Naja P. Mix
Chief of Staff, IMPACT Strategies
At 27-years-old, Naja P. Mix has risen through the ranks from associate to Chief of Staff at IMPACT Strategies, a political strategy and government relations firm founded by Angela Rye.
Mix’s journey into political advocacy and social equity was like second nature as civic engagement played a huge role in her upbringing. As a child, she would watch her parents and grandparents come together to cast their votes on Election Day. “It always stuck with me that people actually fought, died and were murdered for our rights,” Mix told MadameNoire.
She strives to create meaningful work that will bring honor to the memory of her father, who passed away from colon cancer when she was four. Mix lives by the late great Nipsey Hussle’s “The marathon continues” mantra and works to uplift and inspire young women as her career continues to blossom.
MN: What’s one of your earliest memories of politics?
NM: I remember Election Day and voting being such a big deal in our house. One because the local polling place was at my elementary school. So it was like it was going to my school on an off day and my whole family would go together. And I remember my grandmother showed us the voting card for her mother-in-law, which is my great-grandmother was given. She was well into her fifties by the time she got her voting card after the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It basically said because she was colored, she had to take that card with her. And if she didn’t, then she couldn’t vote.
My mom told us that everything was like politics. We didn’t grow up watching certain shows or going to certain places. My whole life has just been surrounded by politics and being aware, not only for yourself, but for your community and making sure that our community is in good hands and always advancing.
MN: Can you tell us about your role at IMPACT Strategies?
NM: I have been at IMPACT Strategies for almost two years. I started off as an associate and then about a year and a half into it, I was promoted to Chief of Staff.
I love it there. I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to grow and be taken seriously as a woman of color. I am very young and I think I look a little bit younger than what I am. So when I come into this space, people are like, ‘who is this person?’
MN: Can you talk about some of the obstacles you’ve encountered as a young Black woman working in a space dominated by people who don’t look like you?
NM: I think the biggest one is what I was saying earlier about not being taken seriously because I am a young Black woman. People just think that I have no experience. And I don’t have all the experience in the world. I am still learning. I think all of us are, but that’s the hardest part. You build yourself up to go into these spaces, into rooms, and then the people in these rooms try to tear down all the work that you did to be in that room. And you have to not only remind everybody in the room, but you actually have to build yourself up again. I belong here. This is why I’m here. And you’re gonna learn something from me as well.
One of my first times being in D.C. and going to a client meeting, somebody was like, ‘Oh, you’re so adorable.’ And then I started talking, you can kind of see their mouth dropped and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I might be adorable, but I’m about to hit you with these facts.’
MN: What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a leader in this space?
NM: I believe that I was born to be a leader. Something that I have learned along the way is that in order to be a great leader, you must also be just as good of a follower. It’s been very important to me to learn and listen to the people that I’m leading and take into account what they’re experiencing, what they’re feeling, their ideas as well as mine and keep moving forward.
I think the perspective and clarity I’ve learned in this space has made me a better leader, as well as me just having the extra willingness and awareness to just go forward. I know a lot of times people say, ‘If not now, then when,’ and I think that is so perfect because if we’re not going to do it for ourselves and for our community, then who do we expect to do it for us?
MN: What’s some of the more gratifying parts of your role?
NM: Something that Angela [Rye] has taught us, as well as my family, is that once you get a seat at the table, it is important for you to keep pulling up chairs inviting more people. And because I’ve had the opportunity to do it because someone did it for me, I’m going to keep doing it for other people.
It’s just so great because you meet so many young people, so many people of color who don’t understand what political advocacy is, what social equity is and what political activism is. And being in this role, I feel like I get to experience and teach all three of those things as a young Black woman working in this space.
MN: What advice would you offer to young women who are interested in a similar career path?
NM: There’s no one way to go about doing this career path. People always say network, but I think you need to take it a step further and relationship build. This life is all about the relationships that you nurture along the way. Not only so that somebody could do something for you, but so you can learn something from someone else and you take that little nugget and you pass it on and then you add to it.
I would say for people coming down the line, just be authentic to yourself, keep asking questions, keep pushing. I understand that there will be failures that you might go two steps back, but you will go 10 steps forward.
Do it for yourself and to do it for your legacy because you never know who’s watching. Don’t just do it for the people that are watching, definitely do it for the impact it’ll have on the community.
MN: The current state of politics in the United States and across the world in places like Nigeria and Democratic Republic of the Congo can be disheartening and hard to digest. What keeps you inspired?
NM: What gives me hope to keep going is my 93-year-old grandfather who is still pushing who I haven’t seen him cry a lot, but the one time he cried that I remember was when [Barack] Obama was elected.
What gives me hope is the little black and Brown babies that will be born into this world with so much life to live. And just knowing that one day I want to have a Brown little baby or I want to help be in a village of people who will help raise the ones around me. There are so many things that give me hope in spite of.
We need community. That’s something else that gives me hope, like having that community of women and I’m just going to go a step deeper and say women of color. It doesn’t matter where you are, we all need each other because most of the time we go through the same steps in any field.