To be a woman who's so tiny in stature, my grandmother has been an enormous source of encouragement for me as well as all my siblings. She went back to college late in her career and actually had three careers!! Precious Petross-Buckner has been a lawyer, a community advocate (hospital in Flint, MI) and she also had one other career that I think I was too young to remember. She actually went back to school for her law degree. Out of nowhere, she just decided to start a new career! In that respect, she’s been a great example to me personally about defying stereotypes, striving against all odds, etc.
Architecturally related, she’s the one that ever got my mind going on architecture - I just didn't realize that for quite some time. She actually told me when I was small that I would be an architect! It took me 31 years to realize it was her. I would always just say “somebody told me what an architect was,” but I quite knew who. In recounting my story to my grandmother, in fact, she stopped me dead in my tracks and said “Tariq, I’M the one that told you you were going to be an architect.” I think she must've seen the gift in me back then - always drawing, always trying to figure things out, etc. It really came full circle for me in that moment. It was one heck of an experience to realize where I am now - a licensed architect with my own successful firm - and have the chance to really allow her to see that too. It was a blessing for me to show her how her energy allowed me to have the audacity to succeed. I could not have been more proud or more grateful in that moment!
It's why I care so much to give back to our children now and also help expose them to the field of architecture in particular.
How did my grandmother ever get exposed to the field of architecture herself? Well, my mother and uncles led a very affluent lifestyle, so it actually wasn’t that far-fetched for her to be exposed to architecture or architects even. I can recall my mother telling me stories about how they were the first house on the block in the neighborhood even to have a color TV. Everyone would flock to her house and watch TV in Flint, MI. It was not so far-fetched to understand how she could be exposed to that field of architecture – even back then.
I also got exposure to the construction field from my family as well. When my grandfather's house burned down, he literally built it back up with his hands. He wasn't a mason or an architect, but somehow he figured out how to design it, lay the foundation and build it. In those days, black people always found a way to get things done. We had to wear a lot of hats and learn a lot of skills, but it allowed us to survive, and (in my family's case) even flourish.
My people were no strangers to having the audacity to achieve. I'm beyond grateful for these experiences which shaped my childhood and ultimately helped shape my career. What great lessons did you learn from your family? How did your experiences help shape who you are?