Jade’s Faves

Feature: Taylor Johnson-Gordon, Food Healer, Herbalist, & Urban Gardener

Taylor Johnson-Gordon is a Black womanist, food healer, herbalist, and urban gardener. Her work intersects food sovereignty, healing work as a form of political resistance, and the Black Church. Taylor believes that the body is our first site of resistance and her mission is to help black women and girls heal and build physical resiliency through real, affordable food.

I met Taylor Johnson-Gordon at the #BlackChurchSex convening. I immediately noticed t an effervescence that was so refreshing. Upon our conversation, we realized just how many mutual friends & connections we had. Her good work proceeded her, as well as the praise of our mutual friends on just her generous spirit!

It has been a wonderful journey as I’ve become more familiar with Taylor & her work in food healing – adjusting my own diet & herb cabinets to include some of the staples she’s introduced me to! So, I wanted to e-introduce her to my readers here because I truly believe that her passions & thoughts around healing as resistance are integral to us getting free! Text below is largely her own, to preserve the integrity of her words.

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The break down of Taylor’s work is extensive. It includes adult nutrition in corner stores, supermarkets, churches, housing complexes, farmers markets, and community centers in North Philadelphia with The Food Trust. Taylor is also an afro-vegan and founder of Sistah of the Yam, a webspace and a series of community programs for Black women and girls that prioritize healing, nutritional wellness, and self-sufficiency through the act of growing food and cooking. The target audience of her work is clear: Black women & girls. To this, she states:

“I unapologetically center the lives and needs of Black women and girls, because we are routinely told that we are not deserving of being at the center.

I unapologetically center Black girls and women because I believe that we as Black people are only fully free to the extent that our Black women and girls are free.

Black women are known for lighting the torch for freedom and doing the work by any means necessary, yet we are routinely erased and abused in the process. Our self-sacrifice leaves us with broken hearts, reproductive disease, emotional eating disorders, low-self esteem, deep loneliness, and unresolved anger.

So, my work involves creating a space for Black women to engage in Black liberation work by concretely focusing on themselves via the food they eat. My tools are my hands, a good knife, and a cast iron skillet. In my experience, saying “yes” to prioritizing physical health has been the biggest obstacle for the women that I interact with. As a result, I rarely interact with a Black woman who has not had a diet related illness or dis-ease. This a result of a white supremacist system that is anti-black and that positions black women at the bottom. This is also a result of a lack of community support. I often think about how Black women are the most churched demographic in our pews, yet we are the poorest and least supported and visible. In my work, these are the very women that I am accountable to. This is why my approach to health and nutrition is always through the lens of affordability and practicality. I encourage making homemade stews/soups and eating beans and rice and leftovers, because these are affordable and highly nutritious. I don’t encourage buying specialty vegan meats because they have a lot of sodium, additives, high processing, and they are  also expensive. I try to teach the art of cooking intuitively, using substitutions for things they don’t have, and knowing how to listen to what their body is telling them that they need.

Taylor’s path to facilitating healing through healthy food is as interesting as the work itself!

“This work really chose me (via God and my ancestors). Growing up, I always thought that I was going to become a medical doctor. I entered college with that determination, studying biology and spending half my time as a pre-med student. Midway through my sophomore year, I realized that it wasn’t “me” (though I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint the “why”). I quit the pre-med program but continued with my biology degree.

My sophomore year was an extremely intense and dark time. I had to create a new identity for myself – outside of what I had thought my chosen path was. Now, almost 10 years later, I have the clarity to see how that experience was preparing me for my current work. To be clear: I think we still need Black doctors in the health care system and medical field. However, my path towards becoming a healer outside of this system (through food education, integrative nutrition, black foodway history, and herbalism) has allowed me to go through the growing pains of healing first hand. The fact that this work is very personal to my own wellness and healing allows me a greater level of authenticity in my work.

Taylor formally received her Bachelors in Biology and a Master of Arts in Christian Education. Currently, she is pursuing her Master of Science in Nutrition & Integrative Health with a focus on Herbal Medicine.

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From @sistayoftheyam #BlackHistoryEats food nutrition campaign on IG

She leaves with us the following information, ideas, and tips:

1. Food is inherently political. Eating real, nutrient dense food is a deeply political practice. When we eat real food we are saying that our bodies matter … not only to us, but to God, our community, and our ancestors.

2. Cooking nutrient rich food from scratch doesn’t require fancy tools. Don’t spend your money on fancy sauces and dressings; those things can be made at home with half the amount of sodium and no trans fat or additives — save that money for something else. Get yourself a good, sharp knife (Ross and Marshall’s sell pretty great marked down ones!), a cutting board, and a good skillet. Start building up your spice and herb cabinet and getting a couple of great heart-healthy oils on deck (I recommend always having one for low heat/baking and one for high heat).

3. Black women can be vegan and/or vegetarian and still have curves! Some many sisters are really nervous about dropping a ton of weight if they choose a plant-based diet. While that may be true for some, it is by no means everyone’s reality. Being a Black woman who is thick, curvy, healthy and vegan is in itself a paradox for most folks. I am not what many folks picture when they think of veganism (or nutrition for that matter)! Even though I have struggled with this in the past, I have come to realize that it’s also one of my greatest advantages in the work that I do. It makes me relatable.

4. I am convinced that being well is our birthright as black women. I believe that wellness through food can be developed and expanded to include every black girl and woman, regardless of class and economic status.

Taylor lives in Philly with her husband Jason (they are both amazing) & you can follow Taylor’s work at http://www.sistahoftheyam.com and @sistahoftheyam on Instagram!

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Taylor Johnson-Gordon, @sistahoftheyam, enjoying the fruits of the earth!

Feature Photo Credit: Jason C. Johnson-Gordon

Feature: Sojourner Zenobia, Healer & Performing Artist

I met Sojourner Zenobia during one of the community events she curates called Stillness: A Meditation for Women & Femmes of Color. It was my first time engaging in group meditation (of any kind) and it was certainly my first time seeing something so targeted towards my own sociocultural identities. This was back in July… and I have barely missed one of her meditations since that time. Sojourner has helped to facilitate for so many women / femmes of color (myself included) “a spiritual return”. From Sojourner, I learned that there was space to dig deeper into my individual self, spiritual self, and sociocultural self – at the same damn time!

It is in this moment, given the shit-show of this current election season and all of the feelings that are surrounding the upcoming inauguration, that I find Sojourner’s words to be incredibly helpful and timely. So, I want to e-introduce ya’ll to a woman who has become a sister and teacher to me this year. [Text below is largely her own, to preserve the intent behind her words].

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SOJOURNER ZENOBIA began practicing Samatha (peaceful abiding) meditation in 2004 at Naropa University a Buddhist inspired school. In 2006, Sojourner received a BFA in Interdisciplinary Performance and a minor in Buddhist studies. She has studied vipassana (insight meditation) at Amaravati, a Theravadan Monastery in England. She currently a resident artist at Life Force Arts Center in Chicago where she studies energy work through strengthening ancestor/guide relationships and vision journeys. She facilitates a bi-monthly meditation for women and femmes of color at the Shambhala Center in Chicago’s West Loop.

As noted above, her work  in both guided meditation and performance art centers women and femmes of color. She notes:

“I have been in ‘spiritual’,’New Age’ communities since 2004. These communities, more often than not, are populated by white people who have no consciousness of anyone else’s experience but their own. Spiritual practices tend to center the individual – this leads to the valuing of one’s own bliss over dismantling any ingrained perceptions and actions that are oppressive to marginalized groups. Since there are generally only one or two token people of color (POC) in these spaces it might seem that there is no need to expand ones understanding of spirituality beyond a personal agenda – which is projected onto the world as a “saving grace”. Often, if token POC have anything to say about their personal experience (and sociocultural realities), they get into a cycle of having to convince masses of white people in this community that a) they are telling the truth and that b) the white spiritual bubble will need to change completely in order to actually have an impact on anyone other than themselves…

I left these communities highly traumatized and with a damaged sense of self worth. This is why I create spaces where ain’t none of that”.

*(This is where your friendly narrator-blogger pauses to snap and YAAAHHHS all over the screen)
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Sojourner finds inspiration for her performance art and meditation practice through / from formative life experiences:

“I grew up in white spaces. I had one particular ‘last straw’ experience and I looked around saw that I was surrounded by whiteness. I was very hurt. I read bell hooks’,Rock My Soul: Black People and Self Esteem and it revealed everything I had ever felt about being the token black my whole life. I embarked on a healing journey that included the trauma of my mothers lineage around self worth and power. I decided that I wanted to cultivate my art and my spirituality to hold space for my black self. In doing this, I can offer my findings to black and brown femmes who are deepening their own self healing work.

The Stillness Women and Femmes of Color meditation is a place where women and femmes can come and workshop themselves. I do have very clear ideas about the mind. I do believe that silent meditation is a clear and effective way to know how our minds work. When we can see that, we have more options beyond habitual patterns. However, I also don’t like telling people what to do in regards to their spirituality. I think there are infinite ways that people can talk to spirit. No person has the same experience of being in a body. So, this combination of training the mind and opening to spirit gives us access to our inner worlds.

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Sojourner Zenobia, in performance mode!

I think our bodies hold all of the wisdom! All of the secrets! In our world, we (especially brown and black bodies) are forbidden from going inward unless it is in a way that is super controlled through religion or media. I want to give our bodies back to ourselves. I hold spaces where women and femmes can listen deeper than we ever do to “The woman who whispers”- Luisah Teish. We sit in meditation, light candles, draw our hearts, ask questions to grandmothers, write letters to past selves and fall in love with breath. I hope people will grow this space of creative self and community love. It will give us ways, never seen before to protest, love, express, resist and evolve.

Her advice to readers is something I will also follow – ESPECIALLY in the weeks, months, and (4) years to come. It is:

Pause.
Slow down.
Cut your pace in half.
take your bath.
restore…
These slower places are where spirit comes to us.

dismantle busy-ness. If possible, make self-care a part of what is making you “busy.”

The inner voice will scream.
Loud
everyday, telling us what we need.
If we never slow down, listen with them, create with them
we lose the opportunity
to become who we came here to be.

To learn more about Sojourner Zenobia and her practice, visit http://www.sojournerzenobia.com/

Click here for more information on / to get involved with Stillness Meditation for Women and Femmes of Color.

Jade’s Faves Features: Coriama Couture

Amazing initiatives have the power to bring amazing people together. This past fall, I facilitated a Beauty Breaks workshop session on style & resilience. [Beauty Breaks is is a life-giving and innovative series on Black beauty & holistic wellness, founded by artist Amina Ross (who is one of my favorite people, truly)]. Coriama Couture was also presenting on affordable grooming & beauty practices. [You can click here for the recap].

Since that time, coriama couture has taught me a great deal about the ways in which we can de-stigmatize sexuality, beauty tips for Black women / femmes (especially ones that can fit my budget), and more. Of course, I wanted my readers to meet her too and get a chance to see her work! Text below is largely her own, used with permission, in order stay true to the heart of her work & mission.

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Photo Credit: Kamali Whitney, 2015

Coriama Couture is an Artist, Activator, and Aesthetician who utilizes the ABCS (Art, Beauty, Culture, and Sexuality) to encourage radical dialogue and community building. She sees the ability to explore and challenge taboo topics within culture as a rite of passage; a necessary element for liberation and freedom that should be celebrated. Currently, she is curating a community popup forum called sex KiKi and hopes to encourage more radical dialogue and safe spaces for queer black femmes* in Chicago and beyond. sex KiKi is inclusive space that privileges the spectrum of black femininity so trans* and cis women are welcome, as well as allies.

Her work primarily serves femmes of the Black diaspora, ages 21+, as she notes:

The Beauty Industry is constantly bombarded with images of a European aesthetic, the policing of the black femme body, and an overall lack of resources for us. For example, the beauty industry is saturated with beauty advisors who often don’t know how to color match for foundation or choose to tell black femmes anything (in terms of beauty practices / products) to get our dime. In addition, we already deal with economic oppression, so the resources we have might be limited and contingent upon what is necessary to live.

In this field, sometimes I deal with community members (black femmes) who prefer to only see white colleagues / beauty advisors to find the proper cosmetic products. My hands-on experience has been that this may be connected to deeper issues of acceptance (and internalized pop-notions of “beauty”). I have much compassion for that, since I have had to deal with my own issues with embracing my black beauty.

Honestly, I believe your trauma can often be connected to your work! I grew up with serious self-esteem issues. I hadn’t grown into my full lips and feared my melanin. The beauty industry happened to be one of the first places I landed a job; since my temper in my younger years caused me to switch jobs often.

Now, I believe that beauty is a tool for empowerment. I continue to challenge myself to utilize it for that purpose and not to mask insecurity (as it can be / has been used). I encourage with warmth and enthusiasm. I always lead with kindness and compassion in these situations because I have been them and see myself in this process toward liberation. I am still undergoing the decolonization of my own lifestyle and mind, as well!

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Educating & brow mapping at Beauty Breaks workshop, Photo Credit: Ally Almore, 2015

Coriama Couture is also the curator for pop-up community forum, titled, sex KiKi. In regards to this area of work, she says:

“Sexual liberation is really important to me. Sexuality was always apart of my life. In my late teens, I can recall enjoying lesbian porn (the good kind; there is a difference)! Yet, there can be a lot of trauma that comes with being a sexually free person. People can equate / conflate freedom with having no boundaries at all, which isn’t true!

Oppression and internalized oppression is also a part of the battle when it comes to sexual wellness and conversations about sexuality. For example, we can deal with some very problematic ideas – about gender, gender roles, notions of what family is / can be, harmful views about homosexuality. I’ve also seen misogynistic views expressed, even coming from cis-het* (cisgender, heterosexual) black femmes in the space (I understand much of this phenomena as a coping mechanism, to somehow fit into the constraints of the patriarchy while simultaneously being denied access). These challenging conversations have their pros and cons but ultimately, I believe are powerful and pivotal when breaking the mental chains of colonization”.

Her advice to readers:
“Exploration is apart of growing and sometimes the worst judgements we experience are the judgements we put on ourselves. It can be liberating to do things for our own lives! Keep a beauty journal, a sex journal, or just journal. I feel fresh and renewed each day that I decipher my own thoughts from those of others. The more I worry about others, the less effortless my life becomes… the less I am able to live on my own terms. This process is difficult but I feel less anxiety living this way.

Find rituals that help ground you – music, chanting, dancing, or bitching in front of the mirror for 10 minutes to get the bull out! Hey, it works! Lastly, don’t be scared to explore another lifestyle option. I’ve found that hetero and married doesn’t always equal happy and in love (as is often suggested). So, we have to be sure to love on our OWN terms”.

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Facials, brow waxing, and refreshments from coriama couture’s Wax Day Off

Check out more of her work on http://www.coriamacouture.com/ and if you live in the Chicagoland area, check out sex KiKi or Coriama’s Wax Day Off! 

BET Awards Recap (and Petty Encouragements)

It’s been a while, and while I’ve got a few posts queued up for you… I’ve also been working through a nasty season of Writer’s-Block-Prompted-By-Life-Blocks.

Suffice it to say… this month sucked.

Now, there were some bright spots – my 10 year high school reunion, being one of them. However, all in all, it’s been a rough one. I encountered the thoughts that SO many writers, bloggers, and freelancers do: Do I have the strength, the time, the resources to keep on blogging? Should I be writing more for this platform? Less? Have I gotten away from my original mission? Closer? Am I coasting? WHATISIMDAWN?!  Typically, when I get there, I remind myself that “I’ve got the juice” and free-write until I’m clear on my thesis. This time it just didn’t seem to work…

Until I saw the BET Awards.

Ya’ll know that in the midst of these essays, I LOVE a good recap! (Click here to see my recap from The Wiz Live). I love reading them. I love writing them. And let’s be honest… since I basically wrote one from the couch as I was watching the BET Awards yesterday… I figured I’d share here. So, let’s get into it.

Overall, I enjoyed the show. I really did! I watched it with my petty singer friends and our only sort of bougie snacks (think wine and cheese puffs). I mostly watched it because I wanted to see how they would honor our ancestor, Prince. So, I won’t go into detail about each performance or each facet of the show.

But before I get too ahead of myself, let’s get into the opening.

The opening. The friggin’ opening.

Beyonce said, “I’m going to stand here in this wade-in-the-water realness and sing my song. And when Brother Kendrick gets up here, we are giving you the Freedom Frolic you never knew you needed”.

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Was I the only one near tears?!?! I think not. Trust me, I WILL be frolicking in my shower tomorrow morning… ya’ll pray my safety.

After that, there were brief blurs of bad writing (those jokes… mercy), folks obviously reading from teleprompter, and cuts to MC Lyte with her stage manager binder.

I did appreciate the Philly hometown love in the opening Prince tribute set featuring The Roots and Bilal! Ya’ll will stop making fun of Bilal’s sew-in prep cornrows (Black Twitter has had me cackling about that all day)… because he sang the SNOT out of that song! Are. you. kidding. me?! Ya’ll thought he wasn’t going to commit to rolling around on the ground in honor of Prince? Well, his pre-emptive hip thrusts and choice of kitten heels at should have warned you that he was going all. in. 

What goes up, must come down. And the vibe took a significant dip when A. Keys got onstage…

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Who. Is. RESPONSIBLE?! #Crine!

I held my breath as she found the note. I visibly cringed when she pushed over the synthesizer after the ending ‘hit’. I later found out from prolific bassist, Justin Raines, that the synthesizer was not just any old synth… it was a $4k Moog synthesizer.  My final sentiments below:

 

It may seem like I was a bit harsh on this (but I’m still bumpin ‘Diary’ though, so I feel like I’m good). Between A Keys, Desiigner, and Usher, I left feeling strangely encouraged!

Here’s the thing… I’m not willing to say that I haven’t danced to Panda a time or two or ten. However… my statement still stands. We don’t really know what Desiigner is saying, yet he has a rap career. Be encouraged! You can follow your dreams too! (Also, if you haven’t seen the memes done for Desiigner by the genius that is Black Twitter and IG, you NEED this cackle)

Let me pause here and say, I LOVE Usher. His runs are CLEAN every time, and have you heard his collabs? He will outsing an artist on their own song 80% of the time! The strobe lights were just a lot for me on this go round (doesn’t mean I don’t still love Usher)!

There were a lot of highlights from the show, so I want to get into those. Let’s break down these tributes first and go from there.

  • Maxwell – *bows head, “Lord, I thank You for Maxwell. I thank You that he consistently is on the note. I thank You for his swag. I want to cry out against him because he’s had us waiting on his new album since I was but a fertilized egg in the eyes of the Universe… but seeing as how he continues to do great live performances, I’m just going to take this time to say, ‘Thank You”… and thank you, Maxwell.
  • Jennifer Hudson’s Purple Rain – So, here’s the thing. I know a great deal of folk that absolutely loved the rendition! Jennifer Hudson is definitely a powerhouse. However, I was desperately hoping that there might be a mic toss to Fantasia as well. Deep down, my soul was crying out for Fantasia. Did you see her face as the camera cut to her? She was in deep worship, and I needed their energies to meet on that stage!
  • Janelle Monae – YAHS LAWD! Listen… I can’t even! The stamina! The RANGE!  The hair! The attention that she’s so very clearly paid to Prince’s music and career trajectory. Janelle Monae is amazing to me. The end. (Also, the outfit cheek cut outs kind of cracked me up because it was lowkey churchy. Is anyone going to talk about how the cut outs had a sheer panel over them because #modesty? And before you think I’m clowning, know that I’m not because I’m lowkey churchy too and would have done the same. exact. thing. It would have sounded like this: “Oh, you want cheek cut outs?! For Prince?!?! Oh absolutely! Bet… please tell the Mother’s Board of Mt. Sinai Baptist to sew in my sheer modesty cloth across them. Kthanxbye!” I. love. Janelle! *For my real thoughts on the subjective shenanigan that is modest dress, click here after you’ve finished the recap)
  • Sheila E THE QUEEN!
    Sheila E came out with that band and the games IMMEDIATELY ceased. She came out there with her shoes off, her hair out, her sticks in her hand, ready. to. slay. Sheila E came out and brought Jerome from The Time, and Prince’s ex wife Mayte with the hip shaking realness. Sheila E came out and told us to GET IT DAGGEVA FOR ANCESTOR PRINCE. The background singers were amazing. The band was doing their GOOD playing. And life was given. THAT is how you do a tribute, and I’m just here to take notes.
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  • Jesse “Teach the Word” Williams
    I know that this wasn’t a Prince tribute, but it was definitely one of the show’s highlights. So, I’m putting it here. First of all, I want you to see the look on his face BEFORE he gets up. This is the face of someone that has a word just simmering on the inside:
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    A recap of what he said honestly would not do his speech justice. The only quote that I shared on social media were these bars, “Gentrifying our genius” (because #barz), and “Just because we’re magic… doesn’t mean we’re not real”. The reason that I only quoted those pieces was because I was still in deep awe and appreciation for the way that he OPENLY acknowledged Black women. Ya’ll don’t understand… I legit stood up in the living room! Please, PLEASE do yourself a favor and get into his commentary on race, racism, capitalism (you could almost hear the edges being snatched when he got into this piece), movement building, and more!

A Final Note:
I want to share this final cackle with you because I know you’ll appreciate it. This is not a show highlight, nor is it commentary on any given performance. I just need ya’ll to understand that one of my petty friends said that Jermaine Dupri and Fat Joe were in prime “Auntie at a wedding” fashions. And I. almost. fell. over.
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(P.S. Who was responsible for the choice to have geishas with swords in the background though….? I’m crying out against that because like… really? *Rolls eyes and tries not to write 1k more words in the key of think piece about cultural appropriation and turning culture into caricature. *Logs out)

What were your favorite parts of the show? What was your least favorite part of the show? Leave them in the comments below!

Jades Faves Features: Center for Inclusivity

This is a post I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time! Last year, I met a ‘play-cousin’ of mine through an online forum that is geared toward Women of Color who operate in Social Justice Ministry. Little did I know that she would become one of my dearest friends in the city of Chicago and that she would co-found one of my favorite non-profit organizations while pursuing her graduate degree (…aaaaand doing a billion other things. Alicia Crosby is badass)!

We had many lunch / brunch / wine-on-the-couch chats about the work of Center for Inclusivity (CFI), “a faith-engaged, 501c3 public charity rooted in the city and people of Chicago that promotes and facilitates healthy exploration and growth for individuals affected by the perceived divisions surrounding issues of spirituality, sexual orientation and gender identity”. They do this through facilitated conversations and open gatherings with community members on these very topics. They offer training and education for individuals and organizations who are looking to foster more inclusive atmospheres. They offer pastoral care and officiate non-denominational wedding services for same-sex and different-sex couples. In the years to come, they are moving toward offering even more services, including webinars, counseling, pre-marital counseling, and more.

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This past weekend, CFI had a Gala to commemorate their first full year of service! I was asked to share a bit about my experience with the organization and why I valued this work. You can find the edited and abridged remarks below, as well as some fun pictures from the incredible photographer, Lizzy Bilbrey:

“A few years ago, I began crafting a personal mission for my life and my work. It is ‘to offer information, ideas, and counter-cultural narratives that will empower people to thrive – and to lovingly & creatively challenge systems toward greater inclusion’. I believe it was this mission and Divine Providence that led me to meet Alicia Crosby and subsequently, to CFI.

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CFI Co-Founders Alicia Crosby & Jason Bilbrey, Photo Credit: Lizzy Bilbrey

Initially, I trusted the work of CFI because I trust Alicia. From our conversations, I knew her heart for justice, her love for others, and I knew that I would be walking into a safe atmosphere where she was involved. It takes a special person to get me to not go immediately home after work on a Monday, but to go to an open gathering instead. So, I figured, I’ll go once to support and then… we’ll see…

I was very quiet at the first dialogue I attended. The co-founders and community would quickly realize that I love talking after that initial meeting. But at that time, I wanted to get a feel for the community itself. Everyone was greeted with respect and dignity. We shared our gender pronouns and we shared our experiences. Multiple perspectives were honored, even if the conversation was uncomfortable. I especially appreciated the care that Jason Bilbrey and Alicia (co-founders) brought to the work. Jason shared beautiful words about the importance of sharing a meal with community members. He made conversational space for those who were quiet at the gathering.

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CFI Gala, 2016, Photo Credit: Lizzy Bilbrey

So many things come to mind as I reflect on why the community at CFI is important to me. I could say that it is because this organization is on the prophetic edge of a movement for social justice. I could say that what’s special is the way they open both physical and emotional space / access for those so often pushed towards the margins. Yet, all that I would say is wrapped up in the framework of Ubuntu.

In his book, ‘What is Not Sacred’, Laurenti Magesa (2013) explains that the concept of Ubuntu is prevalent in many forms of African spirituality. This ideology represents highest and fullest humanity built through deep, sustained community. So, I understand that to become the most actualized version of myself, I need to be in community with others. I need to grasp their joys and triumphs. I need to understand that the systems used to oppress others, oppress me as well. I need to get that liberating works, liberate me as well. CFI is an organization, but it is also a liberating work – for that, I am immensely grateful”.

Click here to explore more ways that you can support the work of CFI.

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If you or someone you know would like to be featured on JadesFaves, check out the submission form here!

Photo Credit: Lizzy Bilbrey 
Image Slideshow P.S. *(Ya’ll see how she caught me and my partner giving the camera some at this fancy Gala event?! LOL! #Twerkliberationtime)

Resources:
What Is Not Sacred? African Spirituality. By Laurenti Magesa. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2013. Pp. xii + 220

Jade’s Faves Features: Depressed While Black

I met Imade Nibokun during the first conference for digital and print publication, Heed Magazine. We were both contributing writers and I ended up sitting by her during lunch. I was struck by her ease in providing social and cultural commentary on a range of topics. A few years later, we reconnected through mutual friends and writing interests, and this is where I heard about her in-progress book and social media initiative “Depressed While Black”.

Imade describes herself as ‘a music journalist turned non-fiction writer discussing mental health treatment and African-American culture’. She has presented at the National Black Women’s Life Balance & Wellness Conference at Spelman College and teamed up with Brunch Culture podcasts to talk about her work. She shared her story on BET Network’s video initiative called ‘What’s At Stake: 60′ and her in-progress, nonfiction book, ‘Depressed While Black’, will provide commentary on life at the intersections of race, gender, spirituality, and mental health.

I sought her work out specifically to feature on this platform and appreciated its alignment with the mission of this site. Typically, I ask for quotes to use in the Faves Features as I further explain the work. However, Imade’s writing is profoundly beautiful, so to stay true to her voice and mission, all text below is hers, used with permission:

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“My name is Imade and was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in December 2012, days after I sped on a Los Angeles highway wanting to die. I honestly thought I was diagnosed with disease that only White people experienced but I later found out that 1 out of 10 African-Americans experience depression in a given year. The biggest lesson I learned is that mental illness isn’t a sign of inferiority, spiritual or otherwise. I got a therapist and despite being told I didn’t pray enough, I started using antidepressants. If I didn’t ask for help, I’m not sure I would be alive today. I decided to share my experience in my work-in-progress book, Depressed While Black, to create a safe space where others can ask for help. Through social media channels, I share articles and my own story in hopes of de-stigmatizing mental illness.

Depressed While Black was birthed out of my need for help as I was scratching and clawing for the will to live. I needed people who were consistently aware of what I was going through so they could encourage me when depression was saying I’m worthless and alone. Depressed While Black is simply one black woman asking for help, and finding a supportive community.

My target audience is African-Americans dealing with depression who are searching for a community that normalizes their experience. In my own journey as a black woman, I faced stigma that prevented me from having a language to describe what my mind was doing. When I did identify the depression, I was told that I should have prayed and asked a pastor to pray for me. I did both of those things and still struggled with depression. I had few people I felt safe to talk to without fear of victim blaming. I experienced therapists who did not understand black culture and advised me to do things that were not applicable to my life. Once I got over the stigma, I didn’t have the money to be hospitalized or have outpatient therapy. I also had no one else to consult when it came to using antidepressants. Once I graduated, I lost my health insurance and in my unemployment, I lost a safe space to live where I was not shamed for what I was feeling.

There is a myth that black people are superhuman. That only white people cry or are depressed. There is a myth that if our ancestors endured slavery, then we have nothing to complain about. There is a myth that we should just talk to our pastors, although not all of them are trained to deal with the treatment of mental illness. My most important counter-cultural narrative is that every African-American is worthy of mental healthcare. From the strong black woman single mothers, to our ancestors who experienced unimaginable torture, to the pastors who have to preach one funeral after another. We do not have to earn self-care by struggling the way our ancestors struggled. Just by our sheer existence, we are deserving of mental wellness.


Pictured here with co-presenter, Dr. Simone

African-Americans need affordable mental health treatment from culturally competent mental health professionals. We need skills to counter what depression and society tells us. We also need safe healing spaces where we can recover from the micro-aggressions we experience daily.

So, I encourage, inspire, and empower by speaking on panels that despite how much you struggle, you’re worthy of receiving help. Depression doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I share stories of people who have hit rock bottom, including myself, and found ways to prioritize self-care on the journey to recovery. In speaking out about depression, I challenge the lies that African-Americans are not intellectual beings or that we are immune to pain and suffering. We hurt, we cry, and we become weak even as we present our strength to the world. African-Americans deserve mental health treatment that is tailored to our needs”.

You can read an excerpt of Imade’s upcoming book, ‘Depressed While Black’ here and follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/DepressedWhileBlack, on Twitter @DepressedWBlack. I also encourage you to read more of her writing over on Tumblr! Special thanks to Imade for this brave work!

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Jade’s Faves Features: The SBG Code

When I first started this blog, I knew that I wanted to use it as a platform to share both my thoughts and the work of others that mirrored the mission of JadeTPerry.com. I wanted to feature people, organizations, sites, and initiatives that:

  • Encouraged, inspired, & empowered readers to thrive in spite of systems that are not inherently set up for their success & affirmation
  • Lovingly & creatively challenged sacred & secular systems (and their participants) toward greater inclusion and cultural validation
  • Offered information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives towards these purposes

I am beyond excited that our first feature comes from a colleague I met in the blogging arena: Whitney Barkley, the creator of the website, The Skinny Black Girl’s Code. Whitney is a blogger, photographer, digital media strategist, and the recipient of the Black Women Career Network’s Millenial Visionary Award.

Hearing about her work was eye-opening for me. I have always been drawn to seek out resources on body positivity for women who are thick and curvaceous a woman who has, for the better part of my life, been a card-carrying member of #TeamThick. So, when Whitney approached me with the information for The Skinny Black Girl’s Code, I was excited to learn about and to see another nuance of the body positivity movement.

The Skinny Black Girl’s Code is “an online platform to help women and girls gain confidence and self-esteem”. Under the leadership of Barkley, the Skinny Black Girl’s Code uses media & imagery to promote body positivity and acceptance. She explains,

” I began to understand the importance of self-love and confidence in college, after dealing with self-esteem and confidence issues in my childhood and teenage years. I created The Skinny Black Girl’s Code due to the lack of resources available for thin women of color and to offer the world a perspective that is often overlooked.

I interview women who identify themselves as ‘thin or skinny’. I discuss their journey and ask them to highlight the challenges they’ve faced and what they have done to overcome them in relation to body image and self-esteem. My goal is to interview 100 women and create a guide based off of the themes found within the interview”.

Critical themes that Whitney has already seen in her work include a) the need for greater understanding, awareness, & advocacy around eating disorders and b) the dangers of intrusive / problematic comments around women’s bodies. She states, “I think it’s critical for others to know… there are eating disorders that are prevalent for women who are discontent with being skinny and attempting to gain weight (using harmful ways / methods). Society needs to understand how it influences low self-esteem among skinny women (of color) when jokes and negative comments are offered…”

Through her life experiences and her work with The Skinny Black Girl’s Code, Whitney Barkley has noted that beauty standards are often culturally bound and that many women also feel pressure to achieve a “…thick or Coke bottle shape. Additionally, there is a perception that women who are thin or skinny do not have problems or self-esteem issues…” Thus, Whitney hopes that The Skinny Black Girl’s Code will bring some of these issues to people’s consciousness, as well as offering tips for women of color who “want to overcome obstacles related to their body image and perception”

Outside of the Skinny Black Girl’s Code, Whitney blogs on Career & Lifestyle topics at http://thewritegirlblog.com. She currently resides in Cincinnati, OH with her husband Jerome and cat Rosie and believes, “an un-examined life is not a life worth living” (Socrates). You can follow her @TheWriteGirl_ and follow The Skinny Black Girl’s Code @SBGCode
Check out the full site here!

Want to have YOUR work featured on JadeTPerry.com? Click here to access the Submission Form for Features!

Jades Faves: Blogs & Beats

Every now and then, I come across a blog or vlog that absolutely helps me to get my life. As you know, I love reading, listening to, and engaging with others who reflect some of the reasons why I’ve chosen to blog: to offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that empower readers to thrive and to lovingly & creatively challenge secular and sacred systems toward greater levels of inclusion! So, in today’s post, I will feature three separate sites / bloggers who do this in various ways. However, I’m switching it up today and also featuring some music (aka blogs and beats) that made my ‘fave’ list, as well!

1. Verily Merrily Mary – Don’t sleep on VerilyMerrilyMary.com because Mary consistently does her GOOD writing over there! Mary identifies as a “20-something Nigerian-born, Nigerian-raised, Canadian-raised, and American-raised individual that currently lives in sunny, Southern California” who writes about life as a third culture kid, culture shock, identity and faith, and her understandings of “the people and the cultures (she’s) been exposed to”. What makes her blog special? Mary is a great writer who incorporates both storytelling and analysis in her posts. She tackles tough subjects with some signature finesse. Read her latest, ‘A Dumb Fallacy That Needs to Stop Being Popular’, and you’ll see what I mean!

Snippet: When she gave her first press conference announcing whether or not the officers would be charged, it was clear that she was passionate and fed up. There was definitely emotion in her voice. In fact, she also alluded to the emotion of the city, telling the city of Baltimore that she hears its cries for justice. And, like clockwork, there were comments all over social media calling her irrational and emotional and that we needed someone “objective.” But how convenient it is to call her irrational when she is both black and a woman and the loudest voices saying she’s irrational/emotional are the people who are neither of those things.

2. Rev. Tiffany Thomas – Rev. Tiffany Thomas is a millenial woman of color… who drops fire and causes reflection via her blog posts every time. She engages around some of these topics in a way that is truly powerful. Her tone is conversational and her penchant for nuance and critical thought is appreciated! I was introduced to Rev. Tiffany Thomas’ work through Rachel Held Evans’ site (who has also been featured in an earlier edition of Jade’s Faves). As soon as I finished her post, ‘Shouting From the Front: Reflections of a Disorderly Woman Pastor) I was astounded at the way that she told both her story and reflected some of my own experiences back to me. In her words were validation, critical thought, and deep authenticity.  Check out her blog here!

Beats – Shakka

Many of you know that I started off in the creative and performing arts. So, I often keep my ear to the ground for refreshing, new, and intriguing music, aka ‘beats. Today, I’d like to introduce you to a UK artist by the name of Shakka. [First of all, let me just say… in my book, UK artist Shakka can do no wrong musically]. As evidenced on his Soundcloud page, he identifies as an alternative pop singer, but he’s an absolute beast when it comes to rapping, production, and his vocals interchange R&B and pop stylings seamlessly! His music is equal parts gritty, experimental, fun, and weighty. I was introduced to Shakka’s music while (believe it or not) watching a natural hair tutorial on a popular youtube channel, Fusion of Cultures. I will freely admit that I was having a hard time concentrating on the tutorial because the background music that vlogger, Laila, chose was / is particularly dope. Y’all… I looked through every. single. one. of those comments so I could find out WHO that artist was. And that artist was Shakka.

Thematically, Shakka often talks about living life authentically, love & relationships, and being true to your craft and your art… even if what you’re doing is different than others. I can’t pick a favorite, because his catalog is putting in serious work… but I  will go back to one of the songs I heard when I was first introduced to his music to give you a good sample. (Below: Shakka, Take Our Time… yawl… he is singing over a classic J Dilla beat. And my soul is rejoicing):

Check him out on Soundcloud and buy the music on iTunes because I promise you will need this to jam to on your morning commute to work, while you’re cleaning, at the airport, going to the beach, making a smoothie… etc.

Jades Faves: Get Into these Blogs & Sites

I found these blogs on my epic journey & quest to “get my life” through blogs & vlogs! I’m always looking to find fresh perspectives that also remind me of why I’ve chosen to blog: to offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that empower readers to thrive and to lovingly & creatively challenge secular and sacred systems toward greater levels of inclusion!

I appreciate the work being done through each of these sites & talented bloggers. Add them to your list when you get a chance!

1. DressProfesh.com – I stumbled upon this website last week because Twitter is a magical place that gives you recommendations based on your interests. As many of you already know, navigating identity politics in higher education & in the workplace is… one…of…my… things! I talk about it. I write about it. I read about. So, when I saw what Katie Manthey was doing over at DressProfesh.com, I could hardly contain my excitement. This site exists as a photo gallery that

showcase(s) images of the various ways that people (regardless of industry) dress “professionally.” (The) goal with this gallery is to collect images that, together, will reveal that “professional” is not a monolithic idea—and that the idea of “professional dress,” like any dress code, is inherently racist, sexist, abelist, sizeist, etc.

It didn’t take long for me to submit my own photos, showing how I #dressprofesh in a myriad of different ways! Check out the site and be sure to submit a photo of your own!

2. Conditionally Accepted: A Space for Scholars on the Margins of Academia

I am always looking for materials for my mentees to read in terms of being successful in academia and in their post-grad work (if chosen). I was searching for a few readings when I found Advice on Applying to and Choosing a Graduate Program, written by Dr. Zandria F. Robinson for conditionallyaccepted.com. Her perspective on finding, applying, and accepting entry into a graduate program was refreshing and real. I found myself literally agreeing out loud as I began clicking through the site that weekend, reading post after post.

If only I had this key as an add-on when I was reading!

The purpose of this site is to serve as

a space for academics who exists at the margins of academia. We will provide news, information, personal stories, and resources for scholars who are, at best, conditionally accepted in the academy. Conditionally Accepted is an anti-racist, pro-feminist, pro-queer, anti-transphobic, anti-fatphobic, anti-ableist, anti-ageist, anti-classist, and anti-xenophobic web community. http://conditionallyaccepted.com/about/

3. The Write Girl – Whitney L. Barkley is doin’ the dang thing over at thewritegirlblog.com as she provides timely career advice for millenial women. If you’ve been following my site, then you know that I like speaking to and about millenial woman of color in the workplace: what helps, what promotes, what fosters our growth, what hinders… and what’s just plain tacky. At The Write Girl, Whitney “is taking her experiences and translating them into career advice that helps with job retention, online branding, job searching, and career advancement (http://thewritegirlblog.com/about/)”. Her posts will make you think about how generational identities change the game for millenials in empowering ways!

So, I’ve given you some good lunchtime reads for the week! Check them out and comment below to tell me what you think!

Jade’s Faves: Work Essentials

I’m blessed to be able to say that I absolutely love the work that I do within higher education! These are some of the essentials that I use to take me from the student development retreat all the way to the strategic planning meeting:

1. Self Awareness
One thing that I absolutely stress is a healthy self-awareness of your professional identity. This means, taking the time to a) do the work, and b) reflect on the work you are doing. It means being able to identify where your strengths are and where those areas of development might be… and communicating that in strategic ways. Checking in with your supervisor for feedback in these areas can allow you to access opportunities that play to your professional strengths or that help you grow in exponential ways. Take the time to reflect on your identity as a professional and don’t be afraid to communicate that!

2. Oprah Chai Tea by Teavana
Tea is one of my passions, so a few months ago, my partner bought me a huge amount of Oprah Chai tea as a gift. Let me just say, that has been helping me get my entire life! There’s nothing like brewing a quality black tea in the morning to rejuvenate your spirit, sharpen your senses, and help you get focused. Although I have my other favorites (i.e. Original Spice from Todd & Holland), Oprah Chai is what absolutely does it for me. It’s a well-balanced blend that is smooth and a bit spicy, and features ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, and more. Plus, it leaves my office smelling warm and wonderful!

3. Ruby Woo
This matte red lipstick is one of my ABSOLUTE favorites, and I may or may not have two tubes of it resting in my makeup case. Ruby Woo has taken me from the laid back weekend festival…


To the professional portfolio pic

JP (1)
And back home from the board room’s strategic planning meeting
Jade P Headshot

I cannot say I have ever seen it look bad on anyone. Seriously, do a quick google search. It’s a classic and it compliments every skin tone. This is my go-to lip color for so many occasions, and it gives me that little bit of fierceness I need in my pro-style.

4. A Well Crafted Porcelain Coffee / Tea Mug
As an avid tea drinker, I do like to have a good vessel to drink the tea out of. Right now, I’m rockin’ with my porcelain J Monogram Mug by Papyrus (and their monogrammed mugs are going for only $5 now)!

However, I will soon be investing in one of these miniature works of art by Tees in the Trap:

You can buy it here!
Ya’ll don’t understand how much I need this mug. I need it for my meetings, for curriculum development in my office, for reading e-mails… I just… I just need this. There’s another I have my eye on, as well. Picture this – so I’m in a meeting about retention, persistence, & identity development for students of color, low income students, and first generation college students… and before I say my piece and give feedback, I slightly tilt to my fierce Ruby Woo-ified lip the mug that says
 Who is ready for this?! I am!
I am here for it and I hope you are too! So, now that you’ve heard about some of my work essentials, what are some of your essentials that get you pumped up and ready for a full day of productivity?!

Featured Image Credit: http://www.deathtothestockphoto.com