Dr. Joynicole Martinez, CEO and founder of The Alchemist Agency, works to disrupt white nationalism.

Dr. Joynicole Martinez does not want to talk about her many advanced degrees. For the record, the founder and CEO of The Alchemist Agency has seven. Two bachelors degrees, three masters degrees and two doctorates.

“I feel incredibly positive. There was a time when the conversation would not have happened, when we could not have talked about racism. So the fact that it is part of our everyday? That says a lot,” says Martinez, an award-winning speaker and trainer focused on change management, diversity, inclusion and equity for more than 20 years, who is leading the Power To Change Conversation October 21 for Take The Lead.

Sign up here for “How To Fight Hate” Power To Change Conversation 10/21

Born in upstate New York, Martinez had an early view of social justice work as her father and stepmother were both MDs. Her father was a chemist before going to medical school.

Because she skipped several grades and graduated high school at 15, she began at Clarkson University, studying political science, international business relations and electrical engineering.

“I loved science and part of me knew medicine was part of my future,” says Martinez, who has trained professionals and executives for more than 50 companies including Microsoft, Ritz Paris, Wells Fargo, the Health Care Compliance Association, Just Communities, NASDAQ, the American Veterans Association, as well as universities and organizations across the United States, United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Trinidad, Tobago, Canada, the Netherlands, Russia, United Arab Emirates, and the Caribbean.

While she was in her early teens in high school, she went with her parents to Jamaica for a year where they offered medical care in extremely poor, rural areas.

“It was so astounding and astonishing for me. I didn’t understand in my American privilege that people would have to bring their own mattress to the hospital. That is the part that made me say I’m spoiled,” Martinez says. “These constant introductions to disparity made me realize this is not the same. That was what broke me.”

Martinez, who now serves as the United States Chair for Housing and Development for the All Ladies League in India, says, “Trying to balance my privilege of holding an American passport and not understanding the power of it, as well as the disparity of poverty in the U.S. and overseas, it opened my eyes and I never wanted to become lazy.”

That is never a word that would describe the depth of effort and outreach she has done and continues to do.

At 18, Martinez says, she worked for her father and “other mother,” at the rural medical center they founded in Jamaica. “I was front office at first, they did grant writing,” she says. The experience opened her eyes to the inequities in this country that were racial, economic, geographic, social and deadly.

“That’s how I ended up where I am,” says Martinez, an inaugural member of the Peace50 Community, an engagement group that proposes policy recommendations related to peace and social justice.

“I saw the constant need for care in front of me. These black or poor white families have chronic disability and illnesses and they cannot pay for the care to save their lives.” She adds, “I don’t know if you can be more inspired than that. A part of me knew access to clinical treatment was based on your zip code and your race.”

As an undergrad, Martinez published her first research project with the National institutes of Health in 1989 and began working on the issue of HIV testing and access. Her interest in “social justice didn’t start when we highlighted police brutality. That began when I saw American black people who didn’t get access to HIV testing. My understanding of social justice began long before these trending topics,” says Martinez, who is the U.S. Ambassador for Diplomatic World Magazine.

In 1999, at 24 years old, she started the company that is now The Alchemist Agency, based in North Carolina, where she is a staff contributor to North Carolina’s oldest minority-owned newspaper, The Carolinian.

From 2002-2009, Martinez worked specifically with persons with HIV in North Carolina. “That was my fight for equitable treatment and care for people over social and racial barriers.” She adds, “So this is not new work for me, it is lifelong.”

As the outrageous surges in white nationalism and hate have swelled across the country, Martinez is working to deflate those trends through trainings, discussions, workshops, consultations and any and every avenue available.

“Hate is learned and trained, not innate,” Martinez says. “Hate creeps in when we start to believe there is lack, there is need. What we’ve become is divided over resources. When you can teach people there is enough and that my winning is not your losing, you can untrain this.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified more than 940 hate groups in the U.S., in nearly every state. The center also follows more than 1,600 extremist groups in the U.S.

According to the SPLC, “Hate groups tear at the fabric of our society and instill fear in entire communities. American history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or other characteristics. As a nation, we’ve made a lot of progress, but our history of white supremacy lingers in institutional racism, stereotyping and unequal treatment of people of color and others. Hate also plays a particular role in crime and thus the existence and location of hate groups is important to law enforcement. The U.S. Department of Justice warns that hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger community conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots. For all their ‘patriotic’ rhetoric, hate groups and their imitators are really trying to divide us; their views are fundamentally anti-democratic and need to be exposed and countered. “

Countering the hate requires deep work that Martinez invests her life doing. The work is “ugly,” and “horrifyingly difficult,” she says.

“Most of the work is not done between people. Most of the work is done inward. That is what I try to teach, if you can change the way you see your life, yourself, the way you see your surroundings, then you have no energy or reason to hate if you understand you can utilize your own resources. Then you can break that glacier down,” Martinez says.

While she is very optimistic that the justice work can result in resolution, Martinez says, the “‘you good, me bad,’ or ‘you bad, me good’ approach needs to shift to ‘we better.’”

Register for the Power To Change Conversation 10/21 with Dr. Joynicole Martinez and Felicia Davis.

This post originally ran in Take The Lead.


  • Michele Weldon

    Author 6 books; journalist; NU emerita faculty; The OpEd Project leader; editorial director Take The Lead, mother of 3 sons.

    MICHELE WELDON is an author, journalist, senior leader with The OpEd Project, directing the Public Voices Fellowship initiative at Northwestern University since 2012. She has led OpEd Project initiatives at Stanford, Princeton, Brown, DePaul and Loyola universities, Ms. Foundation, Rush University Medical Center, Center for Global Policy Solutions, Boone Family Foundation, Youth Narrating Our World through The McCormick Foundation,  Urgent Fund Africa  and more. She is an award-winning journalist and author with nearly four decades of experience on staff and contributing positions at North Shore Magazine, ADWEEK, Fairchild Publications, Dallas Times Herald and Chicago Tribune. She is emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School where she taught for 18 years. She was co-director of TEDxNorthwesternU 2014. She is the author of six nonfiction books including her latest, Act Like You're Having A Good Time (2020), Escape Points: A Memoir (2015) and chapters in seven other books; has delivered more than 200 keynotes and appeared on scores of TV and radio outlets globally. A frequent contributor on issues of gender, media and popular culture, her work appears in hundreds of sites including New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, TIME, Christian Science Monitor, Guardian, Slate, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and more. She is editorial director of Take The Lead, a global women's leadership initiative. She serves on the advisory boards of Life Matters Media, Global Girl Media Chicago, Sarah's Inn, Between Friends and Beat The Streets. She is a former member of the board of directors of Journalism & Women Symposium.