, that they’re intelligent, they’re victorious, they’re articulate, and they’re kind and noble and gentle. I think those different characteristics are awesome and that they encourage them to be great and to be a standard of excellence every day. I think that’s just so powerful to have those affirmations and to affirm myself and them at the same time.
Elizabeth Lashay: I love that. So whenever we think about advocating for others That’s typically when you’re like a teenager or you’re getting older into adulthood, you’re growing up, you’re seeing life in a perspective. From your expertise and your wisdom, how would you tell a third grade or a second grader to advocate for, you know, fill in the blank for justice.
Tierra Mack: When I’m explaining advocacy to youth, I try to encourage them to always speak up and not to be shy. Being a shy person is not a negative thing. You can express this through a drawing or be expressive in a different way, cuz not everybody is extroverted. I think drawing it out or writing a poem or acting it out. And a skit is definitely a way to express yourself . Having them comfortable enough to even share their ideas and teaching ’em, Hey, everybody has the time to shine, Everybody has the mic taking turns and patience and things of that nature. Explaining to them that when you have a gut feeling that something is bothering you, that it’s okay to speak up because if you didn’t speak up somebody who is afraid to speak up. They could relate to you and you could help them as well. And encouraging them to just be a leader and not to just advocate for themselves, but if they see something wrong, to not be a bystander. I think when somebody is feeling sad they need comfort. And so we teach the students to comfort each other and to be a friend, because I know with social distancing, you always want your own space, but we did a friendship circle and we were holding hands and everybody was like, this feels so weird to hold hands. I’m like, Yes, but we are human and we need to be touched, and we need to be comforted by our friends and by our neighbors, and to know that we are not alone. And as a second and third grader, The feelings of loneliness still occur when you’re going through something with your friends, or you’re experiencing bullying or you’re experiencing economic hardship at home. You feel those pressures subconsciously and sometimes you don’t know how to process them. And so teaching them how to process big stress concepts expressively and artistically and creatively as an outlet, it teaches them that they don’t have to walk around feeling sad or lonely all the time, but that they can lean on their friend. They can lean on a trusted adult to share how they feel and to know that it is okay to not be okay sometimes, but it is not gonna stay that way forever.
Kimala Luna: What is something that you learned from the children that you work?
Tierra Mack: That’s a great question. I learned so much from the children I work with, but the one thing that I learned the most is to never say no to yourself to always keep going. I think children are fearless in everything that they do. I always say that they choose violence every day because they’re just so, they’re just so adventurous and their sense of safety goes out the window and it’s like, I am driven to accomplish this goal right now. Whether that is run out into the street after this ball, or it’s like my hand in this fire. I am curious enough to try something new and I think that is what I learned, that if my mind thinks about anything, sometimes I should maybe entertain it and explore different options, and to always not be afraid of what’s next. That’s what I learned from my students the most is not to be afraid of the next chapter. For me, I suffer with mental illness and I get anxious so, so much sometime, and it hinders me from a completing certain goals. The future is one of the biggest things that I’ve kind of learned to adopt from them because they’re always so excited to learn something new and to be courageous and to go out in the community and just trying something new. I take that from them and I empower myself. To always try new things and keep an open mind and not to worry about all of the variables, but to just have fun and live in the moment and be present. And so I think they teach me so much, but I love that they teach me to keep going, and never to give up.
Elizabeth Lashay: Mm. Well, I know that SlayTheMic is a hip hop and r&b radio show, and we really value music in all forms. I wanna ask you, has there been any music that is really healing for you, your soul within this work? Being an entrepreneur, whether it’s an artist or a song, an album.
Tierra Mack: I would say like I have about three artists that come to mind. One is Snoh Aalegra. She’s a Swedish artist. Her song I Want You Around her whole album, You, Division, their last album Engineer Aiko with Chilombo. I think those are some healing albums that talk about life and talk about your feelings and your emotions and how you process the world and how you want that love. Love is definitely a driving force in my early twenties. I’m always looking, I’m such a hopeless romantic, but I craved that love and that sense of belonging. And I think that sense of belonging that I get from listening to different songs, I think that is what kind of motivates me to go so hard in my community. Because when I was growing up, I didn’t see women in my life that looked like me, being in a gifted class. There was other Black students in my class, but they were Black males. They weren’t Black women. Until I got to college, I didn’t really see any in my high school or middle school, like different women, even professional women who looked like me, who were my teachers.
They were always other races until I got to school. When I went to HBCU, I was actually surrounded by other thinkers and intellectuals who actually looked like me and viewed the world as me. In my music, I listen for that woman or that Black human or person who is experiencing these feelings of love like me because it’s just like, I didn’t see those things growing up. I just saw diversity, but no inclusion. Having that sense of belonging in my music keeps me motivated all the time.
Kimala Luna: That’s beautiful. I wanna open it up a little if there’s something that we haven’t covered that’s really important to you that you would like to share with those listening in. And then definitely wanna ask you how we can stay in touch, how we can support, where our listeners can find you to follow along.
Tierra Mack: Yeah, so we are on Instagram, at WP Lincoln like Abraham Lincoln, so WP, L I N C O L N. That’s our Instagram handle. And we’re also on Facebook, but we mainly operate on Instagram. We post our divas and our kings all the time in our programming that we do. We are currently in Savannah, Georgia, but we do programming work in Newport News as well. So we’re remote right now in transitioning, to see where we’re gonna be in the fall. But that is where you can follow up with us and keep in touch with us. We do wonderful things and Savannah and we just protect our environment and protect our youth.
Elizabeth Lashay: Well, I definitely wanna thank you from the bottom of our soul of, of what you do because it takes a lot of time and energy, dedication. Love and loving arms to create a space where young individuals can be seen, heard, empowered, and then nourished. So what you’re doing is a huge lift. And we thank you for doing it.
Tierra Mack: Thank you