Posts in "Feature"

It’s A Vibe: Meet Binta

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Feature, Latest | by — June 9, 2020

 

Have you ever heard an album that flawlessly + seamlessly becomes the soundtrack to your life? Singer + songwriter Binta effortlessly wraps a vibe of honest lyrics with an addictively chill tone around you in her debut Ep LIMBO!

Originally born in London (Newham), England, Binta Binnet Phatty recognized her love for singing at the early age of 6 years old. After living in England for  8 years her family moved to her parents’ native country, The Gambia in west Africa.  By 2010 they relocated to Ohio in the U.S. where Binta currently attends Ohio State University majoring in Journalism and Communication.

The 20 year-old songstress released her first single 3rd Eye in January 2020 + shortly after released her debut Ep LIMBO on April 5th.

LIMBO is a beautifully fit musical puzzle where each song adds a soulful piece that brings her art to life! There’s confidence + vulnerability that leaves you feeling empowered into expressing who you are with no apologies. Opening her EP with the song Moment of Honesty instantly sets the tone of authentic transparency we’ve all felt before and can relate to. And ending it with her song Pretty Petal unlocks a feeling of freedom to let go of all judgment towards ourselves. The EP takes you on a much-needed journey of self-love + self-discovery that will have you yearning for more!

Let’s get to know the beauty behind the music…

Limbo is such an authentic, carefree + honest mood all rolled into one! Where did you gain inspiration to pour into your EP?

I gained a lot of my influence from personal experiences, but artists like Jhene Aiko, Erykah Badu, Summer Walker definitely influenced my style of music. I wanted to create a piece of work that everyone could relate to in some form, whether it be falling in love for the first time, getting over heartbreak, owning your authentic self, and overcoming hardships. 

Each song is strung together by a thread of beautiful vulnerability, how important is it to you to use your music as a form of self-expression?

I believe music is a window to your inner self, when I write or sing I want it to be a representation of me. I find that it is easier to talk about my experiences, goals, aspirations, or my feelings  better in music form. At the time of writing limbo I felt as though I myself was in a state of Limbo. I didn’t feel free to express myself but as soon as I started to sing I felt I was the most honest with myself. 

One of my fave songs is ‘Wild Child’ where you unapologetically own your authentic self  +  your worth, how were you able to evolve into confidently embracing who you are?

Wild Child is one of my favorites also! It took a couple of years for me to really embrace myself and realize my self worth. I had struggled with self esteem/ self confidence  during middle school and my early high school years. But as I grew older I realized that in order for me to truly be content and at peace with myself I had to accept who I was flaws and all. I am thankful to have supportive parents that have instilled great values in me. My mom especially has always reminded me of my talents and self worth, it’s important to have a strong and loving  support system.
 
Lingering love was also such a relatable topic throughout your songs.  So many girls have felt like they’ve been in ‘Limbo’ in a love interest’s life, how does uncovering emotional ups and downs impact your lyrics?
 
I wanted to create a piece of work that was authentic to my personal  experiences and at the same time something that people could relate to. At the time of writing limbo I was still in the process of learning about myself, and there were a lot of emotions involved.  Each song I wrote,  I wrote during different phases of my journey.  At times I felt anxious, sad, elated etc but it was necessary to include. We all experience things that trigger a variety of emotions and I wanted to be open and transparent, there are days that I feel like I’m on top of the world and other days where I’m a bit down. These are all normal things to experience in life and I felt I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t include all parts of my experience. 
 
Your EP gave me a feeling of someone singing straight from our personal journals! Thoughts that always swirl in our heads but we might not always say, why is self-love important in the journey of becoming and evolving?
 
Self love is extremely important, and that was something that took me a while to develop and am still developing. It is not an easy process but when you love yourself wholeheartedly, you begin to see things differently.  

“All of my songs have a personal meaning and when I write I tell my truths and I know that there are others out there that can relate and by writing music/singing. I’m able to not only raise awareness about things we all face but relate to my audience. My culture and heritage plays a huge part in my life and also has an impact in my music influence/ taste which is why I love to tell people I’m Gambian hopefully one day I can do my country proud 🇬🇲.”

~ BInta

Stream LIMBO EP today!

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Meet Kprecia Ambers!

Beautiful culture, bright illustrations + bold girls are all of the flavors that Kprecia Ambers mixes into her fresh designs!

Minneapolis-based Designer + Illustrator, Kprecia Ambers, is the founder of Kp Inspires which uses illustration as a tool to empower celebrate black girls!

“It’s important to see yourself in the world.” Realizing a lack of diversity within the Graphic Design field inspired Kprecia to open her own door of possibilities. Drawing from her positive spirit and desire to see people of color represented, she began creating illustrations painted in her mind and turning them into surface designs. She has since expanded into freelance work and is excited for the unlimited possibilities her career can bring.

“In following my dreams my hope is to inspire others like me to build their own door to walk through.”

Let’s get to know Kprecia a little better…

From your stunning illustrations to your beautiful accessories your pieces are instantly eye-catching! What first triggered your love of art + graphic design?

That’s a good question. I have always loved drawing, but as I got older I grew away from it. When I got to college I originally pursued a degree in web design and was introduced to Graphic Design along the way. I loved the idea of creating something eye catching that the consumer could relate to. This lead into my interests in Surface Design, which in my definition is the art of creating for a surface haha. I wanted my work to be seen, but meaningful. When I graduated I took my passions and desires to see black woman represented and started making illustrations from photos. My goal has always been to push positivity into the world. I do this by celebrating and empowering black women, highlighting individuals I find inspiring, sharing quotes in conjunction with my art, using images that display confidence, and topping it off with bright colors. I love bright colors, it’s captivating, exciting, and pure joy.

Being an entrepreneur + running your own business is an amazing accomplishment, how has your life shifted since starting Kp Inspires? 

My life has shifted tremendously. The upsides is being able to choose who to work with, having total control of my schedule, getting paid from my passions, and supporting others through my services and home decor products. The challenge is learning to wear multiple hats. Making art is fun and all, but running a business requires you to understand business haha. That is something that is not always communicated. Learning pricing (still), contracts, legal work, financing, etc is all things that require patience. Thankfully, I am surrounded by entrepreneurs so the support is awesome. But listening and getting guidance is still very different compared to actually doing the work. It’s something you have to do in order to understand.

Your artwork embodies black girl magic with such an authentic flavor! Why is it important that your art represents the beauty of our culture?

It’s not out there enough! I see women on Instagram and Facebook who are  killing it from creating art, and products, to opening restaurants. They do an amazing job at representing black culture and understand why it’s soooo important for it to be out there. The problem is, society has yet to fully understand the importance of representation. We have to fight to be seen. My goal is to become a black artist who is creating and producing work that celebrates black culture on a major scale. I feel Illustration is my voice in bringing light to social injustices, combating negative stereotypes, and giving hope to black youth. Purposefully I display black woman as confident queens because we need to see ourselves in a positive light. It helps our dreams feel more attainable.

What’s your favorite or most meaningful piece you’ve ever created? 

I love all my work, because each piece has meaning. I will say I am excited about personal projects I am working on. When I present myself to the world, I don’t just want to be an illustrator making pretty pieces. I want to be a business making art that contributes to something bigger. My hope is to work alongside major black owned brands incorporating my illustrations and to create a successful home decor brand celebrating black girls. I want my line of pillow characters to be printed on everything under the sun and to reach little black girls around the world.

Being young, juggling responsibilities while walking towards your dreams can sometimes get to be a bit overwhelming, how do you regroup and motivate yourself when you’re feeling a little defeated?

Listen to myself. Sometimes it’s time for a binge-worthy break. I am only human and I can only do so much. There is a guilt that tries to feed my brain into believing I am not working hard enough, but I have to shut it down. When I need inspiration I watch documentaries, interviews, listen to music, and read. Anything where I see someone fighting for their dreams. Sometimes focusing on other things aside from illustrating is a nice way to stay productive when not feeling motivated. This could include giving attention to other aspects of the business, educating myself on spiritual well being, hair care, and other things I feel is important. When I do feel defeated I give myself permission to be frustrated. I cry when needed, release, and move on. No matter how I cope or regroup I am always reminded that my talents are bigger than me. I have purpose and it’s my duty to use my gifts for good. That is my biggest motivator.

We are all about empowerment, what does EMPOWERMENT mean to you?

Empowerment to me means contributing to building and pushing out positive energy. I can’t give anyone the power to overcome whatever they are facing but I can encourage them to.

What advice would you give girls who want to follow their dreams and passions but are nervous or intimidated?

Be authentic to yourself (this is what makes you special) and start, but take things one step at a time. Don’t get too overwhelmed thinking ahead of yourself. Break down your goals and create schedules. One thing I am learning is you can’t just put “brand” in your schedule like it’s simple. There are a bunch of small steps in between before the bigger picture is actually accomplished. For example, If you are creating a logo spend time beforehand thinking about your business; What is your purpose, what makes it special, etc. That way your logo and brand can better reflect your company. When you do accomplish a goal rather it’s big or small check it off your list as a mini celebration. It feels amazing! Remember, you will always be growing so don’t get caught up in perfection. It all takes time, but starting is what will allow you to improve. Also I encourage investing time into learning business. No matter what you are doing/pursuing you will need to understand taxes, filing your business, financing, and other legal matters.

Time for faves! Celeb Crush? Artist? Food? Movie?

Celeb Crush: Rihanna is my female crush she is amazing and her style is lit. I also admire T.I. Given his age I have never dreamed of being with him lol, but I love his accent and how he carries himself.

Music Artist: Jhene Aiko, J.cole, Chance, Kevin gates, and a lot more. I love conscious rappers but there is always room to be ratchet or turn into a hustler haha.

Movie: I am not sure if I have a favorite movie, but I love animations and mystery films period!

Keep following Kprecia + her beautiful work + journey here:

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#Freshman5 x Charity!

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Feature, Latest | by — April 14, 2020

Take note of Charity’s #Freshman5 Must-Knows for your freshman year in college!
 
Name: Charity McCants 
College: Auburn University at Montgomery
 
 
Friendship/Relationship| Friendships are so important when starting college! Making them early on with your roommates and classmates will make the school year so much easier. Relationships aren’t always essential but are a good thing to have as long as you can still focus on academics and the things that are most important to you. 
 
Classes/Studying| GO TO CLASS! I made the mistake of starting to skip classes and it hurt me in the long run. If you know you are not a morning person make your classes later in the day so that you won’t lose motivation. Make a schedule to study by yourself and others that have the same classes as you. If you simply study every subject for 20-30 minutes a day it will help so much so that you won’t have to cram right before a test.
 
Budgeting Money| Learn to save money! If you can get a part-time job that will help with small expenses. Try to create a budget for food because that’s the quickest way to over spend. Buy groceries and cook sometimes if you can. It will help you save and it’s also fun + healthy. 
 
Time Management| Learn to have a schedule. Use your phone alarm to help you remember when you have class + when you need to study including other priorities in your schedule.
 
Self-care| Remember, that no matter what you come first! Make sure you’re eating, taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to make mistakes. College is a time to have fun, don’t forget that!
 
Follow more of Charity’s collegiate journey…

Meet Naseyah Williams!

Bringing  her authentic self to the stage allowed Naseyah Williams to walk away with the title of Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2019! Her passion  for expressing herself through the arts and serving others through her talents, is a true representation of a queen.

As a North-Carolina native, Naseyah is a dedicated and active member of Hillside Drama Department. Her major roles have included various high profile Broadway plays + musicals such as The Color Purple, Willy Wonka, The BodyGuard and Matilda. In addition, the young powerhouse serves as a youth leader for various community outreach organizations + has her own platform called “Soaring Through The Arts”  to inspire + to spark a creative movement with youth.

In December of 2018, Naseyah  competed for and won the title of Miss Black North Carolina Talented Teen 2019 under the Miss Black USA Organization. She then went on to compete at Nationals for the Title of Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2019 in August of 2019 + brought home the crown!

She desires for the world to realize that talents are not just attributes, but they are truly our life’s gift.

Let’s get to know Naseyah a little better…

You hold the crown for Miss Black USA Talented Teen! Why was it important for you to participate in the pageant and what impact do you want to make during this time? 

The most important thing as I claimed the title of Miss Black USA Talented Teen, was not that I would get the chance to be represented, but the chance to represent the countless other girls who had never gotten the chance or did not think they have the ability to do such things. I have found that there is a lack in our community. A lack of self esteem and self identity. Because of this, I make it my mission to be the best friend to every girl who feels alone. To be the role model to every girl that feels lost in a world of people who look down on her.

Theatre is your love + the stage is your home! You’ve been featured in The Bodyguard, Willy Wonka, and countless other musicals + plays, how does theatre bring your personality + purpose alive? 

Theatre is my HOME! I remember my first audition, I was invited by a friend and I thought all I would have to do was sing.

I remember I sang and I thought that was all! However, that was followed by as well as this intense improv which I never thought I could do until that moment. With that being said, theatre has caused me to branch out and no longer just hide behind my voice.

I love singing but the ability to add another dynamic to it when combined with the dancing and acting, just made my voice that much more powerful. I have learned so much about myself, my capabilities, through my performances. It has brought me out of my shell and enables me to just be me. I have a very “exciting” personality as most would say, and I have theatre to thank for that!

Art is such a beautiful space of creativity + non-judgment. Your platform “Soaring Through the Arts” brings the attention + importance to the power of arts! How have the arts impacted your life + made it easier to find your voice? 

Thanks to my legendary director, Mr. Wendell Tabb, I have had the opportunity to be on stage and embody these roles. I remember when we were reading the script for The Color Purple, my director told us all that we have to find ourselves somewhere in these characters, in the story, in  order to bring it to life. Ever since then, I have found myself somewhere in every story we have performed.

Many people think a good actor is just someone who can cry on the spot. That is not all there is. You have to be able to connect the story to yourself, which brings a vulnerability. I love the fact that the stage is one of the only places where I feel I can bring this side of me out, free of any judgement.

“Soaring Through The Arts” is my initiative to help all of those who have a desire for the arts, but don’t feel like they have what it takes. It is the opportunity to discover the you that you never thought you knew!

Oftentimes black girls are labeled with numerous stereotypes, what’s a way we can continue to break barriers and create an authentic representation of ourselves? 

Being a black woman in America, is one of the hardest roles to fill. Though faced with discrimination, stereotypes and obstacles, we continue to push forward and break barriers. We can continue to do this by letting our intelligence do the talking. Let our art do the talking. Let our voices be heard because we are the embodiment of what it means to be strong, beautiful, intelligent and talented. We have to push past the stereotypes and continue to pave the way for the generations to come! How do we do this? By letting our #BlackGirlMagic do the talking!

Being young, juggling responsibilities while reaching your dreams can sometimes get to be a bit overwhelming, how do you regroup and motivate yourself when you’re feeling a little defeated? 

 When feeling defeated, I regroup and motivate myself by finding strength in God. For he has made me in his image so I can never be defeated. I have to admit, it is difficult to navigate through teen life especially when you are different; set apart. It is the moments when you embrace that you are not always going to be strong when you gain the most strength. So continue to go after every dream that you’ve ever dreamed because no one can stop you but you.

What’s one mantra or positive quote you live by? 

I live by the motivating words of former Astronaut, Mae Jemison, “Never be limited by the limited imagination of others.”

Time for faves! Artist? Food? Movie? Celeb crush? 

Favorite Artist– My favorite artist whom I will always love is Whitney Houston. I have drawn so much inspiration from her as well as Tori Kelly, who is not as known, but has had a huge influence on my songwriting.

Favorite Food– Fun Fact; I used to be a vegetarian for quite a long time but I stopped very recently and went back to my meat eating ways. All food is my favorite but if I had to choose, I would go with HOT WINGS! I love hot wings and they are part of the reason I converted back to the meat world haha!

Celebrity Crush– Lil Nas X!

Follow more of Naseyah here…

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#Freshman5 x Rebecca!

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Feature, Latest | by — February 5, 2020

Take note of Rebecca’s #Freshman5 Must-Knows for your freshman year in college!

Name: Rebecca Gaynor

College: New York University

1.Friendship/ Relationship| Be outspoken! I guess what I am trying to say is don’t be afraid to speak to your peers because just like you they are looking to make friends and study partners in this new environment.

2. Classes/Studying| Don’t procrastinate! Putting things like homework and studying for tests off until the last minute will not benefit you in the long run.

3. Time Management| Don’t register for 8 am classes if you know that you struggle with waking up early! You’ll end up missing crucial information in class if you’re always late or absent. Set an alarm they’re extremely helpful.

4. Self-care| As fast paced as this new environment may be don’t forget to take some time for yourself and relax. It’s also important to express how you feel whether it’s through a journal entry, song, or poem. Also make sure you are taking care of your body. Try to eat 3 well balanced meals per day.  I definitely know how easy it can be to skip a meal or 2.

5. Money budgeting| If you live on a campus please make sure you are using all of those meal swipes! At the end of the year you’re not going to get back money for those unused swipes. Also, get a job for personal expenses and purchase based on necessity. All in all be frugal!

Follow more of Rebecca’s collegiate journey…

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Meet Ashaka Givens!

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Feature, Latest | by — January 15, 2020

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Dripping in chic, wrapped in bohemian flare + topped with powerful statements, are all the ingredients poured into each piece created by Brooklyn-based celebrity designer, Ashaka Givens!

From dressing the most influential creatives in the culture to fashion mavens, she has married style + detail into her passion of design! Givens’ love affair with fashion began in high school where she intuitively taught herself how to design women’s clothing and produced her own runway shows! She went on to study fashion design at Buffalo State College and spent a leg of her time there as a student at the Manchester Metropolitan University in England. It was abroad where she honed her tailoring techniques and studied couture design. She further developed her signature style think “funk-meets-sophistication” at the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating with the class of 1996.

The New York native designs have not only been featured on the runways of Mercedez Benz Fashion Week but have also dressed + created custom pieces for tastemakers such as singer Erykah Badu, rapper/actor Common, rapper Missy Elliot, singer Raphael Saadiq, The Roots’ funky drummer, ?uestlove, and Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu! Givens continues to showcase her authentic artistry while giving women the gift of beauty and confidence each and every day!

Our C.O.R.E interns had a chance to chat with designer, Ashaka Givens! Let’s get to know her a little better…

What do you hope to achieve by creating your clothing line?

I hope to make women feel empowered and confident in the things that they wear even if it’s a hat, a dress, whatever it may be, I want them to feel strong and beautiful because that’s what we should feel every day!

How do you reflect your own individuality (along with your clients‘) in the items that you create?

It’s all in how you cut [the fabric]. I always have my hand in the way something drapes or fits on an individual’s body. There’s always a sense of my passion for life and for femininity and for even a little bit of romance woven into my designs.

What are the biggest names you’ve designed for?

Erykah Badu, Wangechi Mutu, a famous artist whose pieces are in the MoMa, the Tate, and a lot of other art museums.

Some others are Common, Raphael Saadiq, and TLC.  Working with people who are worldwide has been a huge honor. There’s so many, but thankfully they have all been incredible and I had an amazing time with all of them. I’ve never had any complaints working with any of them. It’s been a blessing!

How do you keep up with society while also maintaining your style?

Staying in touch with the youth. I ask questions such as “So who’s inspiring you now or who do I need to listen to now?”

What do you think sets you apart from other designers and boutique owners? What makes your designs or your ideas special?

That’s hard to say because it’s me. You know how people make a pot of soup with the same ingredients it turns out so different from each other, that’s essentially what I do. I take different colors, or textures, or fabrics and things that are in right now to make something that stands out from other pieces.

Have you ever had any doubts about becoming a designer or boutique owner?

No, I’ve always been confident. You know what you know. I love to teach from high school level to my oldest student being 60 yrs. old. I know how to design a dress and turn sketches into an actual piece so I was always confident in myself and my abilities.

Were there times of frustration? Yes, times of frustration when I had an idea, but it wasn’t working out, but in the end I always put something together. You have to remember that you’re always learning.

I noticed that in your bio, it talks about you studying abroad in England, so I wanted to know what that was like for you and how it has helped you develop your skills as a designer

Yeah, it was amazing! It was actually my first time on a plane leaving from Buffalo, NY to London. It was awesome, it was a bit of a culture shock. But it was good to live somewhere else where people don’t know you so you can develop a new sense of individuality. It’s like trying a new food, but it’s everything, different culture, new people, etc. Just immersing yourself into a different culture can be great for developing your individuality and exploring yourself.

If you weren’t a boutique owner, what would you be doing instead?

Probably cooking, either that or perfumery not with chemicals, but with essential oils. Maybe that or traveling, like if I had an infinite amount of money I would travel.

As a woman in your position, what advice can you give to young people who want to get where you are?

Never stop learning. Interns, speak up about your interests and be confident about it because that’s what attracts us.

Travel. It opens your whole mind to cultures and ways of doing things. Just emerge yourself in it. Just keep trying until something resonates and you’re like “this lights me up”

I am confident in myself and my abilities and everything that I’ve learned. – Ashaka Givens, an affirmation.

Check out more of Ashaka’s beautifull hand-crafted designs:

Ashaka Givens

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BY: Melanie Santiago and Jada Jackson

Meet Christiana Smith!

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Feature, Latest | by — December 17, 2019

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Finding your personal freedom + creating your individual rhythm is exactly what pro-skater Christiana Smith carved out in her love for skateboarding! Blocking out noise, distractions and all negative vibes, Christiana paved her own path into her passion while shredding stereotypes in the process. 

Originally from Southfield, Michigan, Christiana discovered her love for skating at 11 years old.  Sharpening her skills, she consistently began placing in the top 10 of her competitions with ease.  While progressing she noticed more unwanted opinions and push back. Instead of shutting down, she flipped the energy by creating her empowering “Skating In A Dress” YouTube video in 2014.

She states in the video, “When you’re young you overthink everything. Then you get a little older + wiser and you realize people are going to judge you for the rest of your life. If you let that affect you, you will never be happy. So do what you want and don’t care what other people think about you.” 

Soon after she  gave creative birth to  A Positive Seed Co. created with the mission of planting positivity and sparking a movement of inspiration + kindness!

Let’s get to know Christiana a little better…

Originally from Michigan, what first inspired you to start skating + how was the skating scene at that time?

What originally first inspired me to start skating was competing with my brothers.  I have two older brothers and they went through phases of trying different sports.  One day they got a skateboard and I ended up using it more than them. A combination of that, the video game Tony Hawk Pro Skater (me just thinking skateboarding looked like the coolest thing ever) then eventually getting invited to a birthday party at a skate park when I was 11 years old.

At the time I was very young and unaware what a skate scene even was.  All I knew was I was the only girl at the skate park. I spent days in my driveway with my best friend Justin and my mom taking me to Modern Skate Park , aka, my second home.  I was so in love with skating that I wasn’t even thinking about the scene itself.  I definitely received a lot of backlash from males as my skill level progressed and they became intimidated by my presence.  Looking back, it was very cliquey but again I was so in love with skating that it didn’t matter.

You created your barrier-breaking video “Skating In A  Dress” at 18 to shred stereotypes for girls and girls of color, why is it important for you to open up doors for the next generation?

It is very important for me to open doors for the next generation because I needed a video like “Skating In A Dress” to help me when I was a young girl.  I was so timid, shy and insecure.  By me being the only girl and a black one at that, certainly didn’t make it any easier for me.  There were many times when I wanted to quit.  Not because I didn’t like skating but because I cared more about what others thought about me and the negative comments, that it was felt as if it would be easier to just quit.  I never want another person with a love of skateboarding to go through that without having support and someone to empower and motivate them to press on and never give up on something you love because of what others think or say.  I didn’t know it was ok to just be myself and do what makes me happy.  It is so true that people will judge you whether you like it or not and if you let that affect they way you live your life, you will never truly live and reach your full potential.  Not to mention being happy and living with a sense of peace and purpose.

High school can feel uneasy because you’re constantly trying to discover who you are + oftentimes faced with a lot of opinions surrounding you, how did you stay true to yourself + navigate your way to your dreams?

High school was very difficult for me.  I simply did not fit in and refused to “go with the flow”.  I suffered from low self-esteem and depression through most of it.  I had to fight through feelings of inferiority and eventually dropped the idea of doing things because of what others thought of me.  I realized that at the end of the day, “they” don’t matter and neither does what they have to say about me.  I was fortunate enough to find something I was passionate about and that became my main focus, I blocked out the background noise and tunneled into what I loved. After school it was straight to the skatepark almost everyday.

Your amazing company + powerful movement, A Positive Seed, is all about planting the seed of kindness and respect both in + out of the skate scene! How can one act of kindness start a flame of change in the world? 

A Positive Seed truly is all about planting a simple seed of kindness.  I have seen the faces of young girls/boys light up when I give them one of my stickers or compliment cards and then tell them to do the same for someone else.

You never know what people are experiencing and one kind word at the right time just may be enough to save a life.  It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t cost a thing to smile, speak or simply listen.  We are all fighting our own internal battles and at any given time, we can all need to know someone cares enough to be kind.

Skating gives you the freedom to be who you are! Has there ever been a time you were nervous to fully step into your authentic self?

There have been many times when I was nervous to fully step into my authentic self.  I think the hardest time for me was middle school/high school years just trying to fit in, wear what was trendy, make jokes being a class clown to mask my own insecurities.

I have made many a joke at the expense of someone else’s feelings just be be accepted by my peers and make them laugh.  That is something that I regret to this day.  That was certainly not who I was.  That time in my life made me contemplate giving up skateboarding entirely because the opinion of others made me believe that skateboarding “wasn’t for girls, especially black girls”.

What’s one mantra or positive quote you live by?

The one mantra or positive quote I live by is GROWTH is not found in comfort.

What advice would you give girls who want to follow their dreams and passions but are nervous or intimidated? 

For girls who want to follow their dreams and passions but are nervous or intimidated, my advice would be to find positive influences in your community, social media, etc. that will help you get through the “questioning yourself “stage of coming into your authentic self.  It is so important to believe in yourself and find someone who believes in you as well.

Time for faves! Artist? Food? Movie?

Favorite Artist: Sampha

Favorite Food: Elote (Mexican Street Corn)

Favorite Movie: Going to have to throw it back to my favorite childhood movie I can still watch and recite and sing all the words to today, Mulan.

Follow more or Christiana’s journey here!

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A Positive Seed

Meet Martine’s Dream!

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Feature, Latest | by — November 4, 2019

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Imagination unlocks the secret of life’s hidden joys + dreams flourish as long as you fuel them! Debbie Martine has brought her creativity to life and continued to sprinkle her spirit + artistry into her blossoming boutique, Martine’s Dream!

Originally from Jamaica, Debbie gathered her colorful daydreams and spirit of women who shaped her to launch her boutique in Brooklyn, NY!

Living her light in creating flavorful prints + stunning silhouettes allows her to not chase trends but instead follow her fearless free spirit. Her amazing pieces encourage women to step into their authenticity and boldness of their beauty. Each piece is a collage of her global experiences that create wearable masterpieces!

How has Jamaica and Brooklyn influenced your style?

Jamaica and Brooklyn has influenced me by allowing me to express myself and be adventurous. I live by this poem:

I was born on an island the sun is within me.I reside in Brooklyn but the world is my oyster.
I am Martine. A sun woman, a traveler, a dreamer.
I am …”

This poem really captures who I am, as a person who is from Jamaica. And as a child who would tie up her dress to climb mango trees with her friends. I never stayed in a box. I would always venture out and find myself anyway I could. I am truly a child of the sun.

Can you describe yourself in 3 words or less? What are 3 colors that’s represent you as a person?

“Lover of Life!”

Blue, Yellow, and White! The colors change with season. I have always loved color even at a young age. As a child I saw a picture of India and became obsessed with colors. I made a promise to myself to go there when I grew up. I didn’t know if I would leave Jamaica, but as soon as I saw the picture I knew I would go there one day. At a young age I didn’t understand my love of color but, as I grew up I became more fascinated with color. I remind myself everyday “with Martine’s Dream I say live, love, dream in color.”

Do you feel that the neighborhood you are located in now represents Martine’s Dream? 

Yes, Martine’s Dream represents the neighborhood and brings true joy to me. This is reminded through my friends +  neighbors who are apart of the neighborhood.

Even though, the neighborhood has changed due to gentrification and the rise in property rent, my clients still travel to see me.  Also, new relationships are built through new faces in the area. These are my people.

I knew this shop was for me through the signs that were presented to me. From my friend who find the location to the circle in front of the shop. (Ms. Debbie shares the ink art/tattoo displayed on the center of her back of a circle). This was fate.

What became a struggle for you starting your own business?

Finding a balance between personal life and work because I worked where I slept.

Who would you say was there for you at your hardest times while you were building your boutique?

My friends and family have always been there for me since day one and always wished me the best especially my mother.

Who do you look up to now that you run your own boutique?

I look up to my mother, my grandmother that passed but she was always there to push me.  I also look up to Maya Angelou.

What are a few quotes you live by? 

  • “Dreams are never realized alone.”
  • “You never accomplish anything alone.”
  • “The one person who supports your dream  is a huge blessing”

Follow more of Ms. Debbie of Matine’s Dream here!

IG: @martinesdream

Website: www.martinesdream.com

Interview by Mariam Sikiru, Melanie Santiago, Naomi Aubin, Taffia Evelyn

Meet Whitney Frederic!

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Feature, Latest | by — August 20, 2019

A long time love for cooking, avid research + a motivated mindset are qualities that entrepreneur, Whitney Frederic, put forth to start her company, It’s Seasoned, LLC.

Graduating from Susquehanna University in 2016, Whitney officially launched her company only two years later in November of 2018. With Haitian roots, she was actively learning her way around the kitchen at an early age. Therefore, when college came around, she was well equipped with the knowledge of how to remix her meals and eat healthily.

After receiving her Bachelor’s in Biology and doing extensive research about the rate of hypertension in the African American community, she focused on making her seasonings for that niche market and other people who want healthy seasoning options as well.

“My dream is that individuals will no longer have to compromise their health for the sake of a delicious meal, but instead can choose both.” she says.

Let’s get to know Whitney a little better…

Being a college student forces you to get creative with limited resources. What were your cooking skills like before college? How was your love for food initially sparked?

I grew up in a Haitian household where my family emphasized cooking as a fundamental skill; my mother and grandmother taught me how to cook. At the age of 9, I remember helping my mother prepare chicken, we cleaned it with vinegar and seasoned it with epis, (blend of fresh garlic, peppers, and herbs), and an array of different spices. My love for food was always present because of my upbringing, but I have to say my cooking skills developed more while in college because by my senior year I opted out of a meal plan to save money.


College students are often times working with a tight budget and have a prepaid meal plan. How did you balance eating delicious and healthy meals while on a college budget?

While on campus I worked 3 jobs, and to be completely honest, most of my money went towards food. On the bright-side, I always loved eating fruits, vegetables, rice, and oatmeal (all of which are very filling). I balanced eating delicious and healthy meals while on a college budget by eating things like oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, and for dinner, rice or pasta paired with a side of vegetables, and meat (mainly chicken, or fish). I went grocery shopping every other week, and kept my eyes on all the sales. When fresh fruits and vegetables were on sale at Walmart or Weis, I made sure to stock up on them. I stored them in the freezer in Ziploc bags until I was ready to use them; I used the fruits for smoothies, and vegetables for lunch and dinner.  


What was your go-to college food hack? My go-to college food hack was not very healthy.

I remixed Velveeta shells and cheese with my own seasoning blends, (at the time my seasoning blends were combinations of preexisting seasonings that I placed in old sprinkle bottles) with a side of broccoli and tilapia; this meal was savory, and took very little time to make.

College students often times forget that “stress eating” can cause health problems as years go by, what motivated your mission behind It’s Seasoned in helping to prevent disease especially in the African American community? Why is it important for students to be mindful at an early age of what they put in their bodies?

I was motivated to start It’s Seasoned because it allow me to showcase 3 things that I love: experimenting/cooking and helping others. Having connections both past and present with individuals who suffer from hypertension, sparked my desire to want to help prevent disease in African American communities. I believe that in many instances, a preventive approach can help eliminate this disparity.

Even more specifically, I know individuals who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), some of which who were prescribed Valsartan. Last summer, the FDA recalled several batches of Valsartan, a drug used to help treat hypertension and heart failure, because traces of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), were found in it. NMDA is a known carcinogen.

After learning about this recall, I was compelled to do more research. I sought to better understand the causes of hypertension. Through research, I found that many people of color suffer from illnesses like hypertension and diabetes (type 2), and in many instances diet plays a major role. Statistics like “the prevalence of hypertension in African-Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world” and “more than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African-American men and women have high blood pressure makes it very clear that hypertension is a major concern. When you are not mindful of what you place in your body, you place yourself at risk. I started It’s Seasoned LLC. to help address this risk, by offering individuals an alternative.  By way of It’s Seasoned LLC., individuals can retrieve the ingredients necessary to prepare meals without compromising their health or the flavor of their food.

Where do you see It’s Seasoned in 5 years?

I see It’s Seasoned LLC. becoming more impactful! It’s Seasoned LLC. currently serves customers in more than 15 different states; in five years I would like to see us serving individuals in all 50 states and internationally. My dream is that individuals will no longer have to compromise their health for the sake of a delicious meal, but instead can choose both. That being said, I see It’s Seasoned LLC. being outsourced, so that it is not only available on www.itsseasoned.com, but in farmer’s markets and at grocery stores like Whole Foods. In doing so, I will expand my team, master the world of advertising, and will have hosted multiple nutritional based workshops.

Follow more of her delish seasoning here:

It’s Seasoned

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~Interview by Tia Banks

Meet Sujari Britt!

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Feature, Latest | by — July 30, 2019

Take a deep dive into the beautifully wrapped world of music as cellist Sujari Britt fills the universe with mesmerizing notes and captivating sound! Hailing from New York City, New York, Sujari began her musical journey on the cello at the tender age of 4 years-old! Sujari uses her prodigious talent to pursue her passion and blaze a powerful pathway for moving the world. 

From being invited to showcase her incredible talent at the White House for President Obama to performing numerous recitals at Carnegie Hall, Sujari continues to blossom while astounding and inspiring audiences worldwide! Among her recent and upcoming performance exploits, Sujari performed in Beijing, China in the Beijing Super Cello Festival (2018). In February 2019, Sujari was a featured artist at Musiikkotalo, Cellofest Opening Gala in Helisinki, Finland. This summer, Sujari traveled to Bari, Italy where she will return in September to participate in exclusive international master classes. Also in September, Sujari will be back in the USA to perform Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor with the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra, Ashland, Oregon.

Sujari  is the distinguished recipient of prestigious academic scholarships and awards, and grand prize winner of several national and international competitions. 

Sujari recently earned her Bachelor of Music degree  in Classical Cello Performance at  Manhattan School of Music in New York City. She presently studies with world renowned cellist and pedagogue Martti Rousi, Sibelius Academy in pursuit of her Master’s of Classical Cello. 

In addition to her solo performance calendar, Sujari actively participates in the chamber arena. Among a variety of chamber troupes in her portfolio, Sujari is a member of JoSunJari, a classical string trio with her sister Joelle and her brother Sunnaj,  who both play the violin. Sujari also is a member of Helsinki Chamber Orchestra.

Let’s get to know Sujari a little better…

You began your incredible journey as a cellist at the young age of 4 years old! What initially triggered your interest to play? At what moment did you know this was your passion + purpose? 

I fell in love with the cello’s depth and resonance, having been en-rapt by Yoyo Ma’s rendering of Saint Saens’ Swan. It was not the first time that I had heard the piece, for classical and all genres of music were constantly being pumped through our days as students of home-schooling; but I was struck and held fast at a moment. I listened, and I felt that I was hearing a reflection of my own strong voice; as if I could feel the message of the cello’s sweet sorrowful swoon. Saint Saens’ message seemed to speak to me- a clear message of a longing, a need. Moved to tears, I was caught up in emotion and intrigue; the cello captured my soul and I willed that it would carry my voice.

 You have accomplished countless jaw-dropping achievements! From playing for President Obama in the White House to sharing your gift on global stages with renowned musicians, what accomplishment makes you most proud + why?  

Through the cello, I have enjoyed myriad experiences and individuals whom I might not otherwise have encountered; including new subscribers to classical music, as well as vested connoisseurs. Having the ability and opportunities to play permit me to lengthen my reach in the world. My joy comes from touching other souls, so each of my experiences holds special treasures for me.

Watching you play the cello is extremely captivating + instantly pulls the audience into a beautiful journey, where does the music take you in that very moment in time? 

I simply abandon myself to the music! The better I can tune in to the composer’s contexts- era, style, personal history, emotional texture, story- the further the music carries me, and the more complete is my rendering. I try to embody the composer’s will, and let the cello serve to voice the adventure.

Music can be a melting pot of who you are and the inspiration around you. Who and what inspires you to express yourself on a daily basis? 

My ardor is to seek out and to accept a responsibility to move the world, note by note; ear by ear; mind by mind. Specifically, this means looking for ways to be present each day; reminding myself that the end goal for my endeavors is both influenced by and is ever a part of the path that I choose for achieving it. If I can meaningfully commune with a single other mind every day, only then am I accountable for making use of and contributing to the inspiration that this rich gift of a life of music spurs in me.

Being young, juggling responsibilities while living your dreams can sometimes get to be a bit overwhelming, how do you regroup and motivate yourself when you’re feeling a little defeated?

I have adopted the mantra to “fail forward.” For me, failing forward means that I can use ‘misses’ or moments of low energy to inform, innovate and drive my next steps. By focusing on where I am- and not just on where I want to go, I allow myself the space to experience each moment, as well as the time to strategize my next steps.

I believe that in addition to accepting defeat as a part of the path to success, it is important to know when to regroup. For me, this sometimes means that I shift gears and do something else for a bit: Relax, reflect, let go…then, redouble efforts with renewed perspective and motivation.

We are all about empowerment, what does EMPOWERMENT mean to you?

In my mind, ‘empowerment’ has to do with taking the responsibility to free oneself to be. In order to be free, it is essential to celebrate talents, recognize penchants and fantasies, and uncover and confront areas for development. I believe that it is important to set up check-points to ask ourselves: Where do I shine? What do I wish? What do I not know?

What advice would you give girls who want to follow their dreams and passions but are nervous or intimidated?

I offer my encouragement to all dreamers! I believe that each of us deserves the joy of having self-worth; a delight that can be achieved if we learn to dream big and set small, achievable goals for getting there. Incremental steps may mean that your journey will not result in an overnight sensation; yet, some of the most profound achievements are reached over time, space, and personal growth.

Nervousness and anxiety are par for the course. In fact, there are bound to be moments when the going may seem tougher than you imagine yourself to be. USE that energy, and find partners, colleagues, and supporters who are willing and available to hear you and to cheer you on. Regardless of how steep the climb, how long the journey, and how seemingly far-fetched the goal, you are almost never alone in your endeavors, unless you choose to be. Remember, our humanity binds us. GO FOR IT!

Time for faves! Artist? Food? Movie? 3 songs currently on your playlist?

I spend my spare time painting and doing photography- from photographing to development and printing. I enjoy cooking and baking gourmet (vegan) dishes- I have a penchant for Mediterranean and Asian styles and flavors. I also enjoy long-distance walking, and recently re-learned biking: LOVing it!  I listen to an eclectic variety of music; Little Dragon and Tigran Hamasyan are on my playlist, these days.

Follow +  learn more + follow Sujari’s journey here:

Website