By now, you’ve probably seen the photo of Kanye West and Candace Owens at his latest Yeezy Szn 9 show in Paris rocking the Kanye White Lives Matter merch.
At this point, Ye has to know what he’s doing right? At the very least we can say that he knows how to pull a reaction out of just about anyone.
Of course, the Black Lives Matter movement over recent years has sparked endless controversy.
The argument from conservative side argues that “All Lives Matter,” or “White Lives Matter,” when they are entirely missing the point.
Whether you appreciate it or not, Kanye is going to Kanye.
Of course, he gave a big speech to the attendees at the event which included Doja Cat, Naomi Campbell, and his ex-girlfriend Irina Shayk.
It’s safe to say that anything else he showed during the show got overshadowed by this purely marketing moment. According to NY Post, Ye fashion went on a rant explaining his actions to the haters saying,
“I am Ye, and everyone here knows that I am the leader. “You can’t manage me.”
It’s safe to say that everybody has their fair share of opinions on both sides. From the left, right, and in between here are some of the rumblings on Twitter:
Jaden Smith has been one of the most vocal so far
And you know Boosie ain’t going for it
This was pretty much the general reaction of the public
Is White Lives Matter Kanye just a walking contradiction at this point?
The cycle just continues with this one
It’s getting scary out there
There are always 2 sides to the story I guess
Van Lathan who famously stepped up to Kanye in the past had this to say:
But at the end of the day, it’s all about perspective
Emmanuel Whajah is a German-born photographer, videographer, and creative director. His creative touch led him to success at a young age. Just 27-years-old, Whajah is the creative director for Keke Palmer and has worked with many other celebrities such as Les Twins, Tyga, Migos, and Rita Ora.
Kulture Hub has been following Whajah’s work over the years, and we’ve come to admire his success as a Black freelancer. Last week, Whajah was kind enough to speak with Kulture Hub. Read further to learn about the German-born photographer’s background, his goals as a creative, and more.
A dancer turned photographer and videographer
Kulture Hub: Could you tell us a little bit about how you started in your industry?
Emmanuel Whajah: Yeah, so I started, like, nine years ago, being just a hip hop dancer, and I started just shooting some videos for my dance crew back in the days. And that got very popular back in the time when we were dancing. So I got into all the hip hop competitions and won some championships.
And since then, I started to get more into video and stuff. I think that was the time when YouTube was getting more attention in the dance industry. So basically, we started doing more dance videos. And yeah, that’s how I started actually… that brought me into the music industry with other media shooting.
Kulture Hub: How do you feel that your background in dance has impacted your work as a photographer and a videographer in terms of your artistic eye?
Emmanuel Whajah: Basically, I would say, because of dancing, because you try to do something with your body and give a message out, you have the body language. So that’s almost the same way with the videography stuff and photography stuff.
So basically, trying to create something and trying to give a message out to the people with your creativity, maybe touch people emotionally, in a way and inspire or motivate them. That really helped me to even understand how to shoot people, specifically. And for me, as a dancer, working with big artists from the music industry helped me a little bit more to understand the music and how they move around, and how they stage and stuff like that.
Challenges along the way for Emmanuel Whajah
Kulture Hub:Were there any notable struggles that you encountered on your way towards success that you’d be willing to share?
Emmanuel Whajah: I think the hard part, just being successful in that area is just being consistent. Trying to network with people, but you can’t trust everybody. I think that’s the hard part.
Because when you start to reach a specific goal, and people recognize that, you know, like, from my part, working with artists, people see, “oh, cool, he’s working with artists and that model or influencer,” and people try to try to get to know you a little bit more, but not because of you… And basically, that’s [the] dark side of it. Being in the public eye.
Kulture Hub: How has COVID impacted your work in general, and has it hindered your work in any way or inspired certain projects?
Emmanuel Whajah:Actually, I didn’t really get hit by the COVID situation, basically, because at that time, I had a little accident before COVID even came. So, I was released from the hospital. And I think two, three weeks later, the whole COVID situation lockdown came up. And that was when I had the call from Keke [Palmer] because she wanted me to be a part of a media team.
So basically, that helped me a lot to be more creative and be free to create something for her. All my jobs I had at that time, I gave to other creatives because I was so busy with being the content creator of Keke Palmer… so basically, I really shared all my other jobs with other creators to help them out a little bit to get through this hard time.
Making an impact through art
Kulture Hub: Do you feel it’s important to address social issues or make social commentary through your work?
Emmanuel Whajah: I would say it’s important to stay woke… Even if you aren’t creative, it’s important to have something in your work to spread a little bit of a message out. Because for me, it’s, for example, when the whole Black Lives Matter situation came up…
I was so shocked with the whole situation. When they started to protest in Germany, I went to the event and shot the video for [all the] protests in Germany. And that video went viral without even me planning just when the whole situation in Nigeria came up…
So basically, if I have something and want to say something when something is going on in the world, I tried to be focused and tried to use it in my creative space to let people know.
Kulture Hub: What are your long-term goals as a creative? Is there a certain legacy that you’d like to leave?
Emmanuel Whajah:I would love to have my own company with a lot of talented creatives to build something great. Like, having an own Empire with all creators around the world, if possible, and just be you know, just be a role model and help other people to just be themselves.
Because I know it’s hard to be in those creative areas. Not a lot of people get the chance to do huge things. So basically, I want to be somebody who wants to help others. And that’s somewhere people can go and just be creative. Even if it’s just a school.
Kulture Hub: What do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a young creative?
Emmanuel Whajah: Oh, being humble, and just be yourself. That’s the most important thing. I think that’s the key, since I’ve been starting the whole creative part in my life. So be just been humbled and daunting. You know, don’t take things for granted. And just appreciate every moment in life. Yeah, I think that’s the most important thing, just being humbled.
And, of course, being focused and work hard, but humbleness is the most important thing. Because if you get to a point in life, with your goals, and with the whole success, people try to, you know, get lost in that kind of lane. But you got to be, you got to be as woke as you can, you gotta be careful for what’s happening around you. So you don’t fall into any temptations. So just being humble, and stay focused, I would say.
Emmanuel Whajah is leaving a mark on the creative world
Kulture Hub thanks Whajah for sharing his work and journey with us. The German-born photographer’s energy and mastery as a freelance creative is something to aspire to. We are eager to see what he will achieve next.
To learn more about Whajah, watch Kulture Hub’s YouTube video here to learn more about his brand and experience.
What’s going on with Black Lives Matter and its fundraising? Why would a foundation with the admirable, necessary cause of supporting Black lives receive criticism from its supporters, and what does a woman by the name of Patrisse Cullors have to do with it all? For the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, the questions all come back to the money.
The finances of the foundation have come into question especially after Co-founder and Executive Director Patrisse Cullors stepped down from her position. People are claiming that BLM has failed to be financially transparent. Here’s what you need to know.
Follow the (Black Lives Matter) money
Elicited by the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the growth in support for Black Lives Matter led to the foundation receiving their biggest donations yet.
As reported by AP News in February 2021, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation fundraised just over $90 million in 2020. This was the first time that BLM had shared a more detailed view of its finances since the foundation’s inception in 2013.
They specified that they committed $21.7 million in grant funding to BLM chapters, both unofficial and official, and other Black-led organizations. Their remaining balance in 2020 was over $60 million.
And Black Lives Matter is still receiving fundraising, although the initial upsurge last June may have slowed down a bit. The foundation said that individual donations in 2020 averaged $30.76, and more than 10 percent are recurring donations.
That’s a lot of BLM fundraising money. Where’s it all going?
BLM’s exclusive with AP news was perhaps an attempt at damage control, as BLM chapters were calling for financial transparency.
Ten of these chapters grouped together to create the #BLM10. This group claimed that most BLM chapters received minimal or no financial support from BLM since it was founded eight years ago.
In general, they argue that BLM is not equitable in its distribution of money. The co-founder and executive director of BLM at the time, Patrisse Cullors, challenged the claims of the #BLM10:
Because the BLM movement was larger than life — and it is larger than life — people made very huge assumptions about what our actual finances looked like. We were often scraping for money, and this year was the first year where we were resourced in the way we deserved to be.
Nonetheless, 17 chapters have now broken away from BLM according to The New York Times. It seems that Cullers’ words and BLM sharing some of their financial information was not enough to placate skeptics. The chapters continue to argue that if BLM can’t be honest and open with its members, they cannot be a dependable advocate for Black communities.
BLM exploiting the families of victims?
The family members of some of the victims have spoken out about feeling exploited by BLM. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has been accused of using their loved ones’ names to pull in donations, but they are not supporting the families directly.
Michael Brown Sr., whose son was shot and killed by a police officer in 2014, said,
I just feel like all these organizations that were made were made after someone had lost their loved one, and they see that these parents are coming up with organizations already. They should be able to get on board and support these families that’s going through this.
Having held her position for nearly six years, she was one of the people credited for BLM’s success, and she is also under fire for the financial controversy. She claims that the recent scrutiny BLM and its finances have been under had nothing to do with her decision. But perhaps Cullors’ words should be taken with a grain of salt.
Cullors’ wealth has come to light amidst the controversy surrounding BLM finances. Some theorized that she takes a large salary from the donation after buying an expensive home in southern California. Of course, she denies these claims, but some continue to speculate that her retirement was strategically timed.
The fears of where fundraising money goes is not unique to Black Lives Matter
The anxieties of donors and activists not knowing where their money is going has extended beyond BLM.
Shaun King, writer, activist, and a leading voice for Black Lives Matter, has been the subject of controversy with regards to fundraising before. People continue to question his identified race.
Some say he is a white man with two Caucasian parents who is claiming to be biracial for personal gain. Now, King is back under public scrutiny for asking for donations and not using the money as promised.
These donations supposed to be for building studios and offices and hiring journalists for The North Star—a reboot of Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist paper. However, no action has been taken for over a year. He has also asked for subscribers to pay for a podcast created by The North Star, which was an already-funded project.
How can we be agents of change if we can’t trust where our money is going?
Effecting meaningful change in a capitalist society
Is it a problem that a movement begging for safety for Black lives requires donations and money at all? Or, is this just a necessary effect of capitalism that any effort must be made into something financial? Regardless, we can do more than just open our wallets.
It’s easy to point fingers at a foundation and its leaders, claiming that they’re not doing enough. But we are agents in our own activism.
The truth is that Black Lives Matter successfully mobilized 26 million Americans to participate in demonstrations across the country. Should we hold BLM accountable for the millions of dollars they’re spending? Absolutely. But we also hold a responsibility as individuals.
We should participate in active activism. Sharing your wealth can help support a cause, but it can be difficult to truly know where your money is going. Do research and make informed decisions.
There are also more ways you can support the importance of Black lives and the movement toward racial equality. Volunteer, protest, sign petitions, vote responsibly—whatever you can do. If you truly want to make a change, be proactive in your efforts.
Photographers put their lives on the line daily and the protests in Philly over Walter Wallace’s massacre, yet again, prove this point.
Civil unrest broke out Monday night in Philadelphia after a 27-year-old Black man was shot and killed by a police officer.
Walter Wallace Jr. was experiencing a mental health crisis when the police attacked. His mother, witnessing the entire situation, pledged the officer not to shoot her son.
More than 300 people marched to protest the shooting of Wallace Jr. Once again, video captured the police shooting of another Black man. Rage, fear, and concern broke on Philadelphia’s streets, for yet another Black man’s life taken.
What happened to cause protests in Philly?
After 4 p.m. on Monday, the Philadelphia police responded to reports of a man armed with a knife. A bystander in the neighborhood captured the moment when the police arrived.
The video shows a man later identified as Walter Wallace Jr. walking into the street as people yell and two police officers aim their guns at him.
Then, dozens of shots can be heard right at the moment that the video points to the ground. 27-year-old Wallace, it was later disclosed, was having a mental health crisis.
Soon after the video was posted on social media, unrest and protests broke out in the city of Philadelphia. Mayor Jim Kenney said that the shooting raised “difficult questions that must be answered.” The police are currently investigating the case.
In between showers of rocks and bricks thrown by protestors, and the threat of violence from the police, some of the photographers on the front lines of the protests captured these life-threatening moments.
The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily New’s staff photographer, Jessica Griffin, captured the police force that is being used against protesters.
Her pictures are featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Guardian, and Fox News. They show a clear depiction of the unequal power dynamics of the situation.
Along with Jessica, there is Elizabeth Robertson. She is also a staff member of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her pictures have frightened the internet as they portray the extreme brutality police officers use against civilians.
Tim Tai is another photojournalist from The Philadelphia Inquirer that has been risking his life for content’s sake.
He previously worked as a photographer for the Columbia Daily Tribune and is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Asian American Journalist Association.
The Philly protest photographer snapped a shocking depiction of the unrest. Using colors that allow the viewer to understand the intensity of the matter. Most of his work follows police officers violently attacking protestors.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom Gralish is the assignment photographer at The Inquirer. He had previously worked at the United Press International and Las Vegas Valley Times before moving to Philly.
Philly protests call for courageous photographers
It is both sad and frightening that only one week before the election these instances of police brutality keep happening.
It is clearly something that has happened for years, only this time there are people aware and conscious about the severity of the matter. Not to mention virtually everyone owns a smartphone to record these harrowing occurrences.
Besides the Philly protests photographers, there are brave creatives that are willing to risk their lives for the sake of bringing these issues to the public to open their eyes, daily.
Since late May, Black Lives Matter protests in NYC have called for the defunding of police. The death of George Floyd spurred civil unrest that called for one main thing: Defund NYPD.
Defunding the police doesn’t necessarily mean completely restricting their funds. It means reallocating or redirecting funds to other government agencies. It does not mean abolish the police completely.
The 2020 fiscal year suggests New York City will spend a total of $10.9 billion dollars on the NYPD.
This NYPD’s operating budget totals $5.6 billion dollars, making it the third-largest agency operating budget. As a result of the pressure of protestors, New York City cut $1 billion from the police budget.
The proposed budget cuts
Within this $1 billion dollar cut, the City Council plans to redirect some of those funds to budget “badly needed infrastructure.”
The Coalition in City Council wants this $1 billion to be used to suspend the hiring of new police officers by 3%. They also want to cut uniformed overtime by 5% and cut non-personnel expenses by 4%.
The Communities United for Police Reform wants the money to be used to cut overtime, public relations and surveillance technology use, and cap uniformed officers. It will also fire abusive officers and deduct settlement payouts from the operating budget as a punitive measure. It will also cut modified duty.
The proposed cut will also freeze new hires, cancel new cadet classes, and cancel cadet training programs. It will also reduce uniformed officers by about five percent and remove officers from schools, transit systems, homeless outreach, and mental health response programs.
Where are the funds actually going?
Since the proposal passed on July 1st, people are wondering where these proposed funds are actually going.
It turns out that the proposed budget cut made by the city council is still funding the police, just a little more discreetly. Their new budget boosts enforcement against all other drivers in a blatant bid to fund the city government with excessive law enforcement.
This new budget reassigned 165 traffic-enforcement agents to the Department of Transportation, meant to assign tickets for cars that are “blocking the bus lane” or “double parking in a bike lane”.
However, it is clear that they have not done their research. These tickets and fines are directly related to the revenue of many cities’ police departments. When the citizens are unable to pay, this builds tension between the police department and the citizens.
The city council is doing everything but adhere to what protestors want, even when we’ve spelled it out for them.
UNINTERRUPTED just released a special feature called Love Stories, a 60-minute roundtable discussion hosted by WNBA legend Sue Bird.
In the discussion, Bird and co., featuring transwomen activists Elle Hearns, Bamby Salcedo and Ashlee Marie Preston, shed light on important topics from trans rights to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sue Bird, as a gay athlete, shared her own unique perspective of growing up with aspirations of being a basketball star.
“For me, there weren’t gay athletes to look up to. When I first came into the WNBA it was very much like ‘be the straight girl’ because I pass as straight whatever that means… and now it feels so good to know that there’s going to be another little girl who, if she’s gay she could look at me and be like ‘Oh. It’s been done. This is cool.'”
The conversation quickly segued to a discussion about trans lives, and how all Black lives must be protected. Elle Hearns shared her own keen insight.
“I always tell everyone, in order for black trans women to no longer be murdered, then the conditions of black communities have to be better… The reality is that the same thing that is happening to black men, or happening to black women who happen to be cis gender, is happening to trans people, and so there is no seperation of these realities.”
Love Stories is part of UNINTERRUPTED’s Love is UNINTERRUPTED campaign, which launched in early June. In collaboration with Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird, and Athletes 4 Impact, UNINTERRUPTED released a limited edition exclusive hoodie in honor of PRIDE.
As expected, it sold out within mere minutes. The hoodie is beautifully designed, and $24 from each purchase is donated to Athletes 4 Impact.
Athletes 4 Impact is a platform for athlete activism and a “vital resource for athletes across all sports to become part of the movement for justice.”
Pushing onwards with the Love Is UNINTERRUPTED campaign, Uninterrupted is adamant about continuing to elevate stories from athletes and entertainers in celebration of visibility, vulnerability, emotional awareness, and acceptance.
Representation is everything. UNINTERRUPTED’s efforts conduce empathy and understanding, and right now, we need that in surplus.
The second influencer caught on camera is a woman named Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, a political intern with the Washington Journal and a former journalist for Billboard and Hollywood Reporter.
Since the video has gone viral, there have been over 24 million views, producing multiple backlash from many infuriated Twitter users berating her for her callous behavior.
For those of you lamenting over the fact that it was the rioters who broke the windows and are therefore causing strain within this movement, here’s where you’re wrong.
Many people have taken it upon themselves to use this movement as a way to fuel their shoplifting and anger management needs, therefore defiling the true meaning of what #BlackLivesMatter actually means.
First posted on TikTok, this video depicts someone smashing windows with a skateboard until someone comes by to stop him, berating him for his actions. Since being uploaded onto Twitter, this video has had over six million views.
This is what the media doesn’t want you to see. This is what the media is doing its best to hide from you.
Another instance of people using this movement for their own personal gain can be seen when white people had decided to enter through a broken store window to steal shoes from a popular brand, Vans. For people claiming that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is just a way for Black people to break into stores, think again.
The media trying to pretend as though these protests are nothing near peaceful — that is a far cry from the truth. There are multiple instances of white people ruining peaceful protests, a perfect example of that being shown in a video that has gone viral on Twitter.
The man is shown to be kicking police cars and showing the middle fingers to the protestors as well as those that film him and try to stop him.
But, “The police are called to stop the protestors from breaking into stores and protect the businesses!” Well, if that is the case, who do we call when the police are the ones who have decided to start breaking into stores?
Videos of cops breaking store windows with their batons have begun to circulate the internet leaving people bewildered over the fact that it is the cops who have started the vandalism, but that’s not new for those who have seen this happening for days now.
In the wake of police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, protests both peaceful and less-so have spread across the country like wildfire.
Times of civil unrest are already difficult enough for people, and their stress, anxiety, and anger have only been accentuated by the coronavirus pandemic. With all these stressful factors coming into play, it’s important to stay safe, smart, and connected as a community when protesting in order to triumph over these challenges.
With that in mind, here’s a guide to protesting in a safe and smart way during this pandemic:
What to wear
When protesting, it’s important to keep a few key things in mind. Not only are you facing the unfortunate possibility of arrest, but you’ll also likely be standing and moving around for a long time. Therefore, you’ll want to wear clothes that address these factors.
First and foremost, make sure you’re wearing something comfortable and appropriate for the weather. If you’re going to be stuck outside for a while, you’ll want to make sure you can stand it. Loose-fitting clothing and thinner fabrics that can wick off moisture are a good choice for a hot summer day.
If the temperature is a little on the cooler side though, layer up, but still keep your attire relatively lightweight. With items such as light jackets, sweaters, gloves, hats, and scarves that can be easily removed.
Comfortable footwear is especially essential since you’re likely going to be standing and moving for a long time. Sneakers or other types of sturdy shoes are your best bet for this.
Keep your hair up. Cover identifying marks and tattoos. Keep a mask on at all times, and try to wear goggles and gloves.
Even though we’re in Canada, it is unpredictable what will come. For everyone going to the peaceful protest tomorrow in Calgary or throughout this week in whichever city, here is a guide for things to bring/wear for your safety and others if needed. Spread to friends and family pic.twitter.com/AQNHGCnzkM
There’s more to just staying safe and smart in terms of what you’re wearing though, there’s also some key supplies that can be useful to have should you have to protest.
What to bring
Besides comfortable and lightweight clothing, there’s also some important items you might want to consider bringing to a protest should you attend one. For one, water is always essential to staying hydrated and keeping up your endurance in a long protest.
You also want to keep your safety in mind. Not just in terms of protecting your identity from police, but for the sake of your health as well. We still are suffering from a global pandemic after all.
Fortunately, these issues can usually be solved hand-in-hand. Wearing a face mask, gloves, and glasses will help in masking your identity, reduce the chances of coronavirus from getting in contact with you, and provide some protection against rubber bullets and tear gas. Scary times require keeping all of this in consideration.
While you may be tempted to scream and chant to project your voice, you’re also projecting particles that could spread sickness and risk chances of coronavirus. So when you want to give your voice a break, raise a noise-maker or a sign instead.
Basic health and first aid supplies such as hand sanitizer, band-aids, and bandages are also useful to help keep yourself free from germs spreading in crowds, or to patch people up from any altercations.
In the age of social media, the widespread use of technology has both its benefits and disadvantages.
One drawback in particular is the ability for the police to keep an eye on people’s devices. Cellphones can be particularly easy to track, especially through the use of stingray devices, which act as a sort of false cell tower.
This ultimately makes it easier for police to identify and track down protesters. Even taking a photo or video at a protest can give police information such as a timestamp and location to track an individual.
To maintain anonymity, it’s best to bring a secondary device or burner phone that has little to no information on you. If it’s registered with a carrier, make sure it’s one that you didn’t register too much of your personal information with.
Otherwise, it’s less of a burner and more of another tracking device. Should you need to use your phone, only do so for emergencies or to get in contact with friends or family for assistance.
If you don’t want to pay for another device however, encrypting the data on your phone and keeping a secure pin or passcode is also a good way to maintain your digital safety.
Try to steer clear of using a fingerprint or facial scanner to unlock your device though. If the police confiscate your phone, chances are they’ll find it pretty easy to use you to unlock its biometric security.
In the end, your best bet is to limit your cell phone usage and its ability to connect to data or WiFi at protests. If you have to use it, try doing so only in emergencies.
Don’t forget a healthy mindset
With the tense protests emerging around the country, and the existing pressure of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s essential to keep a calm and level head amidst the chaos.
If you choose to protest, remember that these are ultimately for the sake of the Black Lives Matter movement, for peacefully fighting against police brutality in this country. For the sake of changing a corrupt justice system for the better.
This isn’t a time to loot for the sake of ransacking places. This is a time to come together as a community and peacefully work to change the system. If someone decides to try and agitate police, don’t follow along and muddy the meaning of peaceful protesting.
Talk to them; tell them the error in their ways. And if they refuse to listen, explain to the police and nearby protestors that they are acting alone and selfishly.
Be mindful of people, the black lives being lost due to police brutality, and look out for your fellow citizens. Remember that we can all be more than a bunch of people protesting, but rather protesting as one people.
Staying safe is staying smart
At the end of the day, these protests are still occurring in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so social distancing and quarantine guidelines still apply here.
While mass gatherings are inevitable at protests, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to maintain six feet of distance in small groups. These guidelines don’t stop after protesting either. Isolating yourself following a protest is always a safe and healthy choice to ensure you’re not contaminated.
And most importantly: if you feel ill whatsoever, do not attend a protest and stay at home.
These protests are a way to motivate positive changes to the social system in this country. If done safely and peacefully, we can make our voices heard and come together as a community.
This is not the time to cause chaos and stir the pot to make people agitated. This is a time to truly come together as one people and create a glimmer of light in this dark time.
Stay healthy, stay smart, and stay safe out there.
When Cheyenne and Florcy first met as students at Clark University, they would’ve never been able to tell you that one day they’d start something that would become a global movement for many young women just like themselves.
But after linking through ALANA, an organization that helps sculpt an easier path for first-generation students of color by providing them a safe space on campus, they found their calling and did just that.
With a common interest in community activism and a goal to educate on the issues that women of color go through, they started the group WOCIS, which provides a space for individuals just like them to find solace with each other.
Kulture Hub had the chance to catch up with the co-founders on their current successes with the organization, the expansive network that connects POC to communities across the globe, and their annual conference coming up this weekend.
Florcy cites the experience that propelled their institution into full gear. Shortly after the murder of Michael Brown in 2014, a march was held outside the university, located in the southside of Worchester, Massachusetts.
Participating in the march, both girls noted the separation between the white students and students of color. Florcy shares that their peers in the crowd and anyone attending would notice the same thing saying,
“Most POC were in the back, dragging on the march, not really wanting to be there. Meanwhile, for the white population, it seemed more like an opportunity to miss class.”
Taking matters into her own hands, Florcy then led the march over onto Main Street of the neighborhood. Cheyenne stepped in, grabbed the mic and called all women of color out to link up for a meeting that focused less on the white population. According to Florcy, over 80 women showed up.
“It was intergenerational. The youngest person there was around 7, and the oldest being around 80.”
With such a positive response, it seemed only obvious that the duo would go on to fulfill their objectives through self-started organizations. While they were active on campus, they didn’t feel like they were gaining the response their community deserved. Cheyenne shares,
“Florcy and I did a lot of work, but we would see in our institution a lot of groups separated by race or ethnicity. For me, it didn’t seem like it was very collaborative amongst different organizations. The Black Student Union wouldn’t link up with the Latino Association or the Asian American Association. Especially international students of color, we were all separated.”
From there, Women of Color in Solidarity was born. The community provides support for women, femmes and gender non-conforming people of color, particularly those who come from low-income neighborhoods.
For the founders, it wasn’t a question of bringing WOC together, but a way of passing along the lessons, history, and experiences that different POC sometimes miss out on. Cheyenne says,
“A lot of times with matters like Black Lives Matter, or whatever it may be, a lot of people don’t identify with that ethnicity so they don’t feel obligated to show up — and for us that was a huge thing, because most of the work we do, we always show up with communities that are outside of our own. That’s also a big thing abut WOCIS, we’re very adamant in making it known that me and Florcy do come from different backgrounds, we do have different racial ethnicities or whatever you want to call it, but that is a part of why we come together and the work that we do.”
The team behind WOCIS does share a similar background in one way, however, are also allowing organizers to maintain a unified coalition. Cheyenne tells us,
“The people that we work with, or the organizations that we work with, our squad right now, the core team that’s getting work done right now, all of us come from lower statuses.”
Though the project has been ongoing for over three years now, it just started getting poppin’ on social media just this year.
Last year, what now is considered an annual conference opened pathways for WOCIS in every sense of the word. After a successful time bringing POC together, the idea for a discussion was brought into fruition, which allowed for a more honest and open conversation between those involved.
“Honestly, it was important because there wasn’t a conference like that happened. Tickets were free, people were able to submit for workshops, and I think it was the first time you saw anyone being able to share their story. With conferences, I think there’s a lot of hype around the institutions bringing us together, guest speakers and things like that… We don’t have a keynote speaker. The speakers for us is introducing ourselves and WOCIS, but there’s no major keynote speaker. They’re all workshops and we’re curating floor panels. But outside of that, we have people playing music or whatever it may be.”
“Usually what we do is have an artist showcase so that people can display their different forms of art, so they can be who they want to be as well, and not base it all on workshops, that helps people express themselves.
They feature artwork in many forms in order to highlight people of color or women of color. Since the organization is still in its intimate pages, WOCIS has a spiritually charged community which expends across the globe through word of mouth.
“The last couple of months, a lot of work that we’ve been doing is traveling to different communities where women are doing a lot of global and local work and connecting people and the work that they’re doing throughout the world. That for us is one thing that we do most (best) is connecting people. Most of the people we’ve been collaborating with are our friends, and I think that within the next 10 years, we’ll have a global network where you are able to put someone on speed dial when they’re in need.”
And while they’ve connected with organizations on every level, so far, the most successful partnerships have been those who are their own friends, making strides from every angle all over the globe.
“It’s mostly our homegirls that are doing all that work, and they also have their own movements as well. We have friends all over… It really just depends on our friends…. We’ve traveled to other countries, and since we do global solidarity, we wanna know how we can expand beyond our block. We always make it known that WOCIS is doing work there, but it’s more like, ‘So how we gonna build now? How are we gonna keep our connection, me and my homegirl?’ Also putting each other on when there’s different opportunities that arise for us, and asking, who is needed at that table, at that moment?”
“I think our work is built in friendship. I also wanna highlight the Women’s Space because they provided us with a lot of our space to host workshops and are still very much are supportive of us.”
Solidarity Beyond Border’s first conference was last April. The upcoming conference will focus on the practice of solidarity and the healing that comes with it. While last year was directed at healing projects, this season will touch on the subject of self-care and how to maintain it no matter what it is you’re involved in.
“Last year was healing head, heart, and soul for WOC by WOC. This put healing at the forefront of our conference, so we focused on healing in all different sectors; educational, actual healers, politics, whatever that may be. This year we’re thinking to put the actual practice of solidarity amongst and not just in your local community, but expanding that to other forms of healing.”
If Cheyenne and Florcy had any advice to share for those seeking to become more involved in their activism, it’d be to get started, even if it’s just a topic of discussion.
“When me and Cheynne first started talking, we would have conversations in the kitchen or just chillin’, but they were always just conversations. Sometimes we’d look guidance in people, but we realised that doesn’t exist. Rather than going to conferences, we decided to just create our own. I would say if you have a vision, link up with other people who share that mission with you.”
Cheyenne agreed, saying,
“All these things, self-care, self-healing want people to know that the work is exhausting. One thing we mention is to create a self-care policy, whatever you want to call it. Me and Florcy are both educators and I think that we work with young people, and yes it’s nice to see them motivated but it worries me that they’re not understanding how detrimental it can be to their own health. I think that is something that I’d like to see more of.”
One of my favorite things to do is make racists feel uncomfortable.
I’ve noticed a horrible habit in which minorities go above and beyond to prove to racists that they aren’t who they’re perceived to be.
Oftentimes this requires losing a sense of self in order to gain some sort of respect. But the jig is you won’t earn any true respect because racism still prevails despite your efforts.
So, the solution? Stop looking for their approval. Racists don’t want to see us win. They don’t want to see us excel. The greatest way to defeat them is to do everything that positively affects us while not considering their opinion whatsoever.
This list could basically be endless, but here are 9 things that racists never want to see you do that you should never stop doing.
Shout out to the activists like Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, and Assata Shakur for being so proud to be black that they didn’t care what it would cost them.
In 2018 it’s still a struggle to have pride in being black when there’s so much against us. We’re taught to desire anything but black culture until it’s appropriated.
You’d think the lies would stop at the elementary school level since children are too young to understand when they’re being duped.
But, unfortunately, we’re constantly being deceived by cable news and the likes of our own president.
It takes a bit of extra work to double check sources and stay up on what’s going on in the world. But it’s extremely important that we do so. Otherwise, we’ll simply be sheep.
Uniting with each other
There is power in unity. If everyone who is subjected to any form of discrimination and/or dehumanization were to support each other’s cause and truly empathize with each other’s struggle, it would be much easier for us to force real change.
Calling out injustice
Police brutality is nothing new but we can’t accept it as normal just because it’s been going on for years. It would be so much easier for them if we all swept these cases under the rug.
Screaming Black Lives Matter makes a racist’s skin crawl. In the words of DJ Khaled, they don’t want you to think you matter.
Supporting black businesses
Not only does this create more jobs for our people but it benefits the black community as a whole.
Keeping profits within these communities allows us to maintain power over the well-being of ourselves and our neighborhoods.
Knowing your worth
Never settle for less because society brainwashes us to believe we don’t deserve as much as anyone else.
We have to work twice as hard to earn a seat at the table, but don’t allow yourself to be discouraged. If we continue to accept the cards we’re dealt we will never grow as a unit, and that is exactly what they want.
I know all of these actions don’t necessarily make life any easier for us. Not yet, at least. It’s much safer to fall in line and not rock the boat, but then what do you gain from that? Who wants to live a “safe” life without any true freedom?
Even still, we are never truly safe as long as we’re being killed by police just because of the color of our skin.
The best way to defeat a racist is to live being your best self by your definition, not theirs. Racism may be alive but we will not let it win.