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”

N.K. Jemisin and Nisi Shaw

If you’ve been a long time follower of this blog, you know I love to read. Especially, books written by Black women. I’m currently on a science fiction/fantasy novel kick (I’ve even been dabbling in writing my own quirky stories). So, I was super excited to get two new books as Christmas gifts.

I cheesed with delight when I unwrapped N.K. Jemisin’s “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.” I read Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season,” about a year ago. I cheated and listened to the following novels in the series, “The Obelisk Gate” and “The Stone Sky,” audiobooks (I felt sooo guilty about that!) I need to relisten to the last few chapters of “The Stone Sky.”  I tried to wait until my toddler was asleep, to have peace and quiet, only to keep dozing off myself.

I’m just a few pages in “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” (the novel tops out at 395 pages!), but it seems like an intriguing read so far.

I’m less familiar with Nishi Shaw’s work, so I’m really looking forward to reading her book. As noted on the back cover, “Everfair” “explores the question of what might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had access to advanced technology.”  Sounds like I’m going to need a drink with this one!

I can’t wait to get deep into these books. The goddess Octavia Butler, kicked down the door for Black science fiction writers. It’s wonderful to see the growing literature of Black women in this genre.

If you are looking for some new reading material, put these books on your list!

I heart books 

Summer Reading: Update Update

Yeah, yeah I know it’s November. I flopped at doing all my summer reading.  I’ve been busy, yo (in my Jesse Pinkman voice). I decided to revisit the books on my summer list, as the holiday season is upon us.  I think books make great gifts, don’t you? So, here are the three books I was able to chug though this summer/fall. I would suggest keeping these books in mind for the readers in your life:

  Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

  In Perry’s book, she examines the stereotypes used to degrade/shame black women. She writes about the “crooked room” a space where the complexities of black womanhood is distorted by racist, sexist, etc., images.  Black women aren’t allowed their full humanity, thus constantly find themselves navigating  oppressive situations.   “When they confront race and gender stereotypes, black women are standing in a crooked room, and they have to figure out which way is up. Bombarded with warped images of their humanity, some black women tilt and bend themselves to fit the distortion…to understand why black women’s public actions and political strategies sometimes seem titled in ways that accommodate the degrading stereotypes about them, it is important to appreciate the structural constraints that influence their behavior (Perry, 2011, pg. 29).” 

Perry writes about everything from black women survivors of Hurricane Katrina (a voice that tends to be underrepresented when looking at our country’s blatant negligence of black life, before/after the storm), The Duke Lacrosse Case (personally, I still think they did something to those young women), and ends with a look at Michelle Obama.  While I will always have respect for the symbolism of Mrs. Obama, I’m not as a huge of a fan I used to be.  However, Perry does a great job of detailing the obstacles Mrs. Obama faces as the The First (Black) Lady.  “Issues of hypersexuality  lurk in the media obsession with Michelle’s body; the specter of the angry black woman shadows discussions about her marriage; and national yearnings to depict black women as Mammy are embedded in public discourses about her role as mother (Perry, 2011, pg. 277).” 

All Decent Animals: A Novel
By Oonya Kempado

It took me a minute to get through this book. The book is a lyrical read from beginning to end. The author sticks to the dialect/cultural sayings of the people she is writing about. It can be a difficult read, but that’s okay. Folks need to be pushed out of the comfort  zone, sometimes 🙂 It’s a fictional story centered on Ata and her friends.  Ata is a young woman living on the island of Trinidad. She works in carnival design, but longs to do something else with her life. She meets European Pierre, at a party, and they soon begin dating. The story chronicles the ups and down of their relationship in the midst of celebration of Carnival and their friend Fraser, who is dying of AIDS. “Fraser’s new lightness of weight gives him spring and hope. Maybe he could live with this, the dialysis part. The expensive cocktail of drugs for HIV is another thing, but with more research, things could get better (Kempadoo, 2013, pg. 138).” There are a couple of surprises in the book, no spoilers 🙂 Be prepared for the rich and complex tale Ms. Kempadoo has woven.

Ghana Must Go
By Taiye Selasi

I cried several times while reading this book. It’s hard not to think  Selasi’s story  comes from some personal experiences. If not, she has an amazing gift for writing. “Ghana Must Go” is about a family dealing with the unexpected death of their father.  Kweku Sai is a renewed surgeon who abandoned his family years ago. Sai leaves his family, after being wrongfully dismissed from his job,and feeling like a failure. Some of his insecurities, stems from his poverty-stricken childhood in Ghana. The family tries to forget about him, but he is always in the back of their minds.  So, his death comes as a shock and leaves questions unanswered.  The family consists of Fola (mother), Olu (eldest son), Kehinde and Taiwo (the twins), and Sadie (the youngest child). The family returns to Africa, for their father’s funeral. It’s there they must deal with the heartache, lies and disappointment they have all suffered. “As it finally hits him, “He died,” Kehinde answers and starts, at the laugh. He can’t quite imagine what his sister finds funny, but she appears to be laughing, outright, her back turned. “Taiwo,” he whispers, thinking maybe she’s crying, but she turns to him dry-eyed. “He’s gone.” She shakes her head. She doesn’t stop laughing (Selasi, 2913, pg. 210).”