Morality is a matter of opinion, queerness is not: a Q+A with Da’Shaun Harrison

Sinclair: Your name on Twitter reads: “thicc,” meaning fat. Tell us more about what this means to you.

Da’Shaun: I wrote a piece titled The Conflict Between Thick and Fat where I discuss at great length how anti-fatness shows up in language like “thicc/k” and what it really means when people refer to fatness as “thicc/k.” Said differently, “thicc/k” being used as an avenue, of sorts, to arrive at desire for what really is just fatness is anti-fat, and this only adds to the systemic oppression which fat people experience. My Twitter name comes from this idea.

Sinclair: In your article, “Homeleness and the Death I Fear as as Queer Black Person”, you said: As a child, my family seldom spoke to me about sex or sexuality. Not in a healthy way, at least. How can we have these conversations in a healthy way?

Da’Shaun: First, parents should really educate themselves on all that sex is. I think many adults think they have sex all figured out because they are adults and/or because they have children, but the reality is that sex-ed is ever-evolving. We can never learn too much about what it is we can do to pleasure ourselves and our partner(s). Beyond that, parents should also educate themselves on sexuality. More and more knowledge is acquired and shared on sexuality each year. We know more about how attraction and identity and desire all work than we ever have; this knowledge is imperative to a child’s development.

With this knowledge, I believe that parents should always be open and honest with their kids about sex and sexuality. When they get to an age where they are able to comprehend what they’re being told, parents should talk frequently with their child(ren) about what sex is, what sexuality is, and affirm for their child(ren) that they are loved and cared for even and especially if they are queer and/or trans. And, not all people experience sexual attraction; this is valid, too. Opening children up to the fact that conversations around sex do not have to be taboo and are not always hypersexual will assure them that their parents can be trusted and, hopefully, will lead to them engaging in healthy sex—with whomever they want to—if they choose to.

Sinclair: What’s something we often get wrong when talking about sexuality?

Da’Shaun: Many people base their perception of queer people off of what they believe to be moral. However, morality is a matter of opinion, queerness is not. Science, both physical and social, provide more than enough “evidence” that sexuality is not rigid as many would have us to believe.

“We can never learn too much about what it is we can do to pleasure ourselves and our partner(s).” – Da’Shaun Harrison

Sinclair: What advice do you have for someone who feels like their sexual identity is often under attack?

Da’Shaun: If at all possible, surround yourself with people who love you. Other queer people who, for many, have similar experiences and pain. For queer and/or trans people—especially of color, and especially Black—chosen families, “houses,” etc. are all vital for our survival. This is true historically and still presently.

I’d also tell them that strength is not a requirement for their humanity to be valid, but that they are strong . . . even if that is not always their truth. Loneliness, sadness, frustration, and anger are all valid emotions for us to experience. Some of us never come back from those feelings, and their lives are valid, too. However, being queer/trans is not all about our suffering and our oppression. We deserve to enjoy life just as much as anyone else.

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Da’Shaun Harrison

Sinclair: You’re a prolific writer, Morehouse grad, and all around badass. How did you get to where you are now?

Da’Shaun: Thank you! I study, I read, I keep my ears and my mind open, and I feel deeply. These have all gotten me to where I am. This said, I am only as strong as my village. This journey has not been an easy one, by any means, and it seems to only get harder. Still, I am alive and where I’m at today because I have a host of people—my communities—who hold onto me, who allow me to be human, who pray for me, who burn sage for me, who talk to the ancestors on my behalf, who love me without wavering. I have honestly learned so much from all of the people I am around and I owe each of them all of the love and thanks I can muster up because I’m only here because of them and I’ll only continue to go up from here because of them. From my family back in my hometown, Wilmington, NC, to the many siblings I bonded with at Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta, to the large family I gained across the world (& the interwebs) through community organizing, I have a very strong support system.

“…Being queer/trans is not all about our suffering and our oppression. We deserve to enjoy life just as much as anyone else. – Da’Shaun Harrison

Sinclair: What advice do you have for HBCU students graduating in May 2019?

Da’Shaun: This advice is for the rebels, the ones with low GPAs, the ones who dropout, the fifth and sixth year students: keep being you. We are not all fit to walk the path that the world says we must, and some of us simply don’t want to, and these are all okay. Always strive to do your very best and be proud of whatever that best is. Don’t stunt your growth, but also know that growth is not always linear and it is not always exponential.
What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

As a multiply-marginalized person with major chronic depression and anxiety, there is not much that brings me joy. Nevertheless, being around friends who are passionate about writing, and creating content that changes lives, and enjoying it all in the process has brought me a lot of happiness recently. I am grateful for that.

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Da’Shaun Harrison

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been pissing you off?

Da’Shaun: Solange said it best: “I gotta lot to be mad about.” This world is horrific. One thing that’s been pissing me off more now than ever is being poor. There is no reason that poor and working class people, especially those of us who are Black, should have to struggle to *only* be able to pay bills while others sit on piles of money. It’s an abomination. Capitalism has been pissing me off.
When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

I doubt myself a lot. I always have. I’m a perfectionist, so it is oftentimes very difficult for me to not worry or doubt. I am currently in a place, a moment, where I’m unsure of where I’m going next. I’m not sure where my writing is going, though I know what I want to do; I’m not sure what my next education move will be, though I’m certain of what I want it to be. I feel that I am in limbo trying to find my way back to the surface. It’s a constant journey, but it is one I’m willing to continue on.
What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

I am a communist. This, to me, means that I am staunchly against this capitalist, imperialist, white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchy. This cannot be compromised and it cannot be changed. I became very clear on this when I began organizing back in January 2015, and I grow clearer on this as time progresses.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?

Da’Shaun: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” —Assata Shakur

Eat the rich. The People will rise.

✍🏿✍🏿✍🏿

Da’Shaun Harrison is a nonbinary abolitionist and organizer in Atlanta, GA. He writes and speaks publicly on race, sexuality, gender, class, religion, disabilities, fatness, and the intersection at which they meet. His portfolio and other work can be found on his website, dashaunharrison.com.

Learn more about Da’Shaun and connect: Twitter | Website 

The Self-Care Event of the Year!

 

SUPER EARLY BIRD TICKETS ON SALE FOR $19 

💎💎💎

Proudly Sponsored by Nourish Family Nutrition

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This all day event combines expert teaching, dynamic engagement around topics of accessible/practical self-care and holistic wellness, and hand-on activities to help participants live better stories.

Logistics

Saturday, October 6, 2018. The Ideal Arts Space, 905 W. 36th Street, Baltimore, Maryland. 9am-4pm. Introvert friendly. Intimate setting. Next door to delicious vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options.

The problem + what we’ll provide

People struggle with taking care of themselves and believing in their worth and value. We will teach participants practical ways to take a more holistic approach to self-care and wellness. This day will be catered towards busy people and helpers who are willing to commit to cultivate new habits + challenge themselves to be vulnerable.

Program overview

  • How to Eat – All things nutrition, meal prep, and reflecting on what you put into your body
  • How to Move – Body positivity + dancing till you sweat
  • How to Explore – A conversation about how to engage more with nature, and integrate mindfulness and yogic practices into daily life.

What the day looks like

  • Kickoff and setting intentions
  • Nutrition and meal prep for busy people
  • Live cooking demo from a chef!
  • Time to reflect and connect with others
  • Surprises
  • Hip Hop dance workshop and body positivity
  • Exploring mindfulness, nature, reconnecting with self
  • Accountability clusters
  • Closing + Send Off
  • The absolute best after party ever at 13.5% Wine Bar

Speakers

Diana Sugiuchi |Nutritionist/Dietitian, RDN, LDN | Nourish Family Health

Sarah Acconcia | Chef & Entrepreneur & Consultant | Juniper Culinary Apothecary

Cynthia Chavez | Dance Instructor & Executive Artistic Director | Movement Lab & Baltimore Dance Crews Project

Molly Gallant | Outdoor Recreation Programmer | City of Baltimore, Parks and Recreation

Ambus Hunter IV | Financial Coach | Navy

Jen Cusick | Outdoor Adventure Specialist | Loyola University Maryland

Dan Kelly | Assistant Director of Student Conduct & Restorative Justice Trainer |

Loyola University Maryland

Sinclair Ceasar | Stigma Crushing Mental Health Speaker

Tickets – as low as $19

Total Value – $449

Full Program + Self-Care & Wellness Glam Bag + “Celebrate You” Reflection Journal PDF + Access to Secret Facebook accountability group

Additional Awesomeness:

1:1 Financial Coaching, 1:1 Empowerment Coaching, and most importantly: MASSAGES!!!!!!!!!!!

Refund Policy

All tickets are non-refundable and cannot be transferred. We believe making lasting changes in our lives start with making commitments to ourselves and following through on them.

The founder’s story + why this event is happening

In 2016, Sinclair Ceasar was told that he was pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, and almost 300lbs. He knew he had to make a change for his family and for the sake of his life. After seeing several doctors, working with Baltimore based experts, and building new habits that stuck, Sinclair lost 30lbs that year. Since then, he’s kept off the weight, felt more energized, improved his over all holistic wellness, and has started teaching others how to as well. In 2018, he launched Celebrate You, so others could benefit from the same exact experts that helped him on his journey. Sinclair has been featured in the London Times, Essence, The Mighty, Voices of America, This is my Brave Inc., and Shine Text for his commitment to truth-telling, inpsiring hopefulness, and helping others to live a better story. He’s super excited about keynoting a TEDx talk later in 2018! Learn more about Sinclair’s work at http://www.sinclairceasar.com

Inquiries

Email our team at celebrateyoubaltimore@gmail.com

Stop chasing people who don’t want you.

Header Photo by Thomas Young | Words by Sinclair Ceasar

🎧 Audio version of today’s newsletter. 

They don’t want you.

They’re not going after you. They never call you first, email you back, text to see how you are.

At this point, they’re probably ghosting you, but you’re thirsty and hungry for their attention and validation.  They know this. Maybe they don’t.

Either way, you’re not a priority for them, but you keep going after them. It’s not healthy. You need to let them go.

If you keep holding on, you’ll miss out on all the people right there in your life who actually want you and want to give you love. You’ll miss out on yourself and all the things you’d be sacrificing if you and this person actually did life together, business together, creativity together, making a family together.

You’re willing to compromise  your values just to be with them. You know you shouldn’t, but you ignore your truest voice.

You’d rather partner with fear instead.

Dear reader, I gotta tell you,  it’s time to stop chasing people who don’t want you. People who’d bring all that’s toxic into your life. People who won’t give to you how you’d give to them. People who are clearly disinterested in who you are and what you bring.

I know this because I’ve been that chaser so many times in my life. I’ve gone after the people who only want to cause me harm. I’ve gone after people who were only meant to be in my life for a brief season.

Everyone isn’t meant to stick around forever. Some people come into our lives for the job, the date, the money, the laughs, or the trip, and then they leave.

I’ve feared that letting go means losing something I’ll never ever get back: someone who loves me, someone who sees me, someone who wants to create with me. I have attachment and detachment issues. I fear being alone. I’m uncomfortable with too much silence.

Mostly though, I fear that letting go of people means that something is wrong with me. But that’s not true.

Letting go of someone could be the breakthrough you’ve been needing to give to yourself.

It could mean you seizing an opportunity you wouldn’t have otherwise. It could be making space for the people, the healthy habits, the practices, and  the love that would actually light up your life.

But, you won’t get any of that if you’re fixated on everything and everyone that doesn’t want you.
Make the shift.

It’s taken years, but I’ve made the shift through deep work with therapists, close friends, my wife, God, and myself. Today, I’m fortunate and thankful to have the relationships I didn’t have growing up. I’m no longer sticking with people who brought violence and pain and humiliation into my life.

Sometimes, I see myself starting to chase others, but then I think: Do I have the love I need?

I do.

How to begin shifting your own narrative.

Check those stories you’re telling yourself.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I afraid of losing if I let them go?
  • Why do I keep going after people who never go after me?
  • What would happen if I focused on what I love, instead of on who could love me? 
  • How am I grounded in the relationships I already have? 
  • What’s the loving choice in all this? What’s the fear filled decision? 

Sit with the real answers that arise. Write them down. Talk them out with someone you trust. Talk them out with me, you know I’m here.

But, don’t retreat  when painful realizations show themselves. We often avoid the truth because it’s hard to digest. Then, we spend years of our lives suffering, because we chose to act from a deficit, rather than make decisions that align with our values. 

Who do you need to stop chasing? What’s your next move with this? Whatever it is, I encourage you to carry grace with you during this process. Go slow with it. Go easy on yourself. It doesn’t need to happen today.

I hope you get to a point where you can say: I’ve let go of at least one relationship that was draining me. I was doing all the work, and they weren’t willing to. I’m glad I chose me.

Choose you, my friend.

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I send weekly emails to amazing people all over the world. If you can use some real talk and inspiration in your life, subscribe to the newsletter today.

If sex is going to happen, consent needs to happen: a Q+A w/ Nadine Thornhill

Sinclair: In your January 2018 article titled, “If We’re Gonna Talk About Consent, We Need To Talk About Pleasure” you wrote: “Pleasure is important. No matter what your gender, race, ethnicity, body-size or ability, you are entitled to choose to have partnered sex or not. And if that’s your choice, you are entitled to feel good about the sex that you’re having. Pleasure is about feeling good in your body. It’s also about feeling good emotionally, ethically and spiritually, if that’s part of how you move through your life.” How do ethics and spirituality intersect with pleasure?

Nadine: When we talk about pleasure, specifically sexual pleasure, we often focus on what feels good physically. For many of us, feeling good in our bodies is an essential part of a positive sexual encounter, so I don’t want to diminish it’s importance. But, I’m also interested in what folks need sexually to feel good about who they are as people.

Ethics – and for some folks spirituality or religion – are guiding principals we use to sort out what we feel is right in terms of our thoughts, attitudes and behaviour. Our sense of touch helps us figure out what type physical sensations feel good,  Our morals, ethics, and values can help us figure out what types of sexual expression, relationship styles, communication, and boundaries are right for us. The specifics of what that looks like are unique to each person, but I do believe that pleasurable sex is about what feels good for you, and what you feel good about.

Sinclair: How can we start having better and healthier conversations around sex and pleasure?

Nadine: I think it starts with telling each other the truth. Not just about what we want and don’t want, but also about our emotions, and our context. For example, I may sometimes want my partner to throw me to the floor and ravage me. That’s the truth of my desire. But during sex, I also might feel unsure about how to say it in away that disrupts our flow, or worried that if I do disrupt the flow we won’t get the moment back. And beyond that, I might feel a bit conflicted as a Black woman about finding pleasure in an act that’s rooted in submission.

Those might be hard thing for me to say, if I’m able to communicate with my partner about those complex feelings – even if it takes several conversation over time – it’s highly likely that we’ll be able to find away to make that pleasurable act happen in a way that also honour our emotional needs.

Sinclair: What’s something we often get wrong about consent?

Nadine: We often talk about consent in soundbites and catch phrases. “No mean no”, “Only yes mean yes,” “Your body belongs to you”.  I think the tendency to talk about consent in very simple terms stems, at least in part, is a response to folks who excuse sexual violations by claiming that some situations are complicated, sorting boudaries can be challenging, and therefore consent is too hard.

Consent as a concept is simple. But consent in practice can often be complex. There’s a lot of individual nuance involved in consent. Sometimes it just about saying “yes”. Sometimes it’s about having those longer conversations. Circumstances can and often do change over time, overnight or even in the moment.

Moving forward, I hope we can do a better job of acknowledging those complexities without using them as an excuse to ignore consent. I hope we learn how to address our sexual messiness, and give ourselves and our partners space to work it out. If sex is going to happen, consent needs to happen, regardless of whether it’s simple or not.

Sinclair: In your correspondence with me, you mentioned some things regarding your own mental wellness. What mental illnesses do you live with, and how do you seek healing?

Nadine: Like many folks, I live with generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Although I received my official diagnosis in my early thirties, I suspect I’ve had both since early adolescence. Late last year I was also diagnosed with ADHD. Like the GAD and depression, it’s clear in retrospect that I’ve had it most, if not all of my life.  

It’s an ongoing process but a big part of healing has been finding acceptance of, and compassion for my own mind.  I’m learning to love my frenetic, feel-all-the-feelings brain and that acceptance has opened the door to learning what works for me.  I take daily medication, and I go to therapy regularly. I speak openly about my mental health with virtually everyone. I’m finding ways of managing workflow that suit my ADHD brain, even though many of them run counter to conventional wisdom about working “efficiently”. I start most days with a few minutes of mindfulness work (real talk – even in my “zen” moments, my thoughts are like ping-pong balls boucing around my brain).

Sinclair: What’s something you that still sticks with you today after working with Planned Parenthood?

Nadine: I worked with thousands of youth during my time at Planned Parenthood. What stuck with me was how accepting, conscientious and kind youth can be, and how open they were to learning about different ways of relating to sexuality.

I also remember how many teachers and parents wanted to talk to their kids about sex and sexuality. They weren’t always sure about what to say, or what information was accurate. But they wanted youth to feel safe, comfortable, confident and at home with their sexuality, which was always so great to see.

Sinclair: How did you turn your passion for sex education into a full-time career?

Nadine: It happened over time. I started giving workshop at a local sex-positive shop, which led to my job at Planned Parenthood. That inspired me to start a blog about everything I was learning at work. The blog kind of took off, which led to other writing and media-related opportunities. Eventually I started writing and facilitating some of my own workshops.  

When I realized that I both loved the work and was kind of good at it, I decided I wanted to start my own sex education practice. I knew I’d need at lot more education and some easily identifiable credentials, which is how I decided to go back to school.

Sinclair: What advice do you have for others looking to do the same thing?

Nadine: There are many different paths in this career. Some folks do clinical work in office settings. Some folks are academics doing research and teaching in post-secondary setting. Some sex educators are brilliant content creators, or medical professionals, or elementary school teachers.

So my advice is learn as much as you can. Figure out which aspects of sexuality interest you most and focus on honing your expertise. Find the work style or setting that best suits your personality. This type of work that requires a lot of emotional labour, so the best way to find success is to tailor this work to who you are, as much as you can.

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“Acceptance has opened the door to learning what works for me.” – Nadine Thornhill

Sinclair: Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

Nadine: My partner is often the first person I’ll turn to when I need a supportive ear or advice on how to handle a situation. As I mentioned, I see a therapist. She is wonderful and always steers me in the right direction. I also call on my ancestors for help and guidance. I have a book that I use to write them letters. It may sound absurd to some folks, but they really have come through and shown me what I need when I feel lost.

Sinclair: When was the last time you practiced self-care? What did you do?

Nadine: Last night. My partner is away for a few days, so I took advantage of his absence to starfish in our bed and take up all the space. It felt great, and helped me get some really good rest.

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Nadine: My son. It sounds strange because part of my job is coaching parents, but I’ve often felt very insecure about my own parenting – particularly whether or not I was doing a good job of helping him navigate the world with his mental health challenges.

But lately, I see that though he has difficulties and set backs, he’s resilient and determined to be a kind person. He’s wild and smart and funny, and I realize that being his mother has helped me grown stronger and more resilient as well. I love him so much, and being his mom brings me tremendous joy.

“You are entitled to your place in this world. As am I. As is everyone.” – Nadine Thornhill

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

Nadine: Our provincial government announced that they are repealing our current sex education program and replacing it with the previous version which is now 20 years out of date. It’s a move meant to appease a minority of misinformed people, and it’s utterly infuriating.

Fortunately, I have a plan…which I talk more about a little later in this interview. 🙂

Sinclair: When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Nadine: The last few months of my doctorate was probably the hardest time of my life. My father had died suddenly a few months earlier, I was living in a new city, overseeing renovations on our new home, my son had just been diagnosed with mental health issues of his own. I was mentally and emotionally depleted.

It runs counter to popular narratives about positivity, but at that time my pain is what motivated me to finish my degree. I’d get to the end of another torturous writing session and I’d think, ‘this is too hard. I give up!’ Then I’d think, ‘How am I going to feel when I get to the other side of this grief and transition, and I have nothing to show for all the work I’ve already put in?’

 I couldn’t abandon it, precisely because it had been so hard.  I took breaks, and at one point I was so mentally ill I had to put my writing on hold for several weeks. But eventually, I got it finished and now I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on myself.

Sinclair: Who are some other sex educators that you’re connected to?  

Nadine: I know so many amazing educators, it will be hard to list them all!  Some of my favourite people doing groundbreaking work include:

Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Nadine: My core value is that, barring behaviour that harm others, every person has a human right to express and embrace their authentic needs, desires and boundaries. Not just in terms of sexuality, but in every aspect of their lives.

I grew up with two parents who made a lot of major life choices, including getting married, because they were taught that it was the correct thing to do. Getting married, having children, raising them together, working 9 to 5, etc – these things are right for some folks – but they aren’t what everyone wants, or needs. Trying to adhere to a life script that wasn’t written for them made parents very unhappy. Which made me very unhappy.

I truly believe people are better when they’re given the freedom to simply be the people they want to be.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?

Nadine: You are entitled to your place in this world. As am I. As is everyone.

💎💎💎

Dr. Nadine Thornhill, Ed.D has been teaching youth and adults about sexuality and relationships for over a decade. As a parent, she knows how challenging it can be to figure out what to say and how to talk with your kids about sex and relationships. As an educator, Nadine’s goal is to empower parents in sharing authentic values and providing fact-based, age-appropriate information about sexuality and help kids grow up safe, happy, and healthy.

Learn more about Nadine and connect: Twitter | Instagram | Website | YouTube

Featured Awesomeness: Nadine says, “In September, I’m going to be releasing a series of videos on my YouTube channel based on sex education units in the 2015 Ontario (my home province) Health and Physical Education Curriculum. Because of our Premier’s decision to remove this content, I want to preserve it and make it available to folks who want it. Even though it’s based on Ontario sex ed, there’s a lot in there that will be relevant for families all over the world. And in the meantime, I have well over 100 videos already available for parents and educators, so check out my channel!”

This is how I know I love myself: a Q+A w/ Jennifer Uchendu

Sinclair: What is SustyVibes and what inspired you to create it?

Jennifer: SustyVibes is a social enterprise making sustainability actionable for young people in Nigeria. I was inspired to create SustyVibes when I realized the gap disparity between the number of youths interested in sustainable development in Nigeria and the availability of opportunities to work and learn in the sector.  

Sustainability simply means treating the world like we plan to stay; it’s in how we use our natural, human and financial resources to live our best lives now and also for the people coming after us.

At SustyVibes, we are making Sustainability cool and easy to relate using five pillars that focus on education, community outreaches, pop culture, business and women development.

Sinclair: That’s dope! What’s the importance of making “sustainability actionable in Nigeria”?

Jennifer: Nigeria, one of Africa’s most resourceful countries with over 180 million people, still suffers from so many interlinked development challenges – challenges that have been passed on from one leadership to another. This needs to end and we need to have a plan to achieve that. Sustainability offers an ideal pathway to promote a person/country/organisation’s social, environmental, and economic well-being. If we believe this to be true, then we must show people who to practicalize it and make it work for them, their businesses, and the country at large.

Sinclair: Tell us more about Her Dreams Are Valid.

Jennifer: Her Dreams Are Valid is SustyVibe’s women development project that involves series of programmes helping more Nigerian women achieve their dreams through innovative ideas. These ideas often come from their interests and experiences. Our flagship program, Street Dreams, equips brilliant young women in the Niger Delta – which is part of Nigeria – with cameras and training in documentary photography, to help them earn income as photo-storytellers.

These brilliant women often come from vulnerable communities that have been negatively impacted by pollution and corrupt practices. With a camera in hand, we are co-creating strong stories that show the living conditions of these marginalized people and their environment, while providing more girls with valuable skills and freedom from financial dependency.

Sinclair: What was one of the biggest challenges when trying to launch your the social enterprise?

Jennifer: Hmmn…one really big challenge that I now look back at and laugh at was getting my mother (who has sacrificed so much for my success) to believe in my vision to start up my own organisation; questions like: “who will pay you?” “How will you cope without a salary?” “When will it scale up?” kept springing up. And, while these were big and important questions, I struggled to convince her that I was very passionate about this cause for youth inclusion in sustainable development in Nigeria.

Sinclair: You call yourself an Ecofeminist? What does this mean to you?

Jennifer: Being an Ecofeminist means that I see the world and issues around sustainable development from the eyes of a woman. I believe that we have oppressed the environment in just the same way women have been oppressed and this interconnectedness allows advocates like me to protect the environment and women as two sides of the same coin. This recognition of social and environmental injustices from a unique and often forgotten perspective allows for solidarity and solace.

Sinclair: Thinking about how media has skewed the perceptions of many, what do you want people to know about Nigeria?

Jennifer: Nigeria for a long time has suffered from bad leadership and this has resulted in several development challenges, but the country’s most potent resource, her youths,  are rising. Young people are dominating the tech and fashion space despite the obvious odds, and have moved to disrupt agriculture and government. It’s very beautiful to watch and more people need to know that this shift is happening faster than we ever anticipated. What a time to be alive and a young Nigerian!

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“Sustainability simply means treating the world like we plan to stay.” – Jennifer Uchendu

Sinclair: What advice would you give to others looking to build their own social enterprise?

Jennifer: Be passionate but also be strategic. By strategic, I mean understand who your target audience are and set out a plan to engage with them. There will be many trials and errors but just be sure that you’re working smart and not just hard.

Sinclair: As someone who is out here crushing it on many things, how do you know when to say “no” to opportunities?

Jennifer: I know when to say no to opportunities when they threaten my peace of mind. For someone who is spiritual, I understand that every opportunity is potent and achievable but not all are beneficial, so I weigh in my goals with opportunities. If they don’t align, I don’t try to stress myself over it. This is how I know I love myself.

Sinclair: Have you ever felt like a fraud while on your journey to where you are today?

Jennifer: Yes! The imposter syndrome creeps up a lot: questioning my qualifications, my passion to serve, and my ability to provide solutions to challenges we encounter on a daily basis. It comes sometimes, but I am always prepared to show up for myself and pat myself on the back even when no one is able to.

 

“If you have a dream then you are one of the most fortunate people on the face of the earth.” – Jennifer Uchendu

 

Sinclair: When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Jennifer: In 2015, I had planned to get a masters degree in Sustainable Development from England. I was optimistic and excited that an education in line with my passion was finally happening. I had resigned from my day job and ready to begin this new journey. But my study visa was denied. I was hopeless and uninspired for many weeks. The confusion and void led to the idea of SustyVibes and that one situation has ushered me into the life I have now.

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“Constantly show up for yourself.” – Jennifer Uchendu

Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Jennifer: My unshakable values are trust, authenticity and altruism.

They individually contribute to the woman I have become. I became clear on all of them in 2017. I realised that I cared a great deal about my identity and legacy. I genuinely care about people and the planet and this has to reflect in the way I live my life, that intentional consistency will make people trust me.

SInclair: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

Jennifer: If you have a dream then you are one of the most fortunate people on the face of the earth. A lot of people are only just existing and have nothing to dream of. Write your idea of this dream down and work your way up to achieving them in very small steps. Constantly show up for yourself and affirm that you are here to thrive and giving up will never be an option.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?

Jennifer: I would tell them that God is real and there is no escaping His love for us.  We must act in accordance to that revelation.

💎💎💎

Jennifer Uchendu is a sustainability communicator, analyst, and founder of SustyVibes, a social enterprise making sustainability actionable for young people in Nigeria. She holds a bachelors in Biochemistry from Covenant University with experience working with the Nigerian government, FMCGs and consulting firms. She is a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and the co-author of an e-book titled: A Guide to Business Sustainability in Nigeria.

Learn more about Jennifer and connect: Twitter | Website

Featured awesomeness: follow Susty Vibes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

 

The best thing anyone can do to be an ally to women is speak up: a Q+A w/ Avantika Mehta

Sinclair: You used to be a lawyer. Now you’re a writer. How did you get to where you are now?

Avantika: That transition wasn’t the easiest of my life, to be honest. I quit Law after working too many corporate cases that I disagreed with on basic moral issues. I mean I love the law still, in its potential and because humans created these rules with the aspiration to become better than we are. Corporate Law, to my mind, is based fictions, and it made me feel sick about myself to be enforcing it.

Once I quit, writing — which is all I ever really wanted to do but faced a lot of family pressure to not pursue — seemed to be a natural direction.

I began by sending my short fiction everywhere. I enrolled into the Iowa’s Writers Workshop, which was the best decision I’ve made ever. After much rejection, a short of mine was published in The Asia Literary Review. That gave me a second wind.

After graduating from Iowa, I came back to Delhi. I began by freelancing feature non-fiction stories for small newspapers, and sending my CV everywhere. Most reactions I got were like: why leave law and become a journalist? It was an annoying question but I answered it at every interview. Many editors wouldn’t read my work but would ask me to come back when I was more established.

The nicest rejection I got was the late Me Vinod Mehta. He told me to just keep at it, and I did. I got hired as a rewrite desk for a gossipy supplement of a top newspaper— I used my time there to write some stories that mattered to me for the online section. Then I shifted newspapers to Hindustan Times; it was looking for a legal reporter. I wasn’t dying to go back into law, but those were the circumstances before me. I jumped on the chance, and worked my ass off in that position.

Never shy, I always pitched other non-law related stories as well. Plenty of them were published, including data studies into Delhi’s rape courts, interviews with Erika Lust and a survey of how women watch porn. I also vied for books to review to keep up with my fiction writing in some sort of a way.

See, I wasn’t part of any writer’s circles here, and I’m not a big networker, so my only option was to work my ass off. And this paid off. I was promoted to Special Features within a year.

The Ladies Compartment came about because I wanted to expand my writerly wings further than law and crime (which is what I covered mostly, and still do like to cover frankly.) I wanted to create an unabashed, and funny place for women on the Internet. I remember when I was a kid, my mom would always tell me not to dress like that or be like that because society wouldn’t approve. My reply was always: by the time I’m grown society will be me and others my age, and we approve. The Ladies Compartment (TLC) is an offshoot of that idea.

Indian women have always been fierce, but now as my generation is closer to taking the reigns, it’s obvious that we are more open minded, more accepting: that’s the essence of TLC. 

 

Sinclair: You’re in the process of writing your book. Can you tell us a little about it?

Avantika:  I am always in the process of writing and then abandoning a book. Discipline isn’t my strong suit. I’m working on a collection of short stories, and a non-fiction that tracks young murder convicts (our law has recently changed to try them as adults for certain crimes). Non-fiction takes a lot of time. It took me six months just to get one of the protagonists to allow me to visit him in jail. It’ll be a while before that books sees the musty corner of some bookshelf. But it is very rewarding; strange and anti-hero characters are my favourite in any genre.
Sinclair: What is inclusive feminism, and what does it personally mean to you?

Avantika:  I described TLC as inclusive feminism because to me it means everyone is welcome here, and TLC is hellbent on being an ally to any person who has got the short end of the patriarchy. I deliberately didn’t use intersectional, a term I see a lot of people use, because that means something else and has been kind of co-opted by the internet.

 

“The Ladies Compartment is hellbent on being an ally to any person who has got the short end of the patriarchy.”- Avantika Mehta

Sinclair: How do you source  the artwork displayed on your Instagram account?

Avantika:  I’m just always watching out for art or words that move me. The second I see something, I use Planoly to keep it in my bank. Sometimes what I love, my followers adore equally; sometimes the art doesn’t get the attention I think it deserves. The Insta account is also linked to my website, where many lovely, lovely writers and artists have contributed. It’s worth checking out. Since I manage the website, edit, and run social media while trying to keep my head afloat with freelance gigs at other newspapers, I only use Insta as a social media platform or I’d be losing it over the 100s of platforms that exist out there.

Sinclair: What can we do to be better allies for womxn?

Avantika:  I think the best thing anyone can do to be an ally to women is to speak up— when you see that unfair promotion, when you hear sh*t talk about women, to recognise the harmful effects the so-far male-centric world causes women, both young and old. It’d also help if you did all these things without expecting us to fall in love with you or sleep with you out of sheer gratefulness. LOL. 

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Avantika Mehta

Sinclair: What is something we often get wrong when talking about woman’s bodies?

Avantika:  I mean, how much time do we have? 🙂 I would be more worried about what most men get wrong about women’s rights and minds. Frankly, I don’t think men and women are as different as we make them out to be. It’s just going to take a lot of time before we can shed the toxicity spread by millenia of treating women like they’re secondary objects.

 

“I wanted to create an unabashed, and funny place for women on the Internet.” – Avantika Mehta

Sinclair: When was the last time you practiced self-care? What did you do?

Avantika:  Last night, I switched off my phone, picked up a book I love but don’t really need to read right now, lit some lavender essence oil in my room. Took my meds on time. Hung with my ailing grandma and listened to her stories of childhood. This is all self-care.

Sinclair: What’s one of your favorite pieces of writing that you’ve written? What makes it meaningful for you? 

Avantika:  

From The Ladies Compartment:

Fiction short 

Reporting

I mean there’s tons more I liked writing but I love these pieces.

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Avantika:  Oddly enough, the women and girls who follow TLC bring me great joy. They’re all so talented, so free with their love. There have been times I’ve been too depressed to do much else, and I get an encouraging message or a few, and it goes a long way in helping me go on and do more.

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

Avantika:  Lol. How much time do we really have for this question? It’s a book in itself. 🙂

Sinclair: When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Avantika:  I think that time is now actually. I’m constantly riddled with self-doubt— should I have stayed a lawyer; am I a good enough writer to meet my standards. I am also battling clinical depression (but staying strong for the most part.) I have yet to figure out a business model for TLC that aligns with its values of honesty and inclusivity. For example: I’ve turned down sponsored posts by designers and editors of books because I want to retain my follower’s trust. Plus, I suck at business management. But these feelings are cyclical, I tell myself. Nothing that taking care of myself and working wherever I can won’t eventually quiet down.
Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Avantika:  I don’t think there are anything like unshakable rules… but if there’s one or two, I’d say: be honest about you who are and what you are good at and what you’re not so good at, and find a way to make that your job.
Sinclair: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

Avantika:  Don’t go on social media. It’s toxic. Spend time on your work instead. Make goals and work towards them. And accept self-doubt. It’ll always be there no matter how great you become. It is, in fact, a sign that you’re striving for something brilliant, and with practice you’ll get there.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?

Avantika:  We cannot exist without diversity— embrace it, learn everything you can about other people and this world. Other people are not the enemy; ignorance is.

💎💎💎

A prosperous lawyer turned broke writer and editor, Avantika Mehta lives in New Delhi with two mutts. She’s published non-fiction in several of India’s leading publications, and some fiction in Asia Literary Review and Open Mag. She is the founder/ editor/ web manager of The Ladies Compartment.

Learn more about Avantika and connect: Twitter | Website

Featured awesomeness: Avantika says, “I think everyone needs feedback, be it writers or artists, so TLC has a Zoetrope thread to be used as a workshop. I’d encourage my readers and everyone to get as much workshopping done on their pieces as possible.”

Also, Avantika says, “Please use the Diva mini cup. It’ll save you money, and save a helluva lot of menstruation waste.

 

 

People should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies, and that includes sex: a Q+A with suprihmbé

Sinclair: In your July 2017 article, “without a room of my own: the search for mindspace & creativity as a young, Black, womanist/feminist, femme-woman-mother-artist-sex worker”, you wrote: Will my son learn from other men to think less of me? Will he bash other women for their “promiscuity” until he learns that his mother was a hoe? Will my guidance be enough to combat the misogynoir the men of this world will endeavor to teach him? Will he see my decisions as selfish or self-centered?” Where are you with these thoughts and concerns, a year later?

suprihmbé: I worry about this more and more as he gets older. I listen to the fathers and uncles speak to their sons. My son just has me, and the other women and femmes in his life. He doesn’t have a consistent male presence in his life, though he is exposed to many different kinds of masculinities. See, the one thing I noticed is that people only suggest you expose boys to other men because they think you’re incompetent. Because they want the boys raised the way they’re comfortable with.  I’m only a mother to them, and though I am so much more to my son, as a Black woman I am not only stigmatized in the broader culture–Black men also see me as incapable of raising a son properly. Even though their mothers most likely raised them. One day, someone will tell my son that he is soft because of something he picked up from his queer hoe womanist mama… and that someone will probably be another Black boy or man whose guardians told him the same thing. And my son will carry that. He will carry all my, and his, differences in his own way, and I won’t be able to fully relate because I wasn’t raised the way he is. My worry intensifies as he gets older.

Sinclair: What led you to center sex work and womanism in your writing?

suprihmbé: It started on Facebook in groups and expanded to Twitter when I left there. I saw so many Black women speaking on their issues in Black feminist groups and in our own spaces (closed Black sex worker groups). But I also saw resistance happening between Black women and Black sex workers in these spaces. I started trying to theorize a sex worker womanism. There’s a Walker womanism, there’s Africana womanism. Why not a proheaux womanism? Toward the end of my relationship I had ventured back into sex work, this time camming. I had removed myself and my son from a violent situation and Black feminism and womanism was what got me through that. My whole goal is to be seen the way I want to be seen, and to help other Black and Brown sex workers do the same.

Sinclair: What is something we often get wrong when talking about sexuality?

suprihmbé: We don’t talk about sexuality as if it is a spectrum and too often we center sex and orgasms instead of enjoyment–though in cis women’s case this is because men often don’t expend the effort to please us. We need to talk more about asexuality, other sexualities. We gotta stop homogenizing these conversations.

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“My whole goal is to be seen the way I want to be seen.” – suprihmbé

Sinclair: What is one thing we can do to create safer spaces for those in the sex work industry?

suprihmbé: There’s no simple answer to this. I mean, there is. People should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies, and that includes sex. Plenty of people are having sex or engaging in adjacent acts just because they want to. Why penalize those who want to pay or be paid for their superior gifts/skills?

There is no one thing. We could say “leave us alone,” but what does that even mean? Cisgendered white women would have answered “decriminalization,” but that’s only a step, not a destination. Black women have other problems to contend with. There are other laws and stigmas that affect us and will continue to do so unless we think beyond that.

Listen to us.

Sinclair: Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

suprihmbé: I have a core group of friends of varying genders and experiences who I reach out to.

Sinclair: When was the last time you practiced self-care? What did you do?

suprihmbé: Last night. I smoke. Sometimes I watch TV. It’s relaxing and it allows me to slow down the buzzing in my brain.

Sinclair: You have an amazing portfolio of artwork. Show us a piece that you’re proud of and tell us what it means to you.

suprihmbé: I did a one page comic one night to get some feelings out and to practice. It means what it means.

thot 4

 

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

suprihmbé: Funding and over-funding my dreams has definitely been bringing me hella joy. My friend Erica is a close second though.

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

suprihmbé: People. They are terrible.

Sinclair: When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

suprihmbé: I can’t pinpoint a time. I have anxiety, this is constant for me. Plus I’m poor–not just broke but actually poor? So I am always doubting myself. Every month there’s doubt that I’ll have rent or succeed, and I have very few IRL people in my city in my corner right now.

Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

suprihmbé: I became clear on my values when I left my son’s father. I had started camming at the end of our relationship. I continued doing so when I left because it was just me and my son–he had took all the money and wasn’t helping me at all. I had an intense rebound relationship after that which further clarified things. Romantic relationships are always sticky for me, because I struggle to define yourself in a culture which says that when you are monogamous and partnered you forget everyone else. I seek to avoid that kind of enmeshment with a single person. I guess the rest of my values are in my writing. I can’t just list them LOL.

Sinclair: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

suprihmbé: I don’t give advice to people I don’t know. I don’t even know what to tell myself. Somehow I just keep pushing. I have to.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?

suprihmbé: Thotscholar is the best, you should, like, totally give her money.

🦄🦄🦄

suprihmbé was created by thotscholar and filmed in front of a hype, but exasperated live audience. she is a suppressed nomad who lives on the southside of chicago and drinks a lot of wine. her book, thotscholar: a proheaux womanist primer, will be out in December 2018.

Learn more about suprihmbé and connect: Twitter | Website

Featured awesomeness: this amazing book excerpt.

Be quiet and listen to women who are telling you about their trauma: a Q+A with Cassy

 

Sinclair: What led you to share this impactful and timely message?

Cassy: I have experienced several “losses” of friendships due to the fact that the men I chose to bring into my life viewed my friendship only as some consolation prize for not wanting to sleep with them. In the moment that I shared that tweet I was honestly just frustrated with my interactions with men that day and felt the need to express that thought.

Sinclair: Have you ever been in a situation like this before where a man pretended to be your friend the purposes of having sex with you? If yes, how did you advocate for yourself?

Cassy: Yes, I have been in various situations like that. The most that I could do is cut off contact. I’m not interested in pursuing a one sided friendship with someone who has ulterior motives, and I also don’t need to explain myself to that person either.

Sinclair: Why do you think some men are this way?

Cassy: If I knew why men were the way they were I probably wouldn’t be so angry all the time.

Sinclair: What do you say to men who say, “That’s not me. Stop generalizing and acting like all men do that.”

Cassy: Pick up a newspaper, watch the news, read a book. Men have consistently been the oppressors of women. If you aren’t the one being oppressed and you are telling me that you’re “not all like that”, be quiet and listen to women who are telling you about their trauma, lived experiences, fear, and oppression. Be quiet. It isn’t about you.

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Sinclair: You wrote: “To all the women quoting this , liking this, and retweeting this: I see you, and I want to be friends with all of you, and I love you. I’m sorry men can be jerks, it’s not our fault.” Do you find that women often see view the violence, disrespect, and harassment they incur as being their fault?

Cassy: I can’t speak for all women, obviously, for myself however I don’t believe that it is my fault that men catcall me in the streets when I’m just trying to catch a bus to work, or follow me in their cars all the way home, grab me or call me “sweetheart” and other pet names in my place of work, call me a “bitch” when I disregard their advances when I don’t want to give them my time, or literally any other awful altercation I’ve experienced with a man. I do not view it as being my fault, I never have and I never will. That tweet however was a gentle reminder to the women relating to my tweet that it has never been their fault.

Sinclair: What advice would you give to a close friend seeking to set better boundaries in their relationships?

Cassy: If you are uncomfortable with something, don’t do it. Nobody knows you the way you know yourself, so don’t let someone else coerce you into being out of your comfort zone if you are not ready.

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Sinclair: Your Twitter bio says, “Sometimes, I’m naked on the internet.” What’s that mean?

Cassy: It means exactly what it says.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?

Cassy: The Rolling Stones are definitely better than the Beatles.

💎💎💎

Cassy is a writer from Toronto, Ontario just looking to do the next right thing and for her own peace of mind.

Learn more about Cassy and connect: Instagram | Website

Featured awesomeness: Cassy says, “Go volunteer or donate to your local nonprofits here’s one of mine that I donate to.

 

 

 

Don’t spend most of your life hating yourself because of other people’s perception of beautiful: a Q + A w/ Amanda Velazquez

Sinclair: You post photos of your body on Instagram regarding your wellness and weight loss journey. What led you to this point in your life where you can be so vulnerable?

Amanda: I was super conscious of my body because I’ve always been “bigger” than most girls. While browsing on Instagram, I found Ashley Graham and she instantly inspired me! She was a plus size model and she was someone I looked at and say “Wow! I look like her!” I also follow this person named Megan Crabbe. She has multiple videos of her shaking her body and all her skin jiggles and she’s so happy! It sort of sparked something within me and I said to myself “You know what? I’m going to do post myself. Bare. Just me.” So I did and I’ve felt great about it ever since.

Sinclair: Have you heard back from followers regarding the impact your post have had on them?

Amanda: I actually have! Some of them write that they love how brave I am to post about my journey and how it inspires them to love themselves for who they are. A lot of people DM me and ask me how I became so confident.

Sinclair: What’s something people can’t tell about you just by looking at you?

Amanda: When people look at me they see a beautiful, confident, well-spoken person, but what people couldn’t tell is that I have really bad anxiety. It takes a LOT of energy to keep up with my everyday life. Often, I’m exhausted by being around a lot of people, though I LOVE conversing and learning about them.

Sinclair: Where are you with how you see your body? What are the good days like? What are the bad days like?

Amanda: I definitely have some rough days. I’m human. On my bad days, I look at old photos of me from high school (which are totally unrealistic) and comment on everything wrong with my body, but sometimes those sessions wake me up and I talk to myself in the mirror (usually with some affirmations.) On both my good and bad days, I like to take photos of myself because it reminds me what my attitude was like towards my body on that date. I’m very attentive to those changes in my mind. I would say I’m in healthy space in regards to my body image. Of course I want to look good, but what is important to me, ultimately, is my health.

Sinclair: Why do you think we assign so much shame to ourselves and others when it comes to how our bodies look?

Amanda: I think media has a HUGE impact on why we shame ourselves so much. I also think there isn’t much representation with plus size models, both male/female, in the industry. The media outlets are always showing us how to improve our image like we’re not enough already. There is always a new diet fad or “magic” pill to make us lose weight to look like J.Lo or Kim Kardashian (both are people I love, by the way). We’re sucked into thinking if we don’t look like them, then we’re not good enough or beautiful enough.

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“You know what? I’m going to do post myself. Bare. Just me.” – Amanda Velazquez

Sinclair: You’re passionate about mental health awareness. What’s one thing we can do better to support those living with mental illness?

Amanda: I think we need to just ACKNOWLEDGE and LISTEN to those living with mental illness! Speaking from experience, I feel like people think it’s made up or something you can turn off! People need to be educated, just listen & try to understand one another. Be compassionate.

Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Amanda: My list of core values:

  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Community
  • Integrity

I think I really became clear of my values my senior year of college. I went through a lot of adversity, and the things I never lost was my love and compassion for people in my community, while upholding my truth.
Sinclair: You went to Pride this year. How was it? Where was it?

Amanda: I went to Pride in New York City! It was my first time actually and let me tell you that it was an amazing experience! Everyone was so loving, and I honestly felt so free to just be me.  I watched everyone put aside their differences and enjoy an event to celebrate love and build community.

 

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Amanda Velazquez

 

Sinclair: When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Amanda: Honestly, right now I’m going through an extremely tough patch in my life. I recently quit my job as a teacher because my boss, the principal, induced fear into me and my students all of the time. She caused me to be physically ill and I couldn’t take it anymore so I decided to quit. I quit knowing my health insurance would terminate and I wouldn’t get the care I needed to help with my fibromyalgia. I just knew I couldn’t stay somewhere that was deteriorating my mental health. So right now I’m unemployed, I’m re-evaluating my career choice, and ultimately just on a self-discovering journey. I’ve been reading a lot, going outside in nature, and just being around people who uplift me, but I’ve been so hard on myself. I’ve doubted myself at least once everyday since I quit. I often have a battle in my mind debating whether I should’ve stayed and put up with it or question if I made a right choice. Often I wish someone could tell me what to do next, but don’t we all wish that?

On my good days, I realize that life is a journey and no one is exactly alike, so I will embrace my decisions and learn from them every time.

 

“Of course I want to look good, but what is important to me, ultimately, is my health.” – Amanda Velazquez

 

Sinclair: What advice would you give to someone struggling with body negativity?

Amanda: Honestly, I would tell anyone struggling with body negativity that the people in your life who truly love you, don’t care if you’re 120 pounds or 250 pounds. They love you because you’re you. Your personality shines bright. Don’t spend most of your life hating yourself because of other people’s perception of beautiful. Everyone is beautiful and unique. That’s what makes all of us so special.

One of my good friends said something to me that changed the way I thought about myself. He said: “Chica, you could gain 100 more pounds, but that doesn’t matter. Your personality shines through and that’s all we care about. You’ve always been beautiful.”

Sinclair: What was the last thing you did for self-care?

Amanda: I put my phone on do not disturb and just allowed myself to be. I’m always on the go and constantly answer phone calls, emails, and text messages. It gets quite exhausting so to turn everything off and just spend time with yourself is so refreshing.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?

Amanda: I would say that we need to be compassionate with one another. We need to unite and work together for what is RIGHT and JUST, not just what makes money for big companies. There is strength in numbers. I would say everyone should invest in organic farming. We need to inform ourselves about what is in our foods and the effects of it on our bodies. I believe everyone should avoid pharmaceuticals and live off of the earth like we were made to do. I believe that there is enough to go around for everyone and nobody on this earth should ever go without. Self care is most important and once you are aware of yourself, you can exert your energy to help the world be a better place!

💎💎💎

Amanda Velazquez is  23 years old and lives in Bayonne, NJ. She’s passionate about body positivity, mental health awareness, and self-love.

Learn more about Amanda and connect:  Instagram

Featured awesomeness: @bodyposipanda’s shake videos

 

Toilet paper is offered for free, why aren’t tampons? A Q+A w/ Aunt Flow’s Zach Poczekaj

First of all, this is how it all began: 

 

Sinclair: Tell us more about what  FlowBro is and why we need more people supporting menstruators?

Zach:  A Flow Bro is any guy who supports menstruators. A Flow Bro doesn’t think menstruation is “dirty” or an uncomfortable topic of conversation. They genuinely listen to menstruators and are willing to learn about a natural bodily function. I don’t have a period, and I had to listen to, and learn from, the team at Aunt Flow in order to fully understand and promote the business on social media. We need more people, more guys, to support menstruators so that we can #ShedTheStigma and ensure those with a flow have access to tampons and pads at work, school and businesses in their community.

Sinclair: What’s the reason for using the term menstruators versus saying “people who menstruate” or “women who menstruate?”

Zach:  One thing I love about working for Aunt Flow is that they are an inclusive brand. Our team recognizes that not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman, and we want to provide freely-accessible products for as many people as possible. The word “menstruator” includes everyone who gets a period, and it doesn’t exclude people based on gender.

Sinclair: What impact does Aunt Flow hope to have on the world?

Zach:  Aunt Flow’s mottos is, “Toilet paper is offered for free, why aren’t tampons?” As a company, we push for menstrual equity by stocking businesses and universities nationwide with our organic cotton menstrual products. We want to support menstruators and ensure they don’t have to leave work or school early because they don’t have a tampon with them. Providing necessary bathroom products and supporting menstruators makes sense—it’s people helping people. Period. Overall, we hope that our company can foster empathy and slash menstrual stigma through our work.

Sinclair: What do you do at Aunt Flow and how did you get there?

Zach:  I am the Social Media Director and a Public Relations Coordinator for Aunt Flow. I interviewed with the company almost one year ago, and I have loved the period positivity our team has everyday. I’ve always pushed ideas and causes that I am passionate for, and I got involved with Aunt Flow because of their emphasis on equality and helping others.

Sinclair: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Zach: The most challenging part of my job is balancing a social media strategy that both puts out fun, engaging content and drives sales for the business. At the end of the day, we want to support as many menstruators as possible with freely-accessible products, so I don’t mind learning some business strategy along the way.

 

 

 

 

Sinclair: What’s the most enriching part of your job?

Zach: The most enriching part of my job is engaging with people who support Aunt Flow and its mission. I’ve gotten incredible messages from people who are so thankful to see our products in the community, and it’s inspiring. Spreading period positivity and challenging outdated societal norms is so much fun and pretty badass, if you ask me.

Sinclair: What do men often get wrong about menstruation, and what’s something we need to start learning about it?

Zach: I think that men totally don’t understand menstruation because they are too scared to talk about it. I think their biggest misconception is that menstruation is somehow “dirty” or taboo, when it’s actually a natural bodily function experienced by almost half of the world’s population. If men got a period, I think you would see free menstrual products offered in every public bathroom in America.

Sinclair: How can we all of take part in ending the stigma around menstruation?

Zach: Having open and honest conversations is the easiest way to break menstrual stigma. If half of our population is too afraid to ask questions, how are we gonna get anywhere? Follow period-positive accounts on social media, stock your business or bathrooms at home with products and don’t be afraid to listen and learn.

Sinclair: Aunt Flow’s website reads: Toilet paper is offered for free. Why aren’t tampons?® So, why aren’t tampons free?

Zach: Many people are not willing to look at tampons and pads as bathroom necessities because they don’t menstruate—it doesn’t affect them. I think that we need to have more empathy for each other and understand that having a period is not a choice. Offering freely-accessible products in businesses and universities makes sense, and it’s the right thing to do.

“If men got a period, I think you would see free menstrual products offered in every public bathroom in America.” – Zach Poczekaj

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Zach: Music, warm weather and my friends and family have been bringing me a lot of joy lately. I like to surround myself with positive energy to give off positive energy.

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We need more people, more guys, to support menstruators so that we can #ShedTheStigma – Zach Poczekaj 

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

Zach: Our country’s current administration is pissing me the fuck off lately. Shed walls, don’t build them!

Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Zach: I really value empathy, transparency and positivity. Working with incredible companies like Aunt Flow has really cemented those values for me, and I am so appreciative of that.

Sinclair: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with the prohibitive cost of tampons and pads?  

Zach: Advocate. Support businesses who support menstruators, and reach out to organizations like Aunt Flow and Free The Tampons. There are so many people who want to help achieve menstrual equity.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?

Zach:  Be a channel for positive energy, because that is what happiness and personal success stems from. Be the love and light you want to see.

🏆🏆🏆

Zach Poczekaj is a Communications professional based in Columbus, Ohio. He is studying Strategic Communication at The Ohio State and has a passion for advancing businesses and ideas through social media and public relations.

Learn more about Zach and connect: Instagram | LinkedIn 

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Aunt Flow is committed to ensuring everyone has access to menstrual products. Aunt Flow stocks businesses and schools across the country with 100% organic cotton tampons and pads so no one is left without the products they need. It’s people helping people. Period. 

Learn more about Aunt Flow and join the movement: Twitter | Website

Featured awesomeness: Why Work with Aunt Flow