Shellie Baxter started Our Genetic Legacy (OGL) in 2018 in response to her frustration with the lack of recognition and the disenfranchisement of BIPOC Americans in American history. OGL creates projects that expose and publish lost family legacies of BIPOC Americans in order to diversify, correct and expand the current history of the United States to include all Americans. Ms. Baxter’s own family legacy story, knowing the struggles her ancestors overcame for her to even exist, ignites her passion to help others find their legacy.
Cover of We The People: Teaching U.S. History Through the Ancestral Stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
Under the umbrella of OGL, Shelli has worked tirelessly to produce “We The People: Teaching U.S. History Through the Ancestral Stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.” This textbook is a 100% BIPOC-authored and edited U.S. history book written by the BIPOC pioneers of the U.S. It will be the first U.S. history book that uses DNA to integrate the stories of everyday BIPOC into the official storyline of the United States of America. Additionally, in 2023, she will be launching We The People (a virtual museum), where they will be introducing a design contest for a $10,000 prize. Additional details can be found here.
Exhibitions of historical sites significant in BIPOC California history will be produced by the DRONe Project, Descendants Recovering Our Names, a paid workforce development program. The program was created for young women ages 16 to 18 living in San Diego, Calif. who want to become drone pilots and work as digital historic preservationists skilled in the use of LiDAR-enabled drones. LiDAR uses lasers and light to create visual images of the earth’s surface that are invisible to the naked eye. Participants will use the same technology that was used by National Geographic to recover lost Mayan civilizations in Guatemala.
Additional information can be found here. They are currently accepting applications for 20 spots. Applications must be confirmed through an online interview process and the application period will remain open until the confirmed capacity is reached.
Lastly, Shellie runs The History Makers’ Workshop, and will begin conducting workshops with 8th- and 11th-grade students beginning late June 2022 at Hoover High School in partnership with First Gen Scholars. Shellie is mother to two hard working women and has spent most of her life as a stay-at-home mother to the girls. This is her story.
What have you learned about balancing family and career?
It’s hard! I currently have zero work-life balance, partially because I have built a corporation around what used to be my hobby. I love what I do; I am only able to do what I do because my children are adults.
What is your parenting status? Tell us more about your children.
I am a semi-empty nester. Both of my daughters graduated from UCLA. My oldest daughter is working as a post-production colorist in Los Angeles. My younger daughter is home working and preparing to go to law school.
Baxter with family in Cairo, Egypt
When people ask, ‘What do you do for a living?’ what is your response?
CEO/Founder, Our Genetic Legacy.
What gives you the motivation to be at the top of your game?
Making the world a better place for future generations, do legacy work for a living. As much as I want a better future for my kids, I know the work I am doing has the ability to change lives, in large part because I have seen the impact on my own children. Understanding why I am doing what I do drives me.
How does ‘home’ play a role in how you manage your career and kids? What is your favorite part about your house?
I bought my grandmother’s home, so my home is part of the legacy that was passed to me and I will pass to my descendants. It is also where I work every day to preserve the legacies of others. My family continues to be able to gather for the holidays in the same way we did growing up. My home is my safe place. I am fiercely protective over the energy I allow in it.
How does ‘partnership’ play a role in how you manage your career and kids?
I was married for nearly 24 years. During that time, I stopped taking care of myself. I put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. Deciding to end my marriage has allowed me to learn who I am and think about what I want. I have renewed my relationship with myself. In doing that, I now have the opportunity to create a healthy partnership with someone else.
What does self-care mean to you? How do you try to take care of your body?
To me, self care is about dedicating time to address my wants and needs in the same way that I do for the people around me. I’m definitely a work in progress in this area, but I am getting better. I have started walking around the harbor three times a week which has been great for me both physically and mentally.
Shellie as a child with mom and grandmother
How has being a career-driven parent impacted your mental health? What avenues have you used to cope?
I was a stay at home mother for most of my marriage. Raising my children was my full-time job. Between a divorce and no career, I had major insecurities about how to explain the gaps in my resume. The way my brain works, I only know how to move forward. I sometimes wonder if I’m in denial or truly okay. I went to therapy, which was helpful, but solving problems is what eases my mind. So I went back to school and started my own corporation, turning my passion into a career. On the days I get overwhelmed, I acknowledge the pain, shed tears when need be, and then get back to it, whatever it is at the time. I’m not sure if this is the best way, but it works for me.
Does spirituality play a role in your life? If yes, please elaborate.
Absolutely! I know that my abilities are finite and each day is filled with uncertainty, my faith is the one constant I can depend upon no matter what the day brings. If it’s a good day, I thank God for the favor. If it’s a bad day, I look to God for strength. My faith encourages me to act fearlessly, because no matter what, I know I will be ok.