Last week you met 7 wonderful Black Women making HERStory in Week 1. Let’s continue the vibe with these wonderful women who range from business owners to musicians and podcasters.
- King Cooley – Hip-Hop Artist & Art Director
- Andréa Spearman – Artistic Director & Podcaster
- Keisha M. Hooks, J.D. – Founder & Creator
- Toyin Omisore – Business Owner
- Yodassa Williams – Author
- Michelle & Kareemah – Small Business Owners & Co-Founders
- Cydney Rhines – Photographer & Illustrator
King Cooley Savant (@kingcooleyofficial)
Hip-Hop Artist & Producer
Success, to me, is getting to a place where I’ve worked through the societal-based fears, physical fears, emotional fears and I’m living completely free.
What’s your favorite song you’ve produced?
“I have a song called “Climate Change” that is by far one of my favorite songs. I wrote that song in year one of the Trump Administration and was so disgusted by the systems and processes that those in privilege, power, and media had allowed to empower this Supremacist. It was the fastest song I’ve written so far. The lyrics came so effortlessly. I realized in that moment why protest music is so powerful. And every time I perform it I feel….tall.”
What does success mean to you?
“In this very moment, success to me is freedom – financial freedom, physical freedom, creative freedom. Nina Simone said, ‘freedom is no fear.’
Success, to me, is getting to a place where I’ve worked through the societal-based fears, physical fears, emotional fears and I’m living completely free.”
How have changes to the music industry affected Black artists?
“That’s a really great question! Really great question. I suppose it depends on what changes you’re referring to. Obviously, the music industry has completely shifted from a time where those in power had utterly low-expectations of Black artists to a time where their now copying, commodifying, and templatizing Black artists. If you’re referring to that then, I have a lot of opinions. My main thought is that I believe white industry leaders have created a strategy of commodifying Black culture while deprecating Black creators and as a result, Black artists have become the victims of this sort of Stockholm syndrome.
We want all these White award shows, publishers, and fashion brands to recognize us. We want their awards, their accolades, and their acknowledgment despite their continuous abuse inflicted upon the Black community. The changes that have been made in this industry have perpetuated the idea that Black artists need white approval of their work and the reality is that Black artists ARE the industry. We ARE the culture. And we don’t need any outsider’s validation for our work.”
Andréa Spearman (@aspearmanandco, @theblacklandscape)
Artistic Director & Podcaster
Every person I speak to carries greatness and brilliance at every step of their evolution in their desired industry.
Andréa Spearman is an artistic woman using her talents to help elevate those of others. As the host of her own podcast, The Black Landscape, she has the opportunity to provide nuanced discussions and bring her listeners along for the journey.
What has episode of the Black Landscape podcast are you looking forward to releasing and why?
“If I’m reading this question correctly, it’s asking me which episode am I looking forward to releasing the most? All of them! Every person I speak to carries greatness and brilliance at every step of their evolution in their desired industry. Each conversation not only enlightens the listener but me as well. I ask the questions from research on my part but there’s always going to be a layer or nuance that’s revealed beyond what I know of the person.”
What’s success look like to you?
“Success is enjoying what you do every day. Not necessarily LOVING it every single day, but a general consensus of enjoyment to be working in a field that speaks to your purpose at that moment in time.”
What is a unique struggle Black individuals experience in the Bay Area?
“I think the Bay Area suffers from being celebrated and also hated. We are responsible for so much pop culture phenomena and history yet we are still seen as a “dangerous” region to actually live and reside.
What other place in the world can you go to the beach, the forest and farmland all in one day? Specifically in under 3 hours?
And with me saying that, a large number of Black youth haven’t experienced any square footage outside of Bayview-Hunters Point or Deep East Oakland. Part of the purpose of this series is to show that there are Black people existing in many, many spaces and places.
There are Black people leading yoga in the redwoods and vogueing at the Palace of Fine Arts and playing air hockey next to their desk at Google Headquarters. We are not limited to our own blocks, our own streets that more and more are being gentrified by foreigners who do not appreciate the history and culture of these great cities.
This is my part of taking back that legacy and passing the baton to the next generation.”
Photo Credits: Alexandria Spearman, Serrano
It’s important to listen to Black voices and hear from our lived experiences. You can listen to The Black Landscape podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Anchor.FM. New episodes are released every 2nd and 4th Wednesday.
Keisha M. Hooks, J.D. (@theblackboardtv)
Founder & Creator of theBLACKboardTV
I wanted to create a forum that allows us to exchange ideas and challenge our cultural norms.
While listening is a skill that many of us are actively working to improve, there’s also the skill of hosting and leading important conversations. Keisha M. Hooks is doing the latter with theBLACKboardTV.
What does success mean to you?
“TheBlackboard will be a trusted source for critiques and commentary on Black culture. The goal is for TheBlackboard to have a recognizable impact on the Black community and to stimulate cultural shifts.”
What drew you to holding round table discussions on YouTube?
“I was dissatisfied with the one-dimensional depictions of Black Americans we tend to see in mass media. I also wanted to show Black folks having the conversations we need to have. I firmly believe we should rethink some of our views and values, and I wanted to create a forum that allows us to exchange ideas and challenge our cultural norms.”
What was one of your favorite round tables you’ve hosted?
“Can You Be Pro-Black While Dating White? During this episode, we talked about issues that aren’t often discussed publicly, and we interrogated the diverse viewpoints surrounding this issue.”
BLACKboard is a place where we can all learn and hear more in-depth discussions rather than those that take place on social media. Make sure you like and subscribe to BLACKboard on YouTube.
Toyin Omisore (@roamloud)
Owner, Roam Loud Athlesiure
The world can be ugly to us, but here at Roam Loud, Black women will always be loved, represented and respected.
What do HuffPost, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar all have in common? They’ve featured the up-and-coming athlesiure brand Roam Loud. Today, you get to learn a little more about the Owner, Toyin Omisore.
How would you describe the Roam Loud brand?
“I love to say that Roam Loud is a safe space for Black and Brown women. It’s more than just activewear and athleisure.
It is a platform where we women can be showcased authentically. When we post quotes, we are speaking to Black women. Our manifesto visual (located on the bottom of the homepage of our website), is an ode to Black Women, the colors we select for our sets we are asking ourselves, will this compliment the skin of Black women. The world can be ugly to us, but here at Roam Loud, Black women will always be loved, represented and respected.”
What inspired you to start Roam Loud?
“My inspiration behind creating Roam Loud is I wanted to see a brand where I saw myself. When I talk about Roam Loud I am intentional to state that I wanted to unapologetically create a lifestyle where brown skin is at the forefront and not an afterthought. There are so many women, like myself, that value health and wellness in every aspect of their lives. So why not a brand that supports that journey through premium activewear and athleisure pieces where we are seen and celebrated.”
Tell me about the largest struggle you’ve experienced going into the athleisure space as a Black Woman x Founder.
My largest struggle is an ongoing one, and that is wearing so many hats for my business. I currently have a lean team, and Roam Loud is a young brand that still requires my presence and attention. Managing inventory, product development, social media, content creation, inquiries, and customer service are just a few responsibilities that I am managing on a daily basis and at times can feel overwhelming. Thankfully I have a solid tribe that is supportive and encouraging that keeps me going.
If I could count the amount of times someone has asked me about where to purchase a sports bra, I’d be rich. Now, I’m going to tell you to check out Roam Loud and support Black Women-owned businesses.
Yodassa Williams (@yodawill12)
I have a passion for biographies on inspiring and empowering black women, and wanted to explore the spiritual journey of becoming one’s most powerful self in my writing.
First, let’s all clap for Yodassa Williams for publishing her first book, The Goddess Twins. We did a quick chat on being published and exploring the Afro-Feminist genre.
How would you describe the afro-feminist genre?
“Afro-Feminism centers and embraces the experiences of black women. I feel blessed to have had great examples of strong black women in my life, and in growing into one myself, felt compelled to focus on what I know in my writing. I have always loved fantasy and science fiction, but with exception to Octavia Butler, found the genre saturated with centering whiteness and the patriarchy. I am grateful to the rise of afro-futurism and seeing other authors and creators emerge who center their work on black women’s voices, especially in the fantasy and science fiction genres.”
What was the process like to publish your debut novel?
“The process of publishing my debut novel was quite an adventure! When I finished my manuscript, including several rounds of professional edits and feedback from beta readers, I moved into querying agents.
Around this time, a friend sent me a link to a writing contest. Though it wasn’t an ideal fit, I ended up searching for others and found the She Writes Press STEP Scholarship.
She Writes Press has a strong reputation in the boutique book publishing realm, and the winner of the contest would receive a complete publishing contract. The contest was a fit for my manuscript in genre and word count and so I applied, while continuing to query agents from traditional publishing houses.
Months later, I received an email from She Writes that my manuscript was a top 5 for the contest! And then later, I received notice that my book was selected by their YA imprint, SparkPress, to be published in 2020. I highly recommend authors look into the multitudes of paths to publication, from traditional to self to boutique for what is best for them.”
What inspired you to write The Goddess Twins?
“The Goddess Twins is a combination of some of my favorite people, memories and themes melted into a fantasy tale. I have a passion for biographies on inspiring and empowering black women, and wanted to explore the spiritual journey of becoming one’s most powerful self in my writing.
The characters in the novel are modeled after my favorite humans in life, my godfather, cousins, friends and mother figures.
And finally, the biggest inspiration of the book is from 2006. In that year, I spent a month in London with my cousins, and experienced such an adventure in self-confidence that I came back home a stronger and fiercer version of myself.
I have never forgot that time of growth and wonder at my own capabilities. I felt it made an ideal foundation for a book on twins evolving in their black girl magic.”
I love a good sci-fi book and was so excited to meet Yodassa and learn more about the Afro-Feminist genre. The Goddess Twins is a spectacular read for those who like to explore and use their imagination. Be sure to grab a copy and support Yodassa.
Michelle & Kareemah (@soulful.self)
Starting a business has been a great opportunity to explore the mystery and explore the unknown.
I love a good subscription box. I mean, Stark and I each have our own subscriptions. It’s like a little surprise every month! As self-care is priority #1, I’m so excited to introduce you to Michelle & Kareemah, the co-founders of SoulfulSelf.
How has starting a business changed you?
“Starting a business has been a great opportunity to explore the mystery and explore the unknown. There are endless possibilities of how SoulfulSelf can help our community.”
Subscription boxes are all the rage. What differentiates SoulfulSelf?
“While subscriptions boxes are very popular right now, there are barely any with products solely for Black Women and Women of Color. And there are even less that feature products by Women of Color. SoulfulSelf provides tools for self-love and holistic healing for Women of Color, bringing wellness to the comfort of their homes.”
What does success look like to you?
“Success looks like building community and being of service to Women of Color. We want to hold space for our community to be authentic and to just be. We also want to give exposure to the Women of Color businesses we feature in our boxes.”
Alright ladies, I can definitely say this is the gift that keeps on giving. Go check out SoulfulSelf and get yourself a box of love.
Cydney Rhines (@intocreationstudio)
Photographer & Illustrator
It is making sure that I use my gifts to properly feed those who need encouragement or an anchor of hope, truth and light.
Our final story is that of Cydney Rhines. As an Atlanta-based creative, in a digital world, she’s been able to navigate her way to successfully starting her own company, Into Creation Studios.
When did you start Into Creations?
“My business actually started off as ‘By Cydney Maria’, but I changed it to Into Creation Studios a little over a year ago because I wanted to take myself exclusively out of it (and the name honestly wasn’t that crafty sis lol). While I am the one taking the pictures, it is the vision that God gave me. So after time allowing God to show me what He wanted me to see through this lens and after listening to a sermon on creation in the book of Genesis and how God spoke life ‘into creation,’ I knew that was what I had to name my business.”
What are your favorite things to show through photography?
“People and food! I’ve tried to be consistent with product photography and anything outside of lifestyle/family and food photography and my calling always leads me back to people and good eats lol. I love capturing moments…especially moments with Black women.
It truly is my joy. I lost my mom when I was twelve and that recovery process has always led me back to making sure that I can capture mothers, daughters, grandmothers and more so that our time is stamped in that moment.
However, even when it comes down to food, it’s comforting to see that I can bring a plate of yummy bites to life for someone to enjoy and for my client to gleam at.”
What does success look like to you?
“This is a tricky question for me because my vision is always changing, but if I had to choose, I’d say success in my eyes looks like service work. It is making sure that I use my gifts to properly feed those who need encouragement or an anchor of hope, truth and light.
It isn’t money, likes, popularity, clever marketing or being booked and busy, it is honestly service work at the core. I love people and I love to see people shine so as long as I have that light within myself to spread beyond borders, I know that I’m doing this ‘success thing’ right.”
Thank you for tuning in for Week 2 of Black HERStory. Be sure to follow all of these amazing womxn and support their businesses. Don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family and sign up for notifications for the next series update.