Dr. Marrissa Dick leads a triple life that keeps her busy around the clock and can even take her into the wee hours of the morning. They’re all fulfilling but require a lot of knowledge, work and dedication. Her two main lives consist of teaching college students about the world we live in, including the harsh realities that have recently intensified regarding racial, gender and religious equality. She also helps adult students navigate their own career paths.
At the young age of six, Marrissa Dick grabbed a pencil and paper one day, and confidently wrote her name – Dr. Marrissa R. Dick. “My plan was to always become a doctor,” she says. However, at some point along the way she realized she didn’t like the presence of blood. So any type of medical doctor was out of the question for the young scholar.
Growing up in Greensboro, N.C., Marrissa started her education at a private Catholic school. Her parents had high expectations of her and her two siblings and felt she would benefit more from this type of education. From kindergarten to the eighth grade, she did quite well under the strict tutelage of nuns and other faculty, but she often struggled with the lack of brown faces in her classes. “Everywhere I turned, there was no one that looked like me. They didn’t use some of the lingo I used, their hair textures were different from mine, and their overall lives weren’t the same as mine,” she says. After years of these experiences, she begged her parents to allow her to attend a public school. Initially her mother gave her a firm “no,” but over time, she worked on her father (she admitted to being a daddy’s girl), and together they convinced her mother to give it a try. Knowing her mother’s apprehension, she was determined to set her mind at ease by being the best student she could be.
Marrissa attended what is now known as Allen Jay Middle School (during her time, it was a junior high school) and then transitioned to James B. Dudley High School the next year. This was life-changing for the aspiring doctor. Not only did she attend a public school which was much more relaxed, but she proudly walked the halls of a historically black high school with hundreds of students who were different shades of brown. She finally felt at home. Needless to say she enjoyed her time there and her parents never looked back.
Years after high school, Marrissa found herself unhappily married and working as a receptionist at North Carolina A&T State University. Though school was still on her mind, the sights she’d set previously, began to fade. But then, something happened. “The day I signed my divorce papers, I also signed up for classes at Shaw University’s CAPE Center in High Point, N.C.,” she says. The program that she is now the director of in Kannapolis, N.C. offers evening classes for working adults. She admirably completed a four-year program in three years and walked away with her first degree earlier than many expected.
Not stopping there, Marrissa decided to apply for her master’s degree in adult education at North Carolina A&T State University. After she conquered that, there was only one more hill she had to climb – starting the process for her lifelong goal of earning her Ph.D. She decided to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations program. “The two and a half year program took me seven years to complete but now I understand that the number seven is the number of completion and that everything works out better with Gods perfect timing,” she says. Due to working full-time and caring for her parents and grandmother, Dr. Dick was only able to attend classes in the evening, which of course, gravely delayed her studies. Over the course of the program, she noticed others who had started after her, were finishing well ahead of her. A few years into the mundane routine of working during the day and rushing off to class at night, took its toll. She was tired, frustrated, and ready to give up.
“One evening after class, I went to my parent’s house and just fell into my father’s lap and cried. He asked me what was wrong and I just sobbed, telling him that I was going to quit the program. I felt like it was too hard, and it was taking me too long, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. He waited a few minutes, looked at my mother who was standing nearby, and said, ‘This must be your child today,’ she says.
Dr. Dick went on to explain how her parents refused to throw her a pity party and ultimately didn’t accept her declaration of quitting. No rebuttal was provided, no pep talk was given, just an unspoken expectation of completing the task she’d set out to do. On December 13, 2012, Marrissa R. Dick was proud to add Ph.D. to her name, just as she had done decades prior. “When I walked into the tunnel that led to the ceremony, I felt like I blinked, and I started and finished.”
To add to the already full plate she’d made for herself, Dr. Dick explained how she also started writing novels while going to school; her third life – a published author. Not only was she writing them, she also attended book club meetings, showcased them at book readings, and did whatever she could to introduce her endeavor to the world.
“As a young girl, I read Harlequin novels. And when they would describe a man as tall, dark, and handsome it didn’t match the picture on the cover. I was expecting a man with dark brown skin. However, he would have white skin and dark hair. So I wanted to create characters that my people could identify with,” she explained. Dr. Dick’s first novel, ‘Déjà vu Desires’ was published in 2001.
Dr. Dick characterizes her genre of novels as ‘Contemporary Christian Romance’ because they’re for adults who want to read tasteful and flavorful books about real life and real love. God is very much a part of her storylines, from being based in churches, to characters talking to God and asking him for forgiveness for their thoughts and actions. Her characters pray and aren’t ashamed of it, just as she isn’t ashamed of her books, their topics, and the affairs of the heart that some of her characters face. She says, “If you dare to dream, if you dare to love and if you desire passion, then step into the world of Nubian Romance Novels where passions soar and dreams come true.”
“Some people think that Christians shouldn’t have certain desires and if they do, they shouldn’t talk about them,” she says. Dr. Dick shares that she has received a certain level of criticism for her books that shed light on intimacy in God’s house. She hasn’t backed down. To date, she has penned a total of five novels and plans to produce more in the near future. Each one has a sequel just waiting to be published, but right now, her writing has taken a backseat to her main jobs.
There is no doubt that Dr. Marrissa Dick is a busy woman, leading a full life and according to her, God-willing, she has so much more to do.