The Future is…Danielle Heard

It was the cute bowtie that caught my attention. I’d seen Danielle post several times on a Black woman’s website we both visit. I enjoyed her thoughtful commentary. I always wanted to ask her about her bowties. One day, someone started a thread encouraging people to promote their side gigs. Danielle shared briefly about her bowtie venture. It was an opportunity to learn more!

Hello! Thank you for the interview. Tell us about yourself. 

Firstly, I was born in Frankfurt, Germany via military and experienced various countries, languages, and peoples…thus my engagement with learning about the world outside of the United States began. Those formative years shaped me into the individual I am today, because when you have the birth situation or opportunity to experience culture outside of the U.S., you’re able to intellectually flex your brain muscles a tad more to engage with a lot of really heavy topics. We eventually moved back to the U.S., to a military base, (surprise-surprise) and that’s where I’ve been intermittently since.

Second, I’ve always had natural hair, which I have to brag about because Black Women have been given so much scorn and belittling because of the way our hair naturally grows out of our scalp. Our hair is the most versatile and beautiful work of art: mohawks, high tops, braids, locs, curls, afros, bantu knots, etc. The sky is really the limit with our hair and it never fails to leave me speechless. Praise be and blessings to my Mother who saved my Sister and I from a lot of self hate.

Third, I identify as Ace-greysexual. This was a process of self discovery that was as confusing as it was educational because I knew about the main umbrella/lettering but the periphery letters so often get left off of the promotional materials, you know? I always felt like I was standing on the outside looking in when the topic of romantic and sexual relationships came up. I had no interest and the synapses that were supposed to ignite, didn’t even fizzle. I’ve learned that I’m not alone, an outlier, and more than anything broken.

Fourth, when I’m not working on content, you can catch me at the gym or working out at home. I got into powerlifting and various muscle training exercises while I was at University. It’s super cathartic, an incredible way to decompress, and great for my health. When I personally channel my own vanity, it’s for mental health and to combat some body dysmorphia issues that used to pop up for me.

I am excited about your upcoming bowtie business. I know you love fashion, but why specifically bowties? Any challenges you’ve faced as a Black woman entrepreneur? When will products be available for purchase?  

Bowties have always been fascinating to me; I’ve always been enamored by their shapes and how they rest on/around the neck. Plus, I puzzled when I was little, where/how do you tie these? I bought my first bow tie when I was in Undergraduate school and am reaching closer and closer to 100. They are so much more exquisite in form, function, and variety to me than neckties. Alongside bowties, I have a sizable hat collection and collect more when my funds permit. The motivating factor in starting this business venture was minimal job opportunities after I graduated—and not living in a state where a fashion store or company could easily pick me up—with my particular niche/expertise.

Also, my Grandmother who passed away two years ago was a sewer, knitter, crocheter, needle-pointer, and anything else you can imagine with fabric. She made various clothes for her children, drapes and curtains, quilts, pillowcases, and so much more. My main regret is missing out on crucial learning time about her and with her; Dementia gradually sapped her mind and her voice. But, her legacy will continue in a way through her grandchild that wants to take up her mantle and sewing machine. I’ve faced no challenges thus far with my business (praying that the waters don’t become rough). My market has so much untapped potential that I personally feel that people will be knocking my website door down to make a purchase.

There’s so many businesses that by proxy of having a Black Woman (or Black queer woman) attached do incredibly well. My Grandmother has so much fabric, sewing machines, needles, thread, etc. that purchasing essentials may be nil to very inexpensive. At most, the domain for my website may cost a bit through Squarespace, but once I launch later this year, everyone should be on the lookout for something truly special!

You shared you’re an avid reader. I love to read too! My latest obsession is N.K. Jemisin (science fiction/fantasy). What books do you enjoy reading? 

Thanks for the recommendation! I really need to get into more science fiction books because I love the science fiction genre, especially in film, plus I know it’s really grown and has tons of Black Women and Black people as leads. I read a lot of social justice, history, feminist, environmental, sci-fi, horror, and video game texts. I’m a logophile nerd that loved reading the dictionary and competing in spelling bee competitions, so of course I read everything!

There’s a book that was released recently called, Let’s Talk About Love by a young Black female author named Claire Kann. You’ve got to check out the cover too, you will be overwhelmed by its beauty. The story follows a young Black Woman that’s trying to navigate her relationships as an Asexual person, and its representation like that, which was severely lacking when I was a child/young person trying to navigate the world as a non-overtly sexual Black person. The media we ingest so often over-sexualizes Black people so that when you don’t fall into that spectrum, you feel like an otherized other inside of another otherness.

I also just downloaded the comic Bingo Love, it’s about two Black girls that fall in love in the 1960s, society forces them to change/act heteronormatively, get married yada, yada, yada…however their story doesn’t end there…when they’re much older in their sixties they reconnect in a Bingo Hall and rekindle the same love that was snatched away so many years earlier. The story and then the artwork had me hooked immediately, Black Women loving each other outside of a cis-hetero framework, sign me all the way up!

Continue reading “The Future is…Danielle Heard”

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Dark Women’s Revolution Pt.2

Folks who know me, know I love Lupita Nyong’o. The actress made her debut in the 2013 film 12 Years a Slave.  Nyong’o won an Oscar for her performance as PatseySince that time, she has appeared in several films, including this year’s Black Panther. In Panther, Nyong’o sizzled. Her dark skin shimmered on-screen and her kinky locs bounced with determination. When she strutted around in that green dress, I almost stood up and applauded.

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“Yes, I’m beautiful. Don’t stare too hard.”

While I admire Nyong’o’s acting, I must admit, I’m obsessed with her fashion/beauty. It’s rare to see a dark Black woman praised in mainstream media. Usually dark Black women’s skin is used to play into stereotypes/negative connotations. I will never forget when the casting call for Straight Outta Compton’ was made public. The “D” girl roles were geared towards dark-skinned Black women. The characteristics that they were looking for included being “poor, out of shape.” It was a limited way of thinking about poor/working class dark Black women.

Besides Nyong’o, I’m a fan of model Nyakim Gatwech.

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Gatwech is so fly to me. I love when she wears splashy eyeshadow (I’m the eyeshadow queen), and neon colored lipstick. As dark-skinned women know, we are often told not to wear bright anything. However, we have kicked that colorist nonsense to the curb. I’m going to wear orange, yellow, green, torquise…and I dare you to say anything to me.

As I’ve shared, I’m a reader of Divine Dark Skin. I’ve been learning about upcoming dark-skinned women, and gaining some great styling tips. It’s empowering to have a space that centers the voice/experiences of dark Black women. It’s a shift that’s been a long time in the making.

The revolution has begun! 😉

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a great opportunity to support women’s organizations/businesses. Here are some of my favorite Black women led groups:

Pay Your Teachers: How to Compensate Black Women and Femmes on Social Media for Their Emotional Labor

A Long Walk Home

Black Lives Matter

Black Women’s BluePrint

Bloom Beautifully

Divine Dark Skin

#metoo

Safety Pin Box

SisterSong

The Feminist Wire

PDX Black Feminism 😉

 

Holiday Gifts: Black Girl Stuff

The holiday season is fast approaching…12 days until Christmas! It’s been hard getting into the festivities this year. It feels like so much has been going on. It’s been a long year. But this is a great time to support Black women’s businesses. Especially, after Black women saved the world again. *cough Alabama* 

If you are looking for last-minute gifts, here are some crafty Black women making fabulous things 🙂

The brilliant writer Alexis Pauline Gumbs is now selling these cozy looking hoodies! I’ve been a fan of Gumbs since I came across her website, years ago. She’s one of the editors of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on Front Lines and has a great piece in Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Movements. These hoodies are a wonderful way to show your support for Black feminist literature.

 

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I Am: A Black Feminist Bookmobile

 

I can’t remember where I saw this delicious organizer, but I’m glad I bookmarked it! The 2018 womanist agenda yearlong monthly planner is a cute accessory for those who will have a busy 2018. The organizer is filled with beautiful images of Black women/Trans/Non-Binary folks and empowering quotes.

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2018 womanist agenda yearlong monthly planner 

 

In 2013, I got the opportunity to interview Kayin Talton Davis for the Women of Color: How to Live in the City of Roses and Avoid the Pricks zine. She talked about her shop, Soapbox Theory, and the challenges of being a Black woman entrepreneur. It’s been amazing watching her business grow. I know it’s been difficult for her to hold onto her shop, in a Black neighborhood that’s been hit hard with gentrification. Check out these new products from Davis!

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Soapbox Theory

Self Care in Color

A few weeks ago, I attended a virtual self-care retreat for Black women (how cool is that!) It was an amazing experience. The only drawback, the daily videos were scheduled 8 am eastern time, which meant I had to be up by 5 am Pacific. Of course, it wasn’t that difficult for me to get up.  I have a toddler. Those with small children know kids are usually breathing in your face at the crack of dawn. So, I was semi-awake for this inspiring event.

I enjoyed all the guest speakers, but especially the conversations on what is self-care (Tara Pringle Jeffersonand Black motherhood and self-care (Danielle Faust).

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Bloom Beautifully Self-Care Box

Jefferson talked about the importance of thinking deeper about self-care practices. The rhetoric tends to be go get a manicure or go to the spa, and all will be well. Jefferson encouraged Black women to take a more holistic approach. It could mean getting rid of toxic people in our lives. Or cutting out destructive habits (overextending ourselves, smoking) etc.

Faust discussed the challenges of finding time for self-care, especially as  Black mothers. In/outside the Black community, there is expectation of Black women sacrificing themselves for everyone else. The pressures triple, once we have children. We are raising Black children in an anti-black world. We have to protect our children differently than non-Black mothers. How can Black mothers indulge in self-care without feeling guilty or judged?

Recently, I celebrated my birthday. A good friend gave me a gift card to one of my favorite stores. I had to force myself not to buy my son a new outfit. It was a struggle to only spend the card on myself. Honestly, I kind of failed. I did get him a t-shirt. It’s this dilemma as Black mothers of knowing it’s okay to self-indulge, sometimes.

The self-care retreat was interesting and fun. When the organizer asked about ideas for next year’s gathering, I suggested more interactive opportunities. But she did a wonderful job for her first time!

She sent a link of Black women owned businesses that include coaching, counseling, products, etc. Personally, I’ve got my eye on Jefferson’s self-care boxI will make self buy it. I will make myself buy it… 😉

Support Black businesses this holiday season!!

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The Black Girl Magic Lit Mag Horror Issue

One of my writing goals for 2016 was to do more fiction writing. I’ve been having several short stories swirling around in my head. I’ve received a lot of rejection emails. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Black Girl Magic Lit Magazine accepted one of my stories…this past summer. It was a dream come true. I tried again for their horror submissions call, but alas it was not meant to be. I’m not hurt, though. Reading some of the excerpts from the latest issue, I can tell the competition was stiff! So grab their first horror edition. It’s a great way to get some early Halloween scares in 🙂

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Brown Girls Do Ballet

A week later, I’m still staring off into space trying to process Prince’s death. As a proud Gen-Xer, Prince’s music was an integral part of my childhood. The iconic singer’s album “Purple Rain” came out in 1984, right as I was preparing for middle school. Even as a kid, I recognized the magnetism of his music, if I didn’t understand it completely (or catch onto all the sexy double entendres that Prince was notorious for).

Since his passing, there have been numerous articles/tributes honoring the singer. One article that stood out to me looked at Prince’s relationship with women entertainers. Prince seemed to have a genuine respect and admiration for talented women. This is not to say he was perfect. He did tend to engage in colorism in the women he choose to promote and was said not to be the greatest guy to be in a professional (or intimate) relationship with, but overall he did go out of his way to highlight exceptional women.

One person he is credited with giving shine to is Misty Copeland, the first black woman ballerina to be a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater in over 75 years.

How Prince Gave Ballet Star Misty Copeland Her Big Break http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/the-wrap/article/How-Prince-Gave-Ballet-Star-Misty-Copeland-Her-7294782.php

The popularity of Copeland has created an increased interest in black female ballerinas. Copeland’s journey has been particularly inspiring to little black girls who rarely see themselves reflected in the world of ballet. The organization Brown Girls Do Ballet goal is to provide space for black girl ballerinas and other girls of color.

“Brown Girls Do Ballet® is a start-up organization dedicated to promoting diversity in ballet programs through various media platforms, training resources, and an exclusive network in the world of ballet. The mission of Brown Girls Do Ballet® is to help increase participation of underrepresented minority populations in ballet programs through organizing and arranging ballet performances and providing resources and scholarships to assist young girls in their ballet development and training.” http://www.browngirlsdoballet.com/

If you scroll the website, the images of all the brown girls in their poses/outfits is beautiful and touching. Almost makes me wish I was a little girl again. Never mind the fact that I have two left feet 🙂

See Prince what you started…Rest in Peace.

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SheaMoisture: Break the Walls

10 years ago, I went natural.

I decided I was sick of having to get up early on Saturday mornings for hair appointments and sitting for hours for a style that lasted only a couple of weeks.

I also wanted to give my hair a break from chemicals.

Sometimes I wear braids or curly wigs when I want a fuller/longer look, but I keep my own hair happily kinky.

Like most black women, I went through a ton of products after going natural. Eventually, I started using SheaMoisture. The products are pricey, but have been great for my hair.

Recently, the company aired the commercial “SheaMoisture: Break the Wall.” I had to laugh when I saw it, because the commercial looks at what black women often talk about..our small “corner” of hair products in stores.

Some folks have found the ad patronizing. Poor black women have to go to the ethic aisle, as if there is something wrong with that. And/or think it’s just a way to attract mainstream (white women’s) dollars. White women won’t feel “scared” to go to the ethnic aisle if the products are in the regular “beauty” aisle.

What do you think?

Favorite Things-3

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to make a sweet potato pie.

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I got the ingredients
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I did some boiling
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I misread the recipe and found myself with a mess. Wonk, wonk 😦

I should’ve known it was going to be a flop. I accidentally grabbed yams instead of sweet potatoes from the store. Yes, there is a difference 🙂

In any case, I was happy to recently come across a new zine called “Cooking With Mama, A Soul-Food Zine” by Patricia Jones.

“A legacy in a ladle: 
I was born in California, my mother was born in Kentucky, and her mother was born in Alabama. These recipes traveled with these women and they continue to nourish our family as I pass them on to my daughters. The most important ingredient of each of these meals is without a doubt Love. Cook these meals with the people you love in mind, including yourself. The flavor begins there. Bare in mind, these recipes are very traditional. There are not many quick shortcuts in here. You can’t be scared. No dippin your toes in, you got to put your foot in it.” -Mrs. Jones https://www.etsy.com/shop/PaperMulatta

The “Cooking With Mama… zine brings together my love of eating/recipes (y’all know I’m a foodie 🙂 and zines. This zine is definitely one of my favorite things this season. It would make a great gift for the foodie/DIYer in your life!!

I will be going on winter break starting today and will return early January. It’s been hard these last few weeks for folks across the country. This is a time to connect with loved ones, regroup and keep pushing ahead in 2015.

*Here is the recipe I tried to make. Maybe y’all will have better luck than me. 

No-Fail Sweet Potato Pie (I failed..haha 😉

3 sweet potatoes

3 eggs

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 store-bought ready to bake 10-inch pie

Scrub the sweet potatoes but do not peel. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and boil until tender when pierced with a fork, 30 to 40 minutes; the timing will depend on the size of the sweet potatoes. Drain well, let cool, and peel. Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl and mash with a potato masher until no lumps remain. Measure out 2 cups; reserve the remainder for another use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until blended. Add the 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes and beat well. Stir in the milk until well mixed, then gradually beat in the sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Add the vanilla and stir well. Taste and adjust with a little more spice, if you like.

Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pie crust. Bake until the center is firm and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool before serving.

Makes one 10-inch pie; serves 6 to 8.

 

Favorite Things-2

These days there is a better selection of toys/books for Black children. If I had children, I would probably indulge them and buy everything.  Check out my favorite things for the young folks in your life 🙂

1) Little Miss Rue – Zuri Doll: I heart QuellyRue’s designs. As a fellow DIY (Do It Yourself) creative, I respect all the hard work she puts into her handmade products. She recently introduced dolls into her line. Little Miss Rue is adorable and looks oh so cuddly 🙂

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Photo from: http://www.quellyrue.com/product/zuri

2) “Flying Lessons” written and illustrated by Kayin A. Talton Davis: I actually got  a chance to interview Davis for a project, a year or so ago. She was very nice and has a lot of passion for her work. Her book “Flying Lessons” was inspired by the “The People Could Fly” a book about slaves who possessed magical powers to fly away to freedom.

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Photo from: http://shop.soapboxtheory.com/products-page/paperworks/flying-lessons/flying-lessons-a-lola-and-luella-adventure/

3) Doc McStuffins Puzzle: Whenever I give toys/books to toy drives, I make sure to provide culturally diverse items.  I came across the “Doc McStuffins” line by accident. I had never heard of the show, probably because I don’t have a lot of kids in my life. The creator of McStuffins, is actually a non-black woman. The show/merchandise is also promoted by Disney who I am usually giving the side eye to.  But how can you resist such a needed character in Black children’s lives?  I’ll give this one a slight pass 😉

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Photo from: abcpartyideasforgirls.org