May 21, 2019 Interviews
with the editor and hr director of black girl magik
Let’s start at the root. Where is your family from, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
My maternal lineage hails from Jamaica with our roots stemming back to a coffee farm in Jamaica. Before that point, my great grandmother, Esther was born and raised in Ireland. During my grandmother Olivia’s childhood, she moved to Brooklyn, NY where she later gave birth to my mother Roselind, my aunt Cheryl and my uncle James in Bushwick. I am the last of 4 daughters born in Brooklyn. By the time I was 2 years old, my family moved to Freeport in Long Island, NY.
My paternal lineage is one that I didn't grow up really knowing after a certain age. I think for many reasons, like deaths in the family, absent family members, familial trauma and slavery, African American families don’t always possess the full knowledge of knowing about their generational line.
Now that I’m an adult, I’m hungry to know who I am. That begins with researching and discovering where my ancestry lies and learning about who my people are. My sister Olivia recently got her DNA tested and we’ve learned that our ancestors go back to Cameroon, Benin and Togo, as well as different areas in Jamaica.
How did your upbringing shape your experience of your power and your identity as a woman of African descent?
I grew up with a mother who was proud to be Black and proud to be a Brooklynite. A mother who made deliberate choices to flaunt the beauty of Blackness and also educate myself and my sister’s on the history of being Black American and Caribbean American. Much of this education came through food, through music and through art. I’ve been going to the International African Arts festival since I was a young child. Our home was adorned with African statues, Black art and tropical plants. I have seen Alvin Ailey dance company perform numerous times. I even have been attending the Brooklyn Museum’s first Saturdays since a child and recall the amazing dance parties that took place. I’ve always been proud to be of African descent because I’ve been able to witness the beauty of our culture and creativity.
Between BGM meetups, online content and creative productions, we are endlessly creating love notes, safe spaces and hubs of transformation for Black women. How does it feel to be uniting, empowering and supporting the healing of Black women - and in turn the African Diaspora?
Put simply - doing this work feels right. It feels on time. It feels like it’s supposed to be. I’m glad that I have the privilege to show up for my sisters, but I also recognize this work as my purpose. I’m in the business of igniting a light so that people, Black women specifically, can see the truth of who they are and in turn, step directly into their inherent light and power.
There have been incredible, pivotal moments in my life where people have stopped me on my path to acknowledge the radiant light I hold and to remind me to keep embodying and sharing that light. I’m thrilled to do the same for all women of African descent who engage with our work. I deeply understand the importance of seeing divine, authentic portrayals of Blackness.
For someone who isn’t familiar with Black Girl Magik, what words would you use to describe the magical sisterhood that is BGM?
Safety. Vulnerability. Self-care. Celebration. Recognition. Unbounded love. FREEDOM.
Self-care is a huge pillar in our practice. It’s the reason why we implement a self-care break at the end of each year where we step back from creating and cultivating to restore and reflect. What is one piece of self-care advice you want others to keep in mind?
My number 1 advice would be - take your time. Literally, take back your time. Reshape your relationship to it. Harness it. Honor it. Be in collaboration with it.
Honor when time calls for you to speed up your pace or slow it all the way down. This practice of ebb and flow teaches you how to be present to your current truths, feelings and needs - and makes room for you to tend to them accordingly.
I took a 2 year break from publicly sharing creative work to take back my time and nurture in privacy. Thus, I cultivated a deeply rich understanding about the timing of life. Thoughts around needing to rush, feeling behind or too ahead have diminished for me. I understand very deeply that rooted in the call for my life. I’m firmly where I am supposed to be.
Black Girl Magik’s mission is to heal the collective consciousness and generational trauma across the African diaspora. Why does this mission personally resonate for you?
This mission resonates deeply for me because I have personally witnessed how generational trauma has impacted my own family. We can’t change the trauma that has happened in our lives and to those we know and care about. However, what can take place is healing. There’s a mantra that I’ve repeated to myself throughout the last few years which is - “Allow a new thing to happen.” However, what I know about trauma is that the unconscious programming birthed from trauma deeply informs our perspectives, our beliefs and our actions. Therefore, the trauma must be cleared out and healed so that a new good thing can not just happen but it can be sustained and fully received.
As collective members, we come to the table with many incredible gifts and talents that we share in our roles, but are also exploring outside of BGM. Can you tell me a little bit about the work, art or interests you are cultivating?
I am a multidisciplinary wellness practitioner and botanical designer. My wellness and nature-based work is deeply infused and informed by one another. I always say, I’m on a mission to make self-actualization doable and now that mission is even more informed by nature and Caribbean traditions.
In pursuit of learning about my ancestors, I’ve completely stepped into horticulture and herbalism as it feels most natural to me and it’s how I’ve been able to connect deeper to my lineage. As a sensory based person, my modalities for healing are connected to the senses. I am reiki and flower essence certified and unite sound healing and oils to facilitate personal connection.
On the other end, as a botanical designer I use flowers and plants to elevate the living space. I believe deeply in the power an environment’s makeup impacts our quality of living. I do a lot of teaching and consultation around bringing plants into the interior spaces and on taking care of plants. I approach nature as a fine art medium and explore the language of flowers through still-life creations. I am passionate about sustainability and would love to see a greener world.
The reason why we center ancestors in our work is because we understand that pathways, dreams, sacrifices and love was created so that we can exist today. As Maya Angelou declared, “I come as one, but stand as 10,000.” What ancestor(s) do you carry with you?
I carry my great grandmother Esther Maranda with me.
I carry my ancestors that I know by name with me.
I carry my ancestors that I don’t know by name with me.
What is the next seed you would like to plant for BGM?
I’d like to see BGM meet ups to go outside of the U.S. and reach Black women internationally. The need for the spaces we create is abundant and I’d love to see our mission funded and supported so that these spaces of healing, celebration and communion are consistently accessible for Black women.