On Change, Joy and Minimalism: A proFile of Christine A. Platt
The Campus Women we profile in proFmagazine are typically multi-faceted, with widely varied interests converging in their professional and personal lives, and Christine A. Platt is a prime example. A historian and storyteller of the African diaspora, Platt holds a master’s in African Studies from The Ohio State University, a J.D. from Stetson University College of Law and she currently serves as Managing Director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University. She is a proud member of the Association of Black Women Historians and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and an Ambassador for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
But Platt’s interest in history doesn’t stop with scholarly research – she’s incorporated it into a burgeoning career as a fiction writer as well. Her debut novel, The Truth About Awiti, published under the penname CP Patrick, won the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal for Multicultural Fiction and is currently used in high schools, colleges and universities to teach the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Next up is a highly anticipated children series, Ana & Andrew, which will be published on December 15, 2018 by ABDO Books/Calico Kids.
In addition to these dual careers, Platt documents her minimalist lifestyle and pared-down design aesthetic on her Instagram (@theafrominimalist) and website, The Afro Minimalist, offering ideas and advice on living simply and consuming less.
ProFmagazine’s Blessing sat down with Christine Platt to discuss her various passions, her career path and her efforts, in all that she does, to fight racism and inequality.
ProF: How did you get started in your overall career? I read that you were a lawyer before coming to American University.
CP: It’s so interesting how life works. I was first introduced to the field of Black Studies in undergrad, in the 1990s. And I went hard! I was like, I have to major in this! People would ask – but what are you going to do with a Black studies degree? Like, how are you going to make a living? [laughs] And honestly, I didn’t know at the time! I was just so fascinated with the history of the African diaspora. All of these moments in world and American history that weren’t taught in my formal education: discovering the true wealth and livelihood of Pre-colonial Africa. Post-colonial Africa. The trans-Atlantic slave trade and the post-antebellum South. It was just all so wonderful!
So I received my bachelor’s in Africana Studies from the University of South Florida. Then I went on to obtain my master’s in African and African American Studies from Ohio State before obtaining my Juris Doctor from Stetson. My career choices over the years always focused on inequalities in some aspect. Even when I worked in the energy law sector, I focused on brownfields, tribal energy programs, low-income energy housing programs and the like.
ProF: What drew you to working at the Antiracism Policy and Research Center?
CP: My position at the Antiracism Center was a combination of education, experience and divine timing – a new center focused on eradicating racism that needed a Managing Director with legal research and writing skills and a background in racial equity. In Washington, DC. It really was divine providence.
ProF: How do you think the Center can help change the atmosphere of racism at AU and other college campuses?
CP: I am so glad that you asked this question! The Center is definitely in a unique and wonderful position to do the work that we have made our mission, which is to produce knowledge for change’s sake. We engage in research of racial equity and discrimination that leads to policy innovation and implementation. We strive to build a world of equal opportunity for all, resting on a foundation of tenacious people who believe an antiracist world is possible. And that last sentence is what’s key. By itself, it is impossible for the Center to change the atmosphere of racism on colleges campuses or elsewhere. Change is a collective effort and the collective responsibility of anyone and everyone who opposes racism and inequality.
ProF: Who are your role models and why?
CP: A few years ago, I probably would have only named the women I consider the unofficial aunties for Black women: Oprah, Michelle Obama, Michaela Angela Davis. And I still adore these women and so many others! But I’ve also started to look within myself for inspiration and motivation. It’s been very powerful.
ProF: What led you to begin your minimalism Instagram? What are the biggest lessons you have learned?
CP: When I started my journey to minimalism, I saw very few people of color. And so I figured there were probably other minimalists looking for guidance. I figured I would share my process and lifestyle to hopefully inspire others. It’s been so wonderful to be a part of a growing community. I’ve learned too much! And one of the greatest lessons is to define what minimalism means to you. It’s your home; it’s your minimalist life. So be mindful of how you curate it because only you have to live with it. For example, I think the white aesthetics of minimalism are often misconstrued as the lifestyle. You can still have lots of color and texture in your home and be a minimalist (I do!).
ProF: How would you advise for folks to engage in minimalism? Since the “minimalism” scene is still predominantly White.
CP: I think there’s definitely a growing community for minimalists of color. But also have many White minimalists friends and followers. We all learn so much from each other. Again, it’s less about how certain minimalists live and design their spaces and more about what works for you. Let others serve as a guide or model, but not the end-all-be-all. The best thing about engaging with all minimalists is the endless resources! It’s great to see what has worked (and not worked) for others.
ProF: What advice would you give to young women starting their careers (like me!)?
CP: Understand that early in your career, you may have to make some sacrifices. Lucky you if you don’t. But always keep in mind the work that brings you joy. It’s very easy to get motivated by titles or money. But trust me, those things will not bring you joy in your career if you don’t enjoy doing the work. The old adage is true – do what you love!