Bold & Polished
Pistil of the Month
“Human beings are multifaceted jewels. We have many important dimensions to our being.”
Big, beautiful, curly hair, a humble spirit, a sweet voice and the rumbles of two [ADORABLE] french bull dogs greet me as Solo and I begin to chat.
“Latto say Hi!!,” Solo says to her spotted pup.
Many of us just see the NASA Engineer walking around in clothing that would have us ready to raid her closet; however, her family knows better. Solo is most comfortable in her basketball shorts, listening to Hip Hop and serving others in her community. Solo cares less about leaving an impact based on how she looks and cares more about leaving an impact based on what she has done. This Old Dominion University graduate was born and raised in Newport News, Virginia. Solo’s humble beginning started with two very loving, strict and low-income earning parents and two siblings.
“My parents literally started from nothing. They worked two jobs each to provide for [us]. I thought it was normal to glue the soles of my shoes. I thought it was normal to iron on denim patches to cover the holes in my jeans. Kids’ parents wouldn’t allow them to come to my birthday party at my house because of where I lived. It’s a concept that was hard for me to grasp as a third grader. I didn’t get it; I had everything I needed. A roof over my head, enough food that we didn’t starve, family, and unconditional love. My father wanted more for us and enrolled himself in college where he eventually graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Engineering. He saved and saved and saved and by the time I was in the 7th grade, my father built his dream home. I saw the sacrifices my parents made in that journey and all I wanted was to make them proud. He wanted me [to be] an engineer [and] enrolled me in college courses as a middle schooler. I got accepted into many math and science academies and apprenticeships, one being at NASA, where I eventually landed a job when I got older. So it was my father’s dream for me to be an engineer, but it was my dream to be able to do that for him.”
While following this accelerated path was expected at home, it wasn’t promoted among her peers.
“My parents never accepted anything under an “A”. The people that grew up in my neighborhood, they weren’t really for education. They [used to say things like] “you’re in the class with lames”. I remember my teacher pulling me aside and saying ‘”Solo” why are you getting a B? I know it’s because your friends think it’s not cool to get good grades.’ I wanted to just say..no I really just got a ‘B’, like just chill *she laughs* but I guess it just wasn’t what she was used to.”
Due to the experiences of her childhood, Solo did not want to stop at becoming just an Engineer, but an engineer that would eventually merge her passion for art and design with science and create artificial hearts.
She is a young woman that cares deeply about philanthropy and the arts. She is dedicated to community service and creating a strong foundation for future generations. So, after becoming more aware of the disparities that exists in the engineering field, it was only natural that she dedicate her time to help the underrepresented populations in her field.
“I got introduced to the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). It (NSBE), taught me so much [about] leadership and the problems of black kids not entering into the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. It’s a big problem because a lot the kids that have strong science and math backgrounds, [are lost] to the wall street and the medical field. No one ever influences them to say ‘you can be an engineer, an astronaut or a scientist’. I’m passionate about getting African American kids into Engineering. When I went to a career fair promoting Engineering, one out of every kid would not even approach the table. The ones that did, had no clue what engineering was and I had to give them examples of what an engineer does. We (engineers) don’t have people that come back into the neighborhoods and say ‘I’m an engineer and you can do this too’. People think, ‘I could never be that smart,’ but I feel that anybody can do this if they put their head to it. You don’t have to be the smartest person, but its a matter of interest and drive to want to learn it.”
“Basketball is my love. I played in middle school and high school. I watched Michael Jordan and the Bulls as little tike and ever since then my team has never changed. I remember watching Jordan’s moves and then going to the blacktop and trying to mimic that very move over and over and over. I still have his life size cardboard cutout in my room at my parent’s house. However, the autographed poster of him dunking from the free throw line in 1988 comes with me where ever I move.”
Her favorite lyrics? Nas “Stay”: ‘Some seek fame cause they need validation / Some say hating is confused admiration / … / Maybe n- could see too much of their failures through a n- who realer’
“Dignity is often compromised when a person lusts for significance. People would rather downplay your success or not acknowledge it all. This is partially why social media is thriving. People DO want to know what you’re up to, but they don’t necessarily want to hit that like button – metaphorically and literally. They can just peruse and move on. You’re afraid to speak of your accomplishments because it is seen as being boastful or vain when it really only comes from a humble place. Fear is closely related to hate. “
As a woman, Solo’s goal in the next five years is to become an amazing mother. And when asked what she felt we could do better as women, she replied:
“In looking through my Instagram feed and the popular page, the women that get attention are the women that have little to no dignity. Women with less clothes on get celebrated, while women like one of my heroes, Astronaut Mae Jemison, are barely even known. Put a picture up of Kim Kardashian and put up a picture of former EPA director, Lisa Jackson and see who is more recognizable. We need to do better to empower women that are making strides in business, education, etc not because of how they look, but because of what they have done. I would have never attracted my husband by doing those type of things and I am completely content and have found my soul mate; but it’s never going to happen [doing things] that way. There are women in their 30s still looking and they want my advice about how I found my husband. I say, keep it classy. A guy is going to want a girl that’s going to be like him. Guys that don’t have high standards are attracting [women with low standards]. Me and my husband connect more on the mental. Awhile ago I was 25lbs heavier and it was all in my butt! *she laughs* When I lost it, I was like ‘ohh you really love me unconditionally!’ That’s why I love your website, because we need more websites with thoughts like Polished Pistil. There [are] so many gossip sites, fashion sites and not enough sites like yours. People should make objective decisions [instead of decisions] based on what [they] see.
When asked what can we all do to create a better world, she replied:
“The practice of apathy is more popular than empathy or sympathy. If people took more time to understand others rather than have them understand you, there would be more quality communication. Less and less we lack the ability to be objective. We instead seek the opinions of the majority and make it our own. We fear what we don’t know and fear is closely related to hate.”
Solo’s determination to get through years of schooling to become the engineer she and her father aspired for her to be, is incredibly motivating. Solo’s rare and fearless attitude towards being completely and totally her self is beautiful. Her ability to think creatively and for herself is something we take great pride in at Polished Pistil. Because of her beautiful spirit that shined during the entire interview, her dedication to serving others in her community, the self respect she maintains by refusing to compromise her morals, and her strong desire to empower others people is why she was chosen as our Pistil of the month. I will leave you with Solo’s favorite quote:
Einstein quote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Nas wrote “Imagination better than knowledge, ask Einstein / It’s all in the mind / Nasty the nicest / I’m somewhat of a psychic / Just one minute after you heard it you all excited you all repeat it / So call me a genius , if you didn’t / Now that I said it I force you to think it”
Science explains how but it doesn’t explain why. Form your own opinion and not come to knowledge from group thinking. Creative thinking is how we discovered the world isn’t flat. Creative thinking is how we discovered that ulcers weren’t formed from stress or consumption of spicy food, but from bacterial infection. This applies to many things. Be a student of life, but never be afraid to be you at the same time. Originality is what makes the world as interesting as it is. I like that there is only one me.