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! 😉

Dark Women’s Revolution Pt. 1

“Yo mama’s so black, when she wears orange lipstick, it looks like she’s been eating Cheetos.”–The Dozens

Recently, I shared I’ve been watching reruns of A Different World. The late 80’s/early 90’s show, centered on the lives of Black college students. It covered issues such as police brutality, homelessness, etc. I posted about a good episode that addressed the issue of sexual violence. The other day, another excellent episode aired.

Whitley (Jasmine Guy) decides to host an art collection, featuring images/collectable items of Mammy.  Her friend, Kim (Charnele Brown), finds the display offensive. Kim has a bad memory of a childhood incident, when she is referred to as Mammy by a teacher. It was during a costume contest at school. She’d been dressed as an African princess.

Things come to a head when Kim’s boyfriend, Ron (Darryl M. Bell) makes “Yo mama’s so black…” jokes in her presence. Kim is dark-skinned and full-figured. The jokes triggered old feelings of ugliness and self-doubt. As she tells a friend, “Women like me aren’t deemed worthy.” Kim also feels that Whitley (a lighter skinned/slender Black woman), doesn’t understand her pain. She sees the Mammy exhibit as an affront to her.

In typical sitcom fashion, Kim resolves all her issues, makes up with everybody by the end of the 30 minutes. However, I thought the episode was very moving and I found myself crying. The show made me reflect on my childhood experiences as a dark-skinned Black girl.

Continue reading “Dark Women’s Revolution Pt. 1”

The Future is…Coreena

*My new series “The Future is…” highlights innovative Black women/Non Binary folks.*

A few weeks ago, I was reading my new favorite online magazine Divine Dark Skin, when I saw an ad featuring singer Coreena.  I love learning about upcoming Black women artists, so I double-clicked. I liked what I heard, and decided to follow her website. Not long after, I was pleasantly surprised to find out Coreena was a member of an internet forum that I’m part of. I enjoyed her vibe in the group, and decided to reach out to her. I almost fainted when she agreed to an interview. I’m glad I asked. What I found was an adventurous young woman, carving her own path/identity/career.

Coreena Pic

Hi! So, tell us about yourself…

Hello and thank you for having me. Just want to say your blog is the bomb!!! Okay, enough of me gushing! My name is Coreena, I’m a musician currently based in Seattle Wa., but in two weeks moving to Berlin, Germany! I was born and raised in Seattle, went to college in Boston, MA at Berklee College of Music. I got married in Southern California and was in that relationship for 8-9 years. I divorced and moved back to Seattle. I currently teach voice/piano and perform /record music.

After my divorce, I started stepping into the person I wanted to be. My favorite quote is…“your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your actions do.” So, I became an ethical vegan. I’m more spiritual than religious. I followed my true path of becoming a full-time musician, no more side giggin. I wanted to use all of my talents to make a living.

I started getting into activism for animals and made the connection of oppression, abuse and subjugation in all forms. I was always aware of social justice issues in the Black community, but I was a bit of an elitist. I used to think the Black Panthers were too “extreme” and thought that upward mobility and respectability politics was the path to success for Black folks. Thinking about it now I’m like…who was that woman? She had all the best intentions, but allowed fear to guide her.

Currently, my “politics” and/or belief systems may be viewed as radical or extreme. Although, I think its ridiculous that some would view equality for all as radical! I proudly identify as a Black feminist/womanist. Let me be clear this identity for me includes trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes. Black feminism has really taken heat and so many folks don’t have a clue of what this identity embodies.

When I interview Portlanders of color, I often ask “What do you like/dislike about Portland?” I know Seattle is a bit more diverse than Portland, but is also known for being a white city. What are your unique experiences as a Black woman in Seattle? 

Seattle is my home so I’m sentimental and nostalgic about my physical surroundings, seeing familiar family and faces. I like that some of the younger Black folks and POC are already clued into radicalism. Maybe these younger folks can make the changes I’d like to see. What I don’t like is how Seattle prides itself on being very liberal, yet drinks diet racism. Many fail to ask the question, “How can I use my privilege to help and contribute to equality?”

Has music always been a passion of yours or did you have other interests? You are also a songwriter/producer. Do you think it’s important singers be “multi-talented?” 

I started singing when I was a wee little girl 5-6 years old, but professionally my career started when I went to Berklee at 19. It has ALWAYS been a passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else, maybe little things on the side like acting as I did in high school. My other interest was history, it’s so fascinating and important to know. You don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you came from.

YES! I think its very important, but not necessary. It’s not public knowledge that a lot of “singers” are actually multi talented. Aretha Franklin played piano, wrote her own music and was her own music director at times. Chaka Khan played drums and did many of her own back up vocals in the studio. Bjork writes and produces. And the list goes on and on…

Your music has an electronic/Afrofuturism flavor, that reminds me of Kelela and FKA Twigs. What are your thoughts on the current state of Black women singers/artists?  How do you define your music? 

I’ve been making music in this genre and have had this sound for the last 13 years. It was not popular to see Black faces let alone a Black woman doing this back then. One of the main reasons I’m going to Berlin is because electronic music and its sub-genres are thriving there. As a Black woman who is an indie artist I get questions like…do you have anything that sounds like Beyoncé? Don’t get me wrong I really DIG Beyoncé, but I’m not her. I can get down singing some R&B/soul music tho! Don’t sleep! LOL!

I think the U.S. has a long way to go still in its acceptance of Black women “alternative” artists. I define my music as Electronic/Ambient/Trip Hop/Alternative/Beat Driven/Downtempo…with hints of jazz.

Your YouTube channel “CoCo Reena Goes International: A musician’s guide to travel, food, and discovery” chronicles your move to Germany. What do you hope to accomplish in Germany?

I decided to go to a place where the genre of music I do is celebrated and not tolerated. I’ve always want to spend quality time abroad and I do not want to get to a place in my life and look back with that big regret. After the election of #45 that was my push…escaping the U.S. in the era of Trump. I’m so disgusted by him and how bold his supporters are. The current climate in the U.S. is not healthy. I told myself I need to go be a citizen of the world for a while.

I’m girl crushing for real! I think your beautiful smile, exemplifies the positivity that radiates from you. What keeps you joyful/optimistic? Do you engage in self-care? Do you have any tips for Black women maintaining a healthy sense of self? In our “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” society (to quote bell hooks).

Oh, Thank YOU!!! What keeps my mind in a productive place really is music. Thru music I have the opportunity to do my passion while expressing all my feelings, thoughts and activism! Music is my self-care. I also get those books out, take those baths and veg out!

I think for Black women to obtain a sense of self and foster healthiness is such an effort that it has to be done EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Specifically, for those that are dark-skinned Black women such as myself. We are perceived with so much bias. The images, social media, and person to person contact…just about everything in the outside world will remind you to “stay in your place.” What I do to fight this is surround myself with media, books, and people who reinforce what I believe to be the truth. Black is beautiful. Black is diverse. Black does not mean wrong or bad. Black is me and I love me.

Thank you for your time

Thanks for having me!

HOW TO SUPPORT COREENA

Website– https://www.coreenamusic.com

Patreon https://www.patreon.com/coreena

Youtube (Coco Reena)https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC432n57Sb0mnmcNnr2zzlyA

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/coreenamusic/

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/reena0519/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/coreenamusic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 😉

 

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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#metoo

The last few weeks the public has been inundated with shocking revelations of predatory behavior in Hollywood. So much so, I needed time to process before writing about it. Some folks have been skeptical of the allegations, as many of the women have waited 5-10 years (if not more) to share their stories. While I’m sure most folks figured there were shenanigans going on in Hollywood, I think it’s been hard for people to grasp that it’s on such a wide scale. Especially, with celebrities they admired. I think it speaks to the fact, that this country has not really addressed the pervasiveness of sexual violence against women.

Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics

Recently, I came across a post that pointed out that we need to make a distinction between sexual assault, sexual harassment, and just asshole behavior. I thought this was important, and probably what’s contributing to most of us feeling overwhelmed. The mixing of incidents, is creating confusion. Ellen Page shared that Brett Ratner “outted” her on set. While offensive, and the way he did it was vulgar, it’s not rape. Lupita Nyong’o wrote an article about her interactions with Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein lured Lupita into several uncomfortable situations, one that resulted in her having to give him a massage, for her own safety. She experienced harassment, but it wasn’t rape. Other women (and men) talked about incidents they’ve endured, while disturbing, many were asshole antics…but it wasn’t rape.

This is not about oppression olympics, all of these scenarios feed into the larger issue of rape culture.  However, it’s making me a little anxious folks are lumping a outting story (as Kevin Spacey also tried to do), or someone giving a perverted sneer, with rape.

Black Women and Sexual Violence

Continue reading “#metoo”

The Tale of Four

A few days ago, actress Gabourey Sidibe released her short film “The Tale of Four.” The film is part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology film.

The purpose of this series is to highlight films by women directors. This is Sidibe’s directorial debut.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from the film. “The Tale of Four” is a take on Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” Now, folks who know this song, know this is one of Simone’s most iconic gems. The song stays on rotation in Black women’s playlist for revolution. Folks still get chills from Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott,  Ledisi rendition of this song at 2010 Black Girls Rock. Ledisi appears as “Aunt Sarah” in the film.

Well, the joke was on me. By the end of the 20-minute short, I was near tears. Sidibe managed to bring a contemporary spin on the characters of  Simone’s song. She portrayed the women as complex people. No one is all good or bad.

Aunt Sarah-is taking care of her sister’s children after her sister goes to prison for shooting Sarah’s abusive partner.  Despite this sacrifice,  Aunt Sarah struggles with keeping the children or placing them in foster care. She feels obligated, but overwhelmed. She loves them, but wants her life back.

Safronia-is a light-skinned biracial woman. She’s harassed by Black peers for her skin color, but she gives as good as she gets. She refers to one of her tormentors as a “burnt bitch.” Safronia demands her dark-skinned mother tell her who her father is. The mother breaks down and tells her daughter how she was conceived. She was raped by a white man. Safronia goes to her mother and hugs her. It was a powerful moment. Black women sexual assault survivors rarely get unspoken love/support.  Also, it wasn’t the cliché story of the “confused” biracial, rather acknowledging the pain of the mother.

Sweet Thing– is a sex worker. She’s not ashamed of what she does.  She enjoys it, but would like respect from her client.  She’s a talented woman. She sings with a husky voice, plays the piano. When she picks up the phone and apologizes for an argument. Of course, it’s the client. The man she really wants to be with. Or so you think.. When she opens the door to a Black woman holding flowers, and they bashfully hold hands. You realize Sweet Thing wants a different kind of love to fill her heart.

Peaches-is the Black mother grieving her child killed by police. She represents Black Lives Matter, the protest of the flag/anthem, the resistance of white supremacy. Peaches is Lesley McSpadden, Sybrina Fulton, Samaria Rice, Geneva Reed-Veal, and more (sadly). More importantly, Peaches is the symbolic revenge of Black mothers. I recently read an article how the narrative of Black people abused by the police/white oppression is that of forgiveness. We are expected to forgive the transgressions against us. Peaches rejects that notion. She knows she will suffer when takes her revenge, but it helps her heal.

“The Tale of Four” was wonderful. It makes the Nina Simone film with Zoe Saldana in blackface, even more insulting.  This brilliant songstress deserves more than that. Sidibe redeems Simone’s honor with her film.