7 Lessons In Activism From Angela Davis

I felt really lost in the days leading up to and in the days following Trump’s inauguration. Between confirmation hearings, Make America Great Again hats, protests and Twitter trolls, I was overwhelmed with rage, sadness and profound disappointment so much so that I didn’t want to march or protest or even talk about the election. All I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and watch cartoons.

In times of intense emotional exhaustion, it’s helpful to look to my activist ancestors who have fought similar battles for guidance. Thankfully, I got to meet one of the baddest and boldest of the OG activists in person. Angela Davis, freedom fighter and boss Black Woman, graced DC with her presence during inauguration weekend. She stopped by our local hotspot, Busboys and Poets, for an intimate conversation with Melissa Harris-Perry about what we’re all feeling and what we all need to do. I was lucky and blessed enough to be in that crowded room to pick up all of the gems she was dropping. Here are 7 of my favorite quotes, the ones that shook me up and woke me up to take my place in the march toward a better future.

“We must place our bodies in front of the death chamber and render it impassable.”

Davis mentioned that the moment in her life when she felt the most fear was when she was facing a death sentence during one of her numerous times in jail. Her friend and comrade James Baldwin wrote to her and said “If they come for you in the morning, they’ll be coming for us that night.” Davis was comforted knowing her potential death would not be in vain. She was supported by numerous other activists. She was not and would not be alone. With this in mind, Davis was willing to face death to be on the right side of history.

The lesson here: Change cannot happen without risk. What are you willing to risk for equality and justice for all? Your job? Your home? Your life? Bravery is required for this movement but as Angela said: “Be afraid but don’t let that fear immobilize you.”

“What are you anyway? Are you Black or are you a woman? As if that is even a question that had any kind of logical answer!”

Davis looked back on a moment before the Women’s march when she was asked the questions above. Like her, I believe my Blackness defines my experience as a woman, my womanhood informs my experiences as a person of color. I cannot separate these parts of me and why should I? I represent the intersections that have yet to be prioritized in this feminism movement. But with the help of more Latina, more Native, more Queer, more Asian women standing firmly in their truth and their identities, maybe we can pave a way for a more inclusive fight for women in the future.

The lesson: Be you, the whole you. Asserting your humanity is not divisive. It’s necessary.

“The feminism that was evoked by the other candidate was an elite feminism. It was a white woman’s feminism. It was a feminism of those who have already reached the top and want to reach a little higher.”

Davis talked at length about the last presidential election and was critical of both candidates. After Hillary “clenched” her historic nomination, there was a lot of talk about shattering the glass ceiling. But I didn’t feel like I had broken through anything. There was nothing special to me about a white woman who’s had privilege and access most people could only dream of climbing the ladder and getting a promotion. While there are still Black, Latina and queer women who have yet to reach half of the heights that Hillary has scaled, we must understand that for most of us, the glass ceiling is still intact.

The lesson: Progress ain’t progress unless I’m bringing others with me.

“To be white doesn’t mean that you have to identify with white supremacy. It’s a choice.”

Davis said these words to inform white Americans that they don’t have to relate their skin color to racism. They can choose to fight against it and they have to work hard to do so. But it was also a reminder to me that I have allow them join that fight. I have a hard time trusting white allies and activists. While their intentions may be pure, in my imaginings, they always have an exit strategy. If things get too hard, dangerous, frustrating or hurtful, they can easily take their skin out of the game and return to a life of comfortable indifference in a way that I cannot. But I know it’s not the responsibility of the oppressed to end their own oppression. People of privilege must relinquish it willingly.

The lesson: I can’t control when people change. They have to change and grow on their own. Let people do what they can from where they are.

“It is really exciting to feel uncomfortable because that lets us know that regardless of the world we inhabit in this moment, there may be something totally different in the future.”

Davis said history is not about the past, it’s about our future. Over 50 years ago, the thought of a Black president was only a dream of a distant future. In order to make that dream come true, Black people had to secure their right to vote, their access to education and their right to mobility. This wasn’t easy and these social changes probably made many people–white and Black alike–feel very uncomfortable. But out of that discomfort grew a more equal nation with more freedoms and opportunities for all.

We’re on the horizon of another dream future but it requires this generation getting up and out of our comfort zones, interacting with different people, challenging our beliefs, expanding our networks and speaking freely. The lesson: Change happens outside of our comfort zones. Build a diverse community. We need each other.

“Building a movement is about creating a new consciousness.”

Davis mentioned to loud applause that we’re still living in the immediate aftermath of slavery. The end of slavery didn’t mean the end of struggle for Black Americans. The laws changed, but the racist thoughts and fears of most Americans stayed the same. Our culture only began to slowly change when we all changed our opinions about each other.

Now, we face a President who’s about to undo all of the progress we’ve made by feeding off of the archaic opinions of a few Americans. But we can fight against it the same way we fought against laws of the past: by moving forward in spite of them.

The lesson: Changing presidents, changing policies and changing laws won’t change anything until we change our minds.

“I try my best to be as radical as I can be.”

This weekend, my best friend listened to me explaining why I was so exhausted by the events of this inauguration weekend. She said to me, “You spend a lot of your time thinking about people and race issues. I don’t want it to overwhelm or consume you.” But after thinking listening to Angela speak I realize I am still overwhelmed. But not with sadness or anger. I’m overwhelmed with empowerment and encouragement. I have picked up the baton from the great freedom fighters like Angela Davis and John Lewis and more.

The lesson: I have to get up and try my best. Thankfully I have lessons from these greats to encourage me along the way.

Jolie and Angela Davis at her book signing.

Jolie and Angela Davis at her book signing.

[CONVERSATIONS] Andrea Lewis on Internet Fame, Failure, and Black Actress

Andrea Lewis

Andrea Lewis


May I present Andrea Lewis: actress, writer, singer, overall boss. Some of you may know her from her adorable role on Disney Channel’s Cadet Kelly or from her role as Drake’s girlfriend on Degrassi. But Andrea is all grown up and is the creator and star her own show in conjunction with Issa Rae: Black Actress, a Youtube series exploring the struggles of being Black, female and trying to make it in Hollywood.

Andrea knows first hand how hard it is to be taken seriously a sa young, Black, creative woman. She kindly agreed to meet with me on a cold day in NYC to share her wealth of knowledge about working hard, overcoming obstacles, and taking it one day at a time. Continue reading

[CONVERSATIONS] Shameless Maya on Fear, Change, and the Next Chapter

I came to New York City with the intention of taking the Big Apple by storm. To go out and increase my social and professional networks.

But I found myself feeling incredibly homesick during my first days alone here. All I wanted to do was stay in my apartment curled up in the blankets watching Netflix.

Shameless Maya

Shameless Maya

A little over two years ago, Maya Washington found herself in this very city with the very same fear of “putting herself out there”. She started a personal experiment to shamelessly promote herself on social media which has blossomed into a social movement that is inspiring people from all walks of life, all over the world.

I knew when I came to this city I had to make it my priority to meet the shameless one herself, Shameless Maya. But as soon as I got here, I found out that Maya was leaving the city (my big plans were not off to a good start).

Jeigh and I

Jeigh and I

Maya and her equally inspiring cousin Jeigh hosted a furniture sale at their apartment. She invited a select few others to her home on her final day in the city to tear through her belongings and buy stuff so she could donate the proceeds to the Harlem Boys and Girls Club. And guess who made sure she was on that list?! (this girl!!!)

I figured while I was in the apartment of Miss Shameless, I would shamelessly ask her to interview her for the blog. So with a nervous hand holding a shaky camera, I interviewed Maya in her kitchen.

We had a quick conversation that I want to share with you guys. Looking back, there are so many more probing questions I wish I asked her but even in our brief conversations, she was dropping honest wisdom that helped me find some confidence and I hope it will do the same for you.

So who are you, exactly?

I am the shameless one they call “Shameless Maya”. I am a social media personality but I am by trade an artist: photographer, actor, diva, you know.

You inspire a lot of people if you didn’t already know that. Who inspires you?

I’m inspired by friends and family especially my mother and my great grandmother that inspire me to keep pushing. Those are the two strong female figures I had in my life growing up. And then I also am inspired by like The Greats.

I’m currently working with Prince. He’s a huge, immediate inspiration right now! I’m also inspired by Grace Jones, Andy Warhol, Shakespeare…For me, they are the definition of “shameless”. They’re artists, and they’re unapologetic, and really shameless about putting themselves out there.

I’d be so intimidated by Prince

I was really nervous at first. But he’s a great guy. He’s actually really funny and very easy to work with.

Shameless Maya and Me

Shameless Maya and Me

Do you think being shameless is something anyone can do?

Definitely. Or at least work towards. It’s really about abandoning your fears and embracing who you are and doing that shamelessly, confidently, whatever you want to call it.

What’s the most rewarding part about being Shameless Maya?

For me it’s inspiring others because I have grown and obviously people are seeing my life transform in front of them. I want people to see (and think) “if Maya can do it, I can do it.”

What’s the most frustrating?

Frustrating? What am I frustrated with? Maybe time? At this point I don’t have enough time. I’ve been traveling a lot like in the last week I will have been in four different cities and in the next two weeks I’ll have been in 3 different countries. In the middle of my move! So it’s frustrating to get everything done. I just never have enough time.

Are you moving to LA permanently?

Nothing is permanent. I don’t want to say anything is permanent. Anything can happen.

Is this what you expected life to be like 3 years ago?

Oh man, I thought I would be married with kids! I thought that’s where my life was headed. But clearly I’m now I’m divorced with no kids! (laughs) My life is nowhere where I thought but it’s in a place that I think I’ve always dreamed about. Like my dream has always been to inspire while being inspired and to just create and do what I enjoy doing and make that my job. And I’m just so amazed and blessed that I wake up and I’m like Holy, what do I do for a living? I just have fun basically.

What advice do you have for someone about dealing with the unexpected turns of life?

Go with it. I feel like people are very much controlling. And they have this preconceived plan in their mind and if it doesn’t go according to plan, they still try to steer it and force their life to go in a direction. For me, one of the most powerful realizations that I’ve come to is to just go with it whether it’s good or bad is to just go with it because life is just so much easier and so much more rewarding if you’re just allowed to be surprised. Cause if you control it you’re never going to be surprised. And you will have the life that you expect if you could just let go; You’re going to be amazed.

You’re actually speaking to my life. I’m so intimidated by this city. I was afraid to go out of my apartment, come over here, and meet you. I was talking myself out of it.

.You need to have certain goals that you want to hit. But how you get there is a different story. You can plan and I do advise planning but be open to unexpected turns. For example like photo shoots, I’ll have a preconceived idea but once we start shooting, I’ll go with the flow, I’m not going to be like: this is what I planned, this is how it needs to be! No that’s not going to work.

What advice could you give to someone who, like you, is trying to live shamelessly in NYC

My advice would be to push yourself. I mean in terms of like fear. I mean, don’t do dumb things. When you’re afraid to do something. Like, I’m afraid to meet this person, I’m afraid to do this, push yourself to do that. Everyday should be you pushing your boundaries and limits because the more you push it, the further you’ll go. If you allow those fears and boundaries to hold you then you’re not going anywhere.

Check out the first Shameless Maya video I ever saw (1 year ago). It’s also one of my favorites:

Follow Maya on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

[CONVERSATIONS] Denisio Truitt on creativity, confidence, and DOPEciety

photo courtesy of Instagram @densiotruitt

If you haven’t heard about DOPEciety, it’s time you get hip. DOPEciety is a casual clothing and T-shirt company that makes high quality unique tees, shrugs, dresses, and more. The brains behind this fashionable operation is Denisio Truitt, the founder, CEO, and head designer of all things DOPEciety. If you follow her on Tumblr or Instagram (like myself), you know her for her style, her friendship with poet Alex Elle, or for her awesome shaved hairdo.

I reached out to Denisio before my trip to New Orleans in the hopes of meeting up with her just to pick her brain about the origins of DOPEciety and her personal style. What resulted was a long and inspiring conversation in a sandwich shop about life, struggles, triumphs, and learning to go after what you want.

I want to share our conversation with you in the hopes that she will encourage and motivate you as much as she did for me.

When did you start making clothes?
I’ve been sewing cloths since I was like 4. My mom taught me how to sew and my grandmother was a seamstress. My moms family is originally from Liberia my grandmother had this boutique in Liberia.
I lived there for a little under a year when I was younger. I loved it, from what I can remember even though I only like, 4, there are little memories .


DOPEciety’s Fulani Tee

So where did “DOPEciety” come from?
So DOPEciety funnily enough kind of funnels into my whole culture. I’m an artist by trade. I’m a painter. I was a studio art and english major in undergrad. I wanted to incorporate my art work into a clothing line. I wanted to make a t-shirt that I would rock. So I wanted t-shirts that were kind of relatable to everybody but also reflected my own culture. So a lot of my designs kind of revolve around this mask…a traditional mask used in Liberia and Sierra Leone. I guess it’s kind of representative of the duality of my culture being both African and American. and kind of taking this very traditional object and modernizing it.
It’s kind of a mash up of my culture. So DOPEciety is a mash up of “Dope” “society”.

You’re known in my circles as the dope bald chick who designs really cute T-shirts. What made you decide to shave your head?
I’ve had short hair probably for about 6 years. It’s been different lengths but it’s never been more than 6 inches long. I just don’t like hair. Before I cut my hair, my hair was like on my back I just would’t do anything with it. It was hard for me the first time I did it. I first did a really big chop when I was 19. I got sick and I was taking all of this medication and my hair fell out. So I had to shave it off and I was crying. But because my mom and her family are from west africa they tend to wear short hair. I kind of grew up thinking short hair was normal. But when I cut it off I liked the way it worked.
I think all women will look great with short hair. You just gotta rock it and own it.

Something that I admire a lot about you is that you seem very confident. Where does that confidence come from?
I mean I have my moments. I think when it comes to my talents and my skills I think I am a very confident with what I can do I think I’m a very talented person. But there are definitely areas in my life that I wish I was more confident in. I think I’m very socially awkward. There are people who can go to parties by themselves and talk to whoever they want. I can’t do that! Like any other girl sometimes I have issues with my looks. But for the most part when it comes to my artistic capabilities, I’m very confident.

What advice can you give about developing more confidence?
There was this one video that I watched. It was like a message to artist. He was saying that whatever type of artist you are, there will come a point in your creativity or career where what you want to produce is not matching with what you’re currently doing. And thats something that a lot of artists struggle with and so his advice was to push through that. With my artwork, there was a time when I’m creating this art and it was just not what I wanted it to be. And that’s where a lot of people quit and his advice was to just keep producing. Even if it’s shit, just don’t stop producing. I think for me, just not being afraid to make things that might suck or might not sell. When I first started DOPEciety, I had a total of 5 designs. 2 of the designs they were throwaways. But just being able to push through that and make things for the sake of making them, and eventually get into the groove of things.
I guess my advice to be more confident is just to keep producing. Even if you think its crap, just keep doing it. Don’t get discouraged and focus on the things that aren’t so great.

How can creatives turn our passions into profit?
Definitely know your worth. With me specifically, when I first started DOPEciety, I was selling shirts for something ridiculous like $15 and it costs like $10 to make a shirt! So there was no profit there. And kind of taking a stance and knowing how much time and effort it takes to make the products. I used to style friends and I wouldn’t charge them because they were my friends, but then I felt like if people were really my friends and they respect me they’ll understand that I can’t give my time for free because my time literally is money. I think that shift in thinking helped a lot. And also just knowing your resources and knowing when you need help. So kind of just letting my ego down and reaching out to people and asking for help.

A lot of my friends and I truly admire you and what you do. Who do you admire?
I admire my mom. She had it really rough being a single parent and raising me and haveng to deal with a moody teenager and kind of just instilling in me that I could put my mind to whatever and do it. I admire my grandmother for her grace. She is definitely somebody I look up to for her never-ending patience and compassion for people. She was a very giving person. In Liberia she was known for literally picking up children off the street and caring for them. She was a very nurturing person. I wouldn’t say that doesn’t come to me naturally because I am a caring person but I do have issues with temper and being overly sensitive to stuff but I admire her for that.
I feel like our culture in general has this obsession with celebrities and celebrity worship and people on Tumblr and Instagram and idolizing them. I feel more inspired by people in my family. I find a lot of things admirable in (everyday) people.

What has been the most rewarding part about running your own company?
It’s wonderful that I can get up and do work in my PJs if I want to. I worked at GW(George Washington University) straight out of college fundraising for 6 years. I was making really good money. I had a stable job really good benefits (and) vacation time, but I was miserable. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel: you get up, you take a shower, you get dressed, you go to work, you work, you go to t he gym for lunch, you sit at your computer for hours, you go home, you have a glass of wine, you watch some TV, you wake up and do the same thing the next day. Everyday. I think the most rewarding thing is being able to get up and make my own day and my own schedule. It feels good that I’m in control.

What is the most frustrating part?
I think for me the most frustrating thing is knowing that I can’t please everybody and knowing that I will make mistakes and it’s okay. I’m very hard on myself. And kind of just getting out my head and saying “You made a mistake, but its okay.”

Denisio’s advice for pursuing what you’re passionate about:

I don’t have regrets because my journey is my journey and I’m where I’m supposed to be now for a reason. But if I could go back, even though I had a full ride at my college, I probably would’ve gone to art school like I wanted to. I wish I was a little more brave and not so much afraid of what people would think.

Follow Denisio’s Tumblr

Shop DOPEciety

Introducing D-Cal Rising Hip-Hop Star and Future Game Changer [via-Hypefresh Magazine]

One thing I love about being a writer is all of the cool people I get to meet. One such person is a young rapper from Baltimore named Edem Kwame but his fans may know him better as D-Cal. The dude is seriously dope. He opened up a show for Wale and Big Sean just a few months ago and is releasing an album this summer (WHAT?!) I had the opportunity to interview him for Hypefresh Magazine about his fast growing success and his future goals. Check out the original article here.


Introducing D-Cal Rising Hip-Hop Star and Future Game Changer by Jolie A. Doggett

From local aspiring artist, to opening act for two of the biggest names in hip hop (I’m talking big like Big Sean and Wale BIG!). Edem Kwame, known by his stage D-Cal, is quickly rising to super stardom. The Baltimore native by way of Ghana is making his mark on the Hip Hop music scene and putting the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) on the map. D-Cal is new and next on the scene.


I sat down with my good friend and dopest rapper I know to hear more about his latest endeavors. I wanted to share this exclusive with HYPEFRESH®. Get hip, everyone! And get ready for D-Cal’s hip hop takeover.

So tell the people who you are. Who is D-Cal? Where did you come from?

I was born in Ghana and that probably plays the biggest role in my sound. I grew up listening to music in other languages. Started rapping on a green box in Baltimore when I was about 10 and kept it from there.I actually don’t know why I never let it go.

What makes you stand out from the other local rap stars? 

Started rapping on a green box in Baltimore when I was about 10 and kept it from there.I actually don’t know why I never let it go…I don’t think people should listen to me as opposed to, but in addition to. There’s no need to X anyone out of the equation… just understand that I do me better than anyone else. 

And what does doing you sound like?

Don’t really have a go-to sound to my knowledge. My delivery is more aggressive than most new age rappers because I developed my early skills in the battling circuit. I’m rapping to people that aren’t necessarily in the best position in life, but are looking to do well. My content is very aggressive in tone, but if you actually listen to what I’m saying, you’ll realize the message is more reflective than anything.

Sounds like something people can get into.

My music is all about the “come up” and working hard to get what you want regardless of outside influences. Nothing is more exciting than the come up- you work so hard never knowing when your moment will come. That’s all I know how to do as a person so that is what I convey in my music. 

So what are you up to these days?

I just finished opening for Wale and Big Sean at Byrd Stadium. I have been doing somewhat of a College tour, hitting as many schools in the area as my schedule permits. Currently prepping for the release of “Hunger Pains” which should be out by late spring.

Wait, you just skated across that like opening up for Wale and Big Sean is no big deal at all. How did this happen?!

To open up (at Art Attack), I had to compete in a competition called “Battle of the Bands”. Nobody thought I was going to win because I was the only solo performer in a “band” competition. It was actually difficult as hell but the people voted me through. 

Were you nervous as hell?

I ALWAYS get nervous right before I go on stage whether I’m performing for 10 people or 10,000. Once I actually get on the stage, my nerves dissipate as soon as I open my mouth. There’s no way to describe the feeling of knowing everyone in a room is looking to you for entertainment. Then call and response actually gives me confidence. It means they’re attentive and engaged.

You sound like a legit superstar. A lot of artists describe getting in “the zone” the same way. How do you stay grounded?

Art Attack was definitely the largest concert yet. The funny thing is, it’s much easier to do a show like this, than a small one. If you understand crowd control, a large audience is your friend because mob mentality reigns supreme at concerts.If you understand crowd control, a large audience is your friend because mob mentality reigns supreme at concerts. It was cool to be honest. It’s a bigger deal to my peers than it is to me because I understand there’s way more work to be done. It was definitely a cool moment, but it’s a very small piece to a very large large puzzle.

I’ve listened to the first single released from the album. And the track GOES! What’s “Water Whippin” all about?

Water Whippin- It’s a concept that I’ve been using for a while that aligns with the idea of the #DoubleUp movement. Essentially,with whatever you’re doing in life, if you’re actively working to achieve something, you’re “Water Whippin”. The actual verses are telling two different sides of the same story. The first verse is explaining the difference between my life and the lives of many of the people that look down at how I & my community operate. The second verse discusses what happens when we get fed up. 

While the world waits for “Hunger Pains”, how are you staying relevant in this ever changing music industry?

My newest venture has been the release of these #DoubleUp shirts. These motherfuckers are live. We’re selling them to invest money in my next project, “Hunger pains” and of course since they have my movement’s hashtag written on them, it’s simultaneous promotion. Aside from that, I’ve been doing shows everywhere I can. Just getting the name out and networking wherever I go.

And how can potential fans jump on the D-Cal, #DoubleUp train?

Best place for now is youtube until we get this website up and running. Right now, you can just type “D-Cal” into youtube and everything I dropped within the past 5 or so months comes up. It’s kinda cool. To keep in touch with me, I’d suggest staying up with me on Twitter and Instagram @DeuceCaliber.


Edem Kwame aka D-Cal