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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Feminist Film School Fellowship Fund

I love interesting DIY (Do It Yourself) crowdfunding projects.  I came across the Black Feminist Film School Fellowship Fund on Facebook. They are so close to their goal. Support if you can 🙂

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“The answer, the vision, the liberation. Black Feminist Film School is an initiation journey that will transform all involved toward love and light. I invite you to join in and support in the ways that make sense for you….Black Feminist Film School Summer Session (bffs Summer Session) will take place June – August 2014. We will be focusing on building skill and practice as Black Feminist storytellers using the filmmaking medium and accompanying art forms. Within the three month session we will cover all phases of filmmaking including research and writing, pre-production, production and post-production.” http://www.alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-the-black-feminist-film-school-fellowship-fund/

I have a lot of respect for Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs. She’s an amazing young artist/organizer/radical activist. She is also a fellow zinester.  I have the SPEAK! CD that she and fellow women of color zinesters created a few years ago.   It should be added to folks DIY collection. Check out this great interview with Dr. Gumbs:


 

Detriot

I love to eat, so I enjoy watching cooking shows. A couple of days ago, I watched a season of Anthony Bourdain: Part’s Unknown.” It’s currently streaming on Netflix. The show follows Chef Bourdain around the world, eating local dishes. While I tend to find Bourdain to be a bit obnoxious, I do like the fact that he is open-minded about trying different foods and not afraid to discuss the complexities of the cities he visits. After watching a couple of interesting episodes on South Africa and Tokoyo, I was surprised to see an episode on Detroit:

“Bourdain steps into the lives of Detroit natives and sees the glory days of the past at the famed Packard Plant, the current state of the city’s urban decay, and the promise of the future in the citizens who are rebuilding their communities.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Bourdain:_Parts_Unknown

Bourdain grubbed on local barbecue and gourmet dishes. At one restaurant, his host was drinking an alcoholic beverage.  Bourdain asked what should they order to eat, the host pointed to the drink and said “this is my meal.” Bourdain looked shocked and hesitantly agreed to do the same. Ha, ha! That drink must be delicious.

The episode also looked at the neglect of too many neighborhoods in Detroit. As most folks know, Detroit has been hit with very hard times.  The city declared bankruptcy last summer. Many of the residents (83% black) are under/unemployed (18%). Of course (after doing some research), folks were a bit upset that the show focused so much on the devastation of the city.  I can understand folks not only wanting to be seen as the “broke” city. However, I think it’s important that the reality of what’s happening in Detroit is talked about. There are many people suffering/struggling. Folks outside of the city/state need to be aware of their plight. The abandonment of this city, reminds me of the abandonment of Hurricane Katrina victims. And we all know why that happened…

Funny enough, one of my favorite websites Our Legaci, posted a MTV’s True Life episode about this issue. The show followed three black teens trying to make a difference in their Detroit neighborhoods. Their activism/passion is why we can’t forget about the people of Detroit. I really felt for Alyssia and I hope she was able to also get some counseling to deal with her PTSD.  The episode is a year old. I hope there is a follow-up story on these brave young women.

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Click to watch video: http://www.mtv.com/videos/true-life-im-saving-detroit/1711609/playlist.jhtml

Happy Spring Break!!

I will be taking the next week off for spring break. I hope to do some traveling, catch up on my reading, and watch a movie or two.  Any who, before I go, I  want to leave y’all with a treat.  Y’all know that I love to collect recipes. Here’s one I found in a local newspaper. It’s spaghetti with bacon. Yum! If I have time next week, I hope to try it out. If you are looking for a tasty dish to make during your spring break…here it is!  Enjoy!! 🙂

Spaghetti with Bacon

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Ingredients: 1 (16 ounce) package spaghetti, 1/4 cup olive oil, 8 slices bacon cut into 1/4 inch pieces, 4 cloves garlic, minced.

Directions: (1) Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the spaghetti, and return to boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink. (2) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the bacon, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking and stirring until the garlic has softened, and the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Toss the drained pasta with the bacon, oil, and parsley to serve.

See y’all in April!!

PBS Black History Month

It’s almost that time again…In our so-called “post-racial” society folks have challenged the purpose of still having a Black History Month. Personally, I think it’s still an important and needed month. Especially, for our black youth (and hell even some adults).  Yeah, yeah black history should just be considered American history. Yeah, yeah most black folks have made significant strides since the Civil Rights Movement. Yeah, yeah we have a black President, Oprah, Beyoncé etc. Black wealth/power is at a level it has never been before (too bad most of our black celebrities do absolutely nothing with it, but I digress  😦

YET,  there are  just as many black folks struggling. Many black folks live below the poverty line, highest rates of unemployment, targeted for the Prison Industrial Complex, shot in the back while walking from the store, etc. We still have a long way to go. It’s important we know our history, so we can’t be bamboozled into thinking we deserve our mistreatment. We don’t ever want racism/oppression to be normalized or thought of as “that’s just the way it is.” There’s a rhyme and reason for everything in our imperialist white supremacist patriarchal society (thank you, bell hooks).

Any who, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has an amazing line up of shows to celebrate Black History Month. Check ’em out, if ya can:

“ARLINGTON, VA – January 16, 2014 – In commemoration of Black History Month and as part of its year-round commitment to provide diverse programming and resources for all Americans, PBS today announced new shows and online content celebrating the African American experience past, present and future. From an AMERICAN MASTERS profile of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, to an INDEPENDENT LENS documentary about the secret spy agency created to maintain segregation in 1950’s Mississippi, Black History Month on PBS will provide programs that educate, inform and inspire viewers to learn more about the rich culture of our nation. The lineup begins on February 3 at 10:00 p.m. with “American Promise,” a powerful coming-of-age documentary from POV that follows the journey of two young African-American males from kindergarten through high school graduation as they attend a prestigious Manhattan private school. Confronting challenges from typical childhood growing pains to cultural identification within a predominantly white environment, the young men and their parents push toward success and discover their own individuality in the process.”–http://www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2014/black-history-month/

Atlanta

I would like to say thank you to the Regional Arts & Culture Council for selecting me to receive a Professional Development Grant. The grant gave me the opportunity to fly to Atlanta to attend the Blogalicious Conference. Strangely, as much as I like to travel, I had never visited Atlanta before. It’s an amazing city. I now understand why my friend’s boyfriend said one needs at least a month in the ATL to see everything. The three days I was there, I barely scratched the surface of things to do:

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Downtown Atlanta

The Blogalicious Conference was interesting. It definitely attracts well-rounded, educated, professional, and ambitious women of color bloggers/entrepreneurs. It was amazing to see so many of these women under one roof. The attendees were people who had attended the conference over the years (Blogalicious was celebrating its fifth year anniversary). So, the majority of folks knew each other. It had a sorority type vibe, which I tend not to do well in.  It was a bit awkward for me. Folks were polite, but it helped if you had a couple of other women to kick it with. I attended the conference alone. Perhaps the conference organizers could think about dedicating one day (or the mornings sessions or whatever) to newbies to the conference. I know that some other huge conferences tend to do this as a way to support new attendees. Other than that, I would recommend this conference to WOC who are interested in learning how to promote their blogs/brand their work:

Conference schedule
Conference schedule
Conference swag bag gifts
Conference swag bag gifts

The best part of the trip was getting a chance to see relatives living in Atlanta. It felt good to relax and hangout with them:

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Dinner with family 🙂

I had some free time so I went to a lecture at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture.  I got a chance to see artist James Eugene. Eugene paints futuristic images of black folks/sometimes other folks of color.  He shared with the audience his creative process/why it’s important to show futuristic images of black folks. His artwork is detailed and eye-catching:

Photo from: http://www.jameseugene.com/artworks/aanzii.html
Photo from: http://www.jameseugene.com/artworks/aanzii.html

Overall, I had a good trip to Atlanta. I can’t wait to go back and do more exploring 😉

Randomness: Black Women Get a Passport

The other day, I decided to clean up my Facebook page.  As I was going through my pictures, I scrolled through my India photo album. The memories came flooding back.  About a year ago, I traveled to Madurai, India.  It was an opportunity to participate in an International Service-Learning course.   I attended lectures, engaged in cultural activities, and did some community service:

Dish at India restaurant
Dish at India restaurant
Gandhi Museum
Gandhi Museum
Russ Foundation http://www.russfoundation.in/
Russ Foundation http://www.russfoundation.in/
Me and Berlin Jose, the founder of Russ Foundation.
Me and Berlin Jose, the founder of Russ Foundation.

It was my first time traveling overseas. I’d never thought about traveling to another country. Well, I take that back. I had thought about it, but it seemed like an impossible dream. Women like me (working class black woman) do not get to travel to places like India. Or, so I thought. As I prepared for my trip, I realized I held myself back, for no reason. Getting a passport/visa, is relativity easy. I don’t know why  it used to intimidate me. It’s fairly cheap (if you can drop $200 at Target,  you can get a passport), considering.  Also, there are several ways to get funding. You can take a travel course (like I did) and get financial aid, research travel grants/scholarships,  or look for deals on Groupon Getaways.  If you are a member of a book club, sorority, activist group, etc., you can pool your money together and find some good group discounts.

Yes, you will have to fill out a bunch of paperwork/look for your birth certificate. Yes,  you will have to wait in a long azz line at the post office. But it will feel so good once you get that passport in the mail. It’s empowering, really.  As black women, we need to make sure we have options to get out of dodge, just in case. Many black women/folks don’t know that you can have a dual citizenship with some countries in Africa, and other places.

I’ve been trying hard to get my friends to get their passports. I think it would be fun for us to take a trip together. But they keep putting it off. One even admitted to being nervous by the paperwork (as I was). But fear shouldn’t hold us back from seeking new adventures/places to live. I will stay on top of them. I encourage y’all to get your passports as well…

To obtain a passport: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html

Some counties you need a visa as well: http://travel.state.gov/visa/