Writer, mother, lover, fighter.
I should probably add “culture-maker” to that list, too.
Because here’s what I know and what I know to be important: we are all culture makers.
You are a culture maker.
You don’t have to have a fancy title or an artsy career to be a culture-maker (but you can if you want to!).
When you declare on Facebook or Instagam, you are asserting new norms and you are a culture-maker.
When you share social media content created by others, you are asserting new norms and you are a culture-maker.
When you write blog posts or create videos or paintings or use your platform to connect-the-dots between the personal and political, you are a culture maker.
When you get brave and go first and say something that makes other people realize it’s not just them and they’re not alone, you are a culture-maker.
When you paint, write, coach, offer counsel around those new norms and market without leveraging oppression, you are making a new culture.
When you lift your voice and reject the racism and homophobia and ableism (and, and, and) whenever it happens, right in that moment, in your daily interactions with your friends and family, you are a culture maker.
You are drawing the boundaries of what is welcome and just in our culture.
Every single one of us is a culture maker.
And there’s so much personal power there.
We can decide, we can commit, we can act, and we can remake our culture.
Step by step, idea by idea, person by person, organization by organization, vision after vision.
That’s the work I try to do, too.
A Little More About My Body of Work and Background:
- You can find some of my essays at Salon, Jezebel and xoJane and of course on my blog
- Every week I email you a Sunday Love Letter and they are blazing epistles of righteousness (you can sign up to get them here:
- Most Mondays I publish a free Feminist Marketing Tip on my blog
- I am currently working on a book about the cultural archetype and marketing narrative that limits women’s lives (and is a form of social control) that I call The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand
- I am the first in my family to graduate from university; I have a BA with honours in Poli Sci; I won academic prizes, scholarships and admissions to prestigious schools…yet still managed to drop out of grad school
- I was a Teaching Assistant for political theory at university and I’ve taught kindergarten
- I’ve designed corporate and nonprofit marketing campaigns and freelanced as a copywriter for over a decade
- In the last two years alone I’ve worked on corporate storytelling projects and with 200+ online entrepreneurs on their online messaging and marketing
- I welcome critique and feedback; I think conflict is generative and essential to the project of change-making…and I get a lot of illegitimate and frankly predatory pushback that I do not accept (nor will I allow it to silence or stop me)
- I have five children, four of whom range in age from 2 to 14, plus an adult step-son who has flown the nest. My partner and children are black, which means I have a ringside seat for the bias, discrimination and harassment they live with on a daily basis — and our anger, anguish and grief drives me to deliberately unlearn my own privilege + social conditioning and use whatever I’ve got to change our unjust and dehumanizing cultural systems
- I have significant family caregiving and financial responsibilities in both Canada and Trinidad and we have lived for extended periods of time in each country (I’m currently in Canada)
- I’m an unrepentant feminist. My feminism is inclusive and about justice.
Love + Justice. Always.
And in all things – including careers, communities and livelihoods.
Because the reason so many of us get thwarted is not because we don’t lean in (though it helps when we do, aggressively) but because our difference from the mythic norm of white cis-male heterosexuality is interpreted by our culture and workplaces as a problem rather than a creative asset.
The glass ceiling is real.
So is the cement resume.
Because here’s the truth: some of us are actively prevented from even getting started.
On the topic of getting started, here are some books people who helped me do that and influenced my development:
As Lianne Raymond says, these are my teachers, “known and unknown” (meaning they don’t necessarily know me nor would they necessarily agree with everything I say or do — and vice versa — but at critical points in my career, their work has fed me and become part of my flesh):
Dr. Barbara Bryant Solomon whose social and academic work on black empowerment appears to be one of the first articulations of “empowerment”; her textbook has been my touchstone.
Mr. Beech who was the first teacher in my life to show me the gap between our democratic goals as a country and the harsh, oppressive realities (I did not take it kindly and I’m still mortified at my 14 year old self).
Lianne Raymond for being a feminist wise woman who knows things and has always sent resources my way and greeted me with compassion even when she doesn’t agree with my thinking or work.
Danielle LaPorte for seeing something in me nine years ago and championing me privately and publicly on before anyone knew of me or my work;and for materially helping me get started, online. I still get business because of her early support — and the significance of one woman using her influence and sharing her knowledge to help another woman develop a sovereign, sustainable livelihood can never be underestimated.
Dr. Linda Bacon for their life-altering books, Health at Every Size and Body Respect (HAES helped me stop hating myself and for this I am truly grateful), and for their unending professional generosity and personal friendship.
Dr. Barbara Arniel for hiring me to be her research assistant while I was still an undergrad (!!) and mentoring me even before I realized that mentoring was a thing.
Toi Smith for her expert Online Business Management, her influence on the direction of my career, her unwavering friendship, and her capacity to be direct and say what needs to be said. That’s love and culture-making in action.
Gwynn Raimondi for opening me to the possibility of embodiment and helping me regulate my central nervous system on the daily and ESPECIALLY in times of trial (2017 was an unrelenting, 12 month inferno).
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint for coaching me into new culture making possibilities, for underlining the value in my analysis and the book I’m working on, forcing me to look at how many hours I *really* have available to work so that I finally saw the necessity of shifting my business model and raising my rates. What I learned with her emboldened me immeasurably in my culture making AND tripled my business income in a year.
Anna North for publishing me at Jezebel and Salon and being a possibility model in the professional world of words.
Tanya Geisler, Dawn Serra, Justine Musk, Erin Lee Kaufman, Meghna Majmudar, Dr. Danusia Malina-Derben, Una de Boer for being points of inspiration, friends or mentors — in person, or from afar.
Thinkers, writers, speakers — culture makers! — who’ve formed me: Chantal Mouffe, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Maya Angelou, Rebecca Solnit, Kate Harding, Marianne Kirby, Melissa Toler, Roxane Gay, Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw, Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones, Adrienne Maree Brown, Sarah Schulman, Lindy West, s.e. smith, Rukaiyah Adams, Sonya Renee Taylor, Naomi Wolf, Susan Faludi, Jia Tolentino, Cedar Barstow.
Can magazines be formative influences? Because they have been: Ms. Magazine and the early iteration of Sassy. But especially Ms. Magazine, my friend and feminist mentor since I was eleven years old.
Oprah as a possibility model. Although sometimes I feel like Oprah should come with a warning label for her views on dieting and weight loss, I often say I worship in the house of Oprah. I’m only half-joking. I feel like I grew up with her show and it shaped me. Of course, like most of the “unknown teachers” on this list, she has no idea I exist.
S, Lawrence, S. Kelly, A. Young, J. Neufeld and F. Rostant for their love across the years. Dr. David Doolin, for his friendship at a pivotal moment in my life, for helping me learn copywriting and trying to teach me about SEO. I say tried because I basically refused. Despite myself, I did absorb some critically useful stuff. I’m grateful.
Here’s what I’m currently working on:
- Blogging and writing essays about the power dynamics of our popular culture and mainstream media
- Ghostwriting a book (Summer 2018) as well as continuing to write my own book about The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand
- Spoiler alert: I’m not a fan of the phenomenon because I think it perpetuates patriarchy and white supremacy and forces women + gender non-conforming entrepreneurs to perform a hyperfeminine caricature of themselves and play small.
You can also subscribe to receive my LOVE LETTERS + WILDLY UNREASONABLE ADVICE every Sunday by e-mail.
One last thing: thank you for being here with me.
Now let’s sally forth and remake this culture of ours.
love + justice,