“You never know who’s watching.”
Nykidra Robinson says that’s how she found herself on the cover of Baltimore Magazine in February. Someone called her and said they wanted to talk with her as part of a 30-woman feature. “I thought it was going to be a collage and I’d be the size of a quarter.”
But the editors had other plans. The power of the black voice was a focus of attention, and they liked Nyki as a representative of that. But ask her if she had any “imposter syndrome” about ending up on the cover alone, and she’ll tell you this was always in the offing.
“We do vision boards and manifestations on my team,” she says. “Five or six years ago, I wrote down that I was going to be on the cover of magazines.”
When the founder of Black Girls Vote graduated from Frostburg State University, her first real job was working for the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods. She says she had never been interested in government or politics, but she grew so much personally and professionally from seeing the passion of people who want a better community that it laid the foundation for her to build her organization, which launched in 2015.
A first-generation college graduate, Nyki (it’s pronounced Nike – “like the goddess, not the shoe,” she often says) was shaped by her mother’s fortitude in the face of her father’s mental illness. This past December, her mother got sick, and Nyki’s planned 24-hour birthday visit from New York City to Baltimore turned into caregiving that continues today. For over a month, her mother was hospitalized. Due to COVID restrictions, Nyki was the only person allowed to visit. She was with her mother every day.
But she was also in the middle of a voter education campaign in Atlanta. She felt like she needed to be too many places at once. That was a powerful moment, Nyki says, when she really needed help. It was the women on her team who gave it.
“You’re crying on the phone with people who are asking what they can do – ‘Just pray!’ – That feeling was indescribable,” she recalls. “But people on my team stepped up and went to Atlanta to do the things I was supposed to do.”
That time brought together two of Nyki’s passions – family and community – in a way that furthered the third: the empowerment of black people. Nyki says given the systemic racism that has oppressed them for so long, she’s passionate about seeing people win in a system that wasn’t built for them to thrive in.
With all the things that swirl around women now, the north star for Nyki is the best advice she ever got: Bet on yourself.
“We see so many things about what other people are doing, and we want to be like other people,” she says. “Comparison is a thief of joy. Bet on yourself. Know that if you continue to keep your head down and do the work, the right people will recognize you at the right time and the doors will open.
“I was talking to some young people recently, and I asked what inspires them,” she says. “One young woman said, ‘The woman I am going to be in the future.’ That resonated so much for me. Even through the trials and tribulations, the pain, the stress, I know there’s a greater purpose for me that is going to inspire others for generations to come.”
That’s how vision boards turn into cover stories for a woman with a name like the goddess of victory.