December: Women Who Give Back

Hi readers!

I know its been a moment since I’ve posted but a lot has been going on! I’m working full time now as a preschool teacher and I’m back in school to get my teaching certifications. So, needless to say I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle everything, bear with me!

I just wanted to take a quick moment and introduce this month’s theme: Women Who Give Back. One of my favorite things about the holiday season is that family and community are brought to the forefront of our conscious. Whether you get it from exchanging gifts, driving past decorated houses, doing community service, or your mom’s mac and cheese: everyone is enveloped in a warm fuzzy feeling. It is a time where you embrace love and inspiration and I just wanted to continue the trend by sharing the stories of some women who inspired me in how they have created non profits in service to their communities. I definitely hope to follow in their foot steps.

Stay tuned and I hope you enjoy!


Happy Holidays 🙂

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There is Beauty in Simplicity

HANEEFAH  haneefah3

Age: 23
Occupation: Currently a Student of Pharmacology and Drug Discovery
Hometown: Ilorin, Nigeria

 

How long have you been designing?

I’ve been designing since I was really little. I loved to draw and doodle so I drew designs, but I started it as a small business about a little over two years ago.

 

What kind of women do you design for? How do you want women to feel in your clothes?

I design for the average modest woman. I have had to incorporate my faith into my designs and interpretation of those designs. I want women to feel covered, comfortable and be able to further express themselves with my clothes on them.

haneefah8

Who are some of your favorite designers?

I do not have a particular designer in mind, but I do admire a few design houses, like aab and iamISIGO.

 

How would you describe your style?

I usually have difficulty describing my style really. It projects who I am, it is comfortable, it is versatile and most importantly, simple, because I believe there is beauty in simplicity.

 

What motivated you to pursue this passion?

When I was wrapping up my BSc, I had to spend an extra semester in school, so I had lots of time on my hands. I decided to open a blog and open a portal for discussion for women all over the world; somehow, it evolved into me sharing my work which included the arts and crafts I dabble into all the time. So, with most of the nice comments I got and encouragement, I continued updating the blog at least once a week. Then my mum got me a sewing machine around that time for my birthday, hence started my sewing journey. As I am self-taught, I had to check, learn and re-learn a lot of things online because prior to when I got a sewing machine, I was always looking for no-sew projects I could easily do. I started sewing for myself at first, then friends and family asked for details and wanted to wear my cloths too! I provided the designs people saw on me on request and then went ahead to launch a collection later on. Production is currently on break now because of school. haneefah7

 

What is it like being a brown girl in the fashion industry? 

haneefah6I have not fully incorporated myself into the fashion industry yet but I already know the intense competition out there. Networking is not hard if you have a well-developed and unique brand.

 

Where do you get your ideas on what styles to make? Where do you draw inspiration from?

Mostly online. I love watching E! a lot so I get some ideas there, I love to draw inspiration from nature especially when it is pertaining to colors.

 

haneefah4What advice do you have for other girls who want to pursue designing as a career?

To never give up. Lots of time, I’ve almost quit, but I didn’t, it could get frustrating at times, but the beauty of that is you get to enjoy the good times due to perseverance and hard work.

 

Want to get in touch with Haneefah and see her designs? Check out her blog  www.muslimahanie.comher clothing website http://www.haniecollection. com (not up to date),  follow her on twitter @ms_hanie and instagram @muslimahanie

Additional info: I’m currently in the UK now, for my haneefah1masters degree programme therefore I had to take a break for about a year so that I can focus on my education because I think that is important too. During that period, I would plan better ahead for the future. haneefah2

 

 

Our Style, But Where Are We??

So a little while ago, I got a DM on instagram from a lovely lady named Angel King who was inquiring about how to be featured on the blog. She is an upcoming designer in the DMV and is looking to get her name and brand out. Now I jumped at the request because she is the FIRST person to reach out to me and suggest a topic, therefore October on the blog will be showcasing and celebrating brown Female Designers!

While thinking about the types of questions for this set of features, I realized how necessary this theme was, especially considering the numerous fashion weeks taking place across the globe during this time of year. I’ve been noticing a lot of people commenting on how (once again) many components of black culture are being adopted into the fashion industry. For example, all of sudden baby hair, durags and head wraps are in style on the runway. What may seem to be “new” accessories or hair styles to some, these trends have been a part of black hair culture for decades. But all of a sudden they are now high fashion and deemed “urban fabulous” because they’ve been attached to white bodies.

It never ceases to amaze me how much of our culture is appropriated without due credit, representation or respect. How many black fashion designers do we see during the fashion weeks in New York and Paris? How many black contestants are included on tv shows like Project Runway? But our styles and concepts are quick to be copied, rebranded and resold while we are excluded. So in an attempt to increase visibility and appreciated for black female designers, the features for this month are of women trying to make a name for themselves in fashion; to share their stories, designs and passion.

 

As always, to be featured or to suggest a topic, feel free to email me at raven.best5@gmail.com!

 

Remember to follow The Free Your Mind Project on Instagram @fymproject and like The Free Your Mind Project on Facebook.


Thanks for reading!

A PWI Experience: Finding New Opportunities and Avenues!

JANAEJanae`

Age: 22
Major: Broadcast Journalism at University of Maryland- College Park, currently a Grad Student at Ohio State
Hometown: Pine Hill, NJ

 

Why did you choose Maryland?

I fell in love with Maryland from the first moment that I stepped on the campus. I just had a feeling that this was my next home and I was correct. I visited the campus on a tour and I thought their was something in the water because every student I talked to seemed obsessed with it. I really feel like I found myself and found my passion while I was here.

What was first semester, freshman year like? What was the adjustment like?

The first semester was interesting. I lived in a predominantly White dorm, Centreville Hall. I was in the Scholars program. Most of the students on my floor wanted to stay in and hang out with each other or play mario kart. I did make a few friends but I was also the only African American girl on that floor which was a HUGE adjustment. I was used to diversity and while that existed to an extent on my floor I did feel disconnected from the Black community. Eventually I found my niche through RHA (Residence Hall Association), I started attending BSU (Black Student Union) as most Black freshman do. I got involved pretty early on and started making friends outside my hall and that made the adjustment much easier.

Janae6Would you say you found your social niche?

Yes I definitely found my Niche(s). I wanted to take every opportunity that Maryland had to offer so that I could have the full college experience. I worked with the Residence Hall Association to represent on-campus terps and plan events, I became a campus tour guide to convince other incoming students to fall in love with my school. I became a Resident Assistant, and then a Orientation Advisor and I even pledged a sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I loved joining so many things because I created different diverse social circles and I really think those made my college experience.

What is it like being a black female at a PWI?

Pros:I was really able to explore Black beauty on this campus because of some of the inspiring mentors and Janae4upperclassman that I met.

I actually had a lot of African American female mentors and professors. My associate dean of the journalism school is African American, three of my journalism professors were African American women of color, my Higher Education mentor was a Black woman. So I was able to spend the last 4 years growing and learning from women who inspired me and made me believe that I could be successful in Higher Education too.
Cons:

It was hard at first because I was placed in a predominantly White Residence Hall so I didn’t really meet other African American females and males until the end of my first semester.

Janae7What kind of activities or groups were you a part of?

University of Maryland Orientation

University of Maryland Department of Resident Life

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Residence Hall Association

Maryland Association of Black Journalists

College Park Scholars

Students Helping Honduras

Janae2

What is your favorite thing about Maryland? Any dislikes?

I love the fact that it is so huge it creates so many opportunities and avenues to meet new people and learn from those people and explore their cultures, backgrounds, ideas, and minds. I made friends from my freshman orientation 4 years ago up until my last semester senior year and those are connections I will always cherish.

I honestly don’t really have any dislikes. I will say that I am an African American female who graduated with Straight A’s  all four years with the only 4.0 in my graduating class and I feel like that was never recognized financially. What I mean by that is I feel as though extra scholarships or grants through the school would have been really helpful over the last couple of years and sometimes it’s frustrating that athletes get full rides and students who excel academically might only get an email saying Congratulations on making Dean’s list.

What opportunities did Maryland afford you?Janae1

Maryland helped me find my passion for higher education. This school opened so many doors for me to study abroad, to travel to other universities, to connect with celebrities and major companies, and it allowed me to make some of the most amazing friends.

Would you say you enjoyed your experience at Maryland?

I LOVED Maryland. I am a huge advocate for Maryland and I probably always will be. I loved my time here because I spent the last four years excelling academically but also enjoying my experience outside of the classroom and the mentors I found at Maryland helped me make sure that I didn’t waste away my four years but actually spent them finding myself and what I was passionate about.

Janae5What advice would you give for others trying to decide on college?

Go to the school that feels like a home. You spend four or more years there you want to make sure that you choose a university that gives you a feeling of comfort inside. I found that at Maryland and I hope that all students attending college find that too.

 

Want to reach out to Janae? Follow her on Twitter @jjanae or Instagram @j_janae!!

An Ivy League Experience: History, Inspiration & Friends Across the Spectrum!

KIKI

Kiki introducing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee

Kiki introducing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee

Age: 21

Major/Occupation: Political Science/African Studies; Yale

Hometown: Washington, DC

Twitter: @kikiochieng

 

Why did you choose Yale?

I chose Yale because I wanted to go to a university that valued the mind, but also valued cultivating the spirit. Yale’s focus on liberal arts is meant to encourage students to expand their minds beyond regurgitating some facts and to learn how to think deeply and critically. I also wanted to go to a school where I could feel not only inspired by esteemed faculty, but also where I could feel inspired by my peers.

 

What was first semester, freshman year like? What was the adjustment like?

Fortunately, my first semester of freshman year was a relatively smooth transition. I spent my junior year of high school living abroad in France, so I was fairly used to being independent and structuring my life and schedule on my own. My high school, Sidwell Friends, also prepared me academically for the rigorous course load.

 

Would you say you found your social niche?

I’m a very social person and love to meet new people. I participated in a pre-orientation called Cultural Connections freshman year. The program places an emphasis on the diversity of experiences of traditionally underrepresented students and issues related to racial identity. While Sidwell was very diverse, I didn’t have the opportunity in high school to engage with many minority students, so college was a welcome change. Furthermore, as a first-generation African, it was very important to me to engage with the African community on campus. I feel a deep affinity to that side of myself because my parents strongly reinforced my heritage growing up through introducing me to various aspects of their culture, making sure that I stayed in touch with my large extended family and through annual trips to the continent.

I also joined a sorority during the second semester of my freshman year, which was a lovely opportunity to meet girls from different backgrounds from all over the country. One of the things I love about being in a sorority is that you have the opportunity to meet people from different cross-sections of campus with varied interests. Moreover, the focus is on getting to know other people. I think that there are few spaces where you can have that kind of physical and intellectual diversity simultaneously.

 

What is it like being a black female at an Ivy League?

Having attended predominately white schools for my entire life, I knew more or less what to expect from Yale. Growing up, my teachers always encouraged me to perform my best and believed in me. That mentorship and guidance was essential to establishing my confidence in the classroom. When you believe in yourself, you can trust yourself in a way that allows you to take more risks. Know your worth.

The black community at Yale is incredibly kind and welcoming and I have always felt like I have a network of big sisters and brothers to rely on. I try to do the same for the younger students, so that they always feel that someone is looking out for them. That can mean a number of things – insuring someone is staying on top of their schoolwork or simply making them a big bowl of jollof rice, jerk chicken or sweet potato pie when they’re missing home.

I think it is important that black students – particularly, black women – learn to utilize the power of networking. Having access to opportunities sometimes boils down to who you know. We should become more comfortable navigating spaces that are unfamiliar to us considering that board rooms today still remain overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. Some people are intimidated by what they see as institutions that weren’t designed to include them, but you can’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and to reach out for help and guidance on your academic life and career. And when you’re at the top, don’t forget to pay it forward, so that you can cultivate your community.

As a black woman, I have often struggled with the feeling that I have been put inside a box. When people see me, they sometimes make snap judgments about my identity, which may stem from the media’s tendency to speak about black women as a monolithic entity. Even within the labels of “black” and “women”, there is such rich diversity in terms of personality, appearance and experience. Don’t let other people decide your identity for you and challenge people who put you inside the box. If you encounter ignorance, don’t necessary shun the person, but take steps to engage with him or her to help them understand your perspective.

 

Kiki and the Reverend Jesse Jackson

Kiki and the Reverend Jesse Jackson

What kind of activities or groups were you a part of?

Extracurricular life at Yale is very vibrant, so I feel like I’ve done everything under the sun!

I have a strong connection to the Afro-American Cultural Center (often lovingly called “The House”) where I serve as the Head Peer Liaison for incoming black freshmen students. I am a member of the Intercultural Affairs Council (which directs Yale’s diversity efforts at the undergraduate level) and the Title IX Advisory Committee (which helps spearhead ensure that we have a safe campus and a culture of sexual respect). In the past, I also worked as a Communication and Consent Educator to help combat sexual violence on our campus and direct people towards resources at Yale.

I love to write, so I write poetry and short stories in my free time. I also write occasionally for campus publications like the Yale Daily News and Broad Recognition, a feminist magazine at Yale. Outside of campus, I’m the associate editor of two online publications – Ayiba Magazine and Fair Observer.

I just stepped down as the President of the Yale Undergraduate Association for Peace and Development (YAAPD), an organization devoted to creating more opportunities for youth to engage with peace and development in Africa and to preparing students for careers related to Africa.

I also work at Yale Law School, where I assist with the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights.

This year, I’ll also serve as the Class Day Co-Chair, which means that I get to help select Yale’s graduation speakers. I’m very excited for that role, especially because this will be the third year in a row that a black woman has served as one of the Co-Chairs. I think that speaks volumes about our visibility on campus.

 

What is your favorite thing about Yale? Any dislikes?

I could spend days talking about the things I love about Yale! It’s a place where students can be just as well-versed in pop culture as they are talking about the crisis in Ukraine or what’s going on in Gaza. Where you can spend your lunch break looking at Rothko’s and Van Gogh’s. Where you can casually grab a meal with one of your heroes – a senator, an actress, an activist… you name it!

But it’s also a place that can feel overwhelming – where people are so hyper-focused on filling their days (and I often guilty of that), that they don’t stop to simply look at the beautiful Gothic architecture or the fall leaves. Competing on “busyness” is the great disease of our generation. We need to learn how to slow down. One frustrating thing about Yale is that students are addicted to email, which is often subtly encouraged by how classes and extracurricular life is structured. This doesn’t set a good precedent for work-life balance and is something that shouldn’t be encouraged. It’s good to stay up-to-date, but it’s also important to unplug. I will be doing more of that as I enter my senior year.

 

What opportunities did Yale afford you?

Yale humbled me but also helped me grow immensely. I go to school with some of smartest, most innovative people in the country. I have learned that it is important to be willing to pick apart your beliefs and understand your logical fallacies in order to grow. For example, I often try to engage with conversations with people at the opposite side of spectrum when it comes to political beliefs so I can understand areas where I might have to do some deeper research to really understand an issue.

 

Would you say you enjoyed your experience at Yale?

I love that people aren’t ashamed to be passionate about the things they love, no matter how arcane the topic might seem to the outside world. The school is older than the United States itself so you can imagine what a rich history and legacy it has. How many places in the world can you take a study break and go see a Guttenberg Bible?

Yale historian George W. Pierson once wrote, “Yale is at once a tradition, a company of scholars, a society of friends.”

 

What advice would you give for others trying to decide on college?

Try to do as many college visits as you can. On a regular weekday, you can see what students are normally like instead of slightly more polished version you might see during an admissions weekend.

Make sure you consider the size of the school. After attending a high school where my graduating class was only 111 people, I knew that I had to attend a small to mid-size school in order to feel comfortable. I love the size of Yale because it’s so easy to run into people you know but the school is large enough that it’s easy to always meet new people or expand your social circle. Being in a mid-size school always allows for some diversity in class sizes – you can do anything from a large lecture of 200 students to a small intimate class of 13.

 

 

Want to get in touch with Kiki? Follow her on twitter @kikiochieng!!

How To Be Happy

You guys notice those 10-Step “How-To” Articles? The ones that give different tips or ways to improve something; ranging from hair to relationships. I came across one the other day that advised its readers on how to be happy. And as much as I find these types of articles interesting, I feel they are somewhat misleading…They say things like: Smile, Be Compassionate, Travel, etc.

But what if I just don’t feel like smiling? I’m tired, on my way home from a long, stressful day at work and the only thing I want to do is swan dive into my bed…there would probably be nothing more annoying at that point than someone telling me to smile. Being compassionate is a great quality to have, but what’s the line between compassion and doing more for others than for yourself? Which can be more detrimental than beneficial after a certain point and with a certain type of person. Traveling, which I’m sure is on the top of everyone’s bucket list, but what if we simply can’t afford to go anywhere? What then??

What irks me about these articles is they act like such a monumental accomplishment in life, like being happy, can be achieved in some certain amount of steps. Everyone has an opinion on what works, but that is based on their own perspective and life experience, which can be completely different from your own. The definition for happiness and how to get there means something different to everyone. For me, finding happiness has been a journey that is ongoing. I can say that I am in an exponentially better place than I have in the past, but I can’t say I’m where I want to be yet. The biggest things I’ve learned is that happiness is not a constant state. There are some days where you’ll feel like dancing, and other day’s you’ll feel like crying and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as you recognize the good and bad in life, and appreciate the high’s and acknowledge the lows, I feel like you’re on the right track. Anyone who says they’re happy 100% of the time, is probably not being completely honest with themselves.

I’ve also learned that your surroundings affect your attitude which affects how happy you can be. If you have people in your life that are always negative: they’re not supportive, they always doubt you, they’re always talking about something or someone; whether they’re a significant other or a best friend or your boss, that person is not healthy for you. Those How-To articles don’t mention the time and effort it takes to make necessary changes and commit to them which is hard for many of us who are a part of this generation that is so accustomed to quick fixes and instantaneous solutions. But the most important thing I’ve realized is that there is no quick fix to happiness. It’s not like a light switch that you can turn on. Toxic energies are contagious, and when someone is down, they bring you down to their level whether you want to be there or not. But if you keep pushing and trying to seek what makes you happy, you’ll get there.