I discovered shrine to all things brown and beautiful, Afrolicious, about 2 years ago and I've been crossing paths with the woman behind the screen name, Ann Daramola, ever since! We've collaborated across continents and oceans – working with Epic Change to create To Mama with Love and most recently, Asilia worked with Ann to design the logo for her accessory line, Ankara & Lace. One thing I absolutely love about following Ann on Twitter is the boundless energy, passion and positivity she exudes. This is one lady you need to follow/exchange with/know.
What's your passion?
My passion is creating and inspiring others to create. I believe our creator gave each of us this innate desire to make things, to build, to transform. For me, this means creating websites, code, jewelry, music, languages and so on. And, for my life's work, it means telling stories by any media available and helping others tell (and own) their stories, too.
There are several projects/sites/blogs you've started (e.g. Afrolicious, Ankara & Lace). What inspired each of them?
Yeah, I sometimes wonder if I'm doing too much :] But Afrolicious was inspired by me not wanting to go by the same old internet handle I'd been using for 6 years before. It sort of just evolved from my personal transition to natural hair and my desire to see Brown faces in the media around me, hence the tagline, "Brown is Beautiful".
And Ankara & Lace was shamelessly jacked from a party one of the local Nigerian promoters threw in Los Angeles one fine October weekend. I went dressed in ankara and my sister was in lace. I loved the idea, but it wasn't until 2010 when I was looking for big, ridiculous earrings to go with my bantu knot hairstyle that I decided to make it into a jewelry line.
What has your greatest obstacle/challenge been and how have you dealt with/overcome it?
My greatest obstacle and challenge has been believing in myself. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the ideas and thoughts and connections that come my way everyday. Each of them is possible, if only I could look past the long list of roadblocks I've set up in my mind. Fear is a mofoloko! But part of believing is knowing. Knowing who I am, what my limits and weaknesses are, what makes me angry, what makes me happy, what bores me, what excites me, etc. – all of those things contribute to my growth. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll notice I sometimes say things like "Oh, I'm not a cyborg anymore." And that's because only recently have I felt as if I were human. And now I got feelings :D
What has your greatest achievement been?
Well this is still a challenge in progress. I was at an open stage recently (an open stage is like an open mic, except various types of performances are allowed such as dance, song, full bands) and the host mentioned something about keeping your palms up. Palms up? Yes, to reflect an attitude of receiving. After years of giving myself over to The Cause, whatever it was at any given moment, I'm finally stepping back and receiving things. Little things like compliments, offers of help, hugs, hi-fives. In turn, this means what I give is magnified. There's still a whole lot of giving and receiving to do but, at least things are coming back into balance.
Where will you be in 10 years?
I hope to be in a place creating stories and teaching people at the margins how to tell their own stories using whatever media is available in 10 years. As an African immigrant woman (!) with a penchant for coding, I find myself at the margins of mainstream narratives many times over. Being there has given me a great vantage point into the lives of other folks here, too: teenage mothers in South Central Los Angeles, white Southern girls whose friends are more brown-skinned than mine, Nigerian and Filipino registered nurses keeping late shifts in the hospitals. These stories are rarely shared across experiences, much less in the mainstream. Teaching people to listen and to be heard is central to what I believe is my life's work.
How does Africa inspire you?
Besides being born there and having gotten most of my worldview from my parents who were born and raised there, the technological advances happening in Africa are really inspiring. I keep hearing about tech centers springing up out of seemingly nothing and developers capitalizing on the rich opportunities for innovation. I love this kind of stuff! In fact, I've been studying the models of technology training in parts of southern and western Africa to use in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Also, the textiles and music of Africa are incredibly inspiring. For Ankara & Lace, I've been collecting scraps of fabric (both material and digital) from various African countries and ethnicities. I hope to match them to the music and language in a future project.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Brown is beautiful and our stories are important! No, really. I spend a ridiculous amount of time browsing the internet for visual research for both my projects and my work, and often get dismayed by the lack of Brown skin in things as simple as Photoshop tutorials or even sites like Pinterest. Images are rich with stories which can be told a hundred different ways with a hundred different endings. And while the internet gives us access to a diverse set of stories, there is still a distinct lack of Brown skin in mainstream spaces. Why is this even important? Well, everyday history is being written and re-written. We have a chance to distribute our stories far and wide and deep into generations to come. Sites like Afri-Love and Afrolicious are sort of like anthologies of these myriad voices and no one, not even the curators, can tell your story the way you do. So be heard :]
Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year?
Look out for a series called Conversations on Beauty on Afrolicious this fall. It's my brief dance with telling stories via film/video so we'll see how it goes! And of course a spectacular photostory from Ankara & Lace in the next couple of months.
Images courtesy of Afrolicious.
(I'm loving those bow-tie necklaces!)