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Happy One Year Anniversary to my Definition Series, which I started one year from today! I have explained this series concept many times at art shows, pop up shops, lectures, and workshops but I have never sat down and written the meaning behind this series. It's important for me to share what inspires me to those of you who support my artistic journey, it is equally as important for Black Americans to have a voice to express how we feel about what is continuously happening in our communities.
Last year, summer of 2016 there was a massive amount of injust police shootings, arrests which led to deaths, and murder of black and brown Americans. This has been happening for as long as I can remember but it seems there was a purge of some sort last summer! Black communities were in an uproar, protests were just about every single night, social media+news and radio outlets were finally covering these injust killings of black people and we were determined to receive our due of equal rights by having those responsible for murder based on racial discrimination held accountable for their actions.
These killings did not stop with our black men, they continued with our women and children. I was so angry and afraid! Angry because no amount of writing, protesting, rioting, or crying was going to fix what was happening. How could I a mother of two black boys protect my children from those who are supposed to be protecting them? How could I not be afraid every single time my husband left our home? Would I see him again in the middle of the street, victim to the latest bullet from a "routine traffic stop"?
To make things worse, non-minority individuals seemed to feel we deserved to be shot in the street, dragged from our cars, choked on the sidewalks. We deserved these brutal deaths due to our living situations, or the " black on black crime" which supposedly wipes us all out each year anyways. We deserve to be arrested for no reason and found dead in our cells with no explanation. Our children deserve to be shot for playing outside or walking home from the store. We are lazy, dirty, ignorant and slavery was the best thing to ever happen to us! These were all things that felt like slaps in the face just listening to this nonsense was enough to anger anyone.
In the midst of all the anger and fear circulating in our community I had to do something! Anything to voice my concerns, to stand up for my people! To say to the world we are not who you think we are! We are not defined by our circumstances! We are royalty!
Defining the "Black Woman"
"Black Woman" was the first to emerge. The Bible tells us, women came from men. But the natural creation of life shows us that men come from women. The Principles of "Ma'at" tells us we are the original women and men.
The most disrespected women in America, is the black woman. The most unprotected woman in America, is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black woman.
"Black Woman" defines the black woman through my eyes. I was raised by strong, resilient black women who passed those qualities down to me. The black woman is a teacher, mother, creator, etc. She instills unity and peace amongst her village, she encourages intelligence and knowledge in her children. This definition emerged through my research, experience, and thoughts.
1.female human being of African descent. 2. subject to extreme abuse and oppression based upon the inaccurate or faulty (racist perception of inferiority by the oppressor. 3. Scientific: mother of civilization: one from whom all life comes forth. 4. one who subscribes and practices thoughts and deeds which promote unity among people of color.
synonyms: wife, mother, sister, leader, teacher, warrior
adjectives: strong, intelligent, beautiful, compassionate, tireless
Defining the "Black Man"
"Black Man" was my next creation. He emerged from a Queen, determined, protective, a warrior. He protects the women and children of his community. I was raised by a black man, he taught me to respect myself, to be kind and giving yet strong and careful. He protected me and in turn I learned how to protect myself, how to choose a protective husband, and how to protect my young kings. He encouraged growth, love, peace, and prosperity. This definition emerged through my research, experience and my thoughts.
Black Man \'blak man\
1. Male human being of African descent. 2. Subject of extreme abuse and oppression based upon the inaccurate or faulty (racist) perception of threat by the oppressor. 3. Nation of Islam: original man; Father of the universe. 4. one who subscribes and practices thoughts and deeds which promote unity among people of color.
synonyms: husband, father, brother, teacher, soldier, organizer, leader
adjectives: strong, intelligent, creative, understanding
Through experience I have found "Black Love" to be an amazing experience. A connection between two people who accept each other regardless of skin tone, background, or flaws. This painting was inspired by the emotions i've felt being in love with a black man. Someone who supports me, provides for our family, cares for me deeply, and is my closest and most amazing friend and partner. He embraces my hair texture, and my chocolate skin. We understand that our ancestors had to fight and suffer for the black love they felt so we cherish the freedom we have to openly love each other. I created the definition below based on my experience with my black love.
1. An intense feeling of deep affection between two people of African descent. 2. Suspected to be non existent due to the faulty perception of black families in society. 2. Scientific: original family, ones from which all life was created or evolved. 4. A commited partnership composed of lov, trust, loyalty, laughter, prayer, and support.
Synonyms: caring, deep affection for, adore, passion
Adjectives: strong, amorous, adoration, devotion, cherished, heartfelt
After welcoming love and partnership into your life sometimes we are blessed with a beautiful person who was created from that love. In this series the "Black Child" emerged. I did not base this child on a specific gender. This is a baby meant to relate to all children as children of love. Whether conceived or carried in love, our black children deserve to know how magical they are. I have 2 beautiful love children of my own, and we will be welcoming our third magical baby in September. This painting is for them to know how needed they are. How the black culture needs them to be educated and strong, unified and welcoming in order to continue the traditions of our ancestors. I created the definition below for our children. This is for you:
1.Male or female child of African American Descent. 2. Subject to extreme judgement and oppression by the faulty portrayal of black culture. Scientific: child of the mother and father of civilization; son or daughter of the original man and woman. One who is destined to enhance the future of a mighty nation.
Synonym: son, daughter, cousin, friend, brother, sister, student, warrior
Adjectives: intelligent, strong, beautiful, playful, friendly, courageous,
We all originated from Africa. "The Motherland" was the beginning of our various shades of skin, texture of hair, spiritual beliefs, and physical features. Our history was stripped from our ancestors, although some of them preserved bits of it we slowly lost our roots. This piece "Motherland" is meant to take us back to where we belong. To inspire us to find out where we come from and to reconnect with who we are, to what our ancestors lost. We begin to find our real truth when we go back to our native land and open our eyes to what once was life for our people. The definition below is very simply put.
noun: motherland; plural noun: motherlands
one's native country.
Thank you for getting closer to my definition series. I hope these pieces inspire you to embrace your culture. We are all different, we made different choices for our lives. But rather we live in the suburbs or the inner city projects we are all important to our culture, our history, and our communities. We should come together and help each other grow, sustain, and rebuild. There was once a time when all we had is each other. Being black in America today is not easy, but if we support each other we can make change happen.
This year I attended Essence Fest and it was truly an event to remember! I was invited to attend Essence as a vendor and I traveled along with Shop Zuvaa the African Inspired clothing company that hosts African designers from all over the world to sell their products through Zuvaa Marketplace. I packed up my paintings and my husband and I embarked on an 8 hour drive to New Orleans to experience Essence Fest for the first time. Of course I took notes of everything I learned, things that inspired me, and market research regarding products and art. Please keep reading if your interested!
What Essence Did For My Business?
1. Worldwide Exposure
Essence is the destination for black women looking to enjoy some time with their girlfriends, eat as much cajun food as you can handle, and shop, shop, and shop some more! People traveled from everywhere to be at the event. I met women from Paris, Jamaica, Canada, and Los Angeles looking to purchase creative pieces of art and wearable art for their homes and bodies! I set up shop in the One Canal Shops at Essence Fest with Zuvaa. The Convention Center was about 2 blocks away from the popup shop I was vending at. We received plenty of traffic because we were on one of the hottest food strips in the area. The exposure I received just from being at the event was unimaginable for me as a small business owner. Social media is great but it doesn't compare to the face to face interaction you get from your clients in person. I made some amazing connections, I got to talk to other creative small business owners, and most of all I got to enjoy the event with people nationwide!
2. Client Feedback | Face to Face Contact
In addition to meeting amazing people from all over the world I received amazing feedback about my pieces. New clients got to touch the products and hear from me first hand why I created the pieces, the inspiration behind my art and style, and why I decided to create Poetically Illustrated. Now I get to do this at my local shows and this is also amazing, but getting to hear from people I wouldn't otherwise have face to face contact with is truly humbling. People who have been following my art since college, or my first post about leaving my job to pursue my passion full time got to see my products first hand. They got to hear my journey and we got to build a relationship. I was also pleased to network with other small business owners, we've planned and scheduled collaborations and events to host together later this year and next year! Essence was truly an eye opening and humbling experience for me.
3. Marketing, Promo, Staging
Everything at Essence Pops out at you! At the Convention Center where the vendors are setup there is a pool of vibrant colors, fabrics, art, hair, natural products, and more! The major sponsors like Creme of Nature, Ford, As I Am, McDonald's, etc. have huge setups and screens that grab your attention. There are tons of free giveaways, amazing food, and connections being made. I took note of things the big businesses did to draw in a crowd as well as the small businesses who were slaying there booths. I noticed that everyone was going big or going home! They brought there A game, the best products, the best assistants to help draw in the crowd, the entertainment, the live streaming, and social media posts to ensure you stayed connected with your customers. Some vendors were hosting celebrity talks, others were hosting there own giveaways, or passing out coupons and cards to those looking in and not stopping. These are all things that have inspired my booth setup for next year! I can't wait for you guys to see it!
4. Collaborations + Sponsors
Many of the sponsors of Essence Fest also sponsored creative businesses as well. Offering the products of small businesses as back drops for photoshoots, art printed on free tote bags, free product stuffed inside bags, small business shout outs and free hairstyles, and dance battles! The list goes on! Many startup companies were featured and sponsored to speak on panels about black business as well as health, prosperity, and inspiration from celebrities to keep pushing for there dreams. I took notes on what I heard and saw, I'm speaking with brands, pitching, and brainstorming on how I can contribute to their setups next year and how they can contribute to mine. This event shows you that the sky is not the limit. Anything you can think in your mind, create with your body, its possible with dedication, perseverance, and patience!
5. Boost in Sales
The last benefit I will cover is my boost in sales. Yes, I sold alot of product at the Essence Fest Popup! I cherish the connections I made more than the money because these are lifelong relationships that I am building with fellow business owners and clients who really enjoy putting my work in their homes and offices. But yes I received a boost in my website views, social media following, and my shop salels+commission work. Profiting from your passion is always a great feeling. I prayed specific prayers into the universe this year for my business and I am so thankful that they are coming to light! Essence brought me over 200 page views per day which is still holding on even a week after the event. I sold out of product just by walking the New Orleans strips holding or wearing my art. I made amazing connections with business partners which will allow me to travel and spread my work even more. I'm so grateful for the experience! I know next year when i'm actually set up in the Convention Center I will be sponsored and I will foster even more new clients and career opportunities for Poetically Illustrated.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope this inspires you to go for your dreams. Invest in yourself and believe that you can achieve anything. Thank you Essence for the chance to sell to your crowd! Until next year....