Natalee Davis: We need to work together to move forward

It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better.

It’s Feb. 4, and today is the day to say hello to Natalee Davis, marketing and community engagement manager at Lerners LLP.

Natalee’s first jobs were driven by necessity: “I had to help my parents feed and shelter our family,” she explains. So, she worked in roles ranging from R&B band manager, to nail technician, admin assistant and event manager until she entered this business as a sales coordinator at a marketing firm.

Natalee is frank about how she knew she belonged in marketing: She liked creating, but didn’t see herself as artistic; she enjoyed putting things together, but didn’t like working with her hands, and she knew she was good at project management in a creative field. Marketing fit the bill.

Without a degree in business management, Natalee always felt driven to continuously learn to perform better. Over the last 25 years, she has kept evolving her definition of career success, and fixates less on titles and more on the work.

Recently, she started to realize that while results made her feel accomplished, only working to change the world made her feel proud and happy. Her current job uses her marketing branding skills for community engagement initiatives—the best of both worlds.

Natalee is grateful for quite a few mentors. Her pastor, the late Rev. Evan Reid, told her that “It was okay to be who I am.” She mentions Nicole Chrysostom, who left her successful marketing career to become a scriptwriter, and gives Mark Harrison from T1 a shoutout for how he pursues his work and activism with passion and integrity, and for shaping her sponsorship career without even knowing it. Her number one mentor? “My mother. Her perseverance in the face of obstacles fuels me every day,” says Natalee.

Natalee confesses that a light-skinned Black woman who is perceived as “nerdy” has to deal with microaggressions on all sides. “Not Black enough, not white enough, too sensitive, too outspoken.” Natalee decided instead she was too vibrant, too intelligent and too happy to let others define her narrative. Even when handling racial situations on behalf of her son, she insists on speaking for herself, educates others on why a situation is hurtful, and focuses on resolution.

Committed to removing barriers where she can, Natalee works with BTI (Black Talent Initiative), and is a mentor with ONYX. While much more can be done to empower the BIPOC community, she feels businesses are starting to listen. To resolve the inequity, Natalee says, “We all need to work together to keep moving forward.”

The Lerners Diversity and Inclusion Steering committee’s new BIPOC Bursary program is the work Natalee has chosen to share. “I loved this project,” she says. “I was involved in all aspects and led the program to fruition. We definitely need more BIPOC members in our legal system to help bring the change we all need for social justice. Our award recipient for our inaugural year is amazing.”

Gavin Barrett