Famous Friday: Makensie McDaniel
Each week our Project RACE youth leadership team features a multiracial person of interest here on our blog. Typically those featured are a celebrity, someone renowned in their field, and someone we consider to be a good role model for the multiracial community. This week, I chose for the first time to write about someone within our organization who fits that description, my awesome Co-President of Project RACE Teens, Makensie Shay McDaniel.
A lot of people know Makensie as a beauty queen. She was named Miss Shelby’s Outstanding Teen 2015, Miss Queen City’s Outstanding Teen 2016, and Miss Charlotte’s Outstanding Teen 2017. She is smart and beautiful and passionate about her pageant platform. She is also an accomplished competitive dancer with aspirations of becoming an Atlanta Falcons Cheerleader. But these are not the things that impress me most about Makensie. I have had the pleasure of working with Makensie at Project RACE for about 5 years now and she is a force! She is a girl who know who she is and is proud of her entire heritage. But that wasn’t always the case. As a child Makensie struggled with her racial identity. Her mother is Caucasian and her father is African American and growing up she felt a lot of confusion. She was raised primarily by the white side of her family, attended majority white schools, and lived in a predominately white community. Her birth certificate says she’s white, because of a state law that says a baby’s race is determined by the mother’s race. For these reasons, she self identified as white in middle school, but was constantly told by society that she was black.
“In middle school I struggled more because boys started to say things like ‘you could be my girlfriend if you were not half black.’” Makensie said. “A group of girls at my school had a nickname for me. They called me “Nancy” because they said I acted white and dressed white.”
These experiences inspired Makensie to search the internet at the age of thirteen looking for information on other multiracial people like her. That’s when she came across our Project RACE website and found it both informative and encouraging. She followed us on social media for a year and then, at the age of fourteen, she joined us as a volunteer helping us reach out to government officials in an effort to launch Multiracial Heritage Week.
“I remember Executive Director Susan Graham sending me a box of multicultural crayons to thank me for my help and I was so happy because I thought it was so cool to have a crayon for every skin tone,” Makensie shared.
The President of Project RACE Teens was preparing to head off to college, so we looked for her successor by posting an ad for the Project RACE Teens president position and Makensie, then 15 applied. Her resume and essay really stood out from the other applicants and after a series of interviews, she was named PRT Co-President. Makensie started advocating for others and spreading awareness on social media.
“By sharing my own story, being authentic, expressing my feelings, others started sharing theirs,” she said.
She contacted North Carolina’s Governor and persuaded him to issue a proclamation in 2015 and 2016 so that multiracial people could have an official week to celebrate their heritage. She asked for North Carolinian’s to send her their pictures and tell her their heritage so she could create a video. Everyone was so proud of their multiracial heritage that it made Makensie even more proud and brought her to tears. She handed out t-shirts to anyone who wanted them to help us celebrate Multiracial Heritage Week. In 2017 Charlotte’s Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the state’s new Governor Roy Cooper issued a MHW proclamation. Nationally 12 states including Georgia and the District of Columbia celebrated Multiracial Heritage Week thanks to the efforts of Makensie and the rest of our Project RACE team.
Seeing others respond to these efforts fueled her advocacy more and made her dreams even bigger. She has spoken at churches, schools, and many other organizations to spread awareness of causes important to the multiracial community.
Now, as a high school senior in North Carolina, where she has earned a 3.9 GPA, Makensie’s term as TPR Co-President is nearing its end, but she continues to dream of making a difference.
“To me, denying any part of my race is not okay,” she says. “I have spent hours writing letters, making phone calls, and speaking with senators about this issue. They all have acknowledged there is a need for change, but the multiracial identity issue hasn’t made its way on anyone’s agenda as of now. I haven’t gotten a law changed yet; however, I was able to get all Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, the largest school system in our state, to change all school forms to include multiracial terminology. My goal is to graduate from East Carolina University with a political science degree and go on to pursue a law degree or master’s degree so that I can continue to serve others and create change in this and many other areas.”
I am very confident that Makensie will continue to be instrumental in multiracial advocacy and am honored to have partnered with her for these last 5 years.
-Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Teens Co-President