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.

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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.

Stop waiting for people of color to educate you on their lived experience: A Q+A w/ Bonnie Boyle McGahee

Sinclair: How many books are you aiming to read this year? How many have you read so far?

Bonnie: When I started my New Year’s Resolution back in December 2017 I set the goal to read 12 books in 2018. I figured 1 book per month would be realistic and pretty manageable. I also wanted to catalog the books I was reading on some sort of social media platform, so I chose Instagram with the hashtag #BBMReads (after my full name). I thought it would be neat looking back on my journey over the last year and see the themes and genres of books I gravitated towards. I have just finished book #20 and I am currently reading book #21:  Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter and Trump.

Sinclair: What’s the reason you created this reading goal for yourself?

Bonnie: I wanted to set a goal for 2018 that would help me grow both professionally and personally. Late in 2017, I started becoming more interested in learning about mass incarceration, the role I play as a white person in society, and how I can continue to develop as a feminist, wife, ally and educator.

Sinclair: Is there any particular way you source the authors?

Bonnie: Mostly word of mouth, blogs, and let’s be honest—Amazon suggestions (hah!). Back in November of 2017, I told a colleague of mine that I was so angry about the way the criminal justice system targets people of color and I needed to learn more. He told me I needed to read The New Jim Crow and my world hasn’t been the same since. Thanks, Jason, for inspiring me!

Next, I read …But I’m Not Racist and right after I finished that, my friend Natalie suggested White Rage and thus began the beginning of my #BBMReads journey.

Sinclair: Which book challenged your thinking?

Bonnie: I just mentioned The New Jim Crow and how that was the catalyst for my #BBMReads adventure; but truly I was stunned by reading Michelle Alexander’s words. As an educator, I am very humbled to say this. Prior to November 2017, I didn’t realize once someone is conflicted of a felony their rights get stripped away. They can’t vote. Can’t serve on a jury. Housing is pretty much a non-option. Education is virtually nonexistent because of the high tuition costs and lack of financial aid. There are so many parallels between slavery and prison and at times it was too much to read. I would highly suggest pacing yourself with this book.

Sinclair: Which book made you feel inspired or empowered? How so?

Bonnie: Oh, this is a difficult question! I would have to say Make Trouble by Cecile Richards. For folks who don’t know, Cecile was the President of Planned Parenthood for 12 years and recently stepped down from the organization. She starts off the book by saying: “Maybe there’s an injustice that’s bothering you; maybe you see something in your community or at work you want to change; maybe you’re trying to get up the courage to share your beliefs with friends or family who see things differently; maybe you’re worried about the world your kids will inherit. I hope this book will help you get out there and do something about it. Just don’t forget: to make a difference, you have to make a little trouble.” From that moment on, I was hooked. I read all 263 pages in a weekend. Cecile talks about her mother, Ann Richards, the first female democratic Governor of Texas. And, how Ann went from housewife to Governor, all while battling alcoholism and getting a divorce. But, Ann never lost sight of fighting for what is right. Cecile talks about her journey of activism all throughout her life and what led her to Planned Parenthood. I don’t want to give too much away, but this is an incredible book. Go read it!

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Bonnie & Sinclair looking fly.

Sinclair: You told me about a social media post that caused conflict with a family member. What happened and what did you learn from that interaction?

Bonnie: Back in November 2017, I posted on Facebook a New York Times op-ed by Jay-Z titled “The Criminal Justice System Stalks Black People Like Meek Mill.” The article discussed Jay’s feelings on our criminal justice system and how Black people are sent to prison more often, and given probation at much higher rates than whites. This article really hit on how important it is to engage in conversation surrounding our criminal justice system, and how a person convicted of a crime at 19 years old would spend their whole adult life on probation, and be sent back to jail 11 years later for missing a curfew. This op-ed was important. It was interesting and really shook me, so I posted it on Facebook.

A family member reacted by laughing at the post. I was stunned. This article was talking about how the criminal justice system is harassing Black people. This is not funny.

I thought about what to do and decided to delete the post and message my family member. I told him I was deleted the post and reposted it. Apparently you cannot delete a reaction on Facebook. The conversation through Facebook Messenger was not ideal. I explained why I deleted it and that I was reposting the article because it was not funny to me. I also acknowledged that we have two different views on politics and that I’d prefer if we kept our views off of each other’s pages. He responded saying he wouldn’t debate a liberal like me, and that my posts are offensive to him because he views them as anti-white and anti-white police. My cousin is a police officer and I am very thankful for him keeping the city safe. I can’t even imagine how difficult it is risking your life every day. This situation made me really understand that doing this work of calling out injustice and discrimination is not going to be easy. I can’t even tell you the amount of negative messages I’ve received or relationships that have been strained. It’s sad, but at the end of the day: being an ally and confronting racism is just the right thing to do.

Did I handle that situation correctly? Maybe? Maybe not. Based on where I am now, I probably would have tried to engage in conversation a bit more: “What was so triggering? Talk to me about your view and here’s mine…” All we can do as allies is learn and improve.

Sinclair: You mentioned White Fragility at some point when originally sharing the story to me. What is that? And how do you think that played a part in this?

Bonnie: Oh, White Fragility…something that is so troublesome in our society. White Fragility is basically the discomfort that triggers defensiveness and anger when talking about issues surrounding race. Race is a very uncomfortable subject for a lot of white folks. Some people are open to listening and others aren’t not open to discussion. Instead of leaning into the conversation to learn about discrimination and injustices that happening to people of color, some folks get very defensive and try to shut down the conversation because that isn’t true of their lived experience. That’s white fragility. Derald Wing Sue talks about that in his book Race Talk & the Conspiracy of Silence, Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race. Sue writes: “Discussions of race between people with differing racial realities are likely to engender strong feelings of discomfort, anger and anxiety; most people prefer to avoid the topic of race, to remain silent, to minimize its importance or impact or pretend not to notice it.”

I think that’s what happened between me and my cousin. He was looking at the article from his lens and wasn’t open to another perspective. So, he reacted by laughing and being defensive in his response.

Side note: Robin DiAngelo’s new book just came out in June called White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism if you’re interested in learning more! It’s on my “to be read” list for this month!

Sinclair: What advice would you give you folks who are looking to be better allies and supports to folks from marginalized identities?

Bonnie: Do the work. Do not wait for anyone, especially people of color to educate you on their lived experience. If you are seriously committed to being an ally and support folks from marginalized identities I encourage you to read, engage, show up, be vulnerable, and most importantly call out your racist friends and family members.

A quote by Desmond Tutu is something I reflect on virtually everyday: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

I was silent for too long, letting microaggressions slide, not confronting my friends and family when they would say racist remarks. Now, since I’ve been educating myself more about oppression, racism, white privilege – while also being married to a Black man – I can no longer be silent. That just isn’t an option for me anymore. Most importantly, if a person of color says that you’ve done or said something offensive, apologize and do better in the future.

It’s okay to mess up, but it’s important to be better and grow. There is a passage in So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo that hits the nail on the head: “If you want to be an ally you must remember… you are not doing any favors. You are doing what is right. If you are white, remember that White Supremacy is a system you benefit from and that your privilege has helped to uphold. Your efforts to dismantle White Supremacy are expected of decent people who believe in justice. You are not owned gratitude or friendship from people of color for your efforts. We are not thanked for cleaning our own houses.”

Sinclair: How are you working to incorporate what you’ve been reading and learning about social justice, inclusion, and equity into your everyday work? Life?

Bonnie: When I started my hashtag it was definitely a way for me to keep track of all of my reading, but since I have friends, colleagues and students who follow me on Instagram they’ve began to message me, seek me out and let me know how certain books or passages really spoke to them. I try to engage with my students as much as possible whether it’s a one on one conversation, showing up at events and speaking out against injustice, or simply listening to their lived experience.

On a personal note: I am trying to be extra mindful of microaggressions and calling them out as I hear them, being mindful of the language I use (I’ve erased “hey guys!” from my vocabulary), and being open and honest about my journey. As a person working in higher education, diversity work is my work.

We as white student affairs professionals cannot just say “diversity and inclusion isn’t really my area…” No. We need to make it our area, because at the end of the day we serve students, all students, and being able to talk about race, gender, religion and sexual identity is important. I’m still working at this. I don’t have all the answers but I’m willing to learn.

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?

Bonnie: I believe that we have a responsibility to one another, to be kind, show compassion and listen. Black Lives Matter! Being a feminist is about wanting and supporting equal rights. Science is real. And most importantly, don’t tell me what you believe in. Show me. Actions speak louder than words.

📘📘📘

Bonnie Boyle McGahee is the Assistant Director of Residence Life at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Maryland. She received her Master’s degree at the University of Baltimore in Negotiation and Conflict Management; her passion areas include residential education & social justice. In Bonnie’s free time she loves spending time with her husband Linton, typically wine tasting and of course, reading.

Keep up with what Bonnie’s reading and connect: Instagram | Twitter | Email 

 **This post contains affiliate links. 

I’m a self-hating black man. I’m trying to do better

Photos x Chris Singlemann

I used to get beat up a lot in my younger years, and the aggressor was always Black.

It started with my dad.

Then a few kids in middle school.

Then one kid during my first year of high school. I was walking back from the parking lot outside my aunt’s apartment, and a group black kids around my age pulled up to me on bicycles. We spoke. I was nervous and awkward. One of them followed me up the stairs to the main door to the hallway leading to my aunt’s apartment. My hands were full, but I got the door open. Once I was in the doorway,  I looked back to see a fist flying at my face. He hit me. He ran off. 

I feel like that’s always been the case.

I first learned that I talked like a white person when I was around the age of 8. My cousins seemed so curious about me. They wanted to know why I didn’t dance like them and why I didn’t talk like them. They called me white boy. It was confusing. I knew I wasn’t white, and all at the same time, I didn’t feel very Black.

I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and was socialized in a predominately white school for most of my formative years. My grandparents raised me to keep my head down, do good work, and never upset any white people. They listened to Black music, and watched Black television, and went to our Black relative’s houses for cookouts. I loved all these things, but often felt like an outsider.

None of my friends were black growing up. The ones that were, were only in my life temporarily, and either moved away or we just stopped being friends.

I used to think black women couldn’t possibly be beautiful. I didn’t talk to them, date them, or approach them. I thought they were all the stereotypes I’d heard about them and that I had convinced myself were true: that they were loud, unruly, aggressive, and insatiable. If they didn’t look like Britney Spears, I wanted nothing to do with them. I only felt safe dating and befriending white women. I was called out for it. But, I ignored it. 

Things shifted after the first year of high school ended.

I moved to a predominantly black neighborhood with my dad and his new wife and his new stepdaughter. I hated being in such an unsafe household, my dad never stopped being physically and emotionally abusive, so I spent most of my time with friends. Also, I was a teenager.

I became fast friends with a few of the neighborhood kids. I learned that I played basketball like a white boy, but beyond that, they pretty much accepted me. One kid called me “preacher pimp” because I wore nice clothes to school and because many of my friends were women. I wasn’t a preacher nor was I sleeping with any of these woman, but it felt good to be acknowledged in a positive light. Yes, I know all of that was problematic, but this is my story.

I learned to freestyle rap, play basketball like someone outta of an AND1 mixtape, and use the N word effectively and proficiently, but for the most part, they were just people I kicked it with. And also, none of these things made us black or make anyone black. We could have read comic books together and played Dungeons and Dragons and we would have been just as Black.

Sure, my Black friends did things that my white friends didn’t do, but they weren’t from another planet. They felt hurt, pain, love, sadness, and happiness. They wanted better relationships with their family members. They freaked out about school. These black folk were me. And I was them. Not some kid who talked white, or was an easy target for getting beat up. I was Sinclair.

Maybe Black is whoever you are, whatever you love, and however you live in your Black skin.

Still, I held onto a lot of anger and hate towards my own Blackness.

I held onto my beliefs and perceptions about who other Black people were. I gave into what the media told me about Black people: criminal, unsafe, lazy, and dangerous. That narrative was and still is burned into my brain. I can recall more mugshots of Black men on the news, than I can celebrity profiles or Black excellence and achievements. I can recall more times that I’ve been afraid to walk in a space full of black people (family reunions, professional conferences, church, any predominantly Black city neighborhood it doesn’t matter) than I can recall walking into these spaces feeling okay with just being me.

I have so much to unlearn. But, I’m trying. I’m telling you all this. That’s a good first step. I’m aware of the problematic narrative I replay and subscribe to. That’s a good step. I’m reaching out to black men and asking to hang out with them. I putting together a mental health conference for black people and by black people to be held in Baltimore next summer. I’m purposeful about connecting with black folks in any space I enter. My therapist is black. My black wife teaches me about this world and about myself everyday. My future children will be black.

And, I’m black.

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Photo x Chris Singlemann

Still, I have a long way to go. I’ve seen a lot of conversations on social media about self-hating black men who “prefer” lighter skinned women to darker skinned women. I’m like, that used to be me. Not that long ago.

I see brothas defending themselves and wasting their breath trying to silence anyone who holds them accountable. I’m like, I’m stubborn like that. My masculinity is so flawed and fragile and unhelpful at times.

I look in the mirror, and sometimes I wish I didn’t have to exist in this Black body. I hate my own skin at times, and am embarrassed to be Black. This isn’t healthy; this isn’t how I want to live.

These days, the worst part of all this is feeling unsafe to be Black. I feel like white people are emboldened to shoot us, strike us, harm us on site. I feel like my Blackness gets confused for targets all the time. I feel like no matter how many degrees I have, I’m still less than. 

But it doesn’t stop here. I’m not stopping at just admitting how I feel and being real about the barriers. I’m seeking to learn more and embrace my Blackness. I’m working on discovering spaces where I find comfort. I’m working on not feeling so upset when people pull my Black card. I’m working on being less judgmental and pious when someone who looks like me walks into a room. I’m tired of being a crab in a barrel. There is no barrel. It’s just all of us.  

I don’t want a badge, a trophy, or an applause. I simply want to do better. But, it’s not simple. So many of us are actively working to unlearn and undo the impact of slavery, trauma, and internalized racism.

And, I’m tired of doing this shit alone and in my head. Maybe you’re doing the work as well. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking: Dang, I thought it was just me.

It’s not. A lot of us are steeped in self-hate, and so many don’t even know it. 

So, if you’re black, and you’re reading this, please, reach out. Or please comment and share your story. Or just please be a little patient with me as I figure out how to untangle myself out of this beautiful complex mess that is a story and life of hurt, shame, being excluded, bring brought in, being loved, being black. 

Working While Black Series: “They have smiled in my face all of this time.” Words by DeAnne Perry.

Sinclair: Share about a time you felt unwelcome when working while Black. What happened? What did you take away from the experience/incident/situation? 

DeAnne: Recently received my annual evaluation from my supervisor. In the evaluation I received a needs improvement (1 out of 3) on assisting co-workers. In the past year I have had two co-workers leave the institution; the first co-worker left and her work load was divided among myself and one other advisor (they are not going to fill this position), which added at least 100 students onto my case load. Now that the second advisor has left, it’s our responsibility to meet with her students until they find her replacement. For the past month I have met with the majority of her students.

Also, over the past year, one of my co-workers went on maternity leave. While she was away for three months, it was the expectation that we pick up her load. I did this with no issue for three months: meeting with her students, taking on extra orientation responsibilities, and whatever else they needed for us to do. She came back and everything was okay.

Or, so I thought.

I was also given a needs improvement on my schedule flexibility – also a 1 out of 3. My office is responsible for taking on the brunt of the work for our Express Enrollment days. These are days when new and returning students are able to just drop into the office and meet with and advisor without setting an appointment. A number of these events are set on Saturdays, late nights, and most often on Thursdays. I informed my supervisor when I first started my position of my involvement in my church.

I told them that I have praise team and choir rehearsal on Thursday nights, to which they replied, “Okay”Typically we have to pick a time that we would like to work, and they will create a schedule. I have co-workers who have families and young children. When the Express Enrollment schedules are made, they accommodate for the workers who have to pick their children up from day care. Their spouses aren’t able to do so. This means they normally work 8-5.

I asked if an accommodation could be made for me on these days, and even asked if we could switch the days so that not all events are on Thursday. I was told they have no say in the dates, and would not be able to accommodate for my rehearsals, as it did not warrant accommodations because it was an option for me to be a part of the activities. During my evaluation, I was told that my coworkers don’t feel as if I am welcoming.

They feel that I don’t meet with as many students as they do during our Express Enrollment events. I was told that they feel that I just sit in my office, never socialize, and that I don’t walk around to their offices and speak to them. I am currently I PhD candidate, and for the past few months have been working on completing my dissertation. They all knew when I was traveling to complete my research and were even told in a staff meeting that I would be a little withdrawn so that I could finish. I was told that it appears that I am combative because I speak up when I believe things should be done differently. I was also told that my confidence intimidates those around me who are in higher positions. When I heard this from my supervisor, I was furious. I informed her that I disagreed with her subjective evaluation and backed my statements with facts.

I feel that the people in my office have the expectation that I have to make them feel comfortable with who I am, without them putting forth the effort to do so. I have worked off my behind to make them feel comfortable, and to keep them in the loop of my process, and all they can see is that they aren’t comfortable with me while I am finishing my dissertation.

I was offended because I spent over a year working with a group of people who didn’t think that it was important to tell me that they falsely perceived that I was not pulling my weight with seeing students – which is grossly inaccurate. And, no one – not even my supervisor – had the professional courtesy to talk to me about. I’m upset because these people have sat around for over a year having conversations about me behind my back, and no one felt it important enough to have this conversation with me.

They have smiled in my face all of this time and have had secret feelings and thoughts without even telling me. I never had a chance to give the entire story. I’m upset because they are often surprised at the positive feedback I get from my students about my advising.

Sinclair: What advice would you give to another Black professional who is feeling tired, defeated and/or hopeless? 

DeAnne: Don’t give up. Although it may seem like it will never end, it will end. There is a lesson in everything we go through. Take from it what you can and do not allow the ignorance of others to hold hold you back. They want you to prove them right, prove them wrong.

Sinclair: In regard to your colleagues that don’t identify as Black: what is one way they continue to send the message of “You don’t belong here” to you – intentionally or unintentionally?  

 

DeAnne: Requiring more of me than they require of others. Expecting me to continue to extend the olive branch when they have consistently turned their back. Perceiving my lack of “socializing” as a threat and a belief that I don’t pull my weight.
Sinclair: What do you do for self-care? 
I pray. I take time out to do things I love. I vent to my confidants.
Sinclair: What’s something you’re working to unlearn about what it means to be Black?
DeAnne: It’s okay not to be friends with your co-workers. You don’t have to tell them your whole life story.

Learn more about the Working While Black Series and share your story.

 
✊🏿✊🏿✊🏿
 
DeAnne Perry, originally from Louisville, Kentucky, graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania (Clarion, PA) in 2007 and 2010 where she received a B.S. in Secondary Education Social Studies with a minor in Black Studies and a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Higher Education Administration program at Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD), with a dissertation topic focused on first-generation college students who have previously taken part in a living-learning community. DeAnne currently serves as an Academic Advisor at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg, Indiana.  A strong advocate for retention of at-risk students, she served as the graduate assistant for the Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Clarion University where she assisted in researching the retention rates of minority students in predominantly white institutions. Her professional interests and research focuses on the retention of underrepresented and underserved students with a concentration on first-generation college students.  
 
Learn more about DeAnne and connect: Instagram | Facebook | Email 
 

Q+A w/ Rini Frey of @ownitbabe: Eating disorder recovery coach & social media influencer

Sinclair: In short, I see that you use social media (in a super effective way) to advocate for body positivity and intuitive eating. What caused you to start doing this work?

Rini: I suffered from various eating disorders, disordered eating and excessive exercise for many years and when I decided I was ready for recovery, I started sharing bits and pieces with my followers and found that it resonated so much. Body positivity is so important in today’s world of “perfect” Instagram bodies and being exposed to only one body type as the ideal. Intuitive eating saved me from what I thought was going to be a lifelong struggle with food and my body.

Sinclair: What are recurring themes that arise in your conversations with the women you work with (clients, followers, etc.)?

Rini: Body image is the biggest topic of conversation with my clients. We have deeply rooted beliefs about what a “good” body and a “bad” body looks like and it is a challenge to break those patterns down.

Instagram vs Reality
Rini Frey

Sinclair: What’s something you think we often get wrong about dieting? 

Rini: The diet industry makes us believe that it is our fault for failing at dieting. The truth is that diets are doomed to fail, because from an evolutionary perspective, food deprivation causes our metabolisms to slow down and our hunger hormones to rise drastically. So, when weight loss occurs, our bodies make us hungrier than ever before, while slowing our metabolism. Rebounding and gaining weight is a natural response to food restriction and that is why people keep spending their money on the next diet that promises long-lasting weight loss, only to end up disappointed and heavier than before.

Intuitive eating saved me from what I thought was going to be a lifelong struggle with food and my body. – Rini Frey

Sinclair: How can someone living with an eating disorder begin healing some of the shame they might carry?

Rini: Talking about it helps a lot, as well as questioning our thoughts. So, self-awareness is huge. Question your beliefs about what a perfect body looks like, why it’s so important to shrink our bodies and why we label foods as good and bad. It’s important to understand that those beliefs are completely learned based on the society we live in and the good news is that they can be un-learned.

Sinclair: You wrote: “You don’t have to shrink your body to have an impact on this world,” on a recent Instagram post. Where do you think we get messages like these?

Rini: We get bombarded with underlying messages about smaller bodies being more successful at life from social media, movies, TV and other advertisements. We see small people represent health and happiness everywhere we look, when in reality it is all staged and being small doesn’t equal being happy, especially if we have to take drastic measures to achieve this look. We can do much more important things with our time than obsess over food and our bodies and that is where the impact comes in. If our brain space is taken up by thoughts about food and our body, we have no space left to do more important things in life.

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Rini Frey

Sinclair: I’d love to hear your response to a question you posed on another post: “What is something you’re currently trying to accept about yourself?”

Rini: I am trying to accept my perfectionism at everything I do, especially work-related. It used to show up in my diet and body image as I thought I had to be “perfect” at everything. Now it shows up in my work and I am working on accepting that I feel this way, but also learning to slow down and accept that nobody is perfect and I am doing the best I can with whatever I’ve got.

I am now at peace with my body and don’t get hung up on weighing a certain number. – Rini Frey

Sinclair: Your Daily Mail feature mentioned that you haven’t weighed yourself in over a year. Where has making this decision gotten you?

Rini: I feel better in my body than I ever have before. I am not interested in knowing my weight, because it is the least interesting thing about me. I used to be a slave to my scale and I refuse to let numbers dictate my well-being anymore. I am now at peace with my body and don’t get hung up on weighing a certain number. It doesn’t determine my worth.

Sinclair: Recovery and body confidence coaching sounds like it changes lives. What’s it entail?

Rini: I work with women that want to break away from self-destructive behaviors in terms of restricting food, bingeing and purging on food, binge eating or overexercising. We are breaking down their old patterns and beliefs and find ways to heal their relationship to food and their bodies. My mission is always to get them to a place of doing something with their lives that brings them joy, fulfillment and purpose. Instead of obsessing over food and their bodies, I see my clients go and start their own online business, leave a toxic relationship, go travel or do other things they were putting off before, because they had no energy to make those changes. It’s an amazing journey worth going on.

 

💎💎💎

Rini is an eating disorder recovery coach, blogger, fitness instructor and social media influencer. She is working with women who want to find peace with food and their bodies and live a life free of rules and restrictions. Her mission is to help women embrace their bodies as they are and focus on what their bodies are capable of instead of what they look like, so they can take the wheel and finally take action in creating the life they always dreamed of.

Learn more about Rini and connect: Instagram Facebook | Website

Rini’s awesome services

1:1 Coaching: 

  • Do you prefer one-on-one support on your journey to food freedom and intuitive eating?
  • Do you need more accountability and a personalized program?
  • Are you ready to rediscover who you are, what your desires in life are and how to find your self-worth?
  • Do you want someone to talk to and reach out to anytime whether you struggle or have something to celebrate?

Rini works with a small number of people on a 1 one 1 basis to create a full transformational coaching experience!

Book a complimentary session.

Own Your Body – Your 4 weeks to food freedom: 

  • Are you a few months into your recovery from disordered eating or chronic dieting and are looking for extra support and/or mentorship?
  • Do you still feel triggered to restrict, binge eat or change your body?
  • Do you feel you are exercising for the wrong reasons?
  • Are you ready to live your life free of food and body obsession?

Let’s work together to make that happen! 

 

Q+A w/ Sabrina Cognata: Award-winning writer, producer & storyteller

Sinclair: What is The Dickoupage Project and what inspired you to create it?

Sabrina: In 2015, I started Dickoupage as a literal dick pic project. I was sick of being sent anonymous dick pics or even not anonymous dick pics. So I took a bunch of the ones I had been sent over the years and I started writing around the photos. I didn’t even really write about the dicks as much as I wrote about being a woman online in the 21st century. It was super polarizing but people kept reading. I was told time and again by womxn that they liked the message but the dick pics were just too much.

By the time got to dick 69, my last dick pic, I knew that the project had evolved into something bigger than shaming men for acting inappropriately. It had grown into a sort of ideology that really began to help me deal with my own issues. I started it because I was mad as hell but I kept doing it because it basically freed me from feeling like a victim. It helped me find like minded people and in turn, it has been a real beacon of light during this nightmare that is the Trump Administration.

Sinclair: What was one of the biggest challenges when trying to launch this project?

Sabrina: Dicks. I started asking for dick pics. Do you have any idea what it is like to be a womxn online who also asks for dick pics. I couldn’t win. Men would send me dick pics and then they’d get very mad and borderline violent if I didn’t use their photos. Also, dicks. Womxn do not want to see them, womxn want to feel them. Really, my biggest challenge with launching Dickoupage was realizing that it could be something bigger and could actually help people. I’m stubborn. I wanted it to be about making men feel like womxn with the hopes that it could SHOW MEN how horrible it is to live at the crux of sexualization and marginalization. But that didn’t happen until I got really vulnerable with the things I was writing and by then, it was very apparent that the dicks were unnecessary, as was shaming men.

“The patriarchy is designed so that they can have the power to give womxn the things womxn want and if womxn take these things and do not sleep with the men, they’re monsters.” – Sabrina Cognata

Sinclair: On your website, it says that The Dickoupage Project publishes “stories with the intent to crush the patriarchy, enrich the self, and promote the general welfare of everyone, everywhere”.  Tell us more about how you hope the project will enrich others.

Sabrina: Like there’s a worldwide stigma with being a woman there’s one with Feminism. There’s this idea that FEMinism, because it begins with the root for female is about rejecting men, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is, calling it EQUALITY didn’t work because a certain sect of people (white men) don’t want equality spread around. I look a certain way and that gets a reaction out of men. I tell them I just want to be treated fairly and with respect, but they’d rather do me a favor I didn’t ask for with the hopes of sleeping with me. The patriarchy is designed so that they can have the power to give womxn the things womxn want and if womxn take these things and do not sleep with the men, they’re monsters.

I just want to change the whole operation. I don’t want to get a fucking job because the boss wants to sleep with me. I don’t want children to have to figure out this fucked up system we’ve allowed to go on since the beginning of time. I want non-binary people to have the same rights as a white man. I want people of color and the mentally ill and the disabled to all be able to exist with those same rights and privileges and not the idea of having them. So I write about this inequality. I share information that highlights stories that are NOT about white men and really, I want to give people who don’t have a voice, a voice.

Mostly, I am interested in helping people who don’t have anyone else to talk to or a place that feels like their own. And I am in no way an expert on any of this. I learn a lot by simply talking to people and asking them about their experiences. I learn by caring. Empathy is something I think we need more of in the world, so I am trying to achieve that by creating a community online.

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Sabrina Cognata

Sinclair: What is progressive feminism, and what does that term mean to you?

Sabrina: For me, progressive feminism is basically the idea that I am not hunting down men because I am angry. There is this really convoluted idea that feminism is about oppressing men and it’s not. It is simply about helping people in a society designed to basically humiliate their attempts to achieve the same type of success as white men.

If I am being honest, men do a good job of oppressing themselves by perpetuating this idea that men must be cold and without feeling. Empathy is really what helps us grow and change and evolve. So if you’re a person who’s desperate to live without empathy because you think it makes you weak, you’re probably suffering.  

“Black trans womxn are responsible for so much of the progress we have today. Really, this question makes me want to just stop typing and offer the floor to a black trans womxn.” – Sabrina Cognata

Sinclair: What do you think about the criticism many feminists have received about not centering black trans womxn in their advocacy work?

Sabrina: I think the criticism is fair. I think that there’s an intersection of people who get lost because they’re not mainstream (aka white) and to be perfectly honest, they’re truly marginalized and their issues are bigger and deserve more attention. My mom is Mexican and white and my father is Sicilian. I am white passable. That was really important to my mother. I think a lot of that generation just wanted to forget where they came from and be accepted, which is understandable but it also means they turn their back on their communities. Now, more than ever, it’s important for people with a voice to use it to help marginalized people like black trans womxn.

I am not even saying I know what that means other than looking for them and having them tell their stories to me so I can share them with my audience. Black trans womxn are responsible for so much of the progress we have today. Really, this question makes me want to just stop typing and offer the floor to a black trans womxn because she would know exactly what to say here and I think that’s probably the biggest realization white feminists should have. Just stop talking.  You have it pretty good. Let someone else share for a second. Let them tell you what’s going on in their world. Listen and learn.

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Sabrina Cognata

Sinclair: You wrote “come for the tits” in your Instagram bio. How did you come up with this and what message are you looking to send with these words?

Sabrina: Honest to god, I didn’t come up with it. Someone on Twitter did when I was sharing some insane story of mine. I started using it because men typically follow me because of my photos–because of how I look, but stay because I am much more interesting and intelligent than my stupid vessel makes them think. I guess, I am just willing to let the fact that I am very sexual looking draw in men so I can pepper my feed with liberal and feminist ideas, which may in some way, change the way they think…even if they don’t believe it will.
Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Sabrina: I dunno. I think that my values have changed over the years. I think that evolving and growing has been the biggest thing for helping me to have really any values. I used to be a drunk party monster who only cared about what went on from the time I could make it to an event until I blacked out. Because of this, I have been able to understand anyone is capable of change and no one is a prisoner to their past. I was pretty much a piece of shit during my party years, sure. But knowing that I could find value in really anything outside myself, especially helping other people has probably made this sort of, thankless work I do totally worth it.

I guess my actual answer my unshakeable value is that I believe people can change, which is why I continue to work on Dickoupage even though it literally costs me money instead of making me money.

“I just know that I can really overcome anything, but I have to be kind to myself and others to accomplish it.” – Sabrina Cognata

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

Sabrina: When I was 19, I broke my neck. Before that I was held hostage. Then my neighbor across the street murder suicided his wife. These are all separate events and traumas that built the kind of person I was and am.  Thanks to these things I felt like I was going to be hostage to the way that stuff made me feel…forever. I just want it to be clear that trauma is just always there with us but it doesn’t have to become part of how we function.  Like, how I began to act out was because I didn’t seek help for the things I had been through. This is because my parents are from that generation where only “insane people” go to a therapist. So I had to do a lot of deep soul searching to accept that I needed an outside perspective so I could finally grow. When I started drinking I was like 23 probably. I was a very late bloomer and I hated myself on a deep and visceral level. Because of that, I spent a lot of time destroying anything in my path, myself included. But it felt fucking horrible. I was always weighed down by bad stuff instead of uplifted by doing good things, which is something I now understand helps me to get out of my own damn head and push forward for growth.

Really, there have been so many times where my self-doubt lead the way, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without having gone through these things. It made my life fucking miserable and was probably why I drank so much. I just wanted to turn everything off so I didn’t have to consider that I was a fraud. Prior to getting sober in 2016, I basically just was so overwhelmed by anything and responded to everything with a rage that could fuel this fucking Administration.

And I still struggle with self-doubt. I probably always will, but now that I take care of myself and am honest about my feelings and mental health I don’t worry that I am going to become the worst version of myself. I just know that I can really overcome anything, but I have to be kind to myself and others to accomplish it. We’re all going through shit and it’s easier when you consider that someone else’s misdirected rage is really about them and how horrible things are for them, than being about you. Accepting that is a kind of freedom I wish everyone understood.

Sinclair: What advice would you give to artists and writers struggling with believing in themselves and in their work?

Sabrina: Don’t do it to get famous. Do it because you simply cannot do anything else. I seriously still find myself struggling with this and the only thing I can do is work through it. Like literally by writing, I am overcoming the anxiety I have from this idea that my work must be revelatory. Just do the work and it will set your ass free.

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?

Sabrina: You can only be conned if you believe that human beings can be perfect. You can see through the snake oil salesman’s charms if you accept that he is but just a man and all men are flawed.

💎💎💎

Sabrina Cognata is an award-winning writer, producer, and storyteller. During a decade-long meltdown, she burned her life to the ground and revamped it as often as Madonna. Sabrina has written or produced for HuffPost Live, CBS Radio, TMZ and XO Jane, and she’s most recently produced a syndicated news show while tirelessly trying to resist. Every. Damn. Day.

Learn more about Sabrina and connect: Instagram Twitter

Learn more about The Dickoupage Project:  Website Instagram | Facebook

 

One more thing.

Sabrina said: “I come from a place where violence was apart of everyday life. I struggle greatly with saying and acting in a way that is typically “male.” It means a lot of what I am trying to do can be negated by the fact that I exhibit characteristics that are typically male ie. being aggressive, screaming at people, looking for a fight. When I wanted to change I found NonViolent Communication and it is wonderful. I use it all the time, especially when I am struggling to communicate my wants and needs with others.” 

 

 

 

 

Q+A w/ Ashley Stahl: Counter-terrorism Professional Turned Badass Entrepreneur

Sinclair: Ashley, you accomplished a lot in your 20s (managing high level programs for the Pentagon, running a global threat intelligence team, to name a few). What led you to say yes to those opportunities?

Ashley: Being able to say NO to so many opportunities is what translated into my spaciousness to say YES to my career in this chapter of my life that was so important to me. Often, we live in a distracted– and complicated– world with lots of options. It’s difficult to stay SIMPLE, and FOCUSED, and that’s what it took for me to hone in on growing my network, building authentic (and mutually supportive) relationships and taking care of myself.

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

Ashley: It’s a house of ghostwriters, copywriters and publicists– all of whom support entrepreneurs/companies/influencers in expanding their impact, whether it’s through writing a book, blog posts, email sequences, or pitching them to be on TV. I was inspired to create it because I love WORDS and writing. Connection is my deepest core value and I find such a profound connection to people through writing.

Sinclair: What do you hope CAKE Publishing will be one day?

Ashley: I’m currently focused on taking it to its next level, from a team of 5 to a team of 10 in the next 12 months! The bigger my team, the more people we can serve in being who they truly are in the world, and that is what great writing is all about! I want to be a business of inspiration that moves the clients who walk in and the writers who support it as employees.

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Ashley Stahl

Sinclair: What was one of the biggest challenges when trying to launch the company?

Ashley: Finding top notch writers. First of all, they’re a creative bunch! Sometimes managing them feels like managing the wind.  Everything starts and ends with the talent you have. There are too many entrepreneurs that are GREAT at sales, but who are forgetting the customer after the invoice is paid! I’m in love with writing and supporting my writers, and a lot of that means being a powerful presence from start to finish.

“Connection is my deepest core value.” – Ashley Stahl

Sinclair: You have a master’s in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica. How does your degree currently inform your work?

Ashley: It makes me a more conscious leader who is committed to bringing my masculine energy (action, implementation) in cohesion with my feminine energy (collaboration, wisdom, softness). I put my team first and care about them most, because I know that, first off, I can enjoy work better-– and secondly, they’ll do better work when we have a connected relationship.

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Ashley Stahl

Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them? Also, when was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Ashley: Connection, achievement, freedom, humor and growth! I’m crystal clear on my top 5 core values and I have a values guide on my website I often turn to as a way to check in with myself and make sure I’m living life on purpose.

Self-doubt was massive early in my career, and continues to rear its ugly head. But to me, doubt does NOT mean Don’t. So many people think doubt or fear is a sign they shouldn’t press on, and I’ve questioned that belief for myself. In fact, fear is welcome– it means I’m on an edge for myself and I like to grow!

Sinclair: Who are some badass entrepreneurs that folks should follow?   

Ashley: My friends @amandabucci, @Sarahannestewart, @libbycrow @thelaylamartin, @nataliemacneil, @alyssanobriga… So many more! They inspire me and stretch me into the best self I could ever be– thank GOD for them and their patience, understanding, and love.

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

Ashley: Pushing won’t work forever. Don’t burn out. Honor yourself, create spaciousness for your creativity to come through, because only 16% of your best ideas (studies indicate) will come through at work. You need space to keep that source of creativity alive inside of you!

“Fear is welcome– it means I’m on an edge for myself.” – Ashley Stahl

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

Ashley: Based on how my body feels when I think about them– the body knows all.

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?

Ashley: Feel everything. The best leaders and inspirations are people who don’t avoid pain, but rather move towards it.

💎💎💎

Ashley’s a counterterrorism professional turned career coach, entrepreneur, podcaster (You Turn Podcast) and author. She runs CAKE Publishing ghostwriting house, and helps entrepreneurs inspire others through their words.

Learn more about Ashley and connect: Instagram | Private Coaching | Ghostwriting