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.
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