Meet Dr. Jacqueline Douge, the heart and soul behind What Is Black, a game-changing media company that’s crafting quality content for black families everywhere. A DC native turned Frederick local, Dr. Douge draws on her experience and passion as a proud black woman, mother and veteran pediatrician to guide parents of black children as they tread the waters of racial identity. Here’s some of what she shared about the work she is doing:
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WHAT IS BLACK?
Working on The American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on the Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health…conversing with my children directly…reflecting on the experiences my children had and how to talk with them about their racial identity, knowing that there’s the outside lens of the media...and stereotypes and generalizations about them; but at the same time, trying to figure out how to help them navigate this...then, thinking about how I struggled with my racial identity, and how did my parents helped me deal with that? So, that’s where this question came from...Podcasts have become a great way to educate families, and I think I'm one of the few providers talking directly to parents of black children. I try to use the public health approach to have conversations...and hopefully that provides resources for parents.
WHAT WORDS OF WISDOM WOULD YOU GIVE PARENTS OF BLACK CHILDREN?
Don’t be afraid to have the conversation about race. There’s additional insight for your kid about who they are, and it takes away the stigma of having the conversation. The media is sometimes sensational…I think we can get retraumatized over and over…where can you find the joy? What’s also real is the juxtaposition of the joy that we experience every day. What we see in the media creates fear. As a parent, the media reinforces this fear…I’m worried about my son coming home…Why am I not excited that he gets to go out with his friends and enjoy being 20? Hopefully, we get to the point where it becomes a routine conversation; there are going to be complex conversations...You have these extremes: you have the negativity and exceptionalism, but in the middle there’s just living.
HOW ABOUT A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS OF BLACK CHILDREN?
Just let your kid be a kid...love your kids, encourage them, prepare them, but ultimately, lead with love, as opposed to fear. Kids need to know they are loved first–they are seen and heard-because that’s the foundation. When the world tells them that they’re something different, they have something to come back to…And then you deal with the issues as they come.
WHAT CAN OTHERS DO TO BUILD UP AND CELEBRATE BLACK CHILDREN AND CULTURE?
I think we each have to check our own biases; where do we stand on the discussion of race? Are you comfortable having conversations about race?...if you’re not, you start from where you are and try to find resources where you can learn to feel more comfortable having those conversations. Ask questions and lead with humility; I’m still learning and I wanna learn more…It’s a process, but I think it always starts with self-analysis.
HOW HAS STARTING WHAT IS BLACK HELPED YOU IN YOUR JOURNEY WITH RACIAL IDENTITY?
I think it’s made me more comfortable taking up space as a black woman…I can’t separate the fact that I’m black, I’m a woman, I’m a physician…those are all the things that make me who I am. And now if I have a platform, how do I then lift as I climb?... It’s really about how you can find a way to be of service in a way that’s authentic.
WHAT DETAILS ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING DOCUMENTARY CAN YOU SHARE WITH US?
It’s called Reading In Black, and the idea is to celebrate black children’s literature...It’s not just a moment; it’s not just a movement. This literature has been around for a long time, and not only is it used as a way to help black children feel good about themselves...they are tools and resources for other people to read and use, and there are not enough of them...We’ll talk a little bit about the history of the books, interview authors and illustrators, and about where we go from here in terms of promoting the books.
Aside from working as a pediatrician at the Pediatric Center of Frederick, you might find Dr. Douge taking a stroll around Baker Park, snagging an order from Pizza Hut or sipping on her perfect cup of hot cocoa. WhatIsBlack.co