What is Black? Part 2

Wendi Levy and Kim Etheridge-Founders of Mixed Chicks

Tuesday’s post on “What is Black? Part 1” sparked some much appreciated comments.  And people are still reading it.  Today’s post is mostly inspired by an article I read on Coco and Creme by Alexis Garrett Stodghill.  The article, titled “Do Mixed Chicks Hair Care Products Make Light Seem Right?”, rubbed me the wrong way a little.  What I got from the article was another way to divide the Black community.

According to Stodghill, the name Mixed Chicks, a fairly new hair care line targeted to women of biracial or multiracial backgrounds, is a way to divide Black women and make us feel inadequate about our hair.  Um…yeah, not me!  Yes, at one time I wanted hair that’s a little softer to the touch (I’ve been natural for almost six years), but I have grown to love my hair and work with what the Lord gave me.   The title of this product does not invoke an inadequecy in me because I’m not a “mixed chick”, and I can’t use this product.  My BFF from undergrad is not biracial, and yet she could probably use Mixed Chicks.  Why?  Because her hair is soft to the touch, naturally curly, and has the type of hair that the creators are marketing to.   Look at the product Kinky Curly.  Should biracial women or women who have softer hair be offended by the term kinky?  Apparently so, according to the author of this article. 

Another issue I have with the article is how she goes in on Halle Berry.  Berry, a biracial actress, strongly affirms being African-American and embraces her Black heritage.  A few years back, when Mixed Chicks first came on the scene, Halle was very vocal about her use of the product and how she loved it.  Ms. Stodghill states that if Halle identifies as Black, she can’t possibly be part of the “biracial/multiracial” demographic that is the target audience for Mixed Chicks.   This is another utterly ridiculous notion.  Despite the old adage “One drop of Black blood makes you black”, who’s to say that a woman who identifies as Black can’t use this product?  I’m sure other multiracial women who identify as being Black, such as Raven-Symone, Thandie Newton, or Michael Michele, could use this product. And according to Eugene Robinson, in “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America“, biracial and multiracial people are still part of Black America. 

Why can’t we just say “KUDOS!” to these women who saw a need and supplied a product to a particular demographic?   It’s going to take more than some shampoo and conditioner to separate us as a people.  I implore all of you to read the article for yourselves.  I believe the author missed the mark on so many levels.  I am a beautiful Black woman, and the name of some hair care product is not going to affect the way I view myself.   What say you Southern audience?  Is there any validity to this article?  Or is Stodghill just looking for another way to divide us as a race?  As I stated in the first portion, Black comes in all shapes, sizes, hues, and cultures.  We need to work on being inclusive as opposed to exclusive.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

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What is Black? Part 1

Please Black People Ask God to Help Us Stick T...

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

It’s a shame that in 2011 race is still an issue in the United States.  What’s even more of a shame is that Black people are still finding ways to tear each other down, ridicule each other, and find ways to separate us, based on skin color, our neighborhoods, and our familial backgrounds.  I’ve come across multiple articles within the past week that discuss race within the Black community.  A few weeks ago, my book club read “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America” by Eugene Robinson.   I’m sure we’re all familiar with the comments Jalen Rose made regarding Grant Hill and other Duke University basketball players during the documentary “Fab Five”.  “Clutch” magazine had an article titled “What Kind of Black are You?“.  And lastly, “Coco and Creme“, another on-line magazine, had an article titled “Do Mixed Chicks Hair Care Products Make Light Seem Right?”.  Because I have a lot to say, this will be (at least) a two-parter.

First, let’s discuss what is Black.  Black is beautiful, successful, strong, educated, resilient, historic, amazing, wonderful, insightful…I could go on.  What I don’t understand is why we, Black folk, continue to find ways to divide ourselves.  Some think you’re not Black enough if you use proper English.  Others think you’re not Black enough if you do well in school.  You might be too Black if you wear your pants hanging from your tail.  Too Black may include having locs or being natural.  All of these things are ridiculous.  Growing up, most of my friends in school were white, and I got ridiculed by some of the Black kids; I got told things like “You talk like a white girl”, “Is everything all white?”, and my personal favorite (a message in my middle school yearbook) “Oreo, I hope you unlock the magic this summer.”  Yes, kids are cruel, and we hope they don’t grow up to be cruel adults.  Having an education has always been synomous with being an “Uncle Tom” or acting white or not being Black enough.  Why is that?  Why is it cool to not do well in school?  Although Southern parents divorced when I was young, both parents were, and still are, involved in my life and made sure I did well in school.  Both parents are college educated so going to college wasn’t a question for me-the question was, “Where are you going?”  But I digress…

Why must we separate ourselves?  The author of “What Kind of Black Are You” and Robinson address the various “sub-groups” in Black America, those Blacks who are from the Carribean or Africa.  I strongly believe in embracing your culture and your country of origin if you’re not American, but why must we belittle others who aren’t like us, which happens at times?  Black people come in all hues, shapes, sizes, cultures, and the like, so we should embrace our differences, but not go so far as to demean someone who’s not EXACTLY like us.  I love my Southern heritage, but embrace those Blacks who are African, Caribbean, Northern, and wherever else they may be from.

That’s it for Part 1.  What do you guys think?  Why are we still finding ways to separate ourselves as Black people?  Is this all this still relevant in 2011 or should we find ways to bring ourselves together as one race?  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

Young Entrepreneur Series- Take 6

Today’s featured entrepreneur grabbed life by the horns and kicked it in the gut.  She didn’t allow a setback, something that would devastate most people, defeat her.  She has taken the art of being a woman, being confidant, and being a go-getter work for her…and for others.

Shanel Cooper-Sykes has been a lifelong entrepreneur.  Her first business that truly prospered was SCS Media Publishing, which was started in 2009 and still exists today.  Her highly acclaimed book, Stilettos in the Kitchen, was first published as an e-book in May of 2009.  (Might I add she began getting orders for the book before it was even finished.)  The first edition printing was done in August of that same year and is almost sold out.  Shanel’s book, which is a mix of recipes, financial advice, make-up tips, and so much more, was inspired by her mentor Les Brown.  After moving to New York, she became depressed.  She would cook and stay in the kitchen, but she stopped speaking to people and became a hermit.  After reconnecting with her mentor, he told her that in order for her to help herself, she was going to have to help others.  That is how her book was born. 

Her book has now grown to Stiletto University, which will open for enrollment during the Summer of 2011.  This school will consist of extraordinary women who will be taught by Shanel in a weekly on-line course.  This will allow women from all over to experience the knowledge of Shanel first-hand.  There will be activities and homework that the ladies will need to complete as well as participating in community service.  With Stiletto University, Shanel hopes to create a sorority of women who are educated, independent, and empowered women who will be recognizable to all just by the way they carry themselves. 

I appreciate Shanel for allowing me the opportunity to interview her.  It was a pleasure to speak with her.  If you want to know more about Shanel, you must go to her site here.   Everyone can learn a thing or two from this extraordinary and amazing woman.  I might cook in some stilettos this weekend! 😉  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

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Today’s Black History Month fact is about Harriet E. Wilson.  Wilson is credited as being the first female African-American novelist.  Her novel “Our Nig” was first published in the United States in 1859 and was rediscovered in 1982 by professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Young Entrepreneur Series- Take 5

Photographer Extraordanaire Jerome Pearson

The gentleman I’m highlighting today is multi-talented and is quickly rising to the top of his game.  With just a camera and a dream, this guy has turned a love for art into something great. 

Jerome Pearson of J Pearson Photography is a photographer and media journalist.  Based in Atlanta, GA, Jerome started his business in June of 2010.  In less than 8 months time, Jerome has been an official photographer for the 2010 BET Awards, 2010 Soul Train Awards, 2010 Sean John Fashion Show, the Trey Songz and Monica Tour, Usher Raymond’s annual “New Start” Award ceremony, Keri Hilson’s album release event, and the 2011 Trumpet Awards.   At the tender age of 5, Jerome began drawing and painting.  This hobby followed him into his collegiate years, where he advanced to drawing and painting on clothes.  His artistic ability was apparent to everyone, including his big brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., who gave him the nickname “Krayola”.  After Jerome established himself, he decided “to purchase a camera and create beautiful portraits with a lens.” 

Fellow photographers that Jerome looks up to are Colin Plush Myers of Orangeburg, SC,  Dominic McKelvey of Charleston, SC, and Keith Cephus, who is the main person that is responsible for Jerome becoming a photographer.  (You can check out Keith’s work at http://www.keithcephus.com/.)  Jerome has stated “he (Keith) pretty much shared info with me such as what type of equipment to purchase and software to use.”  Jerome’s dream shoot would be a destination wedding on “an exotic beach somewhere in Costa Rica, the Caribbean, or Mexico, or just a beach setting where the water is actually blue and the sand is white.”   When asked who some of his models have been, Jerome shared the following- “Mainly my beautiful wife Jennifer-she was my very first model. I have also had sessions with Miss Korea, Keri Hilson, Roscoe Dash, Pastor Troy, B.O.B., and Verse Simmonds.”  Jerome would love to do a session with Lisa Wu Hartwell “just for the simple fact that I admire her hustle, ambition, and drive; she’s also a beautiful model inside and out. My wife and I are currently working on getting her on the cover of “Mood” magazine, which is my wife’s fashion magazine that focuses on fashion and entertainment in Atlanta, GA.”  While there are currently no plans for Jerome to do photography full-time, he’s content doing this on a part-time basis, until maybe he retires from his full-time job with the Federal government. 

Jerome states he likes Lisa Hartwell’s ambition and hustle, but I can’t help but to admire his as well.  This man is on the move and continues to make things happen for himself and his business.  If you’re interested in booking Jerome for a session, you can find him on Twitter at @Photo_J or on the web at http://www.jpearsonphotography.com/.  I want to thank Jerome for agreeing to be interviewed.  And I need to get on the good foot and schedule my photo shoot!  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

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Today’s Black History Month fact:

Moneta Sleet, Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1969.  He was the first African American man to win a Pulitzer and the first African American to win the prize for Journalism.  The photo that afforded him this honor is well-known to us all; it’s the touching photo of Coretta Scott King holding her youngest daughter, Bernice, at the funeral of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Young Entrepreneur Series- Take 4

Ms. Johnson

I met this young lady via Twitter (a great example of social media at its finest!).  Turns out we had a ton of mutual friends in common, and we both attended the same great university!  I can honestly say this girl makes me laugh and has brought to my life so much fun, joy, and amazing experiences!   So without further adieu, please read up on my girl Dominique Johnson of Uniquely Dynamic Enterprises.

Elle: Where are you based?

Dominique: We are based in Chicago. We have corresponding offices in Miami and are opening another location in Atlanta later this year.

Elle: How long have you been in business?

Dominique: We have been in business since 2005. However, the company became my main focus in 2009, when I left my corporate job.

Elle: How did you get started?

Dominique:  I love telling this story. When I was in college, at the prestigious Florida A & M University, I was interning for a law firm and working for the governor’s office. Long story short, I started doing side events. In order to be in compliance with my law school goals, I knew I needed to establish myself as a business entity. I asked the owner of the law firm if he would assist me, and his exact words were, “You can read can’t you?”.  So I went about the diligent task of incorporating myself. In the long run I received a letter from the IRS and realized that I had set up my business structure wrong. So after spending the time and resources of fixing my mistakes, I began to wonder how many small business owners or potential entrepreneurs had done the same thing or the whole process just discouraged them? So in 2005, I started what was then Uniquely Dynamic Enterprises. We are now The UDE Group.

Elle: What can clients expect from Uniquely Dynamic?

Dominique: My clients can expect that their individual needs will be custom tailored to our services. We understand that people’s dreams or freedom from Corporate America, passions, and interests should not be ignored, nor lumped into one group. So we consult with each of our clients and develop a program for them to establish, reestablish, or just reinvent their company, brand, or ideas.

Elle: Where do you see yourself and your business in 5-10 years?

Dominique: As far as The UDE Group is concerned, we would like to have 6 additional offices, each one responsible for the North, South, East, and West regions, and the other two based over seas. I would like for us to be involved in various industries to sustain residual income. All in all, we just hope to be the launching pad for several companies and to look back and say we had a hand in their development.

Elle: What is next for Uniquely Dynamic?

Dominique: The UDE Group is doing a lot of expanding this year. Last year we changed our name from Uniquely Dynamic Enterprises to The UDE Group. We purchased a promotional company that supplies promotional products in any facet for companies and events and such. In the first quarter of this year we are opening a franchise in Chicago. Due to the exceptional work our client felt we did, they gave us the exclusive rights to the Chicago market. We are very excited about this and all other projects that we are working on this year.  We will have opened 4 locations of the franchise two years apart from each other after this April. We are also apart of a charity foundation called Beyond The Game, www.beyondtgame.com. The sole purpose of the organization is to build a school, care point, and clinic in Swaziland, Africa. We will be going back this April to begin laying the foundation for the school.

Elle: What else would you like to share?

Dominique: I, of course, would like to do some shameless plugs for my most exciting clients of 2011 thus far. Since the beginning of this year, we have signed with Alter Ego Heels, a high end couture shoe line established by DaShawn Baker, also a graduate of FAMU. We are in the process of reestablishing and launching a nationwide campaign for a DC native, Julie Edwards and her company Color and Soul Cosmetics. She makes custom mineral makeup and face care products for women of every color, www.colorandsoul.com. We are launching another DC based company called Self Prescribed Shades, a high end boutique shades line. Back to my heart of the community, we are working with another DC based organization called Bradford Media Group, who is hosting an organized boxing event in August on behalf of their charity foundation.

I am very thankful for you granting this opportunity.

And I am thankful to Dominique for allowing me to feature her on this blog.  If you or someone you know is starting a business, or if they are already a business owner and are looking to expand, I highly suggest you support her.  (Visit the site at www.uniquelydynamic.com.)  As you can see, UDE is expanding, so they will be able to assist you with all of your business needs.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

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Today’s Black History Month Fact:

Sarah Breedlove made her fortune by creating hair care products for women of color.  She also established a school to teach hair culturists, opened her own manufacturing company, and is credited with being the first American female millionaire.  You may know her as Madame C.J. Walker.

Young Entrepreneur Series- Take 3

Today’s featured entrepreneur is no stranger to hard work, helping others, or reaching and setting goals.  Arian Simone serves as the Publisher and Editorial Director of “Fearless” magazine, a new periodical which targets 18-35 year old women who love urban culture.  Arian believes that the word fearless describes our current generation.   She states, “We’re overcoming our fears and reaching our goals.  The name also comes from 2 Timothy 1:7.”  “Fearless” started in digital and print form in the Fall of 2010.  Superstar LaLa Vazquez graced the cover of the Winter 2010 issue.  The upcoming “Love” issue for Spring 2011 will be on newsstands in March and can be purchased at Barnes and Noble and Borders bookstores nationwide.  For those of you who are a part of the digital age, the on-line edition can be purchased at www.zinio.com.  When asked who her dream interview would be, Arian pointed out she doesn’t do the interviewing, but “as an obvious choice I would love to have Barack and Michelle (Obama) featured.”  She stated her “vision for ‘Fearless’ is to have a digital circulation in the hundred thousands.  Everything is going digital.  It’s my goal to ensure ‘Fearless’ continues to grow, and I want to ensure this magazine continues to be a part of this large, digital entity.  I want to be part of a community that inspires and connects people who are living fearlessly.”   In 10 years, Arian sees herself retired, enjoying her husband and family and helping her children fulfill their dreams.  To catch select articles, readers can go to www.fearlessmag.com

“Fearless” magazine is our generation’s “Essence”.  They offer style, beauty, advice, and all things related to being a young woman in the 21st century.  Make sure to pick up the next copy on newsstands in March; I know I will!  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

Today’s Black History Month fact:

The first Black magazine published was the “Negro Digest”, which was started in 1942 by John H. Johnson.  Johnson would later create “Jet” and “Ebony” magazines.  Similar to “Reader’s Digest”, the “Negro Digest” was aimed specifically to target positive influences in the Black community.

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Young Entrepreneur Series- Take 2

Aaron Arnold has made music his business, so it’s highly appropriate that the name of his company is MusicIsMyBusiness.  I was able to ask Mr. Arnold some questions about his rising empire a few weeks back.  Below is our interview.

Where are you based?

Atlanta, but I have to generally go to NYC, L.A., and Chicago to get the checks.
 How long have you been in business?

Three years and some change, but this journey begin in 2005.

Tell me a little more about your company. 

MusicIsMyBusiness (MIMB) is one of “America’s Smartest New Companies led by people under 30,” according to Inc Magazine and has also been featured on CNN, GQ.com, Blackenterprise.com, among other sites.  MusicIsMyBusiness is supported by a team of young and innovative individuals who believe that music is the soundtrack to life as illustrated through music’s immense historical and modern influence on the world. These young stars include: Chief Music Technology Officer & Music Director, Jason Murdock and Charles “Chizzy” Stephens, Director of Music and Dominique Brown, COO.  We are a fully integrated music company, which houses three components: 1) MIMB  Music/Publishing (houses artists, producers, DJs); 2) MIMB  Television/Film/Animation; and 3) MIMB Brand Management.  We’ve helped the likes of ESPN, McDonalds, Heineken, The United Nations’ World Food Organization, MTV’s “Making The Band”, Platinum Selling  Artists Danity Kane, Grammy Award Winner Bryan-Michael Cox, and various  agencies in New York, Atlanta and Chicago.  

What made you choose this profession?

The need to be happy in life.  I followed my heart.  My heart chose it for me.

What’s in store for you for 2011? 

Recently, we launched a campaign in conjunction with our first video debut (for “Run it Back”) on MTV at the end of January. We encouraged supporters to view and download the video  and song via iTunes so we can break the top 100.  Heavyweights, like Sean “Diddy” Combs, have already gotten into the act encouraging their fans to support via Twitter. You can view the first music video for “Run-It-Back” on MTV Music, YouTube, and iTunes. 

As you know, I made the sacrifice leaving corporate America to become an unpaid intern and assistant to Sean “Diddy” Combs because I wanted to make records and bring the experience back to music as the next generation of music executives and music companies. So debuting this video is a dream come true!!!This is the first single off of the forthcoming MusicIsMyBusiness’ album titled “The Unknowns” and features three rap-artists including MusicIsMyBusiness-Currency Sound rapper Kash, rock singer Tim Z, and Grammy-nominated violinist, Ashanti.  The video was directed by newcomer Ryan Lightbourn. “Run-It-Back” is an energetic uplifting song that fuses rock with hip hop to deliver a story about overcoming obstacles and proving wrong those who told you that it couldn’t be done.  Tell them to “Run It Back”!  

Who’s your target audience?

Everyone from 8-35 yr olds due to the diverse projects on which we work.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years?

Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I just keep working hard and thanking God for this year and what it will bring us as a company.

As you can see, Mr. Arnold and MusicIsMyBusiness are well on their way.  You can find Aaron on Twitter at (MrMIMB) and MIMB on Facebook.  Thanks to Aaron for agreeing to be featured in the Young Entrepreneur Series.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

About The Video and Song:  “Run-It-Back” has already aired via several commercial platforms including ESPN and has been added to several viral mediums and college radio stations.  It’s also been co-signed by several prominent DJs, including celebrity DJ, DJ Irie.  CBS and ESPN producers praised the song for it’s “commercial cross-over appeal”.  “RUN-IT-BACK” is produced by MusicIsMyBusiness top producer Charles “Chizzy” Stephens and executive produced by Aaron Arnold.

Today’s Black History Month fact relates to Harlem circa the early 1900s:

The re-development and gentrification of midtown (New York) pushed many blacks out of the Metropolitan area. As a result, African-Americans began moving to Harlem en masse; between 1900 and 1920 the number of blacks in the New York City neighborhood doubled. By the time the planned subway system and roadways reached Harlem, many of the country’s best and brightest black advocates, artists, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals had situated themselves in Harlem. They brought with them not only the institutions and businesses necessary to support themselves, but a vast array of talents and ambitions. The area soon became known as “the Black Mecca” and “the capital of black America.”