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Lifestyle

Daddy's Day: Gifts for Men that Don't Suck

The Reign XY

We [read: Men] can be very difficult to shop for, which is the main reason why it took me,a man, up until a week before Father’s Day to finish putting this gift guide together. Regardless of what kind of guy your guy is, it never hurts to inject a little style into his life. Hopefully, my short list of ideas will help point you in the right direction for the special man in your life that you call daddy, whether he’s your father or not. ;)

1. Shrine Co. Duffel Bag: for the Weekend Warrior/Sneakerhead/Expensive-shoe-wearing man in your life

Image: Shrine Co. 

Image: Shrine Co. 

One of the hardest things about short travel - whether personal or professional - is packing. It’s bad enough that you never know what you’re going to get when you go through TSA (is it 100 mL or 3.4oz.?), but it’s just as bad to have to pack your expensive shoes in the bottom of your respective carryon bag. Enter the Shrine Co. Sneaker Duffel; saving shoes from hard packing one trip at a time. On top of ample space in the main compartment, this duffle has two separate compartments to protect your guy’s shoes. Along with the sneaker compartment you’ll find mesh pockets and sections within the bag for things like toiletries and socks. This is a sturdy luggage addition that he, and his shoes, will thank you for.

Bonus: Buy him TSA Pre-Check and help him breeze through the airport like a boss for the next 5 years.

2. Tom Ford Black Orchid Perfume the gift for him that's really for you, but mostly for him. Mostly.

Image: Amazon

Image: Amazon

Over the years, I’ve noticed that no one appreciates a man’s cologne more than the woman he’s closest too (take that however you like). So why not get him a real “grown-up” cologne, one that you like, that’s actually not a cologne at all? First, draw him in by explaining the difference between an eau de toilette and a perfume (water based vs. oil based). THEN, go in for the sell and get into the fragrance itself; the notes of orchid and spice and how much you love it. By then, it won’t even matter that it’s actually categorized as a perfume. #MasculinitySoFragile

Bonus: If you really love him, invest in a bottle of Creed Cologne of your choosing. No explanation necessary, just thank me later.

Bonus Bonus: Since it’s a perfume, anytime you “forget” your own fragrance, feel free to use his. You’re welcome.

3. Scotch Porter Beard Kit: for the Bearded man in your life

Image: Scotch Porter Co. 

Image: Scotch Porter Co. 

As a bearded man, myself, I’ve had to learn how to maintain my beard through years of trial and error. The result? Now, my beard is pretty poppin' with many thanks to Scotch Porter and their line of beard care products. I’m a big fan of the balm itself, and an even bigger fan of the education they share with their products. I mean, who knew that wooden combs help prevent split ends? I mean, who knew that growing a beard would mean managing things like split ends? But I digress. An added bonus is that the company is Black-owned and growing. So whether your guy’s beard connects or you’re hoping it will one day soon, get him this kit along with the gentle nudge to try something new, and watch his facial tresses flourish.

4. A Titanium Ridge Wallet: for the Guy whose Wallet is Undoubtedly Impacting his Sciatic Nerve

Image: The Ridge Wallet, LLC.

Image: The Ridge Wallet, LLC.

I think we all know this guy. His wallet clearly has receipts that are older than many of the contributors on this site. Want to know exactly how old? Just take however old your guy tells you his wallet is and multiply by 2. Now that you have that number, you know why it's your responsibility to help your man do better. The Ridge wallet will help him do just that. It’s like Home Depot and Mr. Porter got together and decided to make a wallet love child. This bad boy is made of titanium (also comes in carbon fiber, aluminum and polycarbonate. Am I talking about a wallet or car parts?! Amirite?), blocks RFID and prevents theft, comes with a money clip or strap AND even comes with a small screwdriver, because, tools. Throw out his old wallet - along with his 6th grade ID and high school library card - and introduce him to the next level.

Bonus: Schedule him an appointment with your local chiropractor because odds are he could probably use a realignment, or two, after sitting on old faithful for over a decade.

5. The thoughtful cop-out gift assortment from Loop and Tie: for the guy who has EVERYTHING, leaving you with literally no idea what to buy him

Image: Loop and Tie

Image: Loop and Tie

Despite all of your earnest thought and effort, sometimes, you just can’t think of what to buy. Allow me to introduce you to Loop and Tie. The concept is brilliant! The site provides gift tiers ranging from $25 - $500 and within each tier is an assortment of interesting gifts and categories that puts the onus on the recipient to choose what they want. Can’t decide whether he’ll like a decanter set or a DIY absinthe kit? Send him the $100 “Drink” collection and let him decide! Gift = Done. The gift invitation is delivered electronically, where you can also customize an ecard, and your lucky guy will never know whether you paid $25 or $500. So what you lose in tactile satisfaction, you gain in utility, and this instantly becomes the swiss army knife gift that no guy will be disappointed in.

Shameless Plug: If you enjoyed this gift guide and want to check out more content like it, and other men’s lifestyle topics of the sort, check out Alex Hook's personal blog, HKS.style, when it launches on July 8th. Until then, you can subscribe at Hks.style/contact

 

Images: Alex Hooks unless otherwise cited.

Reign All Summer: 5 Ways to Maintain Your Summer Goals

Stephanie Emenyonu

With great summer aspirations comes an even greater need for discipline. Discipline to pursue your journey, build your empire, restore your glow, and have an all-over sense of accomplishment throughout summer 2017. We’ve all been there season after season when things just “didn’t work out” for whatever reason and we put our ambitions (no matter how big or small) off to the side. But this summer is going to be different. We are all going to eat and eat well.

 
 

Whether your goal is to take a well-deserved vacation by the end of the summer or finally paying off a loan you’ve been dying to get rid of, here are 5 tips on making and reaching your summertime goals.

5 WAYS TO MAINTAIN YOUR SUMMER GOALS:

1. LIST 'EM OUT

Being able to see your goals on a regular basis can serve as a good reminder that you have a destination in your sights and you won’t stop until you get it get it. You can write them down on a piece of paper, in a journal, or even use apps like Notes on iPhone or Google Keep to keep track of what your goals are for the summer and check them off when you’ve met them.

2. PLAN. MAINTAIN. CONQUER.

It’s all fun and games until it’s actually time to get down to actually reaching your goals. Make a plan for each item. If one of your goals is to have clear skin with an irresistible glow by September, make a skin care regimen. If you want to run a 10K by the end of July, make a workout schedule and healthy diet plan. Whatever your goal may be, plan for it. Don’t let it sit around collecting dust because you don’t have an approach to getting it done.

3. SUPPLY THE FUNDS

Finances can often make or break summer aspirations. Some goals require a bit of change to see through while others are completely free. Whatever the cost is for you to meet your targets, make sure you have a financial plan for them earlier rather than later.

4. FIND ALLIES

Psychologically, goal-reaching can be tough. You may not see the point halfway through or want to give up simply because you don’t think you can do it. A remedy for this: Find folks who have similar aspirations or can support you throughout the way- people that can hold you accountable throughout the season and want to see you shine. I find that one of the best ways for me to meet my goals is to tell some of my friends and family about what I aspire to do so that I am holding myself accountable and also have people who have my back.

5. REWARD YOURSELF

If your goal is not already a reward (e.g. traveling abroad, going to a concert), go ahead and bless yourself once you meet it. If you run a marathon, reward yourself with a spa day. Or if you complete an internship, have a small dinner in celebration. Have a reward in mind and use it as motivation to keep pushing through the season and knocking off goals left and right.

 And always remember:

D I S C I P L I N E

Images: Giphy

The Reign Reads: African Literature

Stephanie Emenyonu

It’s summa-time!!

This time around we want to nourish our souls with self-care, introspection, and the tumultuous fabric of different African cultures. So when we’re not exploring foreign landscapes abroad, watching Game of Thrones or responding to the latest summer scandal on Twitter (because there’s always at least one), here are a few books we’ll be diving into:

HOMEGOING

Homeland Review

Homeland Review

Homegoing was published June 2016 as Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel. It follows the stories of different descendents of an enslaved Asante woman, Maame, beginning with her two daughters who were separated during Maame’s escape. The novel illustrates the effects of slavery as one daughter marries an Englishman and lives a lavish life in a castle while the other is captured and imprisoned in the very same place her estranged sister called home. An important reflection of the impact of slavery on both those who were taken and those who stayed behind, this is a book we can't wait to dive into.
(Penguin Random House, Wikipedia)

PURPLE HIBISCUS

Goodreads

Goodreads

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003) is based in post-colonial Africa as it follows the story of a teenager, Kambili Achike, dealing with violence and strict Catholicism in her home. The novel has won several awards including a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in 2004. (Wikipedia) 

SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM

Amazon

Amazon

Say You’re One of Them (2008) is a collection of 5 short stories focused on children of Africa, including Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ethiopia, in different struggles. This novel by Uwem Akpan has won several awards such as the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the PEN Open Book Award and was selected by the Oprah Winfrey Book Club in 2009. (Wikipedia)

ONAEDO: THE BLACKSMITH'S DAUGHTER

Goodreads

Goodreads

This novel by Ngozi Achebe follows the story of an American woman, Maxine, who is Nigerian and white as she tries to connect with Nigerian father. She finds a diary and reads story of a young woman, Onaedo, in the midst of the onerous age of Portuguese discovery. Onaedo: The Blacksmith’s Daughter was published in 2010. (Amazon)

SO LONG A LETTER

Amazon

Amazon

Originally written in French by Mariama Ba, So Long a Letter (1979) is an account given by a recent widow named Ramatoulaye Fall to her closest friend. Several topics are touched on in the novel including the life of women in Senegal after colonialism (1970’s and 1980’s), the effects of Islam in Ramatoulaye’s community, and family life. In 1980, the novel won the Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa. (Wikipedia)

WE NEED NEW NAMES

Goodreads

Goodreads

We Need New Names was written by NoViolet Bulawayo and published in 2013. It is about the growth of a young girl named Darling who grows up in Zimbabwe but then moves to the United States Midwest to live with her aunt. In 2011, the first chapter of the book won the Caine Prize for African Writing as it was originally submitted as a short story in the Boston Review. (Wikipedia, Boston Review)

WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY

Goodreads

Goodreads

A dazzlingly accomplished debut collection explores the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home. 

In “Who Will Greet You at Home,” a National Magazine Award finalist for The New Yorker, A woman desperate for a child weaves one out of hair, with unsettling results. In “Wild,” a disastrous night out shifts a teenager and her Nigerian cousin onto uneasy common ground. In “The Future Looks Good,” three generations of women are haunted by the ghosts of war, while in “Light,” a father struggles to protect and empower the daughter he loves. And in the title story, in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to “fix the equation of a person” – with rippling, unforeseen repercussions. 
(Penguin Random House)

What are you reading this summer? Let us know in the comments!

4 Ways to Spot a Toxic Friendship

Katrice Mitchell

Toxic adj. |  tox·ic |  \ˈtäk-sik\ | : containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious  debilitation. extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.

Everyone desires friends that love and support them but there are some friends who fall into the bucket of being toxic. Lucky for me, I have very supportive friends that help me to be better. Toxic friends can be a huge source of stress because of the ups and downs that come from the "friendship." One minute it can be a beautiful joyous relationship and the next it can be miserable to continue to deal with them. This is a very draining cycle, that comes with the territory of a toxic friendship. Toxic friends use you for what YOU can do for THEM. Whether emotional or financial, they are users. Instead of being supportive of you, it is ALWAYS about what said friend has going on. 

Here are four ways to tell if your friend is indeed toxic. It can be hard to let go of a friendship, but if it isn't healthy then that is your best plan of action.

1. Their Emotional Needs Are Always More Important Than Yours

In toxic friendships the toxic friend's needs take the highest priority. Now, we've all had bad days or even a bad week, but this friend has continual drama to the point that seems unreal. Everything is LITERALLY about them. If this friend calls/texts and they are having a horrible day, they expect you to drop everything and comfort them. Of course it's great to be a support system to your friends but if it comes to the point that it's a reoccurring thing then it's a problem. You shouldn't be a dumping ground for your friend to drop their problems off onto for you to fix. Being an emotional dumping ground is both stressful and unfair to you. 

2. They are Overly Critical

In any relationship one of the most important things is mutual respect. The toxic friend doesn't possess this trait, for them their needs and thoughts take precedence over any and everything. We all have friends that give us little tidbits of advice about things we can improve upon to be a better person, this is healthy. A toxic friend doesn't give constructive criticism instead they use insecurities to make others feel inadequate. Oftentimes, when a person is overly critical they are merely projecting what they feel about themselves onto someone else. The toxic friend undermines other's growth by being critical of their actions. For example let's say you decided to stop drinking alcohol for health reasons and your friend says, "Oh, so you think you're actually doing something by not drinking. Ain't nothing special about you not drinking." A statement such as this can be deemed as an overly critical statement, it shows a lack of concern and support for the growth of the friend that is no longer drinking alcohol.

3. They're in Competition With You

Jealousy and competition are two underlying characteristics of a toxic friendship. If a friend always tries to "one-up" you, then nine times out of ten they are jealous of you. This can exist in subtle or overt forms. If they try to overshadow an accomplishment you made by boasting about their own, that is a huge sign your friend maybe in competition with you. There is a big difference between healthy competition and unhealthy competition. Unhealthy competition normally takes the form of trying to do something better than the other. The toxic friend is really in competition with others because they feel that they are lacking something within themselves. Friends that that are always discussing their accomplishments while demeaning yours are harmful. This type of action, can make others feel that they are unimportant. People who love you will be happy at the thought of you succeeding. 

4. They aren't Supportive of You

Support is a two way street especially in a friendship. The toxic friend expects for everyone to rally around them and support them. Toxic friends expect for the spotlight to be on them at all times, so when they achieve something they expect to have great fanfare involved. Celebrating the accomplishments of others, especially your friends is not wrong. When it comes to the point that it is not reciprocated then it is a problem. An unsupportive, toxic friend undermines everything you say and do. Instead of uplifting and supporting their friends, a toxic friend undermines to steer the friend in the direction THEY think would be better for that particular friend. "Girl, you know you're really good at managing social media accounts since you do it for free, why don't you think about applying for a job in that field since it's something you love", this is an example of healthy advice because it's acknowledging positive attributes of your friend while showing them that you believe in their potential. A toxic friend, on the other hand, says "Uhhhh girl I know you THINK you're good at writing, but you just need to stick to what you been doing because it's just not your thing." The problem in this statement is that they are undermining the other friend's interests and abilities. Even if they may not be the best writer there is a way to properly articulate that to someone. 

When dealing with a toxic friend it's important to remember that you aren't the problem, THEY are. These four attributes are only the tip of the iceberg in relation to spotting toxic friends. While you may want to save the friendship, the best plan of action is to let it go as soon as possible. Over time toxic friendships only get worse, they bring more stress than people may realize. If you discussed the concerns of your friendship and they don't change, then they just don't care. If a friend really loves and cares about you then they will make the necessary changes to keep the friendship going.

5 Ways To Spice Up Your Life

Victoria Jackson

It’s easy to become content with the typical life cycle: wake up, work, work, work, gym (maybe), and bed. Repeating it over and over again until the weekend comes to the rescue.

But no matter how busy your schedule gets – between school, work, and side projects – everyone needs a little extra something in their life, those just for fun experiences that make living worthwhile. Here are five ways to do just that: 

1. Learn a new language.

Learning about different cultures is always exciting, and it's a great way to become more educated about the huge world we live in. Learning a new language helps you submerge yourself into the beauty of other nationalities while making you more cultured in the process. Use a free app like Duolingo, or take a foreign language class online. It gives you something unique to do each day, and if you stick to it, you’ll be well-versed before you know it.

2. Try new cuisine.

When’s the last time you expanded your palate? Stop into that Indian restaurant you always pass on the way home from work, or patron that local Caribbean spot you’ve been dying to try for years. You can even take it a step further by signing up for a cooking class to learn how to prepare that new meal at home. You'll boost your cooking skills and thrill your dinner guests, all at the same time.

3. Visit a new place.

Everyone needs a vacation. But the next time you hop on plane, pick a destination you’ve never explored before. Whether it’s visiting a small town in Italy or going on a safari in Cape Town, getting out of the country (or sometimes just the state) is the refresh you need to become more fulfilled in life. Travel solo to get in tune with yourself, or bring a good friend to conquer the new territory together.

4. Buy new lingerie

You don’t have to be in a relationship to look and feel amazing. One of my favorite pieces of clothing to wear around the house is a sexy silk robe, even though no one else sees it. Splurging on a luxe piece of lingerie or two will satisfy your need for retail therapy, and it’ll make you feel like a Victoria’s Secret model every night. Hello, spice!

5. Say yes to a new date.

So many of us fall into the trap of only dating one person at a time. Boring! Dating is all about trying new things with new people. With no strings attached and no feelings involved, hanging out with intriguing new people will add an extra dose of fun to your life. You never what you might learn from them or where those friendships will take you.


Every day won’t be a parade, but you can always add excitement to your daily life with just a little extra effort. 

Image: GIPHY

6 things to do in the midst of a career change

Katrice Mitchell

Whether you've been at your job for six months or six years, quitting is never easy. Adding to the fact that you may not have something else lined up, it can be scary. Preparing and gaining the confidence to have the conversation with your manager then actually having the conversation can be even scarier. After turning in your resignation letter the real question is, what do you do after quitting your job? The surface answers are always along the lines of "Make sure you have enough money to hold you over," and "Be sure to leave on a great note." People rarely mention what you should do during this time off for yourself.

I've had firsthand experience in this area. In March I quit what I thought was going to be my dream first job out of college. I was at the company for six months and quickly saw that it wasn't what I thought it was going to be in any shape or form. From pettiness, nepotism and a ton of microaggressions it was time for me to get out. 

bye.gif

Immediately after I resigned I was relieved and more at peace than I was while at my previous job. I found myself not even worried about what I was going to do next. I knew that I made the right decision for my sanity and health. Leaving a job when you may not be directly heading to another one is a brave thing to do. Whether the circumstances are relocation, career change, going back to school, or just leaving a less than ideal situation; it's important to remember that there are different methods to make this break the best for you. Contrary to popular belief, taking a break can be a good thing!

1. RELAX

So, you just left your job. You definitely need to EXHALE! Walking away from a job is more emotional than you may realize. It's really important to give yourself time to work through your feelings. From my experience, it helped me to really take time to access what happened and learn from it. There is no perfect time table for doing this, but it's really important to gain clarity on the experience before jumping to the next thing. You don't want to carry feelings from your previous job into your next one. 

2.  VENT

If you just left a hostile or unhealthy work environment, believe it or not these are circumstances for many people who leave one position without another job in the wings. You are not alone. I learned that it is best to vent, in order to get everything out. Luckily for me I am blessed with supportive parents (they were my lifeline through this) and great friends who truly understood what I was dealing with. If you don't feel comfortable talking about it, write it in a journal. One of my friends took the journaling route and after reading it she saw that she held a lot more in than she realized. 

3. CHILL OUT

Take leisure time for yourself. Constantly working hard will take a toll on anyone. During this break, it's important to take time for YOU. This doesn't always mean spending a large amount of money, it can be something simple that you may not have had the time to do. For me, part of my chilling out included trying all of the different restaurants and boutiques in the city that I wanted to before but literally didn't have the time or energy to because of my work schedule. 

4. PLAN TO SECURE THE BAG

After you've rejuvenated yourself and gained clarity, it's time to figure out your next move. Take this time to decide exactly what you want to do. You may decide that you want to take the entrepreneurial route or that you want to move into another industry. During this time I decided to write the vision and make it plain. I wrote down the exact job in the exact industry that I wanted to attain. It's important to set a goal so you can properly execute your plan. Another way to secure the bag is to tweak your resume. Make sure that you add all of your responsibilities and accomplishments from your previous job. It never hurts to be prepared. My mom always told me when destiny meets opportunity the preparation ALWAYS pays off, and she didn't lie. 

5. FIND SOMETHING TO KEEP YOU PRODUCTIVE

Your days are free, so that means you can Netflix and chill. NO! During this time it's important to keep a similar routine. I woke up everyday at 7:00 a.m. and stayed productive. Keeping your mind and body sharp is key to making sure you aren't letting yourself go. Believe it or not, you may end up busier than you were at your previous job, as was the case for me.

Since I had more free time I was able to finally embark on different ventures that I was too stressed out to pursue before. For me this included creating The Let Out a bi-weekly podcast with two of my friends, beginning the process of creating my own business, providing freelance social media consulting, as well as writing for this amazing platform. I did this all while meeting and befriending new people. Now don't take this to mean that productivity means doing many things, it means doing the things that bring you joy and can help you grow in your skill set. 

6. BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING

Patience is a virtue. Leaving a job can be similar to leaving a relationship. It's important not to rush into a rebound job just to say you have one. Take the time to adequately decide what you want in a career. It takes time to find the right fit and just because it doesn't happen instantaneously, doesn't mean it won't happen. 

Don't worry, settle or rush to find your next job. Life is too short for us to just work a job to stay alive. Life is meant to be enjoyed. No one said that you can't find something you enjoy doing and get paid for it. Remember what is for you will find you.

IMAGES: VIA GIPHY

smiles and medals

Stephanie Emenyonu

The struggle is real. Has been. In a world masked by the bright lights of social media and fronts made to disguise fabricated success as a daily lifestyle (enter #bowwowchallenge), it can be hard for those of us who know we’re not there yet but we’re gonna make it. Success is messy. It’s spontaneous. Yet it wants patience. You have to shape every building block by hand and place the cement oh so carefully brick by brick. But even then your tower might fall a few times. Circumstances can feel constraining, situations sticky, and times gritty. But, put so eloquently by Simone Biles on Monday evening,

“Smiling doesn’t win you gold medals.”

Success is not for the faint-hearted, the get-rich-quick schemers, or the unrevivable doubters. It is meant for those whose passion for their craft, their future and, most importantly, themselves takes priority over their fear of failure. There are times when you won’t be smiling and there will be no laughter to comfort you. You’ll feel misplaced and stagnant- your feet cemented to a foundation you want to build on, but can’t seem to break free from. And in those moments you will feel like there will be no room for smiles. But rest assured,

“Smiling doesn’t win you gold medals.”

Grit and bear through what you know is meant for  you. It’s already yours, reality just has to catch up. And for those asking about the whereabouts of your smile, when you’re at the end of the tunnel, simply give them a wave and a wink. Keep your head held high because you are the only gravity that can keep it down. Know thyself. Know thy worth. And, yes, do take a moment to relish in what's to come.

Be courageous in your pursuits.
And be your own hero.

Images: Giphy

7 Mistakes I made at 21

Stephanie Emenyonu

Twenty-one was a benchmark year for me. Other than reaching drinking age in the U.S., I set a lot of high standards and goals for myself but also drew back from certain people and things. It was a very eye-opening time for me and despite my many successes, I of course made mistakes along the way. These mistakes challenged my perception of myself and the world and have made me better for it. Here are 7 things I wish I had done differently when I was 21:

 

7 MISTAKES I MADE AT 21:

1. Putting People on the Chopping Block for the Wrong Reasons

When people gotta go, they gotta go. Some people were detrimental to my growth and/or were just unhealthy to be around and I had no problem removing them from my life. However, I realize there were some instances where I could have been more patient with a person who wasn’t necessarily harmful or causing me to be stagnant, but instead was just really annoying or had a perception that challenged my own. I’ve since learned to be more patient with others while balancing my own growth.

2. Not Talking to my Parents More

As one of my new year’s resolutions, I had made it a goal to call my family at least once a week. Lo and behold, that did not happen. However, it’s not the frequency of which I called that bothers me but rather the content of the phone calls. While checking on their well being was a must, I wish I had asked my parents more substantive questions (e.g. How did you build your credit? What is your greatest career regret? Did you really get all A’s as many Nigerian parents claim?). Not only would I have learned more about them, but I also would have received some great advice early on.

3. Little Patience with Myself

At 21, I was in a very high achieving environment surrounded by some of brightest minds and proactive doers. Being in this environment often made me very critical of myself in an unhealthy way, even though the things I was doing at the time were phenomenal. After having listed out all my achievements in the last 5 years recently, I’ve learned I shouldn’t have beat myself up so much over not performing as well as I had liked or not making the right power moves at the "perfect time".

4. Underestimating Networking

I really needed to work on my networking skills back then. Thankfully I have gotten better as I have been exposed to people who are better at connecting with others than myself. Part of it is understanding the reality of networking (e.g. not just meeting some successful person at a fancy cocktail hour and exchanging numbers). Networking is really a matter of taking time, no matter how small, to invest in other people who can invest in you. I sometimes think back to all the wonderful connections I could have made a few years ago and really wish I could have built some of those relationships. But I do recognize that 21 was definitely a year of personal growth- physically, mentally and socially- and I would happily give up some of those relationships for the things I learned about myself that year.

5. Keeping up with the Kardashians and NOT current events

No, I do not watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But being in college-mode definitely made me unaware of many things happening on the national and international stage, especially in politics. Instead I was more focussed on trends that would have no long term effects on me. Especially now that a new presidency has taken place, I find that I am more aware of current events. But, it definitely would have been beneficial to my understanding of the way the world really works if I had taken 15-20 minutes a day to just read or watch short news segments about events happening outside my college bubble.

Networking is really a matter of taking time, no matter how small, to invest in other people who can invest in you.

6. Minimal Reflection Time

Being a student in a social environment definitely affected the time I made for myself. Even being an introvert, I found it sometimes difficult to find “me time”- whether I was mentoring, running an organization (or 3), practicing problems in a study group, etc. Spending 15-20 minutes a day to reflect on myself and my goals was definitely needed in the hustle and bustle of everything going on around me.

7. No Journalling

In my elementary/middle school days I was a writer. I kept constant journals about even the most minute occurrences. Then somewhere along the lines that love for journalling lost its touch. Journalling is a great archive for my growth as well as a great escape. While I have not forgotten about the events, people and things at age 21 that helped make me who I am today, taking time to write about pivotal experiences or important moments of reflection would have been a great means of allowing me to look back and see how far I have come.

Images: Giphy

For Days That Aren't So Magical

Stephanie Emenyonu

 

In times of joy

In times of pain

In times of peace

In times of rain,

Every woman deserves her confidence.

 

HERE ARE 15 UPLIFTING QUOTES FOR QUEENS WHO NEED A LITTLE MAGIC TODAY:

Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.
— Oprah Winfrey
I feel myself becoming the fearless person I have dreamt of being. Have I arrived? No. But I’m constantly evolving and challenging myself to be unafraid to make mistakes.
— Janelle Monae
I love who I am, and I encourage other people to love and embrace who they are. But it definitely wasn’t easy - it took me a while.
— Serena Williams
The problem with looking in the mirror is that you never know how you will feel about what you see. Sometimes, when my hormones are out of sync, I have no interest in the mirror, and if I do look I think everything is all wrong. Other times, I am quite pleased with what I see.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Seize that loveliness. It has always been yours.
— Yrsa Daley-Ward
instagram.com/yrsadaleyward

instagram.com/yrsadaleyward

I thrive on obstacles. If I’m told that it can’t be told, then I push harder.
— Issa Rae
The one way to get me to work my hardest was to doubt me.
— Michelle Obama
I discovered that joy is not the negation of pain, but rather acknowledging the presence of pain and feeling happiness in spite of it.
— Lupita Nyong’o
I kind of do think of myself as a superhero and just flying high, and doing these crazy flips.
— Gabby Douglas
My beauty ethos? Well, I’d love to tell you it’s something like ‘less is more,’ but honestly, it all starts with happiness. If only someone could bottle that up - when I’m happy, I’m at my most radiant and glowing. It does me better than any product ever could. And I stand by how cheesy and cliched that sounds.
— Solange Knowles
I’m realizing, you don’t need to change anything about yourself. This is who you are, and it’s okay. That’s daring.
— Uzo Aduba
I am not a quitter. I will fight until I drop. It is just a matter of having some faith in the fact that as long as you are able to draw breath in the universe, you have a chance.
— Cicely Tyson
There are lessons in everything. The bad, the good. Our job is to listen, and to continue to learn, so that maybe we get better at this. Maybe get better at life.
— Laverne Cox
You cannot live to please everyone else. You have to edify, educate and fulfill your own dreams and destiny.
— Viola Davis
Ignore the glass ceiling and do your work. If you’re focusing on the glass ceiling, focusing on what you don’t have, focusing on the limitations, then you will be limited.
— Ava DuVernay

Image Source: Giphy

6 Ways to Combat Colorism in 2017

Stephanie Emenyonu

Despite the fact that it is 2017, colorism is still alive, especially for many people in the African diaspora. In recent news, BuzzFeed reported the bullying of 10-year old Kheris Rogers for her dark complexion and her family’s use of social media to combat such negativity. Individuals of all ages continue to be subjected to colorism because of its deep roots in black history and colonialism around the world. As a Nigerian-American woman, I often find that a good portion of small-talk between family and friends consists of anti-dark skin commentary (e.g. “My youngest son looks like me, but if only he wasn’t so dark” and “When we were younger your auntie was so fair, but now...”). Colorism has been engrained in the ideologies of so many cultures, echoing the success of European colonialism in subduing the minds of people of color all over the world.

I will say that I am happy to see that more and more people have been taking a stand against the mistreatment of dark skinned individuals. Social media has taken a prominent counterattack against many cases of colorism. Despite all this, many are still marginalized and attacked simply for having more melanin than the next person.

Well, enough is enough.

It is important to recognize that colorism will not be eliminated overnight, but here are 6 ways to help fight it:

6 WAYS TO COMBAT COLORISM

1. Understand Its Roots

Understanding why colorism exists and the divisive nature of its roots is a good way to solidify reasoning against it. In the U.S., the division of slaves by skin tone was meant to separate the “house slaves” from the “field slaves,” often determined by paternity (children of the master tended to be lighter toned). Moreover, there is evidence that the segregation of black people by color was more calculated and one of the ways to “control the slaves for at least 300 years” (The Willie Lynch Letter: The Making Of A Slave!). When we understand the real reasons why black people were indoctrinated with colorism ideologies, we can see that it has very little to do with beauty or superiority standards among slaves and very much to do with subduing and incarcerating the mind.

2. Promote Positivity in the Family

Colorism (along with racism) is taught through social interactions and cues. That being said, changing the mindsets and understanding of children is critical. Recently, I had to explain to one of my younger cousins that she should not fear getting darker when she wanted to play outside in the summer. What we tell our children concerning their complexions can define their perception of how the world should treat them for the rest of their lives. Sharing the beauty of melanin of all levels is key in building those positive mentalities.

3. Love

Love cannot be stressed enough. For a man to tell a woman of the same complexion that she is less attractive because of her dark skin tone or for a lighter skinned woman to promote her beauty by tearing down a darker skinned woman illustrates insecurities within the self. Loving oneself and being confident in our natural beauty and abilities is a steppingstone to loving others as they present themselves. Colorism is rooted in divisiveness. It stands on the ideology that one slave is higher than another based on an uncontrollable attribute- even though they are both slaves. Break that foundation by looking passed skin tone as a justification for superiority and love yourself irrespective of others characteristics.

4. Give "Dark" a Positive Connotation

As mentioned previously, colorism brainwashing begins at an early age. We learn in school that light is good, dark is bad; daytime is comforting, nighttime is scary. I try to make myself aware of these relationships and mentally separate them from indoctrinated correlations to physical attributes concerning melanin.

5. Uplift & Celebrate All Shades of Melanin

Being anti-colorism is not an opportunity to tear down individuals of lighter complexion. Standing against colorism is recognizing that dark skinned individuals are often marginalized for their appearance and that there is a need to uplift and celebrate ALL skin tones. Fighting for better treatment of one group is by no means a divisive force but a uniting one.

6. Support Anti-Colorism Media

Kheris Rogers and her family utilized social media as an avenue to showcase the beauty of melanin. Supporting movements like these along with pages, channels, blogs, etc. that do not stand for colorism ideologies can make a difference for future generations. Unfortunately, there are still many forms of media promoting colorism (e.g. casting standards for movies and hip hop videos have been known to rank people of color based on skin tone). However, endorse media that is conscious of colorism’s effects and that is proud to celebrate all levels of melanin.

And never forget,

Image Source: Giphy

Don't look, do touch.

Katrice Mitchell

“Have you seen yourself?”

It’s a question that most people would simply answer “yes.” This question doesn’t require an answer based on the external but rather the internal.

When my mom asked me that question one day I quickly answered yes.  She asked me again and said “If you have then you would see your ability and how others see you.” In my moment of uncertainty she made me do what I tell so many others to do; turn the mirror on yourself and truly see WHO you are and WHAT abilities you have. Ever since she asked me this question I’ve been thinking “Have I seen myself?” I realized that oftentimes we get so caught up in everyday life that we don’t stop to see who we really are. Now this next example may be farfetched but stay with me. We all know the myth of Narcissus, correct? Well if not, long story short, Narcissus was a warrior who just KNEW he was POPPIN. He was known for being the finest in the village and he was proud of that. When Narcissus was lured to a pool of water, he saw his reflection and fell in love with it, not realizing it was an image. He was unable to leave the beauty of his reflection and drowned.

Now I’m not saying that we should be THAT infatuated with ourselves. I’m saying that we should see what we truly have to offer. Let’s have more of a Beyoncé attitude. Even though we all have flaws, these are what make us unique.

Know that you are flawless and fabulous. You are fierce. You are fire.

There’s a big difference in confidence and pride. Confidence is healthy. Pride is unhealthy and leads to terrible results.

It took me sometime to really “see” myself. Not look, because to look is “to glance” but see, “perceive”. When you perceive who you are, you will gain a better sense of WHO you are.

When I began to perceive who I truly was I realized there was truly no limit in attaining my desires. Don’t set limitations based upon your abilities. There are truly no limits.

So, when someone asks “Have you seen yourself?”, take a moment to reflect before you answer. "Who are you outside of what people perceive you to be?" "Are you who people want you to be or are you who YOU want to be?"

Love yourself in a HEALTHY way, which is what Narcissus did not do. Be the fabulous person you are.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. In a world where Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are very prevalent it is very easy to get caught in the comparison trap. Over time I've learned that the old saying, “comparison is the thief of joy” is very real.

I’ve been guilty of looking at how some of my friends were having an amazing time at their jobs, while I was miserable at mine, or even being baed up, while the closest thing I had to a bae was my pillow lol.

In time comparing myself to others began to take a toll on how I perceived myself.  I’ve learned NOT to allow the success of others to hurt my self-worth. I realized that everything occurs in the appropriate timing. Sometimes we aren't ready for the things we think we want. Notice, I said WE THINK WE WANT.  In different stages of life we think that what we want may never change. With growth our wants of yesterday, reflect our past selves.  Understanding this, I’m at peace with the way things occur for my life pace.

Quieting the noise that surrounds us and finding our TRUE voice, is the major key to changing the negative way we may perceive ourselves. Oftentimes we are our worst critics, we can love and uplift everyone else but we don’t do the same for ourselves.

Now when someone asks me “Have you seen yourself?” I answer in a way that I never have before and that is because of my personal growth. I no longer just say “yes”, but I truly see myself for the eclectic being I am.

Once you truly perceive who you are and quiet the noise from the outside, all the answers to what you seek will avail themselves.

Images: Giphy

YOU-time: Self-reflection & growth

Stephanie Emenyonu

I have a love/hate relationship with that yearning feeling to do more and better- that natural urge to grow and experience the self.

I love it because it pushes me to go beyond my limits and past any barriers that keep me from reaching my full potential. But I also hate that feeling because getting to the point of actually going beyond yourself to meet greater goals isn’t easy. Procrastination, stress, work, school, family- all these factors can distract us from taking steps to improve our character and experience self-reflection and growth. Often times we get so focussed on others and external circumstances that we barely have time to make productive decisions for ourselves.

But all is not lost!

Here are 5 tips on how to explore yourself and encourage your growth:

1. Make goals and a timeline.

Setting yearly, monthly, weekly and/or daily goals can really help you see the bigger picture of the things you want to achieve. Putting them on a timeline challenges you to meet those goals in a timely manner (and to avoid procrastination!).

2. Find a quote that inspires you.

Yes, some lifestyle quotes are cringe-worthy, but find one for you that reminds you of your desire to keep “building your empire.” I even tape my favorite quote to my ceiling as a reminder when I wake up and when I go to bed that I am ever-growing and capable of meeting my goals of self-growth.

3. Read.

Reading can not only be an escape from reality, but a means of self-reflection when you put yourself in a character’s shoes or capture an author’s perspective. This causes you to challenge your own thinking and thus grow in the process.

4. Hype-squad necessary.

Surround yourself with positive people who give you uplifting, yet truthful vibes. A squad that hypes you yet challenges you at the same time can be such a powerful motivator.

5. Share your success.

We’ve all been taught the power of humility, but there are also positives that come from sharing your success. Letting the world know how far you come can be both a moment of expression and reflection for you as you look back on the goals you’ve met and how you have thrived.

And never forget,

Write the vision. Make it plain.

Gabrielle Hickmon

New Year. New me. New you?  
The semantics don't really matter. Regardless of how you feel about the New Year and all the resolutions it brings, there's something incredibly special about using dates, moments, or events as a chance to stop and reflect. Reflect on what worked and what didn't. How to improve. Blessings. Blessings in disguise. 

"Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarried, wait for it; Because it will surely come. It will not tarry." - Habakkuk 2:2-3

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." - Psalm 29:18 

Whether you believe the Bible or not, I doubt that you'll disagree with me when I say that there is power in the tongue and that writing things down often makes them get real.  

Enter in vision boarding.  
A process where you take anything that inspires you, anything that is apart of your vision for yourself/business/family/life, put it down on paper, and watch shit get real. 

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Here's a corner of my vision board (couldn't let y'all see the whole thing). 😉 In 'This is for them 20-somethings' I laid out my meditation for the year ahead. As both a writer and visual person, I have to write things down, often in my journal and on this here blog. Then, I create something visual that serves as a reminder of what I hope to manifest. Hence the vision board. 

Everything might not come true. But it's powerful to use words, images, or anything that speaks to your spirit or vision towards the creation of something to remind yourself and the Universe of all that you're hoping for. 

Want to make your own vision board? Here's how.  

1. Gather up old magazines and cut out images or phrases that inspire you.  
2. Get a piece of paper or a poster board. 
3. Configure and attach your images in a manner that is pleasing to your eye. 
4. Write your vision. I know it's in your journal or on your blog, but write it on your board too. Something about the words together with the images creates a double whammy to me. 
5. Hang or position somewhere visible. 

Create the vision. Get it down. Watch shit get real.  

Have you made a vision board? What are your thoughts on the concept? What do you hope to manifest in 2017?  

Beyoncé.

Gabrielle Hickmon

I'm a new card carrying member of the Beyhive. I've always liked Beyoncé's music, but until recently I was never a stan. She won me over to the hive with Beyoncé and her edge snatching release in 2013. But, LEMONADE? I was sold. 

The Formation World Tour was also my first time seeing the Queen in concert. To say I was excited is the understatement of the century. To say that Bey was anything less than amazing would be a lie.  

For me though, the Formation World Tour ended up being about more than just singing along terribly into my Snapchat (gihickmon btw) because I thought people wouldn't be able to hear me. It was actually extremely motivating. In addition to edge snatching, lit, and all that other stuff. 

I think I always knew that Beyoncé was an incredibly hard worker. That she doesn't disappoint her fans, leaves it all on the stage/project, practices longer than anyone else, and is incredibly detail oriented. But, it's one thing to suspect that and another to see it in real life. From the outfits, to visuals, to segways and transitions, every single detail about the Formation World Tour serves to present the tour as a cohesive endeavor and hearkens back to Beyoncé's overall brand. 

INSPIRING. 

Honestly, seeing Beyoncé live got me thinking about how much or often I don't give 100% to what's in front of me. It got me thinking about how important the little details are because they're what makes a performance, product, or event cohesive, coherent, and relevant to the larger brand or mission. And, on top of how well done everything was, Beyoncé performed in the pouring rain. Pouring rain. First, your fave would never. Second, if that's not dedication to craft, audience and purpose, I don't know what is. She was soaked and still serving vocals and choreo like it was nothing. NOTHING.

So, it begs the question, what would our lives look like if we were as committed to our personal, professional, and business endeavors as Beyoncé is to hers? If we were the first to arrive at rehearsal and the last to leave? If we paid impeccable attention to detail and stopped letting things slide? If we truly operated from a more moves less announcements mindset and shared our genius with the world when it was ready without all the fanfare we so often make? If we let our engagements speak for themselves? How would our prospects change? 

As we head into the last quarter of 2016, I want to issue a challenge, for you maybe, but really to myself. A challenge to pay attention to the details, show up even in the rain and still perform my ass off, create content that speaks not only to my brand but to my audience, to have fun while doing it, and to always remain humble. 

The having fun while doing it and humility piece is key. When you see Beyoncé live, you can tell she is living in her purpose and walking in her truth. She's having all of the fun up there because even though it's incredibly hard work, it's work that she loves. Work that fulfills her. She also is incredibly genuine and humble. Thanking us like four or five times for standing out in the rain when all we wanted to do was thank her for snatching our edges. She never comes across as entitled and that's important - to remain humble about your position. Everyone knows Beyoncé is one of the greatest entertainers of all time. She knows it as well. But, she never comes across as dealing with people in a way that places them as less than. A lesson we all, but especially some of your faves could stand to learn. Always stay gracious. 

We could all stand to channel some of the Queen's work ethic, discipline, appreciation/respect for our craft, detail orientation, and love of our work. I know I will. 

My life is now divided into two chapters - pre and post-Bey. And there's just no way those chapters can look the same. Witnessing greatness should inspire, if not require leveling up. 

All Photos from The Formation World Tour Twitter Account (@FormationWT).

Mama's Home Remedies

Gabrielle Hickmon

As excited as I am for fall, I am not enthused about the havoc it always wreaks on my allergies + the seemingly inevitable cold I get every year. Growing up, my mother and grandmother would always tell me/make me do the most ridiculous and or disgusting things to stay well. I hated it then. Swear by it now. 

Here are tried and true home remedies straight from my grandmother, to mother, to me, to you. 

1. Take a Vitamin D supplement to keep your mood light and balanced + to keep your energy up. 
2. Drink at least 24oz of water a day.
This is extremely important because sugary drinks will only drain your energy and in the fall/winter I think we're already running on less. 
3. Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night/day if you can.
According to mom, power naps count! 
4. Dress for the weather.
Yes, I know a hoe never gets cold (word to Cardi) but, the warmer the better. Meaning, light layers are best as you can just take things off when you get warm versus having to try and put stuff on with cold. 
5. Keep your neck and head covered when outside in chilly temperatures.
Heat escapes through your head so you want to account for that. And, I just feel like any time my neck is out I'm guaranteed to get sick. 
6. Drink green tea with lemon daily. 
7. Take an echinacea tablet at the first sign of a cold. It will shorten its duration. 
8. Take an extended shower when your sinuses are dry to allow the steam to lubricate your nostrils. 
9. Sleep with a humidifier or bowl of water over your heat vent.
This will keep the air from getting too dry and making it easier for you to get sick. 
10. Always wear thick socks or slippers in doors.
I always thought this was the dumbest thing ever, buttt it helps. I don't know how or why. It just does. 
11. Mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup honey in a jar. Stir and use to gargle every 4-6 hours (morning & night, let's be real) when you have a sore throat or feel one coming on.
This kills the bacteria back there and it's gross but it works. We swear by this in my house. 

I also swear by a glass or two of OJ a day. 

My grandmother and mom back in the day. It's always crazy to me how alike my mom and I look!

My grandmother and mom back in the day. It's always crazy to me how alike my mom and I look!

Hopefully abiding by these rules will help us avoid any possible sicknesses this fall/winter!
What are some of your home remedies? Let us know in the comments!

Love Jones: The Musical

Gabrielle Hickmon

Twenty years ago, a classic in the Black film canon, Love Jones was released. This year, to celebrate the films 20th Anniversary, it has been adapted into an on-stage musical that is touring the country. It recently stopped in Philadelphia, so of course it was a must see. 

The show boasts an all-star cast, Chrisette Michelle, Tony Grant, Musiq Soulchild, Raheem DaVaughn, Dave Hollister, MC Lyte, and more. Chrisette Michelle plays Nina and Tony Grant is Darius. There are a few additions to the stage and a few common black theatre tropes make appearances as well. 

Without giving too much away, I'll say that The Sanctuary still exists. Darius is still a writer but also sings now of course. Nina is still a talented photographer, but is now working in film. And Marvin, steals the show when he shows up. Hey, they said it was a modern adaptation right? 

I will say this. Don't go see Love Jones: The Musical thinking that it's going to stick to the plotline of the movie. It doesn't. Go because you want to hear some powerhouses sing and experience a twist on a classic movie. Because, if you go for the movie you will be disappointed. The plot of the musical is at times disjointed and hard to follow. Often, it felt more like a concert with acting thrown in between songs, rather than a fully cohesive musical, but it was a fun evening out nonetheless.

See Love Jones: The Musical to be inspired by Black Love, laugh at the hilarious comments and outbursts that are inevitable in a room full of black people (I mean my section was rapping Jeezy at one point), and as already said, to hear some of your faves sing. When Chrisette Michelle hit, 'Blame it On Me' during the show I about jumped out of my seat. 

Go for that. Then, go watch the movie, the real Love Jones, after. 

She Reigns: 19th and Early 20th Century Activist Edition

Gabrielle Hickmon

Given how tumultuous it is to be Black in America in general, but especially over the course of the last week, we wanted to bring to light some Black female activists. Because, only Black women can say “when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole…race enters with me.” —ANNA JULIA COOPER, 1892 

1. Fannie Lou Hamer

"They kicked me off the plantation, they set me free. It's the best thing that could happen. Now I can work for my people."

Fannie Lou Hamer was born in October 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. As a child, she worked as a sharecropper  and at 37 saw a sign for the Student Nonviolent Organizing Committee (SNCC). In SNCC, Fannie worked on the voter registration committee and helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer. In addition, she helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 to stand in opposition to Mississippi's all white delegation to that years Democratic National Convention. In 1965 she unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Mississippi. Her activism centered around the belief that Black people could change their future if they could vote for candidates that would keep their interests in mind and serve them. 

2. Amy Ashwood Garvey

"Be not discouraged black women of the world, but push forward, regardless of the lack of appreciation shown you." - Amy Ashwood Garvey

Amy Ashwood Garvey was born in January 1897 in Port Antonio, Jamaica. She was raised in Panama and became an associate of Marcus Garvey in Kingston, Jamaica as a teenager. Together, with Marcus, she founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica. Eventually, the UNIA grew and put down roots in NYC, with chapters all over the country and world. Amy organized the women's wing of the UNIA and worked to promote the groups newspaper, The Negro World. She was also involved with Black Star Line, another sect of the UNIA. Her activism centered on girls education, Pan-Africanism, black wage-working women's rights, and party politics. She is remembered for her work with the UNIA and pioneering efforts to improve the status of black women globally, among other things. 

3. Septima Poinsette Clark 

"Freedom has always been lost by a people who allowed their rights to be gradually whittled away." - Septima Poinsette Clark

Septima Clark was born in May 1898 in Charleston, South Carolina. She worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, setting up citizenship schools that helped African Americans register to vote. She also worked as a teacher in South Carolina. She got involved with the NAACP and in 1945 worked with Thurgood Marshall on a case that sought equal pay for black and white teachers. After losing her job for refusing to leave the NAACP, she worked with Tennessee's Highlander Folk School's Citizenship Program teaching people how to read and write, as well as, how to teach others to do the same. Under her leadership, more than 800 citizenship schools were created. We remember her for her commitment to educating our people. 

4. Anna Julia Cooper

"Let our girls feel that we expect something more of them than that they merely look pretty and appear well in society." - Anna Julia Cooper

Anna Julia Cooper was born in August 1858, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Anna was born into slavery and spent her lifetime working to uplift and empower black women. She believed that the status of black women was central to the progress and equality of the nation. After getting a B.A. and M.A. from Oberlin College, Anna worked as a teacher at the M Street School in Washington, DC. She founded the Colored Women's League of Washington in 1892, and later helped open the first YWCA chapter for Black women. In 1924, she became the fourth black woman in the U.S. to receive a PhD. Anna believed that education would open doors for black women and spent her life not only educating herself, but working to educate black women and girls in order to improve their social stature. She never gave in to the demands of America's white, male-dominated society and for that we salute her. 

5. Ella Baker

"Give light and people will find the way." - Ella Baker 

Ella Baker was born in December 1903, in Norfolk, Virgina. She was a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1927, she moved in NYC and helped start the Young Negroes' Cooperative League, which helped people pool money to get better resources. In 1940, she got involved with the NAACP, raising funds and recruiting new members. In 1957, She joined the Southern Christen Leadership Conference as executive director and helped create SNCC in 1960. She, along with Fannie Lou Hamer was involved with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and helped in their attempt to attend the National Democratic Convention in 1964. Her nickname was 'Fundi' which in Swahili means someone who passes down a craft to the next generation. We salute Ella for never wavering in her pursuit of our rights and leaving a better world behind for us. 

6. Daisy Bates

"No man or woman who tries to pursue an ideal in his or her own way is without enemies." - Daisy Bates

Daisy Bates was born in November 1914, in Huttig, Arkansas. She operated a weekly African-American newspaper, the Arkansas State Press, a paper that championed civil rights. In 1952, she became president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP. In 1954, after the ruling in Brown V. Board of Education that ruled against school segregation, black students who tried to enroll in white schools were turned away in Arkansas. Bates played an instrumental role in combating this by organizing the Little Rock Nine to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock in 1957. Her house served as headquarters for the effort and she counseled the Little Rock Nine, even in the midst of personal death threats. We remember her for standing up for what is right and fighting for equality under the law not just in name, but in deed. 

7. Mary McLeod Bethune

"Cease to be a drudge, seek to be an artist." - Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune was born in July 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina. As a child, she worked in the fields picking cotton. Mary was the only child in her family to go school and later received a scholarship to Scotia Seminary, a school for girls in North Carolina. She later worked as a teacher and founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida in 1904, which later combined with Cookman Institute for Men to become Bethune-Cookman College. In 1924, she became president of the National Association of Colored Women, after serving as president of the Florida chapter for many years. In 1935, she became an advisor to President Roosevelt on minority affairs and started the National Council of Negro Women. In 1936, she became director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration - serving as a trusted advisor to President and First Lady Roosevelt. She is remembered for working to educate and advance the rights of black people and women. 

8. Ida B. Wells

"The white man's dollar is his god, and to stop this will be to stop outrages in many localities." - Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was born in July 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Born a slave, she became a journalist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the U.S. in the 1890s. She refused to give up her seat on a train 70 years before Rosa Parks would refuse to get up from the bus. In 1892, after the lynching of three black men in Memphis, she rode around the South researching lynching and writing about the incident. In 1898 she took her anti-lynching campaign to the White House and urged President McKinley to make reforms. She was a founder of the NAACP and National Association of Colored Women. Wells also fought for women's suffrage. In 1930, she ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois State Legislature, making her one of the first black women to run for US public office. We remember Wells for her efforts against lynching, a campaign that feels particularly necessary and relevant even still today. 

 

It's Reigning Women: Chimene Jackson of Vagabroad Journals

The Reign XY

Chimene Jackson is an inspiration that we first came across via Instagram. She is the creator of Vagabroad Journals and uses her platform to inspire women to journey soulfully (a mantra you'll learn more about below). An inspiration to us, we hope you'll enjoy her interview. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: who are you and where are you headed? 

I’m a 20-something who feels like a 50-something.  I have a Bachelor’s in International Business and I am currently at Parsons School of Design studying for my MS in Strategic Design and Management.  

...and I am a diarist.

I’m also a Christian.  My faith is the foundation of all that I do; it’s who I am.  I consider myself an innovator. I love writing for businesses.  I have an idea of where I’m headed but you know the saying “We make our plans and God laughs”.  Honestly, the adventure and the leap are what I live for.  It’s what fills my journals so fast.  I’m not afraid to leave it all behind and go wherever Jesus leads me.  It’s terrifying and loving; mysterious and inspiring; narrative and restorative.  

Where I’m headed: I want to write a few zine-style books, do more research on women of colour diarists, design business ecosystems, write business plans for restaurants, of course keep making journals, and then travel the world more deeply (I’ve been to 15 countries so far).

What is Vagabroad Journals and what let you to start the company? 

Loaded question!  Rewind.  It was my final year in college and I couldn’t afford a new journal. When I was looking around for possibilities, I realized that none of the journal covers resonated with the the narrative which I’d be placing in them and it bothered me more than ever.  Also, though I’d always kept a journal, it wasn’t until that moment that I realized there were no journals with someone who looked like me on the cover.  I took THAT really personally. At the time my parents were divorcing and I didn’t know where I’d be living after college (long story) but I knew I couldn’t give up and had to write the story in the meantime…  

Originally I was going to make 10 collections of 10 journals each just for myself to journal my way through processing my parents’ divorce and life after, but it kept building… Mind you, I couldn’t even draw a stick figure when I begun.  

Vagabroad Journals are journals I make and paint or collage, sewing my signature teastained pages inside of them.  They’re for teastained women who recognize they’re more than where they are, but that the narrative embedded in where they are is an inheritance for their heritage.  It’s a vehicle to help us process and become responsible ancestors.  

As a whole Vagabroad Journals is a lifestyle brand. I envision it as a vehicle to help teastained women- women of colour- process ancestral grief, overcome statistics’ false prophecies, document life seasons, overcome fear, remember responsibly and process the process of stepping into their significance in the world.

You talk a lot about ‘Journeying Soulfully’ and the power of words over not only our present life, but our legacy. What does ‘Journeying Soulfully’ mean?

Journeying Soulfully is the mantra for Vagabroad Journals.  It means treating everything that happens to and around you like something memorable, corporeal to your personal narrative.  It’s approaching life with an archival curiosity that makes you recognize the machinery functioning in your journey so YOU can happen.  It’s journeying with your SOUL, not just your head.  It’s approaching everything you go through like a literal place or country abroad and documenting like you’re a vagabond: just passing through.  Vagabond+Abroad=Vagabroad.  

How has the power of words manifested in your life experience?

The best way to answer this is by example.  When I came home for the summer of my Sophomore year of college I was angry at my father.  I mean ANGRY.  I was angry that he’d mentally checked out on his family and was no longer present even though he was still around.  

Then I had this moment. Changed me forever. God asked me if I would allow myself to be a direct proportion to my father’s behaviour; if I’d let my him impact my heritage?  It hit me that I was going to spiral downwards if I didn’t take my life back by redirecting anger’s energies to living for my purpose.

So I wrote. I wrote about how I would not become my dad and who I wanted to become instead. I wrote about his history, his mother’s mindset passed onto him, and how I had to reset my mindset to be my own woman with my own history.  By summer’s end, I’d forgiven my dad and could coexist with him because I’d processed the situation. I knew I was headed somewhere and that anger was no longer worth my energy. I could put my dad behind me and journey soulfully.

What advice would you give women who want to Journey Soulfully but sometimes feel that they don’t “have the words” to do so?

Your words are your dialect.  You’re not writing for anyone else but YOU.  Sit for a minute and feel what you’re feeling, then write it down verbatim, listening closely to what your soul is saying. Speak out loud if have to, talking to yourself and stating how you really feel. I have met women who say they don’t have the words but who say such powerful things about themselves! I end up asking them “did you write that down?” Throughout the entire dialogue! You have the words. They may not sound right or eloquent at the moment, but it’s the language you have for the season. In 10 years they will remind you of your growth.

Your words are your dialect. Journey Soulfully. - @ChimeneJackson

What is a “tea-stained woman” and why tea-stained journals? Is that a journalers/diary tradition? I had never come across it before interacting with your product and would love to know the history/magic behind it if there is one.

When I made the first Vagabroad Journal I didn’t want to write on white paper so I started teastaining my pages. Many bookmakers/paper artists do it, but I’ve never seen any pages like mine.  It adds another dimension to the books and another layer to the brand.  The colour of the stain reminds me of brown skin, so I started calling us women of colour “teastained” women.  
 

What do you ultimately hope women who come in contact with you, your spirit, and ultimately your product will “grow to believe about what they have and who they are”? What legacy do you hope to leave behind by going where you’re called even when it’s uncomfortable and daring to write yourself into existence anyway?

Ultimately I pray that my personal narratives help women to be patient with themselves. I hope I inspire journey re-imagination and some form of daily documentation. I want to see women making their own history and cultivating lives that are fearless in riding those waves. 

As for my legacy: personally, I hope to help women of colour think imaginatively about the possibilities in their journeys. I want to be someone who leads teastained women of all ages into harnessing the power of memory, heritage, generation, and legacy. 

As an artist, I believe I'm already leaving a legacy. I don't have any of my work in anals or archive. If you want to see my work, ask to meet the hundreds-maybe a thousand?-of women who own Vagabroad Journals. My legacy is having a dialogue with theirs. 

Just for kicks: 

  • Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill: Lauryn Hill. I admire how she carriers her art and has reinvented herself despite the setbacks. 
  • Green or Black tea? Black tea everyday for my caffeine fix!
  • Writer who most inspires you? Dr. Seuss for how he communicates heavy topics in the packaging of children's books. I know it's weird but I've never read a bunch of writings by ONE author except for him. I read scholarly articles and art books with various essays mostly. 

     Want more from Chimene? Follow her on Instagram @vagabroadjournals and if you want to purchase a journal, you can shop her Etsy here

 

 

 

 

Women's History Month: Aiesha Arab

The Reign XY

Aiesha Arab is the owner of Soft Goods, a vintage and hand-picked women's apparel retailer, journalist at Bossip, fiancée to Stalley, and mother to Kylie. Our love of Aiesha began when her article, "The Day I Came Up Missing, I Was at Work," broke the internet. An artist that inspires us constantly through her style, persona, and approach to motherhood, we can't wait to see what she will do in the future. Get into her interview below! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: who are you and where are you headed? 

Born in Harlem and raised in Queens, NY. I owe a great deal to my parents who raised me and my 3 sisters who teach me life lessons through example. I'm a mom and fiancée. Savvy. I write and a lot of it is to myself. Love and all other forms of art keeps motivated. My lifestyle revolves around my family, so wherever I'm headed, they'll be right there. 

I know that you are an Editor for Bossip and you have also done some writing for yourself previously. Can you talk to us about how you got your start and some of your greatest influencers?

I started with Bossip about 18 months ago freelance because of my friend Janeé Bolden, the managing editor. I feel grateful for her noticing my ability and for the flexibility in it.  It's also something that comes pretty easy to me. 

I consider myself an empath; This week Tamera Mowry and her husband made me fist pump. My girl friends inspire me. It's so random. My influences change. Naturally I like to think critically so I cling to similar personalities. 

You are hands down one of the most inspiring moms on social media today. Kylie is an entertaining diva with a personality twice her size. Motherhood, namely Black motherhood, is something that we don't always see reflected positively in the media. Can you speak a little bit about your relationship with Kylie, how you two remain so close, and how motherhood has grown you as a person? 

Thank you! I have a lot of great examples of parents in general to use as reference, I don't really think there's a formula to it. Mother and daughter bond is formed before birth in my opinion. There's always been a natural attachment to each other. I spend most of my time with my daughter so every decision I make is related to her. 

You broke the Internet with your article entitled, "The Day I Came Up Missing, I Was at Work." How do you believe adoption has equipped you for starting your own family? Is there any advice you would give to young ladies who have been in a similar situation? 

Being adopted, I never felt different or any less loved than anyone else so unconditional love for my children is just easy for me. 

I think we all deserve closure. Some may feel like they don't need answers but I felt a little easier after my experience. And I know sometimes you can't get answers directly but even asking hard questions to your adoptive parents about your past can make a difference. 

I think we all deserve closure - @AieshaArab

How do you balance supporting your significant other and still making sure your dreams and ambitions are accounted for?

His success comes around full circle so I'm eager to help. I've written about what I feel about my personal dreams. My goals are met by my effort and so far they're being met gratuitously. 

You are an artist to the core: your writing, your visuals, and your vlogs. What can we expect to see next from Aiesha Arab? Is there any uncharted territory you would like to explore? 

Yes I'm working on a business, it's in its infancy but it involves art and fashion. It's called Soft Goods. I've been learning more about fashion photography and photo-stories. So I've been spending time behind my Fuji and pow-wowing with other photographers. You'll start to see these interest spill on to my social media soon. I've been taking time to explore them before sharing. 

Just for kicks

Favorite Stalley project? Saving Yusuf! It just came out, go get it!
Knicks or Nets? Nets, because Barclays
Erykah or Lauryn? Erykah on Twitter 

Want more from Aiesha Arab? Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @AieshaArab. And, check out her thoughts on why she doesn't dream here

 

Women's History Month: Maura Chanz

Gabrielle Hickmon

Maura Chanz is a Spelman alumna that's motivated to empower women through media. We have no doubt that she will be a driving force and household name in time. Get into her interview below and learn that it's never too early to start pursing your dreams and the importance of remaining unapologetically yourself in the process. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: who are you and where are you headed?

Raised between the flashing lights of Los Angeles and the urbane rhythms of Chicago, I have an undying love for culture, storytelling, and technology. I seek to deliver the voice of women of color through creative partnerships, digital landscapes, and social channels.

I began my career at the age of thirteen as a professional actress. It was during this time that I further developed my love for and understanding of storytelling. I cherish the lessons learned in those early days and have since held positions as a marketing intern for Viacom Media Industries-BET, a media intern for both Bronze Lens Film Festival and the Black Women’s Film Network, and later serving as a creative intern for True Story Agency where I brainstormed and assisted in content development for major brands. 

I ultimately aspire to inspire young women to live unapologetic and reach their full potential.

You’re literally just starting your 20's and have already worked with Janelle Monae, TopShop and countless other brands/stars. Talk to us about how you got your start in the entertainment industry and are now collaborating with major brands and entertainment superstars. 

My back story gives you a little peek into how I navigated many of those spaces but my collaborations have come as a result of building genuine relationships. I have always found my way into exclusive spaces by offering my gifts and skills just because I wanted to be IN THE ROOM. I got to assist in the casting of extras for janelle's YOGA because many in the Wondaland camp have become like family after meeting them while interning for Akon. 

You aren’t too young to DO. Figure it out as you go. - @maurachanz

You recently crowdfunded your web series ‘The Kitchen’ that’s faciliated through your organization ‘Big Fro Beat Face’. What is The Kitchen all about and why do you think creating media for women of color is important?  

I'm actually still crowdfunding the series lol - shows are expensive. The Kitchen is a web series/talk show that centers black women. I've been natural my whole life and people asked me about doing a hair channel. I feel that market is over saturated, but love conversation, hair, and women so I decided to create The Kitchen. It's a double entendre that allows me a lot of range - the nape of a black women's neck and also the setting where a lot of girl talk took and takes place/where hair commonly been done within the black community. 

You talk a lot about love and are in a relationship. How has your relationship helped, hindered, spurred, or kept you from your goals? Why do you think love is so important?

You know it's so interesting, I was so anti-talking about your relationship/posting pics with your partner via social before I was this in love. I met my bow boyfriend near the end of my sophomore year..so I was with him more of college than I was single. Our relationship is a large part of my life so naturally it's a huge part of conversation. Although not professionally, my boyfriend is an artist at heart and understands my life, my dreams, and aspirations.  He is very supportive and does what he can to help me make my dreams a reality - sometimes head rubs and pep talks are all I need. I think love is so important because we need companionship and relationships. I've just begin touching success and it brings me joy to have someone aside from family to share that with.    

What advice would you give to young women your age? What’s Maura Chanz doing 5-10 years from now and how can we be of support?

Young women my age, you aren't too young to DO. Sure there are some things you don't know or may not have the most experience in, but don't let that hinder you. Figure it out as you go. Also, there will NEVER be a right time so stop waiting for it.

In 5-10 years. Woo. I'll be half way through my 20's. I don't know what God's plan is but ideally I'd like be the CEO of a creative agency, on camera somewhere, married or engaged, and inspiring young women to do, be, and have it all. Pretty much a hybrid of Oprah and Tracee Ellis Ross. How can you support? I can't share too much but stay up to date with all my happenings via my social @maurachanz on everything, and details will follow - but know support is ALWAYS needed. 

Just for kicks: 

Erykah or Lauren? Badu
Wang or Balmain? Wang
Instagram or Twitter? Twitter