Category Archives: Culture

31Jan/19
Ashley McDonough

Ashley McDonough, Howard Grad & Journalist Behind Articles of Self Love and Media | Self Love Series

Ashley McDonoughMartin Luther King once said “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.” Which is true, all of us can be great by giving back and being the best version of ourselves.

Ashley McDonough is one of many examples of this as a Howard University grad, producer, journalist, media professional, and modern-day renaissance woman.  She has utilized all of her talents to inform, celebrate and entertain. Taji Mag was able to talk to her about self-love in the many aspects of life.

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What is self-love to you and how can people better practice it?

Ashley McDonough (AM): Self-love is an appreciation of yourself, you have to know who you are and what you deserve. Self-love is appreciating the promise you made to yourself. Living your life accordingly to the promise that you made. 

DDF: How do you practice self-love?

AM: It is a day-to-day basis of being kind to yourself. I, myself, am a very busy person and I have a lot on my plate. I can be hard on myself with completing things in a timely manner. To me, it’s truly about being patient with yourself. Just take time out to talk to yourself in a positive, uplifting way.

Relationships & Self Love 

“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.”- Nina Simone 

DDF: You have some great articles about dating. Advocates say you should love yourself first before entering a relationship but when do you know you are ready?

AM: It’s just a matter of self-healing. When you are healed enough and your mental health is in order, then I think that is the right time to date. A lot of times I think that relationships don’t work because everyone’s walking around with these traumas and insecurities that they haven’t healed from.

Once you have healed fully, know what you want out of a partner and you know what you deserve out of that partner and know what you are willing to give that partner in return, I think it’s a healthy ground to go out there and see what the dating world has to offer you.

DDF: Let’s say you are in a relationship, how do you maintain that self-love? 

Ashley McDonough

AM: I’ve definitely been in that situation before. You can really get caught up in the idea of love but you have to understand that you can’t love someone if don’t love yourself.

Understanding that you deserve a certain type of love, your partner should understand and be respectful of that. Also, you have to understand what you want out of life, its a beautiful gift from God. You are whole by yourself, I don’t believe in that whole “you complete me” thing. I really think you need to be complete before you get into relationships.

DDF: Can situation-ships be included in self-love?

AM: If that works for you then ok. I think every person is different, I’m not going to say that this is the ideal relationship because sometimes that freedom is a form of self-love. It depends on the person, some people are looking for long term commitment and other people just want to have fun, be free, have options. Society can put these ideas/beliefs on people and that can cause relationships not to work a lot of times.

Work to Live, Not Live to Work

“Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” – Janelle Monae

DDF: You have an article about the importance of setting boundaries, how important is that to self-love?

AM: You can get caught up in everyday life sometimes and you need to set boundaries in order to keep your sanity. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, sometimes we treat ourselves like superheroes… we are not. Setting boundaries in every aspect of your life is important for your sanity and overall mental health.

DDF: Pursuing your passion or desired career is also a version of self-love, agreed? Why do so many struggle with it and what did you do to keep moving forward?

AM Definitely because it’s safe. It’s scary to follow your dreams. It’s not something for everyone. Everyone can’t do it and everyone is not in that space to do it. You have to have a strong sense of faith, you have to believe in yourself.

I was born and raised in New York but I took a leap of faith and moved to L.A. because I felt it in my heart to do it.  You really have to believe in yourself, work hard and know that God is going to take care of you.

Articles of Self Love and Media

“You are your best thing.” – Toni Morrison

DDF: You have written some great pieces about people embracing the beauty in themselves, what inspires you to write pieces like these?

AM: What inspires my writing? Well, even before I went to college, I knew I wanted to produce and create content that I thought the world needed to hear. I really like doing the backstories of the people that are seen as the overnight successes because I feel like those stories are important and need to be heard by everyone.

Social media has changed the mind state of success and the hustle and the grind. To hear those stories change perspectives.

DDF: Out of the articles you have written, which is your favorite?

Ashley McDonoughAM: One of my favorite stories was about Jessie Woo, she is a comedian and singer. She’s amazing! Her story is so inspiring because of her journey to success. Everyone on social media was seeing her as an overnight success but in reality, it took her some time to get in her position.

She told the story about her start in New York, becoming unemployed within the first two months and not having enough funds to buy a plane ticket home but through it all she made it. Jessie’s story encourages people to follow their own dreams, whatever path may be for them.

DDF: How much of an influence do you think the media has on self-love?

Ashley McDonough

Ashley in her Howard grad cap and gown.

AM: Howard gives you a sense of self, I don’t think many of the students have. It’s the overall experience because you are surrounded by such Black excellence and you are being taught by the most amazing professors with extensive careers.

They are teaching you to love yourself and appreciate your history. A lot this stuff you don’t get see growing up. I grew up in Queens, NY so I grew up in a very diverse area and went to public school my whole life, we learned the basics of Black history.

That changed when I went to Howard University because we learned everything, the good and the bad. The experience taught me how amazing my people are!

See more from Ashley via her website!

30Jan/19
Taji Mag Vol 18 Embrace the Black

Taji Vol18: Embrace the Black

Release Mar 7 2019 | Vol18 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Embrace the Black! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of model Jennifer “Milk” Laloi. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick on The Laya Center, a Plant-Based Preventative & Rehabilitation Center; our Community Spotlight; our highlighted Hair Feature; “Solo Travel: What Does Your Travel Say About You?” by D. Carrie; “Everyday Spiritual Teknowledge Everyday” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Representation in Education” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 18 theme “Embrace the Black;” Fitness Feature on Athlete, Actress, Wife, and Mom, Gillian White; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Black Business Grant Winner: The Unique Foodie Witchery; “#BlackLoveConvo: “Fennell Adventures: A Family of Authors” by Dapper Dr. Feel;” Featured art piece by Will Focus; Must Have Graphic Novel: “Cypher Team i01” by Tyrone Jackson/SoveReign Comics; Black Business Highlights; Taji Mag Model Contest Winners; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 18 Embrace the Black

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 18

Taji Mag is the epitome of the positive Black experience. Our brand embodies the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

13Jan/19
APAP Conference

The APAP Conference, and Why You Should Go

I don’t even know where to start when it comes to the APAP conference, there’s so much going on! If your work falls within the world of performing arts, this is a conference you should attend at least once. First of all (as per to NYC fashion), there are 3 important music events that are intersecting at this time of year: APAP (Association of Performing Arts Professionals), Winter Jazzfest, and GlobalFest.

The Basics of the APAP conference

There are 3 floors of expo hall full of booths — it’s pretty crazy and can be overwhelming so it’s best to attack it in segments! Exhibitors range from management companies and booking agencies to touring groups and performing arts venues. My suggestion is to know who you are looking for — know the type of people you are looking to meet. The best way to maximize an expo is to search the list of exhibitors (ahead of time if possible) and see which booths you definitely want to visit. Next, there are professional development workshops on a variety of topics in breakout rooms on the lower level of the hotel (Hilton New York in Midtown). On the printed schedules, you may not see the actual breakdown of workshop locations so it’s best to go down to the lower level and check the signs near each room and decide if you want to sit in for the presentation. I didn’t find too many workshops that piqued my interest or applied to me, but I pretty much check out anything that has to do with fundraising. So once you figure out the workshop times, you will know what time you have to spend at the expo hall and showcases. Speaking of which, that’s where the real magic happens, in the rooms dedicated to performances by APAP member groups like independent bands and dance companies. Landing a showcase at APAP is great exposure for up and coming artists who are hoping to catch the attention of venues and talent agencies for booking opportunities.

The Important Stuff

Networking can make or break your career in any industry, especially entertainment and performing arts. You can end up meeting a booking agent, record label, or potential manager. You could even run into an artist that you’ve wanted to collaborate with. I met some interesting people at APAP, like representatives of organizations that support independent artists. The Center for Traditional Music and Dance, for example, provides resources and technical support for artists who work within their communities and traditional culture. I also spoke to some booking agents and received the inside scoop on what they look for when taking on a new client: the keyword was “authenticity” especially for agents who work in music like Chris Mees, President of talent agency B Natural Inc. “I like to see that the artist has done their homework on the history of the music they play, and who isn’t trying to be like an artist we already know. I also like a level of mystique to an artist, I need to be intrigued. Having a great work ethic and being a good human being are important too.”

The for real for real important stuff – the music and art!

APAP ConferenceOkay, so, in my mind, the performances I saw are a whole separate article (who knows if that will actually happen but we’ll start with this). The showcases I went to were mostly jazz and international artists, like my Haitian brotha, Wesli! ( @wesli2 ✊🏾🇭🇹🙅🏾♀️ Yea, I’m extra)! I saw him perform 2 years ago at AfroJam (by @afromondoproductions), and he is still touring the world and bringing energetic Afro-Caribbean fusion music to the stage. I was able to catch a quick interview with him and ask about how he got started and how he’s been able to continue. Wesli got his first major break by winning a contest by Radio Canada that led to him winning a prize to fund his participation in a major showcase in France where he connected to international talent agents and managers. He even took classes at the School for Show Business in Montreal, and he suggests that other artists do the same: “I recommend artists take charge of every aspect of their business. There’s plenty of talent out there, the person who doesn’t wait for others to handle their business gets further.” I’m always happy to see an indie artist who is always leveling up his/her grind.

APAP Conference

I was invited to attend some shows for the Winter Jazz Festival after APAPing all day (sidebar: I can’t hang with musicians noooo more), and I heard some great music from impressive artists. First stop was to see vibraphonist Joel Ross at Subculture with his jazz ensemble. It was a mix of traditional jazz elements with the modern sound of the vibraphone, I dug it. Next stop was at LPR (Le Poisson Rouge) to see the legendary Richard Bona. The textures of the instruments and vocals carried you to a different place, a whole romantical mood even. There was even a flamenco dancer to amp up the vibe. I wanted to hear and see more, but alas the show was over. I finally took my arse home after that.

APAP Conference

APAP ConferenceOn the second day of the APAP conference, my wannabe-dancer spirit was blessed with a performance by the Hiplet Ballerinas! I didn’t check all of the performance schedules in advance (again, there was too much going on) but I had gone into that showcase room to see the Cirque Zuma Zuma African Acrobats, which was a treat too! Both groups were blackity black black, super talented, and beautiful! The performance by Zuma Zuma incorporated African dance, musical instruments, and balance tricks. And Hiplet is by far some of the coolest dancing I’ve seen in a long time. the costumes were beautiful, the movement was a mixture of classical and in-the-club. They created a visual experience and had dancers working in different shifts so when one group went off stage the other group came right on so there was a continuous performance. Homer Bryant, the creator of hiplet, has done an excellent job with these dancers and I hope to see hiplet become a staple dance style.

APAP Conference

That was a lot to read.. I know. it was a lot to write 😏 and experience but again attending this conference is totally worth it if you’re a performing artist, a manager, booking agent, or aspire to be any of the above. Here are some links to the people and organizations mentioned in this article. Shout out to the APAP media coordinator for having me out. Stay tuned for my next adventure, peace!

APAP Conference:  https://www.apap365.org/Conference

Center for Traditional Culture and Dance: https://ctmd.org

Wesli: http://www.wesliband.com/en

Joel Ross: http://bnatural.nyc/project/joel-ross

Richard Bona: http://bnatural.nyc/project/richard-bona

Hiplet Ballerinas: http://hipletballerinas.com

Cirque Zuma Zuma African Acrobats: www.ecetouring.com

06Jan/19
Bourne Brilliant

3 Sibling Kidprenuers Own Plant-Based Patisserie, Bourne Brilliant LLC, for Over 5 Years

Bourne Brilliant LLCLyrica, Zaira, and Nadira, ages 11, 10 and 7 respectively, are a budding sister trio of kidpreneurs. In 2013, the eldest, Lyrica, started a bread ministry at the age of 6. She would bake bread and other goodies to distribute them throughout their community of Woodville, FL. In order to fund their generous donations, she pitched the business venture to their parents. Over the years, the trio has created their own recipes and branded their business into Bourne Brilliant LLC.

Lyrica, Zaira, and Nadira are now the CEO’s and founders of Bourne Brilliant LLC. They handcraft plant-based baked goods, beverages, and other tasty treats. They have even “hired” their Mom and given her a host of titles and duties. The goals of these multi-award-winning culinary creatives include promoting healthier eating habits to entire families and to see kids participating more in the kitchen. They are also passionate about encouraging other youth to find and create their own business enterprises. With the help of their parents, they have managed to own and operate this venture for over 5 years while maintaining a charitable and philanthropic component to their module.

Bourne Brilliant Bourne Brilliant Bourne Brilliant

To find out more about them and to see more work from Bourne Brilliant, visit their website and pages on Instagram and Facebook @bournebrilliantco.

Bourne Brilliant Bourne Brilliant

16Dec/18
grpfit

GRPFIT, A Black Social Fitness Network For Health Goals

grpfit taji mag

Screenshots of the GrpFit app

If you are looking to achieve your fitness goals for the new year,  then the  GrpFit app will help! This fitness social platform will help educate you on workouts and health info to keep you on track with your aspirations. Not only does the app provide education, but it’s also a place where people can interact with others who are actively reaching or looking to reach their health goals. I had time to talk with the CEO and co-founder of GrpFit, Richard Bailey, to discuss the benefits and what to expect from the fitness platform.

Dapper Dr. Feel: What made you come up with this platform? At what point did you think Black people need this?

Richard Bailey: The idea came from a previous project that my partner and I came up with called Crowdfit. The idea for that finds an exercise partner in your area based on your fitness goals. For example, if you were preparing for a marathon, you could find someone in your area that was training as well.

It was met with moderate success back in 2016 (its first year) but then we hit a huge wall in engagement and growth. What we discovered was that people were more interested in the social aspect, (i.e. profile display, what people ate, how they worked out, etc.) At the time, social fitness wasn’t a popular item, even today fitness apps don’t really cover the social or community side of fitness.

Fast Fact: Richard Bailey (GrpFit co-creator and CEO) inspiration for health/ fitness came from being active in youth sports and competing professionally in dance from ages 8-23. 

DDF: What was your next move after your research?

RB: With this information we went back to the drawing board, keeping the same motive but approached it in a different way. While researching we ran into some eye-opening stats in relation to black health. These stats included, 76% of the Black community is obese, 43% suffer from hypertension, death by stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and the list goes on.

We started doing our diligence to find out more solutions for the Black community in health and fitness. To our surprise, there weren’t a lot of solutions from a consumer tech perspective. There were a lot of Black publications, non-profit and public organizations that tackle health/fitness as a separate vertical. The only issue is that they were regional and local in nature, not globally. It was at that point we had an epiphany and decided that we needed to be the first consumer tech product that specifically dedicated Black health and fitness. That’s when we launched GrpFit, which was late 2017.

FYI: GrpFit has workouts varying by length, time, and difficulty and provides workouts that can be performed anywhere.

DDF: Basically, your product is a one of a kind social fitness platform for Black people?

RB: Yes, our goal is to be a one-stop shop. Providing information, inspiration and being the catalyst for change in health and fitness in the black community.

RB: Our goal is to partner with different certified trainers and fitness influencers. We partnered with a few in the past, this time last year we worked with Gym Hooky for a new years resolution fitness campaign. We also worked with 21 Ninety, a Black millennial woman lifestyle brand under Blavity. Travel safe fitness. Periodically we reach out to influencers and certified trainers to partner with content for campaigns or just being a guest blogger. Although we don’t have much content on nutrition, we look to add more content in that area in the future. 

DDF: What should first time users expect from the GrpFit app? 

RB: We expect first-time users to embrace the community behind health and fitness. Seeing somebody like you, living a similar health and fitness journey is huge. For example, if you are a mother with a huge family that doesn’t have time to work out, you can come to the [GrpFit] app and see other women that fit those criteria. You can see what things they are doing to stay in shape and hopefully get some inspiration. GrpFit is serving as a tool for motivation, information, and inspiration is huge, it’s our biggest goal!

grpfit taji mag

Motivational quotes from the GrpFit Instagram account.

DDF: What advice would you like to give people who want to improve their health and physical activity?  

RB: Although its the end of the year, it’s okay to start on your fitness and health goals now before the new year. So sign up and log onto GrpFit to get your journey towards health started.

Fast facts: According to the CDC, The leading causes of death in the African American community are: 43% heart disease related, 41% stroke-related, and 29% cancer-related. Although the numbers are still slightly high they are steadily on the decline. With educational, social and interactive tools like GrpFit, the numbers will decline even more. 

Check out the GrpFit app which can be purchased at the Apple store. For the Android users, there are still plans to release the app later but for now, you can check out the GrpFit Instagram and Facebook page for content.

grpfit taji mag

Richard Bailey (Co-Founder &CEO of GrpFit) and Christopher Ketant (Co-Founder of GrpFit)

grpfit taji mag

11Dec/18

Health: How Can Start Ups Partner Responsibly?

Health and technology are intersecting in interesting ways lately. Coping mechanisms like group therapy are more socially acceptable. Now is the time for Black tech developers to carve space in the health field to ensure diversity & inclusion remain a top priority. Solome Tibebu is a  Investor for  and founder of  501c3. Sis is also the co-author of  behavioral IT Innovation. She shares some behavioral health start up tips for emerging entrepreneurs.

Original health expert & writer: Solome Tibebu.  This article was re-posted with the author’s permission – you can read the full article HERE.

How Behavioral Health Startups and Payers Can Partner Successfully

Solome Tibebu

Over the last five years, a plethora of mental health and substance abuse startups has skyrocketed. And rightly so. Many of these solutions are finding ways to reduce the cost of care delivery, improve quality of care, reduce inappropriate healthcare service utilization. [They also] increase PCP usage, and increase staff capacity in an area where qualified professionals are few and far between.

Many payers still aren’t very sophisticated about implementing digital behavioral health tools yet. Innovators must be prepared to offer considerable education for payers to adopt such offerings. Payers are complex organizations to navigate, and launching a new solution of any kind isn’t easy. This post is intended to equip both innovators and incumbents to partner in addressing our society’s most pressing behavioral health issues.

Now, payers have moved from “it matters” to “now what do we do?!” with many still struggling with the best course of action. Payers are recognizing the value that frontier technologies and startups with new care delivery models can make on their businesses, such as:

  • The ability to improve patient outcomes via tech-enabled delivery of evidence-based practices
  • Access to local and regional mental health care professionals and delivery networks employed by the behavioral health startups
  • Reduced cost of care delivery through AI, machine learning, chatbots and other automation tools
  • The right solutions to continue adding value to members at any acuity or stage of care
  • Enhanced data, analytics and care coordination from their existing health IT tools
  • Overall more consumer-friendly experiences
Too much of what payers are adopting today are made up of one-size-fits-all models.

When it comes to behavioral health, payers need to offer condition-specific solutions and provider networks for a wide variety of mental health and substance use issues. Today, you can find a huge list of professionals listed on their provider network portals, most of whom appear as experts in many or all behavioral health conditions. Adding more specialty areas to their profiles will get them more referrals, after all. But this comes with several issues:

  • Of course, not all behavioral health professionals are experts in each and every behavioral health condition. Behavioral health is an umbrella term for many specific conditions, each with their own evidence-based treatment modalities. Providers with such experience in certain specialty areas may be few and far between in many parts of the country
  • Payers have very little ability to actually determine who’s really good at treating what types of members
  • Payers cannot verify whether or not these providers are using evidence-based practices
Historically, these networks have been built to meet employer/Medicaid geography and credentialing requirements. As a result, [they are] stuck in the old ways of doing things.

mental health and stressDon’t treat behavioral health as one homogenous disease state. Payers need the tools to support the many diverse subsets of behavioral health. There is an opportunity for payers to adopt new tools which more accurately look at behavioral health as the wide umbrella that it is, offering condition-specific solutions that match up with condition-specific provider networks.

Tech startups can enable a future where payer networks can transform from local, multi-specialty providers to national, tech-enabled providers with the ability to deploy local, high-touch clinicians within their own specialized delivery systems. With better technology and analytics, payers will also be in a position to operate their own provider clinics. The opportunity is further supported by new payment models offered through CMS, including new Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) codes and proposed expansion on current substance use telehealth coverage.

To capitalize on these opportunities, it is critical for internal and external stakeholders to navigate complex payer organizations, especially as it relates to partnering with startups.

Clearly, both parties want to go to the dance, but will they ever connect?! Below, I’ll outline three key areas to keep in mind when partnering with an integrated health system: the Prep, the Pitch and the Plan, and accompanying tips for each.

THE PREP

How does one start a conversation with a payer? Early-stage entrepreneurs can get a head start navigating their prospective payer partners through these steps:

Where to look:

When it comes to partnering with certain departments within a payer organization, you may be tempted to focus on the Innovation department exclusively. Innovation departments are important partners for startups, oftentimes greatly helping the startup navigate to the correct department internally. But beware, they don’t typically have their own P&L, so you may find yourself in Free Pilot Land indefinitely. If they’re a tech-enabled provider, plan to approach clinical and provider network leadership. Expect to contract with behavioral health specialty companies, or the behavioral health specialty business units within the integrated payer systems. Sometimes a connection through non-traditional paths will get you to the right department, e.g. sales team members who are sympathetic to your cause. But sooner than later, identify the right person who can make decisions and write checks.

Understand your market, solution and impact better than anyone else.

This includes the ability to communicate each of these clearly and succinctly to the person in leadership who actually has your pain point. What motivation does this specific payer department leader have to pick up the phone? Just because you are saving dollars in the overall healthcare system doesn’t necessarily mean it hits this individual’s bottom line.

Consider smaller organizations first.

These smaller payers want to offer competitive offerings and may not already have a solution in place. The smaller organizations with smaller executive teams may be far more nimble than an organization like Kaiser or Mt Sinai. Consider starting with one of these first and get your proof of concept up and running there initially.

Consider getting outside support.

Remember, payers are complex organizations. There are a number of healthcare accelerators who have existing relationships with many healthcare organizations. These organizations can provide seed funding, coaching and connections to health systems to shorten the sales cycle. While advisors, board members, and other entrepreneurs can make a huge difference, someone like a dedicated, vetted consultant with a strong track record can help save startups months if not years by making outside connections very quickly.

Identify the key person who will drive your startup forward internally.

It is best practice to identify an internal champion at your payer prospect. [This will] help move your startup forward within their organization. If your champion isn’t willing to give you what you need to be successful (e.g. certain claims data, information for integration, etc), then they aren’t your champion. How do you find a champion? Leverage advisors, board members and other digital health entrepreneurs in your network to introduce you to payers of interest.

Know how decisions get made.

Ask your champion what their typical process is for working with organizations like yours. Sometimes the smallest hiccup can kill an entire deal, so be sure to stay close to the process all throughout.

Engage decision makers and influential non-decision makers alike through the entire process.

Make sure there is alignment among executive, clinical, or any other type of leadership critical to the implementation and adoption of your solution throughout the procurement and implementation process.

Once various preparations have been made about your specific solution, it’s time to dig into how you’ll position your offering with the payer and where your each parties’ assets and gaps are in the partnership.

THE PITCH

Save tons of time and resources down the road. Here is a high-level list for what startups should review before charging forth with a partnership with a payer organization:

  1. Know what specialty offerings the payer already offers their member base.
  2. Understand where behavioral health sits in the payer’s ecosystem.
  3. Think through your approach to data.
  4. Evaluate your strengths vs what the payer can bring for the most fruitful partnership.
  5. Know your outcomes, now and in the future.
  6. Be realistic about what your capabilities truly are, especially with the most complex patients.

THE PLAN

Now it’s time to start exploring an actual partnership. While there are many ways structure a partnership, we will cover some common themes.

  1. Business models should align with incentives. 
  2. Thoughtfulness required for integration: technically, operationally, and clinically. 
  3. Implementation as a process. 

In conclusion, all of the simple, low-hanging fruit tools and technologies have been tried. Payers desire novel, evidence-based solutions. With the right people at the table and a laser-focus on the clinical and financial impacts the partnership will make, there is a lot of promise for novel behavioral health solutions to transform care delivery and patient outcomes in the near future.

Solome Tibebu is a healthcare investor and former mental health tech startup founder.

Her work as an investor, entrepreneur and health and human service technology expert has been featured in The Huffington Post, Forbes, TEDx, Inc Magazine, Upworthy, Psychology Today and more.

09Dec/18

NATURAL BORN LEADERS

Black women have often been seen as a liability rather than an asset in many careers. This can be especially true for Black women with natural hair. As the year comes to a close, Taji Mag reflects on two strong Black women leaders with natural hair.
Shauntrice Martin and Wyllene Turner come from different backgrounds, but they are both Black women focused on improving the lives of young people. They are both leaders within an organization called the Bay Area Urban Debate League (affectionately known as “BAUDL”). There are dozens of urban debate leagues across the country and BAUDL has the most diverse staff along with such accolades as National Champions, League of the Year, and Champions of Diversity. They are truly making moves. I was able to interview these brilliant young women recently to learn more about what it means to be a leader and part of #teamnatural.
DapperDrFeel: Tell me a little about your organization.
Shauntrice Martin: The Bay Area Urban Debate League is an after-school program focused on marginalized youth in Title I schools. The goal is to engage students in policy debate to improve academic performance and college acceptance.
DDF: What are your titles?
SM: I am the executive director
Wyllene Turner: I got involved in Baudl in my 10th grade of high school. Then when I graduate in 2011 I came back to work and a regional coordinator until I worked my way up to Program Coordinator.
DDF: Ok, let’s get right into it. What does it mean to be a Black woman in a leadership role?
WT: It means that I have the opportunity to show represent, especially in a sport that is primarily a white male sport like debate.
SM: More than half of my time is spent on fundraising and development. Most of our donors are affluent white males and a lot of the “experts” in the field don’t look like me or the students we work with. I’ve dealt with microaggressions (being asked how I learned to speak so well, assumptions that I never met my father, etc.). When confronted with these issues, I’ve had to make decisions about whether to react in the moment and what the consequences might be. While this is not unique to a person of any race in a leadership role, my actions are seen as a representation of ALL Black women. As a Black woman, I have the added responsibility of representing the entire race as if we have monthly meetings of the Black Monolith.

 

Three students holding trophies after a win. Hesten, Ne’Jahra, and Jessica.
DDF: So how does being a Black woman with natural hair impact your work?
WT: I’ve been natural for about 7 years now! And I decided to go natural to find my self again, as I see it black women are so held back by their hair because it is seen as a symbol to show a multitude of things. Growing my locs where a way to take my crown back and make my own image!
SM: It gives me confidence. I know I will usually stand out in a crowd. At the same time, I went natural in college because I had people around me who celebrated me without trying to change me. We all deserve that feeling. In that way, it has a positive impact on my work. Conversely, I have been told to “tame” my hair in previous positions. I have been hyped up by white colleagues and supervisors when my hair was pressed straight as a signal that my naps were not welcomed in the workplace.
DDF: Speak more on that Shauntrice–are you saying that it is a bad thing to have natural hair in a corporate environment?
SM: I’ve had hundreds of white colleagues over the years and many of them don’t know how to react to my hair. I’ve had strangers reach out to touch my hair. I’ve had donors comment on my skin tone. Several years ago, before I had my son, I was asked in an interview whether I planned to wear afro puffs to the office. There is nothing but love growing out of my scalp so if someone attributes negative characteristics to my hair, it means they have a problem, not me.

 

Executive Director of BAUDL Shauntrice Martin
DDF: Ok, right on. In what other ways does being a Black woman in a leadership role present challenges?
WT: The challenges I face are people in different spaces act as if I don’t know what I am doing…which is funny because they’ll usually do that at an event I’m hosting.
SM: Yes. Hiring Wyllene was one of my best decisions as an executive director. She was hired based on merit, and as she said, she worked her way up to a full-time position. Because of the way she looks (dark-skinned woman with natural hair) people underestimate her. I have seen people disrespect her in situations and they end up looking like fools when she comes through. She cares about her job and if people could stop projecting their bias onto Black women, they would see that.
DDF: I noticed your organization is quite large for an after-school program. How many students do you serve?
SM: This school year we are on track to work with almost 1,000 youth in the Bay.
DDF: That is impressive. How do you maintain a program like this?
SM: Having people like Wyllene is absolutely essential. Our staff is one of the most diverse groups in the country. Most of the people who work at BAUDL graduated from the program. Our budget is just around half a million dollars and thankfully we have a dope volunteer base. I also do this really innovative thing when hiring people–I trust Black women.
DDF: Well there you have it. Now how can people get involved and support the work you do?
SM: The two biggest things we need right now are volunteers and donors. We have an end-of-the-year campaign called the #MakingMoves campaign. This is a Black-run organization and we hope to keep it that way. If you want to donate $5, $50, $50,000 use our link: www.tinyurl.com/wedebate. You can also share our story and encourage others to support.

Wyllene Turner

07Dec/18
Fit Grandpa

Exploring the Benefits of Mental and Physical Wellness with Titus aka Fit Grandpa

Fitness enthusiast, Jean Titus (@titusunlimited), has been an internet sensation and inspiration to many for his approach to fitness. Not only does he push himself physically but he also takes into account his overall wellness. His Instagram page is filled with health quotes, demos, and information for a healthy lifestyle. Taji Mag was able to speak with Titus, aka Fit Grandpa, about his keys to overall wellness.

Taji Mag (TM): What keeps you motivated towards a healthy lifestyle?

Titus: It is the belief that I haven’t reached my peak yet. I take the responsibility of being a profile name on social media seriously. When you see 181k followers on your account that you have inspired and motivated, it makes you feel accountable. That is because you don’t know how your actions might impact others. I believe that what you put into the universe comes back to you. Given that responsibility to be a good example is what motivates me.

TM: Besides exercising, what other areas do you concentrate on to improve physical wellness? 

Titus:  I meditate, detox my environment, and clear my mind because I believe that fitness is all-encompassing. You have to be fit mentally before you are physical. If you are not fit mentally, then, sooner or later, your physical follow suit. Like I mention in my 28-day plan, detox is not only a physical thing it’s also a mental thing as well. You have to detox your contact list, your situation, and your environment.

TM: Some people use fasting as a form of detox, what is your standpoint on fasting?

Titus: I did a wellness Wednesday on fasting on my Instagram account. When done correctly It is something that I recommend. If you can properly deprive yourself of food it can test your mental will and if done properly it can be to your benefit. Intermittent fasting does work, but the problem is that people use it as a quick solution. People say they are going to fast for a couple of days after leading an unhealthy lifestyle for a long period of time. That is not what fasting is meant for but if you are going to have it as part of a systematic thing I would advocate that. You can’t out train a bad diet. People think you can go to the gym and only put an hour’s worth of work but that is not going work by itself. It is the other 23 hours with that workout that help determine how healthy you are going to be. First, we make our habits and our habits make us.

TM: Can you give us an example of how you detox outside the physical?

Titus: For example, if you are in a toxic relationship or have a toxic friend. You will only go so far while you are existing in that toxicity. It’s like living in a house that has asbestos. No matter how much treatment or medication I give you after you leave that house, you won’t get any better unless you remove yourself from that environment completely. You have to extricate yourself from those toxic things and toxic mentality.

TM: Can you be fit on a budget? 

Titus: Not having the financial means to be fit is an excuse. At the end of the day, people will buy what they want. Healthy food is expensive but you see those very same people paying $8 for a cup of coffee. Other people may say that they don’t have enough time to make breakfast but will go wait in a drive-through line at McDonald’s for 15 mintues. They justify their choices with excuses. Living healthy is an investment but people will try to make it look like an option. Being healthy should be your primary obligation because if you are in the hospital you can’t help your family. So your health should come first, it should be your primary objective to ensure that you are capable of helping your loved ones. You do that by taking care of your overall health and wellness. Anything short of that and you are doing a disservice to you and them.

TM: What is your advice to those seeking occupational wellness? Can this affect your working out or should you let it?

Titus:  I would never tell one to quit their job because everyone is not in the financial situation to do so. But if you are going to work your job and not work on an exit strategy, then it becomes a choice that you are making. Unlike A couple hundred years ago, when you had people that were enslaved, you have a choice! I don’t care what job you have, you don’t have to stay there unless you are in prison. The problem is that people in those job situations complain but when they go home they do nothing. That in itself is depressing. When you are actively working on an exit strategy, you are working on an endgame. Even if the endgame is 2 or 3 years out, keep trying and eventually you will succeed. I did a post that says “Your salary is a bribe to give up on your hopes and dreams.” Your job doesn’t have to be a bribe, it can be a means. If you are using your salary towards your dreams then it is a means.

TM: Regardig your clients, what do they look forward to while participating in your program?

Titus: The 28-day plan is about building a better, healthy lifestyle. I made the plan easy to follow and easy to duplicate. It is not overly restrictive and it’s not a fad. Anything taken out of diet should remain out of your diet. It’s not one those diets like the cabbage diet, that is not sustainable. My plan is sustainable and it’s balanced. The key to success is to have balance.

You only have one body and it is wise to take care of it. To quote Carrie Latet, “If you don’t take care of yourself, the undertaker will overtake that responsibility for you.”

Make sure to check out Fit Grandpa on Instagram for health information and updates.

25Nov/18
Diaja at X Gallery

Diaja Presents: We Are Our Ancestors

X Gallery Presents Photo Artist Diaja! In the “We Are Our Ancestors” exhibit, each portrait has a specific meaning and embodies rich African culture. Pairing each capture with modern African art,  she  produced a blend of traditional portraits with abstract sensitivity.

Exhibit Details:
X Gallery @ 163 Malcolm X Boulevard at 118th Street
Viewing November 29th to December 22nd 2018
Opening Reception is November 29th, 6 to 9pm

Click here to Register for free!

Ceres Henry, known artistically as Diaja, is recognized for storytelling though various photographic series which are often inspired by current events, Black and African culture,  and social disparities. Her work has caught the attention of various publications including Vogue Italia, Huffington Post, and recently Black Enterprise to name a few. Diaja prides herself on not only creating photos appealing to the eyes of her audience but thought provoking and educational photos that raise awareness of the world around her.

x galleryX Gallery is dedicated to participating in the cultural development of Harlem through the exhibition of  Art and Photography. They strive to create an environment where local people and foreigners of every background can be touched by the beauty of art. They are committed to exhibitions and programs that will strengthen and sustain our community. Lisa DuBois, curator.

Press Contact:  [email protected]
Text: 504 – 577- 1268
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.xgallery.nyc
PRESS INQUIRIES CONTACT [email protected]

Diaja at X Gallery

06Nov/18

If Beale Street Could Talk Cast Explain How to Support Black Women

Beale Street Street Could TalkIf Beale Street Street Could Talk, directed by Barry Jenkins, is a film that explores the dynamics of Black love. The foundation of love in the film is women who are shown supporting their male counterparts which prompts the question, how can Black men show more love and support to Black women? Taji Mag spoke with the cast at the film premiere in DC about some successful ways they can go about it.

Ki Ki Layne discussed the importance of Black men being more vulnerable stating, “I think it starts with really allowing themselves to give and receive love. I think with Black men there is a cutoff, the need to do so much on their own and to have everything together to take care of the household. I think the support will come when Black men make more room to give love and to be loved by Black women.”

Beale Street Street Could TalkAward-winning actress, Regina King, expressed the importance of supporting Black women saying “First of all, start with the love you feel with your mother. That energy and love you feel for your mother, some of that should be present. Obviously, you love your mother differently than you love your woman, but that is where the genesis exist.”

When asked what Black men could do to better show support she explained, “I would suggest they see this film If Beale Street Could Talk if they don’t have a clue. And tell Black women they are beautiful and really mean it.” When asked if Regina raised her 22-year-old son with those values she explained, “My son is taking off his hat, opening doors, and calls his mom every day and tells me he loves me every day.”

The leading actor of the film, Stephan James (Race), also expressed the importance of his mother and the support of Black women, explaining, “My mother has had a great impact on my life. The best woman in my life, that’s a no-brainer because she raised my two brothers and me. She was definitely a great influence on us.”

Black women have been the backbone for many families, especially in a world of male dominance in the workplace, unequal pay, etc. We as Black men have to continue to step up and show our support. If you need help figuring out how to do so, follow the advice of Regina King and go see If Beale Street Could Talk in theaters everywhere November 30th.