The Importance of Black Women Mentoring Black Women

by Leslie Fields-Cruz

Mable Haddock (left) with Leslie Fields-Cruz

“My vision and my idea was always to share the achievements and contributions and beauty and talent and artistry of Black people with the world. … To help to change the images that have been perpetuated about Black people through mass media. By omission; by downright, you know, lies; by historical inaccuracies. All of the above. To try to bring another vision about our contributions to the world. That was my vision. And to do it through film and television. And to do it as honestly and with as much integrity as I possibly could.”

Until I was hired at National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) in 2001, the primary Black female influences in my life were from my family. My mother, Pauline, her two sisters, my paternal grandmother, my big sister, and my female cousins. As the youngest of my siblings and cousins on both sides of my familial generation, I was surrounded by a bevy of smart, beautiful and loving Black women. But none of them were connected to my professional work as an arts administrator. Then, I met Mable Haddock.

I first met Mable in 1996, during a business trip to Columbus, Ohio, where NBPC was based at the time. Five years later, I was ending a contract job and interviewing at various organizations, including NBPC. Luckily, I advanced through the NBPC process to an interview with Mable. A few days after that interview, I was offered and accepted the job. Mable Haddock was the first Black woman I’d ever worked for. And, as a Black woman, having the privilege to be mentored by someone like Mable — one of the smartest and boldest women in the documentary field at that time — was like hitting the jackpot.

Mable exemplified what it meant to be authentically Black and female in a professional space. She wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power, both verbally and in her writings. She was kind and forgiving, but could be a little salty if rubbed the wrong way. She always reminded me to not “take things personally” in this business. She encouraged me to take risks, but to make sure I did the proper advance preparation. She knew how to relax after working hard to reach a specific goal. Her stories either made you laugh ’til your belly ached, or made you want to grab a pad to take notes. For me, she was an invaluable mentor and I am deeply committed to carrying her legacy of leadership and mentorship forward.

Mable Haddock, rest in power my dear friend as you join the ancestors: Jacquie Jones, Christian Ugbode, Michelle Materre, and Leanne Ferrer.

Read more about Mable here.

— Fields-Cruz is the executive director of Black Public Media

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Black Public Media

Black Public Media (BPM) develops, produces, funds, and distributes media content about the African American and global Black experience.