LUMXN Issue 1

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issue 1.0

ELBOWROOM: our sister publication Elbowroom is a WI publication that seeks to create space for the critical voices and unique perspectives of people whose voices aren’t typically heard elsewhere. Elbowroom is a publication for marginalized and underrepresented voices to share our lived experiences and navigate our complex truths. Elbowroom is a publication for those of us who have ever sat at a crowded table and felt we didn’t have enough space. Or enough room to breathe. Or think. Or exist. This one is for us.

ELBOWROOM: 1a : room for moving the elbows freely b : adequate space for work or operation; “got enough elbowroom?” 2: free scope; elbow room to try new ideas Elbowroom is committed to diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. Everyone is welcome to find space at Elbowroom, regardless of how you may identify along the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, or ability. Allies are welcome. Check them out at


TABLE OF CONTENTS 4. Letter from the Editors 5. Contributors 6. Sybil 11. Salon Cynicisms and Successes 14. Diary Entries 16. Empress 21. Calkie’s Playlist 22. Eat for Beauty D.C. 28. Evoking Destructive Energy in Women of Color 30. Imani 34. Paula 37. Books that Decolonize 38. Behold.Her 42. Mujeres en Color 44. Carla 46. Press Press 50. Dani

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it’s a letter from the editors In the midst of darkness, womxn always find a way to shine. Lumxn was created from a letter from a letter from theit’s the desire to shine a light onit’s the womxn who are illuminating world around them. it’s a letter from the editors thepresented editors Living in D.C., we are constantly with a picture of what traditional activism the editors looks like—working in politics, spearheading a protest, or creating your own NGO. it’s a letter from it’s a letter from Lumxn aims to reimagine what a powerful womxn looks like by pushing against tradiit’s a letter from the editors the editors tional models of feminist activism. We wanted to use the stories of the Lumxns to showthe editors case a different image of changemakers. Being a mother, artist, or from it’s aanletter it’s a letter froma photographer, it’s a letter from the editors just being your best self makes a Lumxn. We hope the stories in this zine inspire you theyoueditors the editors to keep shining and to shine light on others. We dedicate this inaugural issue to those it’s a letter it’s a they letter from willing to use who they are and where come from to use their feminine power to from it’s a letter from the editors create light within darkness.the editors the editors it’s a letter from it’s a letter from it’s a letter from the editors the editors the editors it’s a letter from it’s a letter from it’s a letter from the editors the editors the editors it’s a letter from it’s a letter from it’s a letter from the editors the editors the editors it’s a letter from it’s a letter from it’s a letter from the editors the editors the editors it’s a letter from it’s a letter from it’s a letter from the editors the editors XOXO, the editors it’s a letter from Reina, Monica, & Marlin it’s a letter from it’s a letter from the editors the editors the editors it’s a letter from it’s a letter from it’s a letter from the editors the editors the editors it’s a letter from it’s a letter from


Reina DuFore

Marlin Ramos

Monica Pizzo

Co Editor-in-Chief Senior in SIS with a heart in the Literature Department. Avid concert goer, lover of Alt-J on vinyl and hazelnut iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Co Editor-in-Chief Senior majoring in African American and Africa Diaspora Studies. Might as well get “Bronx” tatted on her forehead. Spends hours a week conditioning her hair.

Creative Director Junior studying Chinese Language, Business, and Linguistics at UMD. Catch her listening to Brockhampton and not being able to hear what you’re saying, ever.


Caroline Giovanie

C o p y e d i t o r First-year studying Journalism and History. Lover of all things vintage. Constantly knitting, sewing, crafting in every way she can.

W r i t e r Sophomore in Journalism and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Loves anything Alternative/Indie, needs to get more sleep.

Arianna Alter

Emily Walsh

Writer and Photographer Recent SIS graduate and accomplished napper. Looking for an excuse to bring her camera and lucky to support the amazing team at LUMXN!

W r i t e r Sophomore majoring in Journalism and Transcultural Studies. Definitely will stop you on the street and ask to pet your dog.

Mia Doty

Natzinet Ghebrenegus Sev Lezeau

W r i t e r Sophomore who changes her major every day. Truly a Taurus, equal opportunity dog enthusiast, and snack connoisseur.

W r i t e r Senior in SIS and exploring parts of Sociology. Museum hopper and your local suburban girl from New York. A true mom at heart.

Lauren Bowring Yeabsera Mengistu W r i t e r Senior in SIS but she hates it. Flower picker, artist, and knows all of the Internet’s discography. Big bitch in size and personality.

W r i t e r Sophomore studying Political Science and Women, Gender, Sexuality. Collector of memes and lover of all things injera.

P h o t o g r a p h e r Senior Business Admin & Marketing Major. You can catch her in front of the camera or behind either way she’ll capture all the good angles

Stacy Fernández P h o t o g r a p h e r A journalist and photographer with a passion for social justice reporting. Go to move: a smooth merengue.



There are few instructors at American University with the same notoriety among the student population as Sybil Roberts. Growing up in Southeast Washington, D.C., continuing her education at Catholic University of America, teaching at Howard University, and now teaching at American University, her southern African-American cultural background within an urban setting has shaped her worldview. Sybil’s embodied experience as a woman of color has informed her art and her activism, especially in how she supports women of color on AU’s campus. Through intervention work, deconstructing interlocking oppression, and embracing unapologetic Blackness, Professor Roberts is a safe haven for all students in an institution whose overwhelming whiteness can often promote hostility.

Yeabsera & Mia: Where did you grow up?

wrong, they speak to it.

Sybil: Here in DC. I’m one of the few native Washingtonians, there not that many of us. And D.C. is a very Southern city. So I grew up with the Southern African-American cultural background. A story I like to tell people about when I was growing up is that my mom was a stay-at-home mom for the most part and she cooked dinner every day. We ate at about 6pm every day and I had this really close best friend named Cheryl. We wanted to go to the ice cream truck at like 5:30, and my mom always let us eat ice cream or snacks up until 5 but not 5:30 because dinner was coming. So we snuck out to get these popsicles by going down the hill around the corner and we sat by these steps. I lived in Southeast and when we climbed the steps it was into one of our neighbor’s backyards tucked away, we would eat and my neighbor drove past and I didn’t think anything of it. By the time I got home, two or three people had called my mom saying they saw me at the ice cream truck and my mother asked, “So you had popsicles, huh?’. So I had a very, very Southern upbringing—like people looked out for you and people knew your schedule and people knew where you belonged and where you didn’t. And if you were at a place where something was

Yeabsera & Mia: What was your college experience like? Sybil: I went to a very conservative Catholic College. Actually here in the city. I went to Catholic University Of America and allegedly we [Students of Color] were 5 percent of the school population but we were probably more like 1. So there were very few of us and it was very isolating. It was really important for me to be an artist though. And because I was an African-American woman, I had a community of artists. It made it a little more bearable. I had a haven from the larger politics of the school itself but I still got very much drawn into the politics of Blackness at Catholic University. I actually waged a campaign against the Black Student Association. Not successfully (laughs) but I tried. And I also got involved in the anti-apartheid movement at the school to try and get our school to divest. So I was politically active, but I really wasn’t. It really was difficult for me which is why I came here [American University], just as an antidote. And I found some of the African-American student groups, African student organizations, and BSA issues [were] in such disarray, I was so

disheartened because it was the same thing I expereinced in undergrad. It was the same, the bickering, the infighting, the backbiting was the same thing that I had experienced and I was just determined. Yeabsera & Mia: What brought you to American University?

bad that looks? And so I got involved and just kept trying to mediate that problem to see where this is coming from. So students could believe, “I can ask Professor Sybil for help,” because I will help. And unfortunately, it wasn’t the last fight amongst African-American women that I would hear about. So I then started to work with other faculty to figure out what this is and how to make it work. And I am still dedicated to that. I will not have African-American students fighting on my watch. I will not have women tearing each other apart. I will not have it.

Sybil: A couple of things. I had taught at Howard University for 10 years and then I left there and Caleen Sinek Jennings who was a fellow playwright, who I knew from local D.C. theater said, “Hey if you’re not teaching there, you could probably get an adjunct job here just until Yeabsera & Mia: How do you feel about the you decide what you want to do.” So I took an term being “unapologetically Black”? adjunct job here 10 years ago. I started working as an adjunct but I worked off “I will not have African-American and on so I wasn’t here all the time and students, fighting on my watch. I that’s really what brought me here. will not have women tearing each

other apart. I will not have it.”

Yeabsera & Mia: What does it feel like to be a women of color (WOC) on this campus? As a professor? In your department?


Sybil: I love it because I get to talk to other women, and particularly women of color, and students of color. The reason I got involved at all with the student of color community here is through my African-American Experience in the Performing Arts class. But the other reason was because a student I had in my American Society class was the former president of the Black Student Organization and got into a fistfight with another student. And I was like, “Wait a minute. No way” I am not going to be an African-American woman faculty member here and watch two other African-American Women fighting on a campus where they are only but a fraction of the population. Do you know how

Sybil: I love it. I think it’s a wonderful way to express your right to inhabit certain spaces. Pam Africa, who spearheads the free media campaigns said, “I’m very secure in my Blackness because I am so secure in my Blackness and so clear and proudly read unapologetically Black. I can reach out and coalesce and build coalitions and relationships with anybody because I know who I am.” And that’s what I take from the term unapologetically Black. I know what my cultural work is so I can reach out to anybody and still do the work I need to do because at the end of the day I know the work that I have to do and that’s what unapologetically black means to me. I know who I am. I know what I have to do.

“At the end of the day I know the work that I have to do and that’s what unapologetically Black means to me. I know who I am. I know what I have to do.” Yeabsera & Mia: A lot of students of color have a hard time adjusting to this environment and feel at times that they can not be “unapologetically Black,” why do you think that is so? Sybil: Because it is a white space and spaces as bell hooks tells us are gendered, they are racialized, they are sexualized. We know that. And this whiteness is an ideology. Let me be very clear about this because I find myself having to say that a lot when we talk about whiteness, we’re not talking about people. There’s a difference between being a white person and whiteness. They are different things. Whiteness is an ideology that is used by capitalist patriarchs to maintain an oppressive economic system. It just so happens that it privileges white skin as much as it privileges masculinity, but it is an ideology. Whiteness is both invisible and hypervisible meaning when a person of color sees a white person, they’re not just the white person, they are the ideology

of whiteness. I think about all of the students on this campus who feel like they are entitled to be here, scholarship or not, because the space has said everything in their history and the history of this country has said education belongs to you as a white person. By comparison, remember as a Black woman I wasn’t allowed to read or write until the emancipation of slavery and then after that special

educational institutions had to be built so that I could. And so it becomes very difficult, I think, for African-Americans to navigate that whiteness. So that when you’re sitting in a class in SIS [School Of International Service], which has very few, as I understand it, African based courses for people want to study in that region, you are looked to as the person who might have a response to certain things about Africa or [the] African Diaspora. To a point where you feel like there is no understanding. Or you feel uncomfortable by some of the comments that

Yeabsera & Mia: What is some advice you would give students of color, especially women of color when it comes to being unapologetically Black? Sybil: I would say to them ground your Blackness in research. So when you come at something you can approach it as, I’m not telling you because of my experience, I’m telling you because I can explain the structure and the oppression—the interlocking oppression—that is creating your thinking about this subject even though it’s invisible to you. I can explain it in theoretical, critical, historical terms. And in a way that is the same work that Professor Ibram Kendi is doing with his Anti-Racism Research Center here at the university. You’re gonna be able to make Blackness, whiteness, oppression, sexism, and homophobia part of the academic conversation, not just about your individual experience, and say to yourself, “I want you to be better.” But I have to explain to you structures that prevent you from getting better. I have to do that, so I can’t just study the things that make you feel good and be unapologetically Black. I have to also study how I’m impacted by the things that don’t make me feel good. And so in order to do that I have to be very clear that I understand the structures. Then I can be unapologetically Black.

Written and Photographed by: Yeabsera Mengistu Mia Doty


“When you come at something you can approach it as, I’m not telling you because of my experience, I’m telling you because I can explain the structure and the oppression—the interlocking oppression—that is creating your thinking about this subject even though it’s invisible to you.”

are raised to be more specific towards you. So you find yourself saying, “I’m tired of being the person that always raises my hand in the class to intervene when someone says something that’s racially inappropriate. I’m tired of being that person.” So you’re silently insulted by microaggressions that are occurring every class and you’re told to be silent.


Although salons can reinforce harmful beauty standards, they can also serve as a symbol of women’s entrepreneurship. These salons, although taxing, can often be financially liberating to the immigrant women of color who run them. We spoke to the women who own these shops to learn more about their relationship with concepts of beauty and the road to getting where they are today.

“There are clients who ask me sometimes, ‘Whats wrong with you, why don’t you do your hair and makeup,’ and I understand that is what I sell but I don’t want to have makeup on all the time. But even today I brushed my hair and put on a bit of makeup because I knew I had a client to tend.”

“After working and saving up little by little, I was able to get this little venue, 20 years after coming to the country.”


“Nowadays I don’t think women have more pressure to be beautiful than men. Because we do a lot of men with threading and waxing. We have 30% of male clients.”

“How I opened it darling? It’s very difficult when you come from a different country, you know all that stuff. One of my neighbors, they are from Morocco. She said ‘Oh, in my country they do threading,’ and then she said ‘oh can you?’ Then she brings two friends, not for business you know just women helping each other, and then I realized that people were liking this thing and that I could make money off of it.”

Photos By: Sev Lezeau and Marlin Ramos





ila cam








Stripping is not all about clear heels, fake eyelashes, and Cardi B. Although these are all staples, Empress, a former stripper in New York City, says it’s truly about “knowing who you are.” Learning to navigate the striping scene in NYC did not come with a “how to book”; nothing could prepare Empress for the sexism, classism and racism she would face. The journey was a test—a test to see how well she could hold onto her values while walking the thin line between self-hatred and un-shattering self confidence. Strip clubs are a paradox that don’t quite make sense. If society labels strippers as less than (vulgar, unclassy, slutty), then why give them money? Or perhaps this paradox makes perfect sense because we all know that sex sells. Whatever the answer may be, Empress found a way to profit off of it while navigating strippings dangers and accomplishing the biggest feat of them all, staying true to herself.

Marlin: Firstly, how and when did you start stripping? Did you find the profession or did the profession find you? Empress: I used to know the exact date, but I don’t remember anymore. Essentially it was because I had been working a lot of really shitty jobs. I always felt like I was being taken advantage of and that I just wasn’t getting paid enough for the work that I was putting in. I was working at a restaurant and they were hella racist. So I came to this realization that, you know, I had been exploiting myself for so long, why not do it on my own terms? And once I put that out into the universe, I met a friend who had been in the biz for about 2 years and she helped me figure out the ins and outs of the clubs. Marlin: Why do you choose to go by Empress? Empress: Prior to dancing I had a lot of issues with how I saw myself. I had just got out of a really emotionally abusive relationship and I had been in a lot of similar relationships in my life that I felt were draining me and took away from my personal power. And there’s a card in the Tarot deck, I read Tarot, called the Empress and she kinda embodied what I wanted to be. So I used my persona in the club as a version of my higher self, you know. If dancing was the gateway to get me to my higher self, then I would step into that every time I step on stage. So that’s how I got the name Empress. Marlin: What was the most empowering thing about stripping?

her self then I would step into that every time I step on stage.”

“If dancing was the gateway to get me to my hig

Empress: I would say the most truly empowering thing for me was just getting to a place where I was no longer ashamed of my body, just no longer ashamed period. I would just get on stage, do what I gotta do, and I owned it. And that to me was the most empowering thing. Marlin: What was the least empowering? Empress: Having to deal with shitty men of all kinds. There’s those guys who respect you because they understand that this is a hustle just like, you know, any job is a hustle. And then there’s people who go and they assume that I do this because I live for this, that I live to shake my ass and that I’d do it for free. So they think that they have automatic permission over your body. There’s been times where guys have literally grabbed me by the pussy, or you know, *sighs* just do really shitty things. Marlin: And how would you react when guys


Empress: There’s some really, really great managers that don’t give a fuck and that understand consent and they understand that you govern your own body and that if you go to security and say, “Hey, I’m uncomfortable,” they will kick somebody out. But then, if someone is doing all this and they have money, it changes things. You can’t go to the manager if he’s also buying $300 bottles every 20 minutes because he won’t care. At first, I was kinda scared. But then I realized, you set the tone for how you want people to treat you. I actually specifically remember a time where there were 20’s being thrown at me and then the minute you touch me there, I’m done. I don’t care. No amount of money can erase my consent. So I guess, my response has become a lot firmer. It’s not just, “ can’t do that.” It’s “...Are you fucking crazy? Do not touch me.” Marlin: A lot of people say that stripping isn’t considered women’s empowerment because it exists to pleasure men. In your experience, how would you combat these statements?

“No amount of money can erase my consent.”

did this?

Empress: So, historically the female body and sex have been seen as something that should be stolen, or that can be owned by a man. But I think [it is about] commodifying and understanding the power of pussy because pussy is power. I know it sounds corny but it’s understanding that you have this power and commodifying it and using it for your own gain. I think that’s one of the most radical things that you can do. It’s slapping patriarchy in the face and it’s saying “Guess what? Now I’m making money off of this object.” Now I’m paying rent and law and medical school, and all of these amazing

things that dancers do with their money, off of this object you thought that you’d be able to turn into a sex doll. And you know, what’s more feminist than that. Marlin: How does misogyny penetrate the industry in order to limit the success of strippers and what were some hurdles you did not foresee yourself having to overcome? Empress: Oh child. That’s a lot. Because the thing is the way [the industry] is portrayed versus the reality of it is so starkly different. There’s so much more that goes into it. What I’ve experienced, and I know that a lot of my other Black friends who are in the business have experienced, is colorism. There’s clubs that I have been able to work at that my friends who are little bit darker than me were not able to. There’s clubs I have not been able to work at because they say they already reached their quota of Black girls for the night. There’s been times where I’ve had my hair straight and I made more money than my hair natural and when no one would talk to me. So that’s one. I would even say that even within the community there is a certain level of classism because you have to have “the look.” You have to have the money to play the part—I didn’t realize that you need outfits ranging from $50- $60. And you change three times a night. And then the shoes are $100 and then you need your nails done. Marlin: Considering beauty standards for women, and Black women specifically, how did your identity as a Black woman intersect with the profession? Empress: It’s so interesting how deeply

integrated race is with the club system. Every dancer knows this: skinny girls go to white clubs and big girls go to Black clubs. That’s that on that. Because I’m pretty skinny, I don’t really have the titties or the ass, I don’t really make that much money at Black clubs. I make a lot of money at white clubs because I’m long and lean and very racially ambiguous. But the thing about this business is you have to stand firm because if you don’t it is so easy to get pushed into these crazy spaces of self-hatred and needing to fit in these club’s boxes. Marlin: What are some of the biggest dangers, if any, with being involved in the profession? Empress: Rape is a big one. You come to the VIP room and get paid $700, so it doesn’t matter if you already said you weren’t going to do this, ‘“I’ve decided you’re going to do this.” I’ve almost gotten kidnapped or very severely harassed. Creepy ass guys that follow you home. They tell you to carry a key or a knife with you because men will rob you. That’s why no one should ever know how much money you have.

ecause they say they already reached their quota of Black girls for the night.”

“There’s clubs I have not been able to work at b

“You just gotta stay consistent and you gotta stay focused.”

Marlin: What advice would you give to someone looking to start stripping? Empress: This is one of those professions where you don’t get it until you get it. What I can say is make sure you know who you are, what you want and what you’re doing this for, and do not veer away from that. Remind yourself that every time you walk into a show. Because this profession can easily change you. You leave this profession a different type of person than you came in, either in a good way or a bad way. There’s people who [have] never done drugs in their life [and] two months later are doing heroin in the alley in the back a couple times a shift. Then there’s girls like Cardi B. You know, city girls who turned that bag into another bag. And then there’s people

you don’t even know, like lawyers and doctors and filmmakers and such who are able to achieve their dreams. You just gotta stay consistent and you gotta stay focused.

Marlin: Now that you are no longer stripping, how has the experience influenced your long term goals? Empress: I wouldn’t say [that] I’m completely out because you never know when you’re going to go back. Who knows. My dreams are so much more tangible to me. And therefore, I can think freely as to what I want to do with my life. I can dream bigger. I know if I want to go to this school, I know I’ll be able to pay for it if I hustle hard ‘cause I’ll make money. Having a profession that


gives you so much freedom—where you are an entrepreneur. It gives you the knowledge of what you really want to do. Things that I knew about myself but I was never really had the gut to admit until I started dancing. I never realized that until after I left. Marlin: What needs to be done to help all kinds of women? Empress: That’s a loaded question. All I can say is love. Choose to love each other because this world doesn’t love us. We have to support each other and love each other. We cannot continue to put women against women and fight with each other we cannot compete. We have to build each other up. Women are doing a great job fighting the patriarchy. Getting the bag has a lot to do with it. Money is so powerful and we don’t realize until you’re in a profession like stripping. Women who are foregoing the dogmas and the stupid patriarchal system that their mother and grandmothers had to suffer through and completely foregoing that shit and paving our own way. That is so important. And we also need to be sharing that information with others. We cannot keep this information to our self cause it’ll make us better. We all have our own paths, we are all going in our own separate directions, so why not share the knowledge so we can all move up. Written By: Marlin Ramos

Calkie’s Playlist

Calkie Fisseha is one of the general director s of AU’s radio station WVAU and an overall dope human being. Defining herself as a music journalist, she has the skill of crafting perf ect playlists that transcend genre, space, and time. Her music choice goes back and forth between known and lesser-known artists to not only introduce you to budding artists but also take your listening experience to new heights. Take a listen!

In Luv 1:

1. Experience by Kacy Hill 2. Pynk (feat. Grimes) by Janelle Monáe 3. Eachhoureachsecondeachminuteeachday: Of 4. My Life by Maxwell 5. If Only by Raveena 6. Your Girl by Mariah Carey 7. Fruit by ABRA 8. Can’t Believe the Way We Flow by James Blake 9. Go Deep by Janet Jackson 10. Superpower (feat Frank Ocean) by Beyoncé 11. Blue Light by Kelela 12. Close To You By Rihanna 13. Skin by Dijon 14. New House by Rex Orange County 15. Stay by Mac Miller 16. Planet U by Mereba

listen on Spotify


EFBDC is a platform highlighting the reciprocal relationship between food and the body, where the choices around food are meant to empower oneself. Although the founders, Melan, Kaylah, and Saskia, maintain plant-based diets, their main objective is to use open forums to truly connect people’s way of life with what they consume. From hosting monthly vegan potlucks to pop up food shops, EFBDC creates an inclusive and engaging space within D.C. which attracts people who are curious about veganism or want to learn more about their own food choices. However, their overall message is much greater than being cognizant of what one is consuming, it’s about connecting to a higher self.


Natzinet: What has inspired you to embark on a vegan lifestyle? Was it an instant change or a gradual transition? Kaylah: I have a Lifeforce Diet which is a plantbased diet but means that it supports communication, ease, and dynamic flow among all cells in my body. Feeding my body enzymes energizes my cells to act in harmony, which reflects in my mind and my life. I started because I wanted to be savvier, have more courage, and be more agile, and when I attempted to be an overall strong and energetic person I contacted emotional, physical and mental blocks. The LifeForce Diet really was the only solution I had to get out of my own way in life. I read about it and right after I definitely wanted it to be instant. Every Monday, I tried to reset my whole life and I pushed and forced, and that prolonged the transition. I have learned that the fastest way is to go slow. Melan: Compassion, and it was gradual. Growing up I had a keen connection to all beings and it never felt quite natural to

consume them. When I did, it fed the most primal level of myself. I became vegetarian in 6th grade, and began the internal shift towards veganism in my junior year of high school. However, I didn’t fully execute it until my sophomore year in college. In growing my compassion for all life, I’ve ultimately found that this plant-based and living foods lifestyle is actually one of the most powerful ways I can honor my sensitivity, creativity, and deepen compassion and appreciation for myself. Saskia: A book introduced through my college curriculum called “Healthy at 100” by John Robbins influenced and inspired me to really consider a plant-based lifestyle. This book is based on a collection of information and studies about the longest living and healthiest people on earth. What they all share is a lifestyle that is physically active and mostly plant-based. This book definitely was a kickstart into changing how I view food and its correlation to health. Natzinet: What is EatforBeautyDC to you? How do you all come together for your gatherings? How did you all meet? How does your work embody who you are as people? Kaylah: EatForBeautyDC is an agent of “A New World” that arises from deep sensitivity and unlocked powers which we believe is the next step once the majority of the populations bodies are at ease. We are explorers

“EatForBeautyDC is taking it one chakra at a time and we are starting at the root.”

The EFBDC founders designed retreats to give participants the opportunity to express themselves through various outlets ranging from open dialogue, yoga, food, meditations, and dance. The organizers collaborated with several local artists to showcase the importance of connecting with the self within an intimate setting.

“All of the work done at EatForBeautyDC honors free

dom, futurism, sacredness, unconditional love.” who discover new natural resources that yield a more thriving civilization. EatForBeautyDC is taking it one chakra at a time and we are starting at the root. So our gatherings currently come from wanting security in our lives: food, work and events that solidify a relationship with ourselves. All of the work done at EatForBeautyDC honors freedom, futurism, sacredness, unconditional love (and what that looks like in a viable world) and these values reflect who we are as children, women and overall light beings. Individually, we are highly sensitive, free-thinkers and understand that we have intrinsic gifts. The premise of EatForBeautyDC is creating a space for our higher selves to safely exist. Melan: As of right now we create content & spaces centered around vulnerability, redefining beauty as a feeling, and higher connectivity to ourselves, each other, and the planet. We met in the ‘heart chakra of the Earth’ (Hawai’i). We all came from D.C. on seperate healing paths, aligned through friendship and family, but ultimately didn’t reconnect until we had all moved back to D.C at different times between 2015-2018 which was the starting point for EatForBeauty. My work in EFBDC embodies my deepest desire to live freely: physically, mentally, emotionally, and

spiritually. Saskia: I believe our work embodies all of us through our need to create a community of optimum health and freedom and it is truly propelled by the friendship we are continuing to cultivate. Natzinet: Despite the fact that veganism originates from ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies, the practice has been commercialized by the West. What are some of your thoughts on the issue? EFBDC: Although this lifestyle has its roots, we believe it was created for the collective consciousness of humanity, and from the reading and absorbing we’ve done, it seems the cultures of origin honor that higher intention of spreading awareness, rather than owning the blueprints to healing on Earth— like meditation and yoga. Ideally the spread of these ideas should be done respectively. In a capitalistic and colonization-centered society it seems inevitable that things will be commodified and commercialized but that doesn’t necessarily take away from its importance and power. Natzinet: In the past year, EFBDC has held various successful events in the city. What has been your favorite gathering you held? How do you prepare yourselves? Kaylah: Definitely my favorite


“I have learned that the fastest way is to go slow.”

event so far has been “Indoor Retreat” because the relationships with our collaborators are stronger now than ever so it felt like teams of high vibrational space-makers came to demonstrate “a buffet” of spiritual and self-sustainable activities to the New-Age DC scene. It was a nightlife event that connected us to each other, to our own sensuality. We worked on our life’s work, we organized and read. We hit the bulk of someone’s full day schedule and compacted it into one sultry event. The best way to prepare for an event, I’m learning, is to exist in the space before we start planning and working on it. Taking time to dwell in the event, play in the vision first and backtrack the steps from there. Melan: Although they’re more lowkey I think my favorite moments have been in our intimate EFB Food Circle in the Summer of 2018. We all gather around making high-vibrational foods (Ex. A Sauerkraut making session we had that showed how to make 5-day naturally fermented kraut without salt). Moments like that with our core soul family turn into full days where we really just end up feeding all levels of ourselves with emotional check-ins, food meditation, creative self-expression and really just a space to feel loved and supported. A major way we prepare is by creating experiences that we, ourselves would enjoy being apart of. Saskia: I loved the pizza pop-up that was held at the Waterhole in Mt. Rainier. We made food to order in a fast-paced environ-

ment, which was enjoyable for me. The food was so good; the pizza had so many flavors and textures and I really felt that people were enjoying themselves! When I got to talk to our audience and received their positive feedback, it really reaffirmed that we are creating something special. We prepared by planning our menu and creating a schedule to prep our food in a timely manner. Natzinet: What are your long term goals for yourselves as well as the platform? Kaylah: Long term goals for myself are composing and experiencing high vibrational music, using technology to make the components of the enzyme-rich and earth-respecting diet highly accessible as well as using technology to create more systems and products that are in line with nature and strengthen the relationship we have to ourselves. In the near future, I am producing television shows that thrust forth a self-sustainable world of full acceptance, pure love and new abundance. EatForBeautyDC is derived from who I feel we naturally are at our most blissful state and so in pursuit of bliss through the work, most of our personal ventures are inline with EatForBeautyDC and EatForBeautyDC is sectioned in departments according to our gifts and we are aiming towards managing each of our respective departments. We are all power

“When I eat energizing foods, I feel like the connection to myself is stronger and I am performing at my best. Beauty begins at the spiritual level because it is allowance of spirit to enter the body through the organ system.” connectors and so I see the company being a resource center to connect high, natural or spiritual initiatives. Melan: I just want to cultivate all of the gifts I’ve been given and spark others to do the same. Whether it be through creating spaces, writing, or style, that’s the underlying intention for me. More specifically for EFBDC we have so many projects in store...The main goal is to execute this Self-Sustainable model of Food Security that involves growing our own food and connecting with all initiatives that are doing the same in the DMV, to make it a norm. We’re working with many creative mediums to execute this model (creating food communities, eco-products & fashion, healing through music & dance, creating technology that’s in line with nature, educating younger generations and more). It’s all about creating and sharing tools for a Self-Sustainable lifestyle that supports people having healthier relationships with themselves. Saskia: My long term goals for myself and the platform includes creating a space for myself in which I can grow my own food and collect my own energy to create a sustain-


able living environment while honoring the ’Āina (the land) and sharing with the community. This is personal and also aligns with EatForBeautyDC because our brand wants to put sustainable lifestyle systems that are eco-friendly at the forefront.

Natzinet: How do you define clean eating and how does that tie into ideas about internal and external beauty? Have you noticed any changes in your life since becoming vegan? How has veganism empowered you? Melan: When it comes to food (or really anything) ‘Energetic Hygiene’ is the foundation for me. The term was coined by spiritual chef Ryan McKenna and it’s one of our core principles basically saying everything (including your food) has an aura. The energy you, or whoever played any role in making your food, travels into your food and in turn your body and being. It’s important to ask yourself: Where does this food come from? Does it have love in it? Does it have integrity? It’s also important not to feel guilty about what you’re eating cause then you’re imprinting that energy upon your food. After that it’s all about how it makes me feel on the highest level. Is it Organic? Is it full of life and enzymes? Is it assisting my body’s healing and internal systems? Does it energize me and make me feel more alive or beautiful? Saskia: To me clean eating has to do with the

entire process— from the quality of the food, the integrity of how that food is cultivated, to cooking and cleaning procedures, to digestion and how we use the energy that comes from the food. Throughout this process, I want to make sure everything aligns and is the highest vibration it can be. Natzinet: I love the idea of spreading awareness to the community about a lifestyle that somewhat intimidates the public. What are

loving people, eating in beautiful places etc. Melan: 1. Let go of the word “vegan” and any social, self-image, fear based expectations you may have about it. Focus on being mindful of each thing you put into your body and how it makes you feel on all levels. If you want, consider how it impacts the whole, but most importantly yourself. We all have a beautiful opportunity to explore our relationships with food and it’s a lifetime journey. There’s no one ‘right’ way to eat. Saskia: My biggest advice is you don’t have to put yourself in a box. Transition slowly, take your time, and listen to your body. What works for some people doesn’t work for everyone. When transitioning into any diet, make sure you monitor how you are feeling. Keeping good health is the priority. If you find it’s not for you or if you find yourself fatigued or unwell, adjust what you’re doing. If you make a change to feel good and it causes extreme discomfort, change what you’re doing. Change how you’re doing it. Keep in mind the purpose above all is to feel better.

the some tips for those who are interested in veganism? Kaylah: The way to shift is to add foods into your diet, not take them away. Slowly, I’ve noticed that the body stops craving what doesn’t serve it when we find pleasure in other higher foods. The point is to train the body to want foods that serve you, and the way I have done it is to make eating aligned-foods a luxurious experience through preparing it with love, selecting colorful ingredients, sharing it with

ons, my mental health is peaking and I feel beautiful.”

“When my organs are balanced, so are my emoti


Written By: Natzinet Ghebrenegus Photos By: Arianna Alter

EVOKING EVOKING DESTRUCTIVE DESTRUCTIVE FEMININE FOR FEMININE ENERGY ENERGY FOR WOMEN OF COLOR WOMEN OF COLOR The Divine Feminine is a familiar and somewhat comforting buzzword that has likely made its way to your timeline by now. “The Divine Feminine is surging, now is the age of the Woman and the Womb, the future is female!” Women and femmes are being collectively encouraged to reconnect with their sacred sexuality, softness and emotional vulnerability. While this movement to give birth to our soft power can be radical, it tends to overshadow the lesser-known aspects of the Divine Feminine. The Divine Feminine is an archetype for the universal mother, the creative and sexual energy that is responsible for life itself on Earth. It resides in all people regardless of their gender identity, and by channeling Divine Feminine energy we can learn how to receive love in a healthier way. This kind of energy also allows us to explore our emotions to their full capacity, heal sexual trauma and our inner child, and strengthen our roar through nurturing our cries. But what happens when working with the Divine Feminine becomes dense, uncomfortable or even “dark?” As Women of Color, we do not fear the darkness. It is darkness that gives our rich melanin its glow, it is tightly packed energy that contributes to our shrinkage, coils and curls. Density and shadows do not need to frighten us; instead, we can walk right into that portal and begin working with the lesser-known aspect of the Divine Feminine: the Dark Goddess. Across cultures, goddesses take many forms. Their lighter, benevolent manifestations are often associated with lightness, whiteness, and femininity as in, delicateness. Respected goddesses become feared when they transform into their malevolent forms; take the Hindu goddess Kali who wears the decapitated heads of men as a garland, or the Kemetic goddess Bastet who transforms from a house cat into a Lion protectress at night. They are often associated with darkness, the night, evil/violence and aggression. Sound familiar? Women of Color have a unique relationship to this aspect of the Divine Feminine; we are no stranger to being cast as more aggressive than we are. And yet this archetype of the vengeful, wounded woman can offer us a channel into our own repressed desires. Sometimes we just want to destroy things. Burn it all to the ground, like taking a torch to Wall Street or dismantling the nearest police station with our bare hands. Destruction is a part of birth, it is another mani-


festation of creation and thus something we can resonate with. All around us, there are structures and systems worth purging. Within many of us, we may have blocked energy in our womb centers from previous trauma. The pressures and aggressions around us often result in Women of Color becoming defensive, numb, hyper-fixated on pain and unable to see the larger picture, or obsessed with the larger picture and unable to tend to our own personal feelings and traumas. The Divine Feminine may birth, but she also shows us how to clear away and transmute, or turn dense energy into flowing, healthy energy again. This ability to destroy as easily as we can create is part of the Divine Feminine that many are afraid to tap into. The Divine Feminine is soft, but it is through her softness that she demands justice (or even vengeance). She is Mother, and Mother will stop at nothing to protect her vulnerable children. As Women of Color, it is necessary that we grow comfortable with all of the ways that the Divine Feminine can assist us. She can show us how to say no, cleanse the areas of our lives that drain us, set fire to what harms us, and rage until we are ready to return to center. When evoked respectfully and confidently, this kind of energy can help us radically transform our emotional, social and political experiences, and set an example of excellence for those around us. Our Feminine within cannot fully heal if we deny her of her abilities. Repressing our urges to destroy, burn, purge and cleanse will only cause these feelings to fester. By channeling our anger, trauma or mourning in an intentional way, we can clear the dense

energy within and begin to make room for new life again. It is through connecting with our own Dark Goddess within that we can hold space for ourselves to experience what we have been made to fear. There is no room for fear here, and we can look to the brave women in our own ancestral lineages to attest to this. By the grace of our ancestors and our personal power, it is time for the Divine Feminine to surge in all her many iterations and forms. Written By: Shelby Moring


Imani Yvonne has a presence that fills a room. She walked into our interview adorned in a fur coat, big jewelry, and a yellow top that complimented her bright laugh and loud voice. She’s visibly warm in her presence. As a dating consultant, Twitter personality, and businesswoman, she’s gained notoriety online for her no-nonsense, outspoken views on dating, men, and gender relation. Imani started consulting women, femmes, and non-binary people on their relationships around three years ago. Since then, she’s gathered an adoring following online and consults people of all ages, sizes, and appearances around the world. An activist in her own right, Imani addresses racism, colorism, fatphobia, transphobia and more on her Twitter and her blog. She gives her clients direction with the aim to help them reach their goals, get what they want, and live fully in a world that so often defines their worth through their interactions with men. A lover of break-ups, Imani tells us all about her role models, her goals, and her philosophy on self-accountability in an interview that you should probably cut out and keep as a pocket-guide for the future.


Lauren: How did you get your start in consulting women on their relationships? Imani: Well it was kind of bestowed on me. It wasn’t my goal to go and be a dating consultant, you know? I was fine with my little job I had and I just thought a few women were gonna ask me questions, and then one person was like “I don’t want your help unless you allow me to pay you” and I was like “Ohhh.. Wow, that’s interesting.” I was like “I’m gonna think about it” because if it’s that bad that you have to pay me for it, am I equipped? Do I wanna do this? So I thought about it for two weeks and then I let her know, “Oh yeah so we can do this. Here’s my payment information.” And from there she was like, “You should start doing this for other people because you really helped me.” I just thought I was gonna get maybe one, two, maybe three people a month. Lauren: That’s really nice that she said “I’m not gonna do this unless you let me pay you” because so many times artists, and I consider your work like an art form, they’re not paid. People expect it for free. So it’s amazing you got your start with someone being like “Take my money, take my money!” Imani: Oh thank you, yeah, yeah. I mean, shoot, people throwing all their love life drama at you, you’re gonna charge eventually, you know. It’s never a smooth day when you’re dealing with people’s love lives. Lauren: Who were some of your role models growing up? Are they the same today?

Imani: I’m always learning from everybody, everybody. But my mom, and my grandmother, even my most recent boss, she was a big big influence in my life. The first woman who actually came to me, I thought she was an influential power too. So I was kind of scared! I was like man, I don’t want to fuck her life up you know? I was really scared, I was nervous. That’s why it took me two weeks to answer her back. I was like “Okay girl,” you know, “Imma hit you back,” and it ended up working out for her. But I’m always learning from everybody, even women on Twitter that I follow, even the women that I work with. They inspire me too because they are people making big life changes and for them to just step out there and want to do that for themselves, you know, that fearlessness is something else. It’s one thing for me to teach it, but for somebody to come to me and say, “I’m ready to make a life change,” that’s a big deal, and “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Because it’s very easy to just get comfortable in your love life and just keep dealing with the same guys. Lauren: Yeah, to be sort of complacent. Imani: Yeah! It’s very, very easy. So for these women to step out there and be like “No. I want to go out, I want to step up and do this, I want to wear heels, I wanna go to these nice places, I want to get what I finally deserve, and I’m willing to risk whatever, I’m willing to risk these old, comfortable relationships to go out there and take a shot.” That’s something a lot of people never do in their

d that’s the basis, the beginning of improving your entire life.”

“Self-care is being accountable for yourself. An

and if you’re willing to go and put yourself out in places. It doesn’t matter what you look like. Cause I have big, short, tall, Deaf clients, clients that wear hearing aids, clients that are dark skin, tall, and big. It doesn’t matter, it’s just they took the steps that somebody else didn’t, so they got those opportunities. And I feel like that goes against the whole men are trash movement. You can’t throw it off on them, because people are actually getting results so it conflicts with that whole thing.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like, literally: cis, non-binary, femmes, trans, it doesn’t matter what you look like or what your size is. It’s all about putting yourself first, self-accountability, and having that direction.” lives. And that’s inspiring to me and people that follow me. Lauren: Some people are willing to make such big changes to their lives, but why do you think there’s such a big resistance to your work and your belief set about what women deserve and how they should be getting it? Imani: For such a long time, we were trying to empower women with the whole “men are trash” movement, everything like that, but I feel like some people took a wrong turn with that and just felt like, “Oh, that means I don’t have to do anything to improve my own life. I don’t have to take responsibility of my own life at all, because men are trash so it doesn’t matter what I do with myself, they’re gonna always be trash and I don’t have to change anything about myself or my life because my situation is never gonna improve.” And then my work came along and they were like, “Oh well, these must be only super attractive Instagram models doing this with super big ass shots and boob implants.” And I’m like, “No, it’s actually not.” And honestly it all depends on what your access is


Lauren: I think it takes a certain sort of vulnerability to open yourself up to these possibilities. Imani: Yeah, and it also takes a certain amount of vulnerability to admit to yourself that maybe I have been doing some things wrong, and I could step it up, or change these things. ‘Cause the advice I give is not that hard, you know, it’s not hard to do. But a lot of people, they don’t want to be honest with themselves so that’s another reason. Lauren: So you mentioned your mom, and I read your blog, and you had mentioned that your mom was a really positive force in your life, about how she interacted with men. Also your take on breakups -- you have a very positive take on break ups. You love breakups. Is that something that you think came from seeing how your mom interacted with men? Or where did that come from for you?

“ I’m not gonna do anything to change myself because s

omebody sees me living my life as a threat to them.” Imani: So my mom, she’s just a genius. She really is. Stuff I think about that people talk about on Twitter now, I’m like “Wow. My mom was already doing that shit!” I didnt even think it was that crazy or that great. But I believe breakups… I think it’s a rebirth. Because I think relationships, they can be a stationary period in your life. Whether you’re just dating someone, you’re in a serious relationship, or even married, you’re existing as an entity with this person, right? And all of that can change with a breakup. And it can be for the better if you do the right things. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of your life, at all. This just means more opportunity for you. I work with some older moms who are doing very well. They have 3 kids and they’re like “I just got a divorce and girl, I’m not going back to those dudes! I don’t even know what I was doing before!” and I love that because now they’re in a new step, a new part of their life. I feel like any time you break away from any situation is always a chance for something better. Like always, always. All you gotta do is just make the right moves. And there are very small steps you can take and put yourself in a great position. So that’s why I like it. Plus its like, shoot, you know, I get a little tired of being with the same person sometimes you know? Lauren: So what’s your favorite thing about being single then? Imani: I like being single because I like having time to myself with no responsibilities. When I am in a relationship, I don’t mind being all in

and us working together and everything like that, and getting ourselves to the next point. Because I feel like every person that I’ve dated has been a great addition to my life at that time, and it’s taught me something, or we have learned something from each other, or existed at a time that was great for each other. But I just like being on my own, I like having opportunity, and not having any responsibility. That’s what I like about it. Lauren: So, what is your definition of women’s empowerment? Imani: Women’s empowerment is giving women direction. Not inflating egos, not lying to women, not you know doing the rah rah rah without ever telling them, “Okay, so what do we do?” That’s what my empowerment is about. Giving femmes direction, giving non-binary people direction. It’s like all of the “Men are trash, we hate these people!” or “We’re the best people ever!” or whatever, none of that does anything until you give them direction. It doesn’t matter what you look like, literally: cis, non-binary, femmes, trans, it doesn’t matter what you look like or what your size is. It’s all about putting yourself first, self-accountability, and having that direction.

Written By: Lauren Bowring


When I walked into Paula Martinez’s art show at the Lost Origins Gallery, I was met with a Mexican Coke and a vintage tv set that had images of words and floating eyes. Paula’s smile, metallic eyeshadow, and two dimples greeted me with immense warmth and brightness—inviting me to put up my jacket, sip my Coca-Cola, and engulf myself in her artistic interpretations of Donna Haraway’s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Throughout her installation, I was able to travel through different sensory experiences—using headphones to listen to a muffled voice deconstructing points from “A Cyborg Manifesto,” watching eyes with makeup bounce across a small tv screen, figuring out “Am I a Cyborg?” using interactive pamphlets, and soulfully feeling the light within the room begin to brighten with each supporter who entered the space. A truly sensory experience, Paula has the ability to bring light into people’s lives and into her work. Meeting in the dim lighting of Battelle Atrium, I was able to talk life, race, art, and identity with Paula to understand how she navigates life as an artist and as a person. Making simple things beautiful, she is one of the few who can inspire and challenge people with her work. All while being incredibly humble and loving at the same time.


“In our search to define something, we actually are doing it a disservice.”

Reina: First things first, tell me about the inspiration for your project. I know you got it off of Donna Haraway’s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Tell me a little bit about what that essay is about and how you got the inspiration for everything that you did. Paula: As a starting point, it was my Senior Seminar and I was thinking about what is interesting to me in gender theory right now and what makes me think further about who I am. And then I was thinking about the “Cyborg Manifesto” because its use of cyborg as metaphor is interesting. Also cyborgs guise our vision really well. We all have an imagined cyborg and it is provocative and causes thought about what do we mean about extensions of self, beyond the anatomical self. What is the purpose of anatomical self? So the “Cyborg Manifesto” is an essay where Donna Harraway talks about essentialism and she is saying, in the time she wrote this which is like the early 80s, she is saying, “Oh my god. There is so much essentialism going on in the Marxist-Feminist scene. We’re all trying to look for a solution to problems in the world by looking at the woman’s perspective as if there was one.” She’s saying there is no essential woman experience because there’s not an essential woman. Like in our search to define something, we actually are doing it a disservice, or destructing what could be or how people might actually relate to something by prescribing them our relation. Which is a form of colonialism. She goes on to write about how we can begin to understand the depths of how we are who we are through

the cyborg metaphor. Through us being these fluid, adaptable, ever-changing, almost like mechanic beings. it really makes us think about our position and our understanding of self. So yeah, I was just thinking about this really dynamic cyborg that she was talking about. This fluid and changing and adapting and expanding an awareness of self. As it grows and it learns. “It” being us, or me as “it”. Reina: And digesting all of that, how did you convey that in a way through various art forms? Knowing all of this and taking all of these big words, and conveying it in a way that is one, palatable to people and two, expressing your own sense of creativity while also emphasizing what she’s saying? Paula: I mean, I love the “Cyborg Manifesto” but I’m aware that it makes no sense to most people. Like if I told my mom to read it, she would be like “O que é Cyborg Manifesto? No sé,” you know? And so I think what I wanted to do with art is one, make stuff that looks stimulating, which is what I think people’s main goal is when they’re making art, but two, I only really like to make things that maybe have some sort of reason. A lot of this had to do with taking this idea that I know about, because I have the privilege of being in school, and making it into something that I can show other people about. And also because I wanted to create a visual understanding or analysis of the “Cyborg Manifesto.” I wanted to make this argument that we can envision cyborg through thinking about camouflage and so

“What’s useful is for me to th

Reina: So, going to your art piece where you have the blocks and how they all go together. How do you relate that to this idea of being a cyborg and not being confined, and being ambiguous, and not being in these little boxes that we try to put people in? What do you have to say about the different parts and their combination together? Paula: The meaning-making for that kind of came on its own. I was making a lot of camo blocks to try to show camo existing in 3 dimensions. They could interweave, overlap, and intersect the way that I think camo does and the way that I think [Harraway] is talking about who we are. Like the parts of us that interweave and overlap and intersect. And so the building was like everything was made to fit into each other and specific locations. Throughout the process, I would notice that I would forget what the location was because a new thing would fit into it perfectly. And then I became really interested in painting different faces of the blocks, different colors, because it’s also about positioning and where you are positioned to the shape changes what you see. So if you’re seeing this side, you’re seeing one type of camo. But as you walk around you’ll see another type is revealed. And little things like that to try to one, make something that


looks like stimulating, but also something that is like the representative of this changing in fluidity. Reina: Do you think that labels are dangerous when looking at how all of these parts come together? Do you think it’s dangerous for us to consistently label ourselves as well as look for labels in other people too? Paula: I don’t know if it’s dangerous. Like I think that labels can certainly be useful for people, in order for us to understand solidarity. For example, we are Latinas. For us to understand ourselves as together, we have to understand that there’s some essential Latina experience. So that’s an essentializing process, but it’s problematic. Because there is not [an essential Latina experience]. But we still have this desire to be like we are akin. So I don’t want to say it’s dangerous because I definitely think it’s useful, but I’m wary sometimes of labeling myself certain things. For example, with Latinidad, I understand myself as a Latina and I think that’s significant to how I exist in the United States, but I am weary sometimes of being married to this identity because it’s so relative. It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just like when I think of myself as a person of color. I can present as white, or I can present as a Latina. It’s useless to me to wield certain identities for myself if the only use of it is to sort of be like I am actually oppressed. What’s useful is for me to think about how structures are policing me versus how they’re perceiving me.

Written By: Reina DuFore

ink about how structures are policing me versus how they’re perceiving me.”

that’s how it led to me wanting to do work around camo, and having camo be a base of understanding the cyborg. I wanted to use a lot of different mediums because I think sometimes relying on image or a thing alone is hard.


Curated By: Professor Lily Wong


Living in the political epicenter of the United States is not as glamorous as it may seem. As more and more women are making their way into the professional job market, there is an increasingly greater number of opportunities for females in the workforce than ever before. This is a great step in the right direction for women everywhere, but sometimes the pressure of living and working in Washington, D.C. can be too much.


“Words matter in what we say to others, but most importantly ourselves.”

This is where Leah Beilhart comes in. Beilhart, a self-proclaimed “world-traveled army brat,” started a conversational event series in the district a year ago to connect women with one another beyond the workplace. The project, Behold.Her, brings together women of all backgrounds to discuss topics such as motherhood, eating disorders, and the influence of social media. Behold. Her aims to create personal breakthroughs and uncover true relationships between women through its discussions and photographs. Each event starts with an hour-long group conversation on the topic, and then each woman present talks one-onone with Beilhart as she takes their portrait. The pictures and snippets of the conversation are then uploaded on Behold.Her’s website. “You put a couple bottles of champagne and a pizza out, and within thirty minutes everyone is crying,” Beilhart stated. In today’s political and social landscape, many women can use a place to connect and speak their own truths about who they are and what brought them to Behold.Her. Developing self-worth and stepping out of your comfort zone are encouraged, but for many, that is no easy feat. “As soon as [these women] step in front of the camera, they’re critical of themselves,” Beilhart said. “I tell them that they need to learn how to speak more kindly about themselves or leave the space. Words matter in

what we say to others, but most importantly ourselves.”

o step out of your comfort zone, you’re going to live with that.”

“If you don’t make an effort t

In a world dominated by societal standards of beauty and what it means to be a woman, developing self-worth and self-love is not an easy thing to do. Beilhart understands that women need to be pushed to find acceptance, beauty, depth, and understanding within themselves in order to value who they are and where they’re from. Behold.Her gives women the chance to connect with others and break through stereotypes in a safe and welcoming space. “I don’t want people to forget the art of conversation,” Beilhart added. “Storytelling and opening your damn mouth is important.”

Beilhart, someone who struggled with making connections to those around her, understands the importance of putting yourself out there.

“Loneliness is a choice,” she said. “If you don’t make an effort to step out of your comfort zone, you’re going to live with that.” In the future, Beilhart hopes that Behold.Her


Despite the difficulties of being a woman in Washington, Beilhart will stay in the district for a little while longer, adding, “within our own city there is so much more healing that needs to happen.”

Written By: Emily Walsh

“Storytelling and opening your damn mouth is important.”

can translate to women on an international level. Her next big event? A “self-worth conference” for women to hear from speakers, attend workshops, connect, and combat low self-esteem while building the confidence to succeed.

“Today we all have hardworking daughters that went to school because we all left the country to give them the opportunity to be professionals.”


“We have to raise our men with good con-


sciousness so they can follow our advice.”

“Our time was different, our parents’ times were different, our sons’ times were different and their sons’ times will also be different.”

“Aging has brought me closer to my garden, I grow my own vegetables and fruits. From this I’ve learned the power of the land, la tierra — the origins of life. And ironically, about the end of life, since we all end up in la tierra anyways.”

Photos By: Stacy Fernández


Carla Reed’s Blooming Queens blog and Instagram opens up a world of unapologetic self-love within Black women. Using warm colors and beautiful street-style photography, Carla showcases photos of radiant Black women embracing their naturally textured, aka “natural” hair. Underneath each photo, there is a quote about what “being natural” means to them. For some, being natural started off as a way to grow their hair, while for others, it was a way to stop tying themselves to European beauty standards. No matter what the reason for choosing to make the transition, Carla knows that the process of embracing one’s external beauty doesn’t merely lead to healthy hair, but to internal growth as well. By using her charismatic and inviting personality, Carla walks the streets of D.C. with a camera in one hand and her phone in the other to explore how being natural doesn’t just affect how other people perceive Black women, but how Black women are beginning to perceive [the world]. When Carla decided to first go natural, she simply wanted to make an effort to improve her health. A vegetarian at the time, she thought that going natural would align her internal health transition with an external one. However, when she showed up to work after going natural, everyone gave her their opinion on her change even though she never asked. Although


Check out Carla at

most hairstyles are purely a stylistic choice, people to get the impression that Blooming this conversation changes when talking Queens only shows a certain type of woman about Black girl’s hair. Because natural hair with natural hair.” has been as deemed as unprofessional or unkempt, among other negative adjectives, However, although all different, it is clear wearing one’s hair in its natural state is usuto see the light that she captures within all ally condemned. Although this is starting to of the people she interviews. With gleaming change, mainstream media still ensures that smiles, bold fashion choices, and beautiful Westernized beauty standards are idealized. melanin, it is easy to feel inspired even Many of her interviewees even noted that before reading their stories. Once you get to friends and family members would express their stories, it is even easier to understand how they looked “much how changing one’s prettier” with the way hair is more than skin their hair was before deep—such as one leading some to even woman who was sportquestion why they ing a buzz cut because chose to change their she cut off her hair hair. in solidarity with her Knowing that wearsister who was battling ing one’s hair natural cancer. goes against prescribed For Carla, Blooming beauty standards, the Queens started as main goal of Blooming something that was Queens is to explore able to combine her how this freedom from love of listening to Westernized ideals can people’s stories with help to nourish internal her love of photogragrowth and self-love. phy; however, for the Carla asks the people people who follow her Morgan by @eleannart she photographs the blog and the people she right questions about their transition in interviews, it’s more than that. When Carla order to explore how this liberation has shares the stories experienced by different allowed them to fully bloom into their true women who have natural hair, she builds a selves. Having no hesitation about who she community of beautiful women daring to love interviews, Carla’s blog showcases all kinds themselves unapologetically. She says that of women with natural hair—old to young, “It’s all about choosing to accept yourself loose curls to tight curls, short hair to long no matter how the world is.” For Carla, the hair—to make sure that everyone is repremost empowering part about the Blooming sented. Process is accepting the way your hair is “There is a certain hair type that people growing out of your head. She believes that prefer and we see a lot more in the media,” accepting yourself is growth, and growth is she says. “I want to celebrate women with what the blooming process is all about. hair that is different from that. I don’t want Written By: Caroline Giovanie Photos By: Arianna Alter


Nestled within the city of Baltimore exists a safe space that champions tender collaboration and the vulnerable expression of one’s identity. As more than just a publishing initiative, Press Press is somewhere where people feel like they don’t have to assimilate into Westernized molds. Starting from a partnership that worked on school programming for refugee students, Kimi Hauner, Bomin Jeon, Valentina Cabezas, and Bilphena Yahwon run Press Press with the goal of heightening voices that have historically been suppressed or misrepresented by the mainstream and using publications as a method of self-expression that transcend prescribed language barriers. Press Press asks people to come into the space ready to be their true selves and use that to influence their work. They have done work ranging from hosting youth publishing workshops in an immigrant and refugee only space to creating print and digital publications that center marginalized voices and narratives. Prioritizing collaboration, Press Press believes that the products they produce can only be successful if they are raw, unconfined, and meaningful.


Reina: What sparked the creation of Press Press? Why publishing, and how do you see publishing as this method to create change? Why do you think it is important? Kimi: It started when I started this partnership with an organization called Refugee Youth Project that’s part of the community college and IRC, the International Rescue Committeefor refugees across the city. I worked with them to start an arts program within their bigger program in Catonsville, Maryland at a church. The idea was a response to experiences I had with second language English programs in the states—bad experiences I had with them—and wanting to create a space which really understands that learning English as an immigrant is an identity building process and much more than just learning a practical language. It’s how people understand you and how you understand the world. And so I wanted to create this space that was multilingual and didn’t push assimilation to American English speaking standards and didn’t really impose any process onto anybody, but was more or a place to hang out. The publishing aspect of it came at the same time. Because leading up to that, I had had really positive experiences with making things and publications in a way for me to take ownership over English [and it] felt powerful to me. So I had shared poetry

and things with the students and some of them were kind of into it and started reading poetry. We started to make zines and our first newspaper was called “The Chilly Smart Model” and it just kind of grew out of that. We are making publications, this is Press Press, and we kind of evolved past that. Reina: So you talked about your experiences with English as a Second Language (ESL) programs and how they were negative, and how you used these publications to harness English and express yourself. How do you think that language is important? And how does it centralize itself in self-expression and as a means to decolonize spaces? Kimi: I think English as a forum is really loaded through colonization. But the reality of how it’s used is that two-thirds of English speakers globally are second language speakers, but we still, for some reason, operate with the bias that American English speaking standards are more valued and are the norm when they are not, if you look at it globally. I think [Press Press] creates a space where English is very present, but we didn’t and don’t promote assimilating to these standards. Especially when you’re working with kids. I think doing that and affirming “you can be multilingual and that’s good” and “you can use English whenever you want” was a way to undo, or

y building process and much more than just learning a practical language.”

“Learning English as an immigrant is an identit

work towards undoing, the baggage that comes with using English. And I think that philosophy also falls into other ways that Press Press operates in general. I’ve seen people try to organize around commonalities or things people have in common, and I don’t think that that’s not productive but I’ve also seen that be a form of erasure. Something that I value in thinking about Press Press’s work is thinking about how to organize around differences and embrace a politics of difference instead of a politics of assimilation. Reina: Yeah, definitely! Right now I’m reading about Women of Color critique and queer theory and they talk about how when you organize solely across commonalities, there are people that get left behind because you’re not understanding the different aspects of identities. So it’s really cool that you guys incorporate that mentality or ideology [of difference] into your work. Going off of that, there is a huge emphasis on collaboration and community building within Press Press and this recognition of difference and being totally vulnerable and bringing that vulnerability to the work that you do. How do you think not only bringing identities to the table but also having this aspect of collaboration helps with the creative process and self-expression?


Kimi: I think being me and being able to be vulnerable with people that I’m working with helps us make the work. Because it facilitates our connection and the work that we do in a lot of ways. I also think a lot about this essay that Audre Lorde wrote called Poetry is not a Luxury. That was a really big influence on our last project, Sentiments, and how we thought about organizing it. I mean, that essay basically talked about how our ability to dream and to have emotions is pushed out of everyday life under white supremacy and capitalism. Thinking about how to center that was a really big part of Sentiments and was a really big part of how I work with my collaborators. Thinking about our relationships and our friendships is just as important as the products we are producing. But at the same time, I mean, I don’t want to say that I am a great collaborator or I know how to do things because it is really hard to work with other people and to get concrete things done. But I think that being vulnerable and communicating is definitely one of the things that help to make those things happen. Reina: On your website, you talk about this

nships and our friendships is just as important as the products we are producing.”

“Thinking about our relatio

“Something that I value in thinking about Press Press’s idea of process over product. What work is thinking about how would you say is your favorite aspect of this process? Is it the relationship build- to organize around differences and embrace a politics ing? Is it getting to know more about other people on a deeper level through of difference instead of a the creative process? What is your favor- politics of assimilation.” ite part about it?

Kimi: I think that I just learn a lot from it. And I think that I feel affirmed by a lot of the conversations that I have with people through Press Press. I think it’s one of the ways I learn about myself, but also a way to learn about the world and the communities that I’m in. Which I feel like is a constant process because things are always changing and people are always changing and the context is always changing. So I think for me it becomes kind of like a grounding process. It’s a way of learning and something that I find very grounding—just to talk with people and be vulnerable with people. It’s also challenging for me. And I think that is part of why it feels affirming and grounding because it’s not easy for me to be super honest and vulnerable. So I think that’s probably part of the reason why.

goes back to the language thing because it goes back to how you represent yourself to the world and how you understand the world around you. Which is really powerful. Reina: What would you say is the most important goal of Press Press? Not even just strictly looking forward, but even looking back on the work that you’ve done? Kimi: To party! (laughs) I think community building is a big part of it. And I think getting spaces that feel affirming to our community is a big part of it. Maintaining and creating spaces where meaningful conversations can happen and people can represent their own experiences to the world in ways that are meaningful and impactful. I mean, just making rad publications with these kids.

Reina: You say that one of your goals is to give people the tools for self-publishing. Why do you think that self-publishing is important for historically misrepresented voices? Kimi: I think it goes back to the first question you asked about why using language is important how to take ownership over it. I think it’s the same thing. One of our biggest values is self representation. And people just speaking for themselves—having a conversation and just transcribing how it was—rather than somebody speaking about or for somebody else. I think it

Written By: Reina DuFore

*all photos taken from @press_press_bmore


Drawing people together is a unique talent granted to those who have a gift for changemaking. Daniela Martínez Berríos reflects that gift in every role she takes on. Daniela, who mainly goes by Dani, is an AU senior who has held positions in NourishAU, a responsible international aid organization, and Delta Phi Epsilon (DPE), the international relations professional sorority, among other organizations. Her life on campus draws her towards those with similar hearts and aspirations. Knowing her means knowing the good people that she surrounds herself with and being her friend means understanding the light that she carries from person to person. Though her gravitational personality is present in everything that she does, Dani’s real pride is shown in the organization she helped to found from the ground up, AU’s first Puerto Rican Student’s Organization (PRSO). Dani, whose family lives in Puerto Rico, was moved into action by the damage that Hurricane Maria brought to the island.


“When hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20th 2017, I remember it was a Wednesday, it was just a very rough day. I remember I was at work the whole day and I just couldn’t concentrate. I was just looking at CNN or other news stories or Facebook when people were able to post things about their family members. I don’t think anyone knew it was going to be that bad.”

“Not only just find a community, but contribute to that community.”

Though the organization was born out of an urgency to act, the desire to connect other Puerto Ricans on campus kept Dani moving. The hurt of the tragedy of the day persisted, but from it, Dani and other Puerto Rican students that shared her pain, created PRSO. “In the few days after, I knew several boricuas on campus and I was like we have to do something. On September 25th, I created a facebook group with the Puerto Ricans that went to AU that I had on Facebook. I was like a lot of us are here so we have to take power and try to do something to contribute back home.” In its initiation, PRSO called for donations in the form of money or emergency supplies. With the help of other on campus and local organizations, PRSO collected $2,500, 9 large boxes of emergency supplies, and around 50 cases of water for relief in PR. While PRSO started as a way to connect Puerto Ricans students on campus and contribute to the recovery of the island, Dani and the others in PRSO helped to grow it into what it is today. Now, PRSO holds community events, raises money for Puerto Rican causes/non-profits, and holds speaking events on issues pertaining to the island. “One of our goals this semester, to create community. One of our main goals as well is to raise awareness on Puerto Rican issues: economic, social, racial, any type of issues in Puerto Rico. We try to do that through the events we have like the one we had last semester on the future of energy in Puerto Rico. Even through small ways. Yes we have a fundraisers but the proceeds are for a non profit in Puerto Rico thats working to help victims of domestic abuse and sexual

violence. Its little things like that, not always the big events pannels that require a lot of planning. We’re trying to find ways to do all these things and provide a safe space for all of us to come together and share our culture and our language.” PRSO is only one example of how Dani manages to allow people to be seen and to feel important. Her drive to contribute gives others purpose. “One thing I’ve managed to accomplish, I think its thanks to my mom (whose one of my biggest role models and a person that I very much look up to), I always like to contribute something to wherever I am. In my high school back home, I got to know professors, I got to know people, the students, the maintenance staff, all the staff. In some way shape or form I contributed to the institution. [AU is] a university with its faults, but still I managed to find a community through Nourish, through DPE, and now PRSO. Not only just find a community, but contribute to that community. That is one of the things I can be satisfied to know that I did.” The ways Dani pulls people together makes room for the issues she cares about to be seen and heard. Like this, she provides hope in even the worst of situations.

’s going to be okay. If not in that moment, eventually.”,

Regardless of what happens, it

“I always repeat to myself, even though I dont necessarily believe it all the the time because its difficult to, todo estará bein. Everything is going to be okay. That’s something my mom says a lot. Saying it to myself, yeah I’m reminded of my mom but also of trying to maintain a positive attitude and being optimistic. Regardless of what happens it’s going to be okay, if not in that moment, eventually.” Written and Photographed By: Arianna Alter

SPECIAL THANKS: CAMILA: IG@ camilathekilla LEANNE: IG @eleannart SHELBY: IG @floreashelby CALKIE: TW @Calkielater_97 PROFESSOR LILY WONG