workplace adornment: a rebellious black girl speaks

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 8the idea of ornament does not attempt to meet conventional standards, but it satisfies the soul of its creator.

-zora neale hurston

me: “i’m getting a double-helix piercing tomorrow.”

her: “is your job gonna be cool with that?”

i left the previous exchange with a friend thoroughly annoyed.  whether my hair, piercing, tattoos or clothing, i’m sick of people feeling the need to question my adornment choices.  first, i’ve been obsessed with body art my entire life. thankfully, i waited until i was more mature to get my first tattoo and all three are meaningful: eye of horus, marcus garvey quote and adinkra symbol — all represent an aspect of my identity that i made a conscious choice to share with the world.  keeping my deliberate intention in mind, i’m bothered when people, too often well-meaning black folks, attempt to police my decisions.

black women undergo workplace assimilation and endure constant microaggressions not for fun, but because we’re told it’s necessary to ensure our success.  straight hair, muted clothing, “it” handbags, no visible tattoos — we conform to white society’s definition of respectability and workplace appropriateness. recently, a sister complimented my hair and said the last time she wore her natural hair to court (she’s an attorney) the judge and security didn’t recognize her. they refused to allow her to sit at a table reserved for lawyers, and she was forced to state on the record why she’d been denied a seat. i’m struck by her example because straight hair literally operated as a disguise; ironically leaving her natural image unrecognizable by peers.

so how is it that i, the person who eschews conventional standards of beauty and tries to embrace my authentic self, is the person who ignites suspicion, stares and questions about my style choices?  in my opinion, were it not for white supremacy and gender expectations, my actions would be recognized as steps towards self-actualization. what’s underneath is a hierarchy that places social acceptance by the status quo above authenticity and emotional well-being. policing my decisions fails to question the system that decided “respectability” is a necessary component of success. my people did not define it, and i won’t be forced to comply with a standard that’s narrowly tailored for the purpose of marginalization.

i understand that my position is born not only from a spirit of rebellion, but also educational privilege.  black women working in low-paying jobs or fighting chronic underemployment while supporting their families don’t have the option to forgo certain workplace norms regarding their physical presentation. but i do. as a result, those of us with similar privilege have the responsibility to widen restrictive spaces and fight the pressure to assimilate. taking an unapologetic stance on our wholeness helps to make workplaces more inclusive.

i will adorn myself as i please and any professional space that finds my practice problematic is an affiliation that i’m blessed to do without. authenticity is the highest value.  i graduated phi beta kappa from my undergraduate university, earned a law degree from a top tier institution, sit on the board of directors for a civil liberties organization, yet have natural hair, dark skin, tattoos and piercings. their definitions of respectability will never change unless we rebel.

philanthropy in action: why you should support open space

we all have the responsibility to give back to our communities and support causes we find valuable.  there aren’t nearly enough spaces aimed at connecting and cultivating artists of color, so when i saw folasade adeoso’s instagram post seeking support for her newest venture, open space, i jumped at the opportunity.

as an artist and model, fola knows a lot about creating culturally significant spaces.  she and her business partner describe open space as “a month-long pop up retail space and gallery located in the lower east side of manhattan. it will facilitate new, emerging and innovative makers, artists and cultural enthusiasts in a single place. the pop up will feature a range of makers whose crafts include everything from handmade and vintage fashion to metalsmiths, to photography and fine art.” the best part: joining the pop up will be completely free for all artists featuring their work.

with your help, open space will be located at 89 avenue c, new york, ny from september 1st to 30th. celebrate black artists and their contribution to our society by making a donation to the kickstarter campaign.

pssst, if you donate $15 you’ll get folasade’s signed mini-print below!

fola mini

*all pics via instagram and tumblr

go big girl what you gon’ do?

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i’m not the only woman with a small frame and large chest, but for most of my adolescence and early adulthood, you would have thought i was sent from mars. when was the last time you saw one of those cute $19.99 two-piece bikinis at target with a 34ddd top and size small bottom? you said never? i know. thankfully, bathing suit shopping was sooooo much easier this year when i discovered that asos has an entire line of swimwear for the dd+ crowd.

my new white swimsuit snaps snugly in the back and the three straps on each side really help to ease the weight of my chest around my neck. this was just a test run, i can’t wait to try more.

what are you wearing to the beach this

crush of the week: misty copeland

130522-Misty_Copeland-065recently promoted to the FIRST black principal dancer with the american ballet theatre, it’s only fitting that misty copeland is our crush of the week! a child prodigy who didn’t start ballet class until she was a preteen, misty shattered expectations and stereotypes every step of her career. she’s a proud product of the ymca’s afterschool programs and even experienced homelessness as a child (check out her autobiography). i’m so excited for what this means not just for misty, but the example she sets for all the little black girls who have the opportunity to see their reflection in a previously all-white world.

Misty-Copeland-for-Teen-Vogue-March-2014-by-Will-Davidson-01cMisty-Copeland-29

exclusive! check out my social impact show interview

my law school classmate and social impact strategist, danielle lovell jones, tapped my brain during a recent interview for her podcast, the social impact show. danielle consults with individuals and businesses seeking to engage in philanthropy and during the interview we covered everything between my nonprofit work, writing, love of fashion and riley curry fandom. i’m grateful for her sensitive, yet conversational interview style — she pulled some thangs out of me!

what happened miss simone? out on netflix

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1950:  Photo of Nina Simone  Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Imageswith people around the world uniting for the black lives matter movement, this summer is the perfect time to celebrate one of the greatest musicians and revolutionaries of the 20th century. what happened, miss simone? was released on netflix friday and is an intimate view into the nina simone’s life.  using previously unreleased footage, letters and interviews with close family and friends, the singer-songwriter’s words and life are just as relevant now as they were the day dr. martin luther king jr. was murdered.