We’d love to hear a bit of your personal story and how you got to where you are today personally and what inspired you to start Blackberry Vine.
My story begins in Starkville, Mississippi. Most people not native to the state will automatically associate it with soul food, cotton, or racism. From a very young age, I was exposed to the history of our state and matters related to race and class. Stories from my elders played a major role shaping my worldview. Black and proud from the very beginning but not too Black because your employment would likely depend on it. My mother and father were both major advocates of education despite only having high school diplomas. During my sophomore year in high school, I was introduced to the work of Richard Wright and Eldridge Cleaver by a teacher, Mrs. Hinton. That year I read both Blackboy and Soul on Ice. These books were life changing. They weren’t a part of our schools curriculum but they were a major part of the curriculum of my life along with A Different World and Tupac’s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z and Me Against the World albums. Who I am as a person are strongly connected to the aforementioned things and State of Mississippi. After high school, I furthered my education by receiving a B.S in Educational Psychology from Mississippi State University and a M.S. in Counseling and Psychology from the University of West Alabama. I’ve had a career in higher education for the last ten years but have also been very connected to my community as well. I love what I do in higher education but it’s not as fulfilling as being able to express yourself openly and give back to those you love. So ultimately, Blackberry Vine was birthed from a place of self-love and empowerment. There have been times in my professional career where I can honestly say I wasn’t comfortable being myself. I felt the need to assimilate and do things that made employers comfortable with my being as if being myself wasn’t enough. This has left me feeling emotionally and psychologically drained on many occasions. Blackberry Vine is for us. It’s our refuge, our safe space, a place of comfort, peace, and self-acceptance.
Can you tell us more about the brand, what it represents and what you hope people will take away from it?
Blackberry Vine was created to preserve the Black narrative and curtail cultural misappropriations by promoting the empowerment of the Black aesthetic. Redefining stereotypical expectations presented in societal norms is a goal that we intend to reach by encouraging equality and equipping individuals with the necessary resources to unify and positively change the world around them. I want people to see Blackberry Vine as more than an apparel company. I hope that they can see us as the community resource that we are.
Can you talk to us a bit more about cultural misappropriation? For those who are unfamiliar with the effects, perhaps you can discuss your views on why this issue is so important.
For me, cultural appropriation is when something from a culture that is not one’s own is taken and used for notoriety without that group having a true understanding or recognizing the value of what was taken. Let’s use the entertainment industry and how beauty is defined as an example. In my opinion, the Black woman is not celebrated in the same manner as non-black female entertainers who fetishize over the Black Aesthetic. Black woman have been demeaned and ridiculed for their God-given beauty whether it be their natural curves or hair. In many instances they would be viewed as “too much.” Let’s take all the great features of the Black woman and put them on your favorite non-black reality star. Let’s fill her lips and give her corn rows. Suddenly, she’s a trendsetter, an icon even. Let’s celebrate the source or not celebrate at all. If you’re not paying homage to the Culture, you’re plagiarizing.
Tell us about your collaboration with Moni & Platonic. We’d love to hear about your work with them and the importance of such collaborations.
Working with Moni has been an amazing experience. We connected via email back in November of 2017. We discussed the series that she was developing at the time and Blackberry Vine serving in a sponsorship capacity. I thought that this was a great opportunity for additional exposure to my brand and to assist a fellow entrepreneur. Ironically, a month earlier I was listening to Issa Rae speak about networking and how we have a tendency to try to network up when it’s really about networking across. So, Moni’s timing was impeccable. I loved the concept of the series and her mission to highlight black-owned business.
It’s very important that we support each other. As Black creatives our projects will either live or die in the communities that we love. This means, as a collective, not only do we have the power to extend our reach, we have the ability to keep one another’s dream alive.
Learn more & Connect with Blackberry Vine:
- Blackberry Vine’s Website: http://blackberryvine.co/
- Blackberry Vine on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blackberry_vine/
- Blackberry Vine on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blackberryvine.co/
- Blackberry Vine on Twitter: https://twitter.com/blackberry_vine
- Show Website: https://
- Instagram (@platonictheseries): https://
- Twitter (@platonic_series): https://
- Moni’s Instagram (@momonilessprobs): https://