It all started with a semicolon.
Aka it all started with a pause. Nia and I took a moment to recognize what was right in front of us – Caribbean girls who blogged needed a digital home and a community. And from that pause, from that thought, Caribbean Girls Who Blog was born.
What started off as a Twitter hashtag has now become a movement. The responses from you, our Caribbean sisters, have been exceedingly above what we expected. Your support has been critical, your ideas and suggestions have been pivotal, and your participation has been invaluable.
It is YOU that have developed this brand!
It is YOU that have created this community!
Today, though, Nia and I will be taking a brief hiatus from emails and content, focusing on you and promoting your content on social media.
Just like in the first few months of Caribbean Girls Who Blog’s existence, we will put YOU at the forefront. On Instagram, we will share your stunning photos and on Twitter, we will promote your content. You can also reach out to us and other CGWB members via Slack. (If you don’t have access, please reply to this email and let us know! If you have any questions about how we’re using Slack, please reply to this email as well)
In the beginning, it started with a pause, and now we are inserting another into the fabulous novel that we’ve created together.
No worries, we will return to your inboxes in Spring 2017 bigger and better than ever! However, don’t forget that Caribbean Girls Who Blog is more than just Nia and I, it is YOU!
OUR STORY ISN’T OVER YET!From Our Caribbean Gyal Hearts,
Nia and Tamara
On Sunday, the world will stop to celebrate the mothers in our lives. I couldn’t help but think of all the amazing lessons Caribbean women hold near and dear from their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. I come from a family of matriarchs. My grandmother was the head of the family. She led with grace, compassion, and generosity. My mother, aunts and older cousins all seem capable of making something out of nothing. My mother spun gold out of the hardest of circumstances.
It’s funny to me that Caribbean mothers have this reputation of being extremely strict and powerful disciplinarians. That wasn’t the case with my mother. With her, I’ve always been allowed to be myself. FREE. She taught me to have a voice, an opinion, to act like I belonged in rooms that I had no business in. My mother taught me that I was valuable, important, worthy, and capable of changing the world. She made sure I knew that to remain all of those things I had to be resilient. I had to be able to get knocked down and get right back up. That’s just a small taste of all the things my mother has taught me.
As the day for celebrating mothers draws near, I wanted to take some time to reflect on and highlight some of the lessons from our mothers There is nothing more complicated than the relationship between a Caribbean girl and her mother. Caribbean mothers don’t have the reputation of being tough for no reason. They definitely can be but there is much more love and nuance than they get credit for. There are wisdom and magic in Caribbean mothers. Here are the Lessons from a Caribbean Mother from the CGWB community:
“I’ve learned so many lessons from my mom—she’s overflowing with all sorts of wisdom. She’s largely responsible for the woman I am today and I can’t even begin to thank her enough. I think one of the biggest lessons I got from my mom had to do with my education. Back in my school days, if I brought home even a 97% she’d tell me I did a great job but would ask me what happened to the other 3%…lol. Like many Caribbean parents, she kept me in line about my studies—I did very well in school. Although she was strict about me doing my best, she was a very loving mom who would always have the right things to say whenever I felt teased or less than. She’s my biggest hero and I thank her for EVERYTHING she’s done for me.”
~Danielle Gray the Style and Beauty Doctor
Just Do It
“What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your mom?” I think of something clever. No one wants to read that she didn’t teach me anything special. I perk up. “Well, she taught me how to be a woman,” Lies. “She taught me how to love unconditionally.” More lies. “She taught me how to care for myself.” I’m no longer even convincing myself. She simply wasn’t the type. Three children. Never enough hours. Never enough pay. But somehow I’m able to be here, telling you my story with my own child ready to tell my impact on his life.
I can never answer the question “What’s the greatest lesson learned from your mom”. It should be “What hasn’t your mom taught you?” How to fail. How to give up. “Well you just have to do it,” she would say. “Who’s gonna do it but me?” She would mutter after I begged her to rest. You see, Caribbean moms have a pride that runs as deep as their culture runs pure. “Do for your children what your mother did for you.” The greatest gift my mother gave me was the ability to understand that motherhood grows past lessons and scoldings and making ends meet. That actions screamed louder than words could ever reach. Because my mother showed me how it was done. How to “do it”. I hear her voice now, “You just have to do it.”
From the day, I was born my mom taught me how to be memorable. Memorable in my actions but most importantly memorable in my authenticity and love of self — a recurring lesson that would prove itself to be the theme of my life, starting with my name, Nefertiti.
Growing up I hated my name because of how different it sounded in comparison to others and the inability of most to pronounce it correctly. For years, I felt helpless, frustrated, insecure, vulnerable, and at the mercy of those who teased me. One afternoon, in more of a straightforward approach than I expected, my mom told me to stop searching for approval and embrace my uniqueness. She told me that kids were always going to make fun of my name and that the only way I’d feel inferior was if I gave them my consent.
In college, my mother was a part of a cultural group called “The Daughters of Africa”, where she first discovered and decided that my name would be Nefertiti five years before my birth. Nefertiti means “the beautiful one has come” and according to historians Queen Nefertiti is made out to be one of the most powerful, stunningly beautiful and controversial queens of ancient Egypt. My mother often says that she named me after a queen because she wanted me to grow up and carry myself in a manner befitting of one. Instantly I became instilled with a sense of pride and esteem. My newfound sense of self-worth and individuality ignited a lifelong campaign for me to teach others how to embrace what makes them different, just as my mother taught me.
Your gift always makes room for you
“Your gift always makes room for you.” I’d heard it a million times from my mom and I’d even gotten sick of it but now, years later, it makes sense. The very things I am talented in or what allow me to be successful in my life and also what helps me to provide value to others. It’s crazy how all these years later, that phrase that she told me whenever I felt like I was average, has become the very mantra of my life and something that I always encourage others in my life with.
We bear each other’s burdens
So I got pregnant at 18 and my family had a hard time coping with it. And I couldn’t understand why. So I was complaining to my grandmother saying, “it’s not like they’re pregnant. It’s me dealing with the consequences.” In the calmest voice (and you know West Indians are never calm), my grandmother looked at me and said, “When one man buss ah poop, di whole house smells it.” I started to understand from that very moment, my unplanned pregnancy was everyone’s to share.
My mother holds a very special place in my heart. Not just because she’s my mother but also because she has played an integral role in shaping the woman that I have become. There are several facets of our relationship that I’m thankful for, but I’m most thankful for the moments in which I learn from her transparency. My mother was born and raised in Guyana, lived in Trinidad during her early twenties and then at 25 made Brooklyn, New York her “semi” permanent home. (I say semi because Guyana will always be home for her). It’s interesting to make a distinction between what I’ve learned from her as not just my mother but as my “Caribbean mother.”
As a Caribbean mother, I think one of the most important things she’s taught me is self-care. There were a lot of times where she didn’t have to explain why I should do so, but seeing how self-care benefited her inspired me to do the same. Whether it was taking the time to make sure that you looked “presentable” (because you simply cannot leave the house looking “anyhow”), to knowing how to prioritize, it has greatly impacted my journey into womanhood. Because of my mothers transparent self-care I’ve never been afraid to cry, as well as know when to pick myself back up and continue to do what’s required of me. I’m always grateful for her and hope that one day I can teach my daughter just the same.
~Asha Boston The Dinner Table Doc
One of the greatest lessons that my mother has taught me is that, no matter what you are dealing with, no matter what you have been through, no matter what people have done to you, you must focus on self-preservation, on healing yourself, on living your life for you. You’ve got to try your best not to let things get to you, and you’ve got to take care of yourself because no one else will do it for you. As she says, “Yuh cyaah let people kill yuh dead!”
During the toast and cake cutting at her surprise 50th birthday party, I declared to a room full of her childhood friends, coworkers, blood relatives, and adopted the family, that I aspire to be at least half of the woman that my mother is. I am so honored to bear witness to her life, and I am grateful to be able to also call her my friend. Momma, I know you still have many more lessons to teach me. I am here for them all, ears open, eyes bright, arms outstretched, palms facing upward, ready to receive. I can only hope that, in turn, I am able to give to you as much as you have given me.
~Sherine Andreine Powerful
Let’s keep this going, share one lesson you’ve learned from your Caribbean mother.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!
Let’s take some time to show some love to the mothers all around us.
Last month I attended the Caribbean Digital Divas event here in New York City. Fellow Caribbean Girl Who Blogs, Mikelah of Style and Vibes, hosted the event. The event panel was focused on branding, and on the panel were the founder of caribBEING, Shelly Worrell, digital strategist, Kelly Pierre-Louis , and business blogger, Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown of Carry On Friends.The ladies shared some wonderful tips on branding including these principles:
The ladies shared some wonderful tips on branding including these principles:
- Branding is a long process. It doesn’t happen overnight and as vision gets clearer, things will change.
- Your Caribbean identity should be a part of your brand because it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd.
- Branding is about authenticity. Infuse your authentic story into your brand.
- A brand is not products, it’s the story you tell to sell the product.
During the Q&A section of the night, I asked a question about Caribbean culture going mainstream. It really centered on how we could ensure Caribbean people are credited for their cultural contributions as we see more and more mainstream artists and brands profiting from Caribbean culture.
Many of the panelists had really great answers to this question. The theme throughout their responses was the responsibility we as Caribbean people have in creating quality content and then working together to amplify our voices. It really got me thinking about the many ways we can collaborate to amplify our voices and take control of our narrative.
Caribbean Girls Who Blog is a huge collaboration between Tamara and I. We decided to come together and serve our community, and many people are curious about how we make our partnership work, especially since we’ve never met in person. The answer is that we believe in a much larger mission than ourselves. We understand the power of content creators in the quest to maintain control of our narrative. We also understand the power of a collective and that collective collaborations are definitely the way to go.
Truth be told, the blogosphere is a difficult place to navigate alone. There is so much on the Internet vying for the attention of readers so having a community of collaborators is a strategic way to maximize your audience reach while getting in front of someone else’s audience.
With that being said, here are 10 collaboration ideas for Caribbean bloggers:
- Guest Posts
Allow another blogger’s work to be posted on your site. If there is a blogger in your niche that produces quality content, publish some of their work or mention them on your site.
- Instagram Challenge
Host an Instagram challenge or create a movement of interest to your audience and your collaborator’s readers.
- Guest Appearances
Write posts for other bloggers’ sites. This is great for Search Engine Optimization since usually the blogger will link back to your site from the post.
Interview each other on your respective expertise and share it with your audiences.
Offer gift cards, products, services, and free consultations. Doing this while joining with another blogger (or multiple bloggers) can increase your reach, especially for the giveaway.
Consider engaging your audiences in a combined contest. For example, a photo of the day or a video contest can be a lot of fun.
Twitter chats are a great way to connect and meet potential collaborators. We host our chat the last Wednesday of each month at 8pm EST. After the chat is over reach out to 2-3 people you connected with a pitch for collaboration. If you don’t have an idea for a collaboration just shoot them an e-mail letting them know you enjoyed chatting with them and would love to work together in the future.
Podcasts have really taking off in the last year. This is a great opportunity to produce another form of content your audience may really enjoy. Reach out to a fellow Caribbean blogger and ask them to be a guest on your podcast or to be a co-host.
Collaborate and produce books, e-books, and/or workbooks.
If all else fails, just promote each other’s work. Hit that share button and share it with your audience and vice versa.
There is plenty of room for more and more collaborations throughout the Caribbean creative community. Get on it. If you have any more collaboration ideas, please add them below.
No celebration of women would be complete without acknowledging the contributions of Caribbean women who have paved the way for women everywhere. The global influence of Caribbean women has been noted in a wide array of areas. While not an exhaustive list, the following women have each demonstrated excellence in her respective field that cannot go unnoticed:
Louise Bennett-Coverley (Miss Lou)
Louise Bennett-Coverley, known by her stage name Miss Lou, was one of the most influential figures in Jamaican culture. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica on September 7th 1919 and had a long career as a poet, folklorist, performer, educator and activist. She began writing poetry while in school and gradually grew a following. She received nationwide notice when in 1943 she was asked to publish a column of her poetry weekly in the Sunday Gleaner. Her role as a judge in drama shows across the island gave her an understanding about rural Jamaica and its customs. Her reputation grew as she became more and more involved in performances. Miss Lou wrote and performed all her poems in Jamaican Patois and was very instrumental in the acceptance of the creole language in mainstream art. This established respect and pride in Jamaica for its native culture and heritage. In 1945, Miss Lou became the first black student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London when she won a British Council Scholarship. Throughout her career she made several appearances on Jamaican television and travelled extensively to promote and educate about Jamaican culture. For her contribution to Jamaican culture, Miss Lou was bestowed with several accolades including the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1960, the Order of Jamaica in 1974 and Honorary Doctorates from The University of the West Indies in 1983 and York University, Canada in 1998. Miss Lou died in Toronto, where she spent the last decade of her life, on July 26th 2006.
Dame Mary Eugenia Charles
Dame Mary Eugenia Charles was born on May 15th 1919 in Pointe Michel, Dominica. She attended both the University of Toronto and the London School of Economics to pursue law. She became the first female lawyer in Dominica when she passed the bar and later established a property law practice. Charles began political life in the 1960s and was a founding member of the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) which she led from the 1970s to 1995. She served Dominica in the capacity of Opposition leader in 1975. Charles became Prime Minister of Dominica in 1980 when her party swept the national election, an office she held until June 1995. She has the distinction of being the first female prime minister in the English-speaking Caribbean, Dominica’s longest-serving prime minister, and the first woman to be elected as head of government in her own right in the Americas. Dame Mary Eugenia Charles is also the world’s longest continuously serving female prime minister and the third longest-serving female prime minister. For her service to Dominica, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1991. Dame Charles died on September 6th 2005 in Martinique.
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 30th 1924 to parents who emigrated from the Caribbean (her father was born in British Guyana and lived in Barbados, and her mother was from Barbados). She was raised by her grandmother in Barbados as a child and returned to Brooklyn where she went to high school. Chisholm spent her early adult years involved in early childhood education. In 1964, she secured a seat as a Democratic Member of the New York State Assembly- her first political office. Shirley Chisholm created history by becoming the first African-American congresswoman in 1968, beginning the first of seven terms in the House of Representatives. She once again created history in 1972 when she ran for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, becoming the first black candidate from both parties and the first woman to seek the presidential nomination. She fought for gender equality throughout most of her political life. Chisholm retired from politics in 1982 and resumed her career as an educator. As the Purington Chair at the Mount Holyoke College, she taught politics and sociology until 1987. Shirley Chisholm retired to Florida in 1991 and died on January 1st 2005. She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Audre Lorde, born Audrey Geraldine Lorde on February 18th 1934, was a self-described “black feminist, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. She was born in New York City of Caribbean parentage- Barbados and Carriacou. Lorde’s work confronted the issues that were dearest to her: racism, sexism, feminism, homophobia and black female identity. As an activist in the 1960s, Audre Lorde engaged with the civil rights, anti-war and feminist movements. Her first volume of poetry, First Cities, was published in 1968. This was followed by Cables to Rage in 1970. Her third volume, From a Land Where Other People Live which was released in 1973, received critical acclaim and was nominated for an American Book Award. However, the release of Coal in 1976 cemented her status as an influential voice in the Black Arts Movement. Lorde also engaged with prose during her literary career. In The Cancer Journals and A Burst of Light, which won an American Book Award in 1989, Lorde confronted her struggle with breast cancer and possible death and dealt with themes such as fear of mortality, victimization versus survival, and inner power. Lorde succumbed to cancer on November 17, 1992 leaving behind an extensive body of work and a lasting legacy.
Linda McCartha Monica Sandy-Lewis, better known as Calypso Rose, was born on 27 April 1940 in Bethel, Tobago. She is considered by many to be the Undisputed Calypso Queen of the World. In 1966, Calypso Rose sang the famous Fire in Me Wire which became the first and still the only calypso to ever be sung for consecutive carnivals in Trinidad and Tobago. Fire in Me Wire has since been recorded in eight languages. Rose held the title of ‘Calypso Queen’ from 1972 to 1976 and became the first woman to win the Road March competition in 1977 with Gimme More Tempo. She repeated this feat in 1978 with Come Leh We Jam. In that same year Rose broke gender barriers by becoming the first woman to win the ‘Calypso King’ title, then renamed the ‘Calypso Monarch’ in her honor. Throughout her long career, Calypso Rose has received a number of awards including the British Empire Medal of Merit Class II in 1975 and the Trinidad and Tobago Humming Bird Medal Gold (for Culture) in 2000. In 2014, she received an honorary Doctor of Letters (D Litt), University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad.
Cicely Tyson is an award-winning actress of Caribbean descent. She was born on December 18th 1924 in Harlem to parents who emigrated from Nevis. After working as a successful model who graced the covers mainstream magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Tyson pursued acting. She initially landed jobs in off-Broadway productions but obtained her first television role in 1951 on an NBC series called Frontiers of Faith. Her first film appearance was in Carib Gold in 1956. This living legend has built a career by choosing quality roles that have positive impacts on women of color and offer a positive image of black women. As a result, she has been the recipient of several awards and nominations. In 1972, Cicely Tyson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama for her portrayal of Rebecca Morgan in the movie Sounder. She also received two Emmy Awards in 1974 for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Her latest television work, a guest appearance in How to Get Away with Murder in 2015, earned her a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. In addition to her legacy in acting, Cicely Tyson is an activist and humanitarian. She was bestowed with an honorary degree from Morehouse College in 2009 and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Columbia University in 2014.
The ‘Queen of Salsa’ Celia Cruz was born in Havana, Cuba on October 21st 1925. In her early years she was influenced by the diverse musical climate in Cuba and was encouraged by her mother to pursue a career in music after winning a singing contest. Initially, she followed her father’s advice and enrolled at the National Teachers’ College with the aim of becoming a literature teacher. However, Celia soon left all academic pursuits to sing full-time. Her singing career began in the 1950s when she became the lead singer of the band La Sonora Matancera. After the 1959 Cuban revolution, Celia left Cuba with the members of her band never to return again. She later became a solo artiste and found her niche with salsa music. For decades, Celia entertained audiences with her operatic voice, flamboyant costumes, and impressive crowd engagement, and also appeared in a number of films. Her seventy released albums resulted in several accolades including three Grammy Awards and four Latin Grammy Awards. For her contribution to salsa and Latin culture, she received a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement award, a National Medal of the Arts and honorary doctorates from Yale University and the University of Miami. Celia Cruz died on July 16th 2003 from brain cancer. Thirteen years after her death, she was awarded with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
Cheryl Bowles is a Trinidadian biochemist, entrepreneur, founder and managing director of The Herbarium Ltd, parent company of Cher-Mère, a brand of natural, aromatherapy and herbal products for hair, skin and body using fresh herbs and natural botanica, and Cher-Mère Day Spas. In 1976, she became the first woman to hold a managerial position at Nestlé, Trinidad and Tobago where she was the company’s chief chemist, head of quality control, and head of research and development. Cheryl walked away from her corporate career to launch the Cher-Mère brand. After 29 years in the business, The Herbarium Ltd. operates four day spas and a kiosk in Trinidad and one day spa in Barbados. The brand is also distributed in Guadeloupe, New York and London. At present, Cheryl Bowles is in the process implementing an internationalization strategy.
The iconic singer, lyricist, supermodel, record producer and actress Grace Jones was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica on born May 19th 1948. At age 13, Grace moved to Syracuse, New York. Initially, she became a model and gained success in Paris where she worked for designers such as Yves St. Laurent, Claude Montana and Kenzo Takada. Her striking statuesque appearance earned her appearances on the covers of Elle, Vogue and Stern magazines. She entered the music industry in 1977 when she received a contract with Island Records. Grace Jones became one of the most unforgettable and risqué characters to emerge from the Studio 54 disco scene in New York City in the 1970s where she frequented with her friend Andy Warhol. The dawn of the anti-disco movement saw Jones transition into new wave music and she adopted a more androgynous appearance to match her new sound. During the 1970s and 1980s, Grace Jones also appeared in a number of films and saw success with her roles of Zula the Amazonian in Conan the Destroyer (1984) and in 14th James Bond film, A View to a Kill (1985) as May Day. Jones’ career as an actress and musician continued throughout the 1990s and in the new millennium. Grace Jones’ distinctive image, style and sound has inspired numerous artistes including Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Lorde.
The Antiguan-born novelist Jamaica Kincaid is considered by many to be one of the most influential literary voices from the Caribbean. Jamaica Kincaid, born Elaine Potter Richardson on May 25th 1949 in St. John’s on Antigua, was sent to New York in 1966 by her mother to work as an au pair for an affluent family. Desiring a new life away from the unhappiness of Antigua, she cut herself off from her family at home. Now free to forge her own identity, she changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid mainly to establish anonymity for her writing. Her work was first published in 1973 when she began writing for Ingenue, a magazine that targeted teenaged girls. She later wrote for The Village Voice, The Paris Review and The New Yorker. In 1976, she was employed as a staff writer for The New Yorker and later as a featured columnist in a relationship that spanned twenty years. Jamaica Kincaid found her voice as a writer under the tutelage of William Shawn, the legendary editor of The New Yorker. In 1983, Kincaid published her first collection of short stories, At the Bottom of the River. She later wrote novels including Annie John (1985), Lucy (1990) and See Now Then (2013), which earned her an American Book Award. Jamaica Kincaid explores themes such as colonialism, the legacy of colonialism, gender and sexuality, racism, class and power. Among the many plaudits to her name, Kincaid was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Tufts University in 2011.
Janelle ‘Penny’ Commissiong
Janelle ‘Penny’ Commissiong was born in Trinidad and Tobago on June 15th 1953. She migrated to the United States with her family when she was 13 years old. However, she returned to Trinidad and Tobago in 1976. The next year Janelle won the Miss Trinidad and Tobago title and was the country’s representative at the Miss Universe pageant. Four days before the final in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, she was named Miss Photogenic, becoming the first black woman to receive this honor. On July 16th 1977, Janelle Penny Commissiong created history as the first black woman to be crowned Miss Universe. During her reign (1977-1978), she was an advocate for black rights and world peace. For her activism and role in promoting the image of Trinidad and Tobago, Janelle received the Trinity Cross in 1977, Trinidad and Tobago’s highest award. Three postage stamps bearing her image were issued in her honor in 1977. She became a successful business woman after her reign and continues to be an icon in Trinidad and Tobago’s history.
Merlene Joyce Ottey was born in Hanover, Jamaica on May 10th 1960. She was first introduced to track and field by her mother who bought her a manual on the sport. Her aspirations in athletics were heightened when she witnessed her countryman Don Quarrie win gold and silver medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics. In 1979, Merlene earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Nebraska and is the Huskers’ most decorated collegiate athlete of all time. Her Olympic debut came in 1980 where she became the first woman from the English-speaking Caribbean to win a medal (bronze in the 200 m). For this feat, she was received the title of Officer of the Order of Nation and was awarded the Order of Distinction in Jamaica. Since then, Merlene has crafted a long and meritorious career, winning nine Olympic medals in seven Olympic games- a record for any track and field athlete. She also has fourteen World Championship medals, inclusive of three golds- the most by any athlete. Merlene Ottey became a Slovenian citizen in 2002 and competed for that country in the international circuit.
Mahadai Das was a Guyanese poet who was born in East Bank Demerara in 1954. She was influential in promoting Indo-Guyanese culture at a time when it was excluded from the mainstream. Das was recognized as one of the first Indo-Caribbean women to receive regional acclaim with the release of her book of poetry entitled I Want to be a Poetess of my People. Later, she would release works such as My Finer Steel Will Grow in 1982 and Bones in 1988. Her poetry dealt with themes such as ethnic identity and labor conditions in the Caribbean. Mahadai Das paved the way for other Indo-Caribbean poets to be published. She remained a pioneer of Indo-Guyanese literary thought until her death in 2003.
Susan L. Taylor
Writer, editor and journalist Susan L. Taylor is most famously known as the long-standing editor-in-chief of Essence magazine. She was born on January 23rd 1946 in New York City to a Trinidadian mother and Kittitian father. Taylor’s was employed by Essence as a freelance fashion and beauty editor in 1970. She was eventually rose to post of editor-in-chief in 1981, serving in this capacity until 2000. Susan L. Taylor was then promoted to publications director. She left Essence in 2008 to focus on her non-profit organization, the National Cares Mentoring Movement. Susan L. Taylor is author of four books including the best-seller In the Spirit, an expansion of some of her best writings for her column of the same name. Since her devotion to mentoring, she has become a sought-after speaker who delivers messages of hope to audiences. Susan L. Taylor is the recipient of several awards including the magazine industry’s highest honor, the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from the Magazine Publishers of America in 1999. She was the first African-American woman win this award. She was also inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ (ASME) Hall of Fame in 2002.
Naomi Campbell was born in South London to a Jamaican mother on May 22nd 1970. Naomi was scouted at the age of 15 and appeared on the cover of British Elle before her sixteenth birthday. She quickly became on the world’s leading models and became one of six models of her generation to be declared ‘supermodels’ by the industry. Naomi formed an alliance known as the ‘Trinity’ with Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista. Working in a predominantly white fashion industry, she was able to break several racial barriers. Naomi Campbell was the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue, the September issue of American Vogue, Time and Vogue Nippon. Known as the undisputed ‘Queen of the Catwalk’, Naomi was always in high demand. She has walked for countless designers including Versace, Azzedine Alaïa, Mizrahi, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel. Naomi also has numerous campaigns under her belt. In addition to modelling, Campbell has pursued singing and acting and can be seen in her recurring role as Camilla the hit series Empire. Naomi Campbell remains a key figure in the fashion industry and uses her influence to advocate for the inclusion of black models in print and runway.
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Sheryl Lee Ralph was born on December 30th 1956 of an American father and Jamaican mother in Connecticut, USA. She spent her early years between Mandeville, Jamaica and Long Island, New York. Ralph created a name for herself in theatre and her creation and portrayal of Deena Jones in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She later released her only album In the Evening in 1984. Sheryl Lee Ralph has a number of film and television roles to her credit. She is best known for her role of ‘Dee’ in the sitcom Moesha for which she was named one of ‘TVs Favorite Moms’. Among her extensive film credits include Sister Act II with Whoopi Goldberg, The Mighty Quinn alongside Denzel Washington, and To Sleep with Anger beside Danny Glover- which won her the honor for Best Supporting Actress at the Independent Spirit Awards. Sheryl Lee Ralph has also found success as a writer with her first book Redefining DIVA receiving rave reviews. Her positive energy, humor and wit makes her a highly sought-after speaker and commentator and host.
Alison Hinds has been given the nickname the ‘Queen of Soca’ by her fans worldwide for her distinctive vocals and exceptional live performances. She was born in England to Barbadian parents but moved to the island at age 11. Upon completing high school, Alison joined the band Square One. With Square One, Alison made a name for herself within the Caribbean islands and in the diaspora. Their nine albums from 1988 to 2001 spawned hits such as Raggamuffin, Aye Aye Aye and Faluma. She left the band in 2004 after her daughter was born. Alison Hinds later returned to the soca industry with an appearance in a remix of Kevin Lyttle’s crossover hit Turn Me On. She would then release her greatest hit to date, Roll It Gal in 2005. This song was a huge success in the Caribbean, North America, Europe, and with the West Indian diaspora throughout the globe. It was re-released in the UK in 2007 to coincide with her debut album, Soca Queen. Roll It Gal catapulted Hinds to a higher level of stardom and she gained new fans all over the world. Alison Hinds continues to represent the Caribbean through performances in many global festivals and as a touring artiste.
Madame Rose Agatha Leon, born October 20th 1913, was a Jamaican businesswoman and politician. Leon has the distinction of being the first female government minister and the only person to hold a post in the Cabinet of both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People’s National Party (PNP) governments. Before embarking on a political career, she launched a manufacturing company that provided locally-made products to consumers. She also founded the Leon’s School of Beauty Culture where she also taught cosmetology. In 1948, Leon created history as the first woman to chair a political party, the JLP- a post she held for twelve years. She left the JLP in 1960 and later joined the PNP where she served as a local councilor and the deputy mayor of Kingston. From 1972 to 1976, Madame Leon was the Minister of Local Government in the government of Norman Manley. Rose Leon was murdered in her home on August 16th 1999.
Hon. Hedy Fry
The Honorable Hedy Fry is a Trinidadian-Canadian politician and physician. She was born on August 6th 1941 in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago. She declined an Island Scholarship to Oxford University to pursue medicine in Dublin. She migrated to Canada in 1970 where she practiced medicine at St Paul’s Hospital in the West End of Vancouver. Dr Fry entered political life in 1993 and defeated Prime Minister Kim Campbell to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre, the first rookie politician to unseat a prime minister. She has been re-elected in every subsequent election. Her most recent victory in 2015 made her the longest serving female MP in Canada. She has served in several capacities including Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
Claudette Werleigh was Haiti’s first female prime minister, serving the country from November 7th 1995 to March 6th 1996. She was born on September 26th 1946 to a prosperous family in Cap-Haïtien. In her formative years, she studied and worked in fields such as medicine and pedagogy in Switzerland, Mexico and the United States. However, she later changed her career trajectory by studying law and economics in Haiti where she registered as a lawyer in 1978. Despite being born into a high social standing, Werleigh was able to sympathize with the ills plaguing Haitian society. She became engaged with a number of non-governmental organizations to provide adult literacy and humanitarian relief to her countrymen. She was the secretary general of Caritas Haiti, a confederation of charitable relief and development organization within the Catholic Church, from 1976 to 1987. Werleigh became involved in public service and politics in 1990. She briefly served as Minister of Social Affairs from March to August 1990 in Ertha Pascal-Trouillot’s interim government. After years of civil unrest in Haiti, where she went into exile after a military coup, Claudette Werleigh returned to serve as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1994 and then as Prime Minister. Since her term in office, she has been involved in a number of international peace and conflict missions. From 1999 to 2006, she was the director of the conflict transformation programs at the Life and Peace Institute in Uppsala, Sweden, and the secretary general of Pax Christi International, a Catholic peace movement, from 2007. For her unwavering commitment to her cause she was named a Woman PeaceMaker in 2011.
This Women’s History Month we celebrate the diverse contribution of Caribbean women both at home and in the diaspora. Caribbean women have proven to be trailblazers in fields such as politics, business, entertainment and the arts, sports, and science. Without a doubt these 31 women are ones to watch as they continue to demonstrate the multifaceted nature of the Caribbean woman:
With a killer wardrobe and a squad that includes Solange Knowles, Shiona is most definitely one of the most stylish women in the world. Turini is a creative consultant, freelance fashion editor and stylist from Bermuda who is based in New York City. Shiona’s career accomplishments include serving as the public relations coordinator for Yves Saint Laurent, working with Carine Roitfeld to launch the CR Fashion Book and becoming fashion market director for Cosmopolitan Magazine. She has continuously made a name for herself in the fashion industry as one of its leading experts.
Funny girl, Amanda Seales is a proud Grenadian-American creative. She’s a comedian, host, culture critic and content creator who tackles serious topics such as sexism, racism and rape culture with humor. Amanda’s commentary and reactions were at the center of a debate on CNN on catcalling that went viral in 2014. Her recent work includes the scripted comedy ‘Get Your Life’ which can be seen on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel.
Barbadian Cecile Watson is the CEO and founder of Pitch&Choose, a Caribbean crowdfunding platform with the aim of providing access to capital for ventures and activities. A former banker and senior business leader, Cecile has now found purpose as an entrepreneur. Among her plaudits is the distinction of being the first Barbadian to graduate with a First Class honors degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of the West Indies.
Tahliah Debrett Barnett, known by her stage name FKA Twigs, is an English-Jamaican singer, songwriter, producer and dancer. Her debut studio album, LP1, was released in August 2014 to widespread critical acclaim and peaked at number 30 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. This album was also responsible for FKA Twig’s first ever Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package in 2015.
Cecile Emeke is a Jamaican-British filmmaker, director, writer and artist based in London. Cecile’s most popular work are the online documentary series ‘Strolling’ and the short film ‘Ackee and Saltfish’ which spun a series. Both projects speak to the experiences of black youth in Britain. Her films have been showed in a number of global festivals e.g. The BFI London Film Festival, The Tribeca Film Festival, The American Black Film Festival, Urban World Film Festival and The Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.
Aria Francis is a Grenadian model who has been in the business since 2010. This rising star has twice graced the runways of NYFW. She has, most recently, walked in Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 Fashion Show and the debut of his seventh solo studio album on February 11th 2016. Aria has also been featured in online editorials for Vogue Italia, the Huffington Post and Essence.
Donna Every is a Barbadian accountant turned entrepreneur, motivational speaker and trainer. After being employed for more than 10 years at one of the Big Six Accounting Firms of the 1990s, her career trajectory changed when she decided to pursue entrepreneurship as a means of helping people live more fulfilling lives. Donna is the author of several books including ‘What Do You Have in Your House? Surviving in Times of Financial Crisis’, ‘The Promise Keeper’ and ‘Arise and Shine.’
Arlene Villarule is one of the most sought after makeup artistes in Trinidad and Tobago with more than 10 years’ experience in the field. Arlene’s experience has taken her from working with Giorgio Armani Cosmetics in London to becoming an entrepreneur with her own studio in her homeland while launching her own line of makeup.
Nerissa Golden is an award-winning media strategist, business innovations specialist, speaker and author from Montserrat. Nerissa is the CEO of Goldenmedia, a company that develops communications strategies for clients. Goldenmedia focuses on digital or traditional media, TV/film production, marketing, event promotion, press junkets, and crisis communications. Nerissa was the recipient LIME Montserrat’s Technology Award in 2012 and was named one of TechLink’s top Caribbean Innovators in 2013.
Paola Mathé is a lifestyle blogger, writer, photographer, entrepreneur and designer of Haitian descent who resides in New York City. She is the founder of Fanm Djanm (which means Strong Woman in Creole), a collection of headwraps, clothing and accessories. Additionally, Paola has ventured into the world of printmaking to create her own custom fabrics.
Jamaican Patria-Kaye Aarons took the leap from the corporate world to entrepreneurship when she launched her company Sweetie Confectionery. Patria-Kaye noted a lack of authentic Jamaican candy flavors and decided to use her company to fill this gap. Sweetie Confectionery manufactures candy with flavors such as guava, jackfruit, mango, june plum and pomegranate. In 2015, the company forged a partnership with two British distribution companies, Ashanti Imports and JLB Shipping, to service the needs of the Jamaican diaspora in England.
Savannah Baker is a stylist, photographer and creative director who represents Jamaica, New York and London. Her work fuses Jamaican reggae-dancehall flavor with the Japanese Harajuku street style. This is most evident in her brand Pum Pum Socks- a collaboration with Gemma Shane. This bold statement accessory was highly favored by Rihanna and has been worn by Rita Ora and Lana del Rey.
Dr Diva Amon is a Trinidadian marine biologist whose work focuses on deep-sea biology chemosynthetic environments, anthropogenic impacts on the deep sea, marine conservation and marine ecology. She completed her PhD at the University of Southampton and the Natural History Museum, London, U.K. in 2013. Dr Amon is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Giselle Williams-Thomas is a Trinidadian-born New York-based artist, designer and founder of Gigi + Nini Designs. She is an expert at script art and designs hand lettered logos for blogs, fashion and beauty brands. Giselle is also a celebrity style editor and staff writer for Fashion Bomb Daily.
Kimberly Farrah Singh
Kimberly Farrah Singh is the current holder of the Miss World Trinidad and Tobago title and an aspiring attorney. Kimberly’s road to the 2015 Miss World pageant in Sanya, China was an arduous one. She was dethroned as the representative in October and subsequently regained her title a month later after filing an injunction against the franchise, taking the matter into arbitration. Kimberly’s resolve in this matter won her the support of many in Trinidadian society.
Grenadian Kittisha Doyle is the winner of the second cycle of Caribbean’s Next Top Model. The nineteen year old model beat 20 other contestants from across the Caribbean with her charm, talent and physique. Miss Universe 1998, Wendy Fitzwilliam, who is the producer of CNTM has said of the model “I am especially excited about Kittisha. Her development over the course of the cycle from a fledgling young beauty into a confident model is certainly impressive. She’s like a diamond in the rough… The level of confidence that she has developed and the knowledge garnered from this experience has certainly prepared her to take the world catwalk by storm”.
Nikita Browne is a Barbadian singer whose music contains a fusion of R&B, Soul music, Pop, Alternative mixed with the sounds of the Caribbean. In 2013, she expanded her repertoire to include soca. The highlights of her career thus far include performances at the St Vincent Jazz Festival, The Naniki Jazz Festival in Barbados, and touring with Machel Montano and the HD Band for Trinidad Carnival 2014, My Barbados Weekend 2014 and Beijing, China.
Dr Nalini Mohabir is a Canadian researcher of Guyanese descent. Her work focuses on areas such as Caribbean studies, postcolonial studies, decolonization, diaspora, and citizenship and belonging. She has lectured at the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus and has also been a Postdoctoral Fellow and York University in Canada.
Nolana Lynch is a Trinidadian environmentalist and founder of Eco-Truffles, an eco-friendly, natural skin and hair care line. Nolana’s products utilizes oils, butters and herbs sourced from rural women producers in the Caribbean. In 2015, she was awarded Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development Work for the Caribbean region. In addition to her environmental and entrepreneurial pursuits, Nolana is also a PhD Candidate in Tropical Earth and Environmental Science.
Safiya Sawney is a Grenadian environmental and climate change consultant. She is a policy analyst at Climate Analytics, a non-profit climate science and policy institute, and is based at its New York office. Safiya also provides technical advice to St. Patrick’s Environmental and Community Tourism Organization (SPECTO). She is committed to driving change and making climate change adaptation at the forefront of political agendas.
Minister of Tourism the Honourable Shamfa Cudjoe, MP has proven to be a voice to be reckoned with in Trinidad and Tobago politics. Born and bred in Tobago, Minister Cudjoe has devoted her life to the service of the people of the twin-island republic. Prior to entering public service as a Minister and Member of Parliament, Minister Cudjoe was employed at the Tobago House of Assembly as a Trade Analyst where she represented the island in various negotiations and consultations.
Great things are expected of Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller as she prepares for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Shaunae, whose pet event is the 400M, already has gold medals in the IAAF World Youth & World Junior Championships, NCAA Indoor Championships and bronze at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. Her greatest accomplishment thus far, however, is a Silver Medal in the 400M at the 2015 edition of the IAAF World Championships.
Shelly Marshall – Shelly Marshall, Island Pops
Shelly Marshall, recently claimed a $15,000 prize from the 12th Annual Brooklyn Library PowerUp Business Plan Competition for Island Pops, a frozen dessert company that will sell hand-crafted ice cream, ice pops and shaved ice in flavors rooted in Caribbean culture.
Shivana Jorawar is an Indo-Caribbean feminist, lawyer and reproductive justice advocate of Guyanese descent. She serves as the reproductive justice program director for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum in Washington D.C. Shivana is the co-founder of Jahajee Sisters, a movement-building organization that is driven by the desire to create a safe and equitable society for all Indo-Caribbean women.
Simmone Bowe is a Bahamian-bred writer, trainer, strategist, consultant and change initiator. She is the author of three books: ‘Communication of a Higher Order’, ‘Help! I Need a Job’ and ‘By Design: Principles for Choosing a Career’. Simmone is also the founder of Strategic Transitions, a training and HR consultancy firm, a youth empowerment program called Life Success Principles and the Recharge Women’s Empowerment Group.
Grenadian illustrator and painter Stacey Byer’s work can be found in various art collections across the globe. She is the co-curator of the Women Make Art (WOMA) group in Grenada. Stacey was the first Grenadian artist to be featured in ARC magazine‘s debut issue as an upcoming artist to watch. She also served as the illustrator of ‘Fun, Fun, One Crab on the Run’, a book by best-selling Cuban author Mario Picayo.
Grenadian Tamara Prosper is the founder of Tambran by Tamara. Tamara’s vision for her jewelry and accessories brand is to utilize the waste material from companies to produce wearable, unique, fashionable accessories for the modern individual. Therefore, the primary raw material for Tambran by Tamara is scrap wood residue from wood work and carpentry shops. Tamara has already received several awards including the Best Environmental Entrepreneur in the Caribbean, in the United Nations Development Program and the Young Americas Business Trust- Caribbean Innovation Challenge.
Teocah Dove is a youth and community development consultant, activist, and social entrepreneur from Trinidad and Tobago. She first started volunteer life at the age of 16 and has served her country in various capacities since then. She is currently Trinidad and Tobago’s representative in the United Nations Development Program’s Caribbean Youth Think Tank. In recognition of her work, Teocah was a recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in June 2015 and was named as one of the Atlantic Dialogues 40 Emerging Leaders from around the world in October 2015.
Photo Credit- http://aintilatina.com/2016/02/03/meet-juliana-pache-creator-of-blacklatinxhistory/
Juliana Pache, an Afro-Cuban/Dominican singer, writer and marketer, took to Twitter to share the accomplishments of prominent Afro-Latinx individuals. Hence, the #BlackLatinxHistory hashtag was born. The hashtag encourages others to include Afro-Latinx stories and moments in discourse surrounding Black History Month. (The term Latinx, pronounced La-teen-ex, is a gender-neutral term. Latinx is more inclusive of identities that don’t necessarily fit into the man-woman binary.)
Carolina Contreras, better known as Miss Rizos, advocates for women with Afro-textured hair to embrace their true selves. As the founder of Santo Domingo’s first natural hair salon, 29 year-old Miss Rizos provides an alternative to the old Eurocentric standard of beauty that has plagued the Dominican Republic for decades. It all started with a blog, which Miss Rizos started to provide hair tutorials and empowerment to women who wanted to wear their hair naturally. As the blog and her YouTube channel grew in popularity, she decided opening a salon was the next natural step. Her goal is to move acceptance of black features in the Dominican Republic forward; her message is that beauty and hair-care should be an act of self-love.
Sara Stanford is a Jamaican entrepreneur and owner of Bliss Bridal Boutique in Jamaica. Sara is the only authorized dealer on the island for several brands that the boutique carries. Bliss Bridal Boutique provides brides with the opportunity to buy or rent gowns from some of the world’s most renowned designers. Throughout the years Sara has persisted on her mission to revolutionize the bridal industry in Jamaica.
I am so fucking scared.
Love, the idea of, changed for me quite spontaneously two years ago in Barbados. There were no dramatic events that preceded this metamorphosis of heart. Just a peaceful ‘knowing’ in my soul that I did not (and would never) need the institution of marriage in my life.
How many Sunday evenings and late Friday nights, leading up to this awakening, did I spend doodling on paper, ideas for the perfect wedding dress and cake; scavenging through Pinterest for that one-of-a-kind, classic tea length (high neck though) wedding dress that would bring back the essence of an era when you started out with nothing but love and succeeded in building a dynasty on its foundation anyway?
I could have mastered the craft of self and vulnerability in words much sooner, if not for that time wasted.
Nonetheless, by the time that I had boarded a plane to begin again in the Middle East, I had already possessed a privileged sense of self-sufficiency. A wanderlust for love in any of its variations was not.
MARIO AND ISTANBUL
I do not love him. I feel no guilt or shame in admitting that to you…or him.
Just as definitive as my declaration is, was the heralding of his presence into my life as told by a fortune teller one month prior to us meeting.
“On February 18th you will meet a man. You will end and start a new beginning not only in your life, but in your family’s legacy. This is the start of a new dynasty; the door is forever closed on your generational past,” is what she poetically foretold.
Resolute in my conviction of the un-necessity of love, my soul refrained from revealing any joy on cheeks that had become so many times hot beds of oceans of tears. Yet, I was still grateful for and certain of God’s message. A strong belief in the delivery of Its medium ensured It.
Mario and I met, February 18th, one year ago in Istanbul.
And despite divine ordinance, I could not be loved.
For the next 12 months, my skin received his touch with the painful reminisce of the first time I grazed it on sandpaper. His whispers of sweet nothings, a deluge of deafening lies from lovers past and his stares, nothing more than visual capitalism.
Perception was far greater than reality.
Still, I was not operating in a state of delusion.
There had been (many) indiscretions on his part. I was not participating in a solely masochistic exercise. Pain, is always inevitable in love when there is an other. An understanding learned not only from my own personal experiences, but from every relationship that I had been privy to see demise.
Leaving was an almost impossible, but weekly effort. And it is here, I can tell you why I do not love him. In him I could sense the same dreaded neediness that I had conquered in Barbados, which ensured his return even after the most heated, animated arguments, texts and interactions.
The craft of concealing a meta-narrative of “please don’t go” with a ‘Bitch, shut the fuck up” moniker was his, resulting in a frustrating experience of ambivalence for me. I retaliated in the form of dehumanizing lectures and admonishments; thereby relegating me to a role that I found obscene in intimate relationships- mother.
I never told you why I was so fucking scared.
Like a prisoner on death row preparing to have their arm receive the needle that will take their life, or the fallen motorcyclist fighting the force of velocity and gravity with no choice but to succumb knowing that with every hit of asphalt, bones are breaking, I too, was scared of the inevitability of pain and death in love. Pain, death and transformation.
His inability to leave the relationship despite my many attempts, is not even a legitimate excuse for me ‘staying’ in the relationship. After all, I had acquired the knack of using autonomy to achieve success where and in what ever I wanted.
The legitimate reason was also not in the promise or hope of a better tomorrow in love either.
Rather, it was (and still is) this intuitive sense that by us being together there was/is an unprecedented opportunity in both of our lives for growth and evolution that could not be achieved without our dynamic.
Scared of the inevitability of love? Yes. But, I know that this relationship was not supposed to be about the drunken ‘feeling’ of love, that feeling of sublime ecstasy we all dream and crave for in love.
Coming to an even greater understanding of self in a way that only another person can facilitate was this relationship’s purpose.
February 4th 2016, 14 days before our one year anniversary, I ended this chapter in my life with integrity and gratitude for its meaning.
This post was originally written for Petra In The Middle East. All photo rights belong to the owner.
Where do I start?
Well, let’s start here. To say that I am proud of my Caribbean heritage is an understatement but that fact, coupled with being an immigrant, was nothing short of an adventure when it came to my love life.
I moved to the USA in 2006 with my family. It was exciting and scary at the same time. I left familiar surroundings to enter and build a life in a new culture, thinking the move was simply for educational purposes but little did I know.
At the beginning of my senior year in college, I was asked as a Resident Assistant (RA) to help with the freshman orientation, and without much complaint my co-RAs and I did so. We sat through all the workshops and meetings, and helped organize the activities. On the last day, we participated in a game of Capture the Flag. I don’t quite remember how we split up teams but I do know I thought the idea of even playing this game was silly. However, while playing the game, I met him.
Who’s him? Well he’s now my fiancé.
Now, pause. This is weird, right? Lol. But believe me, it gets stranger.
I know most people share how romantic it was when they met the love of their life but that is not my story. In fact, when I met my bae, he was so annoying and cocky that I wrote him off as some young immature freshman who needed to get a grip. Harsh but true. Those were my initial thoughts. But my goodness did he surprise me!
Over the next three months, Nate (that’s his name), made it a point to patiently pursue me. He went to the art museum with me, he got to know me, he introduced me to his family and he let everyone know that he wanted to be with me. During that time, I also learned that he was older than me, which totally dispelled my immature freshman perception. Then there were other things such as his love of diversity, his love of God and his giving heart that steadily grew my respect for him.
At the end of three months, Nate approached me in the college cafeteria, while I was in line to get a burger, and he asked me out in front of everyone. After I said yes, we sealed it with a kiss and then his friends began clapping wildly, bringing more attention to us than my introverted persona cared for at the moment.
Now, over 3 years later, Nate and I have built an unbreakable bond forged by trust, disappointments, unconditional love, and immigration setbacks. Now, he has become my biggest supporter and the man who always encourages me to pursue my dreams. He has become my best friend and the man who doesn’t allow me to give up in those secret moments when I get frustrated and want to throw in the towel. He is still the guy that I roll my eyes at whenever he teases me but he is also the guy that always makes me smile and tells me he loves me every single day.
On January 2, 2016, he asked me to marry him and I wholeheartedly said ‘Yes’ again. And if there’s anything that our love adventure has taught me, it’s this:
You can write your own love story because love defies race, mistakes and skin color. Love conquers all.
When I started blogging six years ago. I was absolutely clueless about what it took to build a thriving blog. At the time I thought I had the right message and that people would flock to my blog because of it but, it turns out, I was wrong. In fact, it would be a few years of trial and error before I discovered how to blog smart and brand even smarter.
Blogging well requires a tremendous amount of effort and hard work. The kind of work that’s hard for anyone who doesn’t do it to truly comprehend. The kind of work that you deserve to earn a living for and make some money to at the very least cover your expenses.
Can I just be honest? Many of us are using our full-time jobs to fund our blogs and we’re not seeing the financial returns. We’ve all heard the stories about bloggers making millions from brand partnerships, selling their blogs, and selling products. What we fail to realize is that those bloggers took the necessary steps to position themselves.
With so much on the line, blogging is an extremely competitive field, especially with new blogs starting every day. Therefore, we at Caribbean Girls Who Blog (CGWB) have declared 2016 the year that we will focus on showing you how to blog smart, brand smarter, and make some money.
Here are seven tips for blogging smart and branding even smarter in 2016:
- Clarify Your Message
What do you want people to think about when they think of your blog and by extension your brand? You may have settled on your major blog topic – maybe it’s style, or beauty, or culture, or entertainment or career but those are still very broad topics. What is your message? This is the differentiation factor. It’s what will separate you from all the other style, beauty, culture, entertainment, and career blogs out there. A great message is one based on whom you are, and your expertise. Work to have a strong and clear one. It’s invaluable to your brand
- Clarify Your Target Audience
With a clear message you can determine who needs your message the most and the best way to reach them. A clear target audience doesn’t mean that you’re excluding anyone. Trying to reach everyone is the fastest way to not the reach anyone. Our target audience for CGWB is Caribbean women content creators. That doesn’t mean that our content, experiences and products won’t appeal to anyone else. However, our goal is to fulfill a need for that specific group and it’s ok if in the process we also reach others. Having such a specific target audience gives us clarity on where to find our community, what content we should be creating, and what products and services they may need. Work on getting clear on who your target audience is. Make sure to get as specific as possible.
- Strategic Planning
It’s no longer enough to just plan your content, build your editorial calendar and schedule a few social media posts. You need to strategically plan. Everything you do should be a piece of a much bigger end goal. Your content strategy, content marketing strategy, e-mail strategy, and social media strategy need to work together to achieve your brand/blog goals. The bloggers currently at the top of their game are strategically releasing blog posts, sending targeted emails campaigns, and intentional social media posts. Work on setting your blog goals and set a strategic plan on how to get to them.
- Useful Content
The number one reason you need to clarify your message, have a clear target audience and plan strategically is to provide useful content. Providing useful content is the way to build trust with your audience, to get buy-in for your message, and let your target audience know you’re a go-to blogger on your particular topic. To blog smarter in 2016 try creating content for many platforms. Blog posts alone are no longer enough. Try to incorporate videos, eBooks, podcasts, and webinars. You don’t have to do all of the above but your content strategy should include at least two different forms of content.
Consistency is the great separator. It separates the great bloggers from the not-so-great ones. Truth is, anyone can do something once in a while but the people who can do something consistently well are the people we trust and look forward to engaging with. If you do plan to release content less frequently than the top bloggers on your topic then it needs to be epic. Epic, meaning it goes above and beyond the type of blog posts any other blogger is currently publishing. Nevertheless, work on delivering useful forms of content to your audience.
- Content Marketing
This is one of the biggest mistakes many bloggers are making, you can’t just share your content on social media once. You need a plan for sharing it on your social media platforms as often as possible without spamming your audience. You have to put your content out there, think of your favorite blogger, how many times a day are they sharing their blog content or a new product? Once is never enough to share something you want people to read or share. Work on creating a plan to market your content.
- Grow Your Mailing List
There is something about the connection you have with people when you show up in their inbox and they actually open your e-mail and read it. It’s not like a blog posts or any social media posts. The connection there is much richer and personal. But, you don’t have the right to anyone’s e-mail address, you have to earn it. You can earn it with great e-mail lead magnets (aka e-mail opt-ins.) It’s no longer enough to just put a subscribe button on your blog in hopes that people will give you their e-mail address. Work on providing a free e-Book, a checklist, mini course, or workbook to your audience in exchange for their e-mails.
With this information, how are you going to plan your blog growth for 2016?
I know, strange right? Why on earth would Instagram delete a harmless blogger account?
Well, there’s a myriad of reasons but that’d be too long to go over. I will, however, share this little insight – Instagram is very particular about people who disobey their Community Guidelines. In my case, it was I grew too fast and I followed more than 20 people (that I genuinely liked) in an hour.
The emotional reaction I had that morning when I woke up and realized I was locked out of my account, made me really think about how much I loved the platform but that’s another post for some other day. The point is, I was devastated, especially because I had just built this account to over 2K followers over 2 years. It was like a lot of blood, sweat and tears just disappeared in an instant – in the blink of an eye.
Nevertheless, after failed countless attempts to contact Instagram’s Customer Support through their ticket system over the weekend, I decided to start over.
I was scared to say the least, mostly because I know how hard it is to build a loyal Instagram following but it had to be done because it was a key component of my blog’s success. Here’s how I did it:
- I chose a name that was close to my previous account. This was for brand consistency but also so that previous followers would recognize me and re-follow.
- I completed my profile and posted a photo with a caption highlighting my new account. Yes, I changed my profile picture, filled out my bio and added my website link. However, the most important step I took was posting a photo and in the caption explaining the reason I had a new account. I knew that the worst-case scenario, former followers would be curious about my name and check out my post to see what was up. I made sure they didn’t have to search hard for an explanation or dismiss my new account as bogus.
- I visited Iconosquare. If you haven’t registered your blog’s Instagram account on Iconosquare then you are missing out! Among all its free features, it gives you analytics that are tailored to your account, including when you should post based on when your audience is online. I actually was in luck because this analytics software kept all my information from my previous account, which leads me to my next point.
- Follow, follow, follow! Using my old account’s Iconosquare info, I followed all my previous followers and then I connected to my Facebook friends. It took a week but I soon had a healthy following and averaged 100 likes per photo.
- I implemented my content strategy. I really used the opportunity to start over to better brand myself. I re-evaluated everything, especially how much I posted, what filters I used and what hashtags I commented with.
Following these 5 simple steps and engaging with my followers has rewarded me with an account of over 1000 followers in half the time it took me before. Now I’m not discounting the work it requires to build such a following but I wanted to share what I did so that if this happens to you, you have a plan of escape.
This was originally written for and posted on Brown Girl Bloggers
So, if you didn’t know by now, Caribbean girls run it (and no we don’t have to ask RiRi). Here’s 100 of many Caribbean Girls who do it all–from makeup to style to travel– passionately sharing their interests and creativity across the globe.
1. The Baydian Girl | www.baydiangirl.com
Tamara is co-founder of the #caribbeangirlswhoblog movement. A style blogger, designer and freelance writer from Barbados.
2. The Glam Savvy Life | theglamsavvylife.com
Nia is one of the co-founders of caribbeangirlswhoblog.com. She hails from the beautiful island of Grenada but currently lives in NYC.
3. Ancestral Memory | ancestralmemory.blogspot.com
Creator, wanderluster. Free spirited Trini girl exploring the world and living a fulfilling life.
4. IZAFoodie | izafoodie.com
Miami & Trinidad Foodie Blog. A Trini in Miami and a true foodie.
5. Colorful Disaster | colorfuldisaster.com
Twin sisters from Puerto Rico that blog about everything.
6. Salt and Shimmer | www.saltandshimmer.com
Rachelle is a life and style blogger.
7. Taste Treaty | tastetreaty.com
Style inspiration and a few more of her favorite things.
8. Mila’s Blog | milasblogrd.blogspot.com
Passion for fashion, you tubers and sale spotters.
9. Turning Point | sgturningpoint.com
Stéphanie was born in Haiti and raised Swiss. Believes in lifestyle and dreams.
A kool Caribbean milennial blogger + social media nerd!
11. Stylish Lee | www.stylishlee.com
Made in Jamaica. A creative mind, online influencer and dreamer.
12. DonaLee Curtis | Youtube : Donalee Curtis
Reckless dreamer, content producer, on-camera talent, web tv enthusiast, lioness on the rise. 100% Jamaican.
13. Advice For You Darling | adviceforyoudarling.blogspot.com
Valeria is a fashion and style blogger.
14. Letras Con Tacones | letrascontacones.com
Paola is a shoe lover lost in fashion land.
15. Miniskirts and Microphones | www.ianthia-smith.com
Ianthia Smith is a writer, blogger, tv host, reporter and traveller. Based in the Bahamas.
16. Chic Wanted | www.chicwanted.com
Dominican fashion and beauty blogger living in New York.
17. Astoria In Heels | astoriainheels.blogspot.com
Andrea is a NYC fashion and lifestyle blogger and influencer based in Astoria, NY.
18. With Love From Guyana | michelleford.gy/blog
Sparkle, glitter & sequin lover. Lover and blogger of Caribbean design. Born in the Caribbean.
19. Adorned in Armor | adornedinarmor.com
Tarah-Lynn is a Jesus Lover. Word bender. Style blogger.
20. Maven of Style | www.mavenofstyle.com
Shantera is a fashion stylist and style blogger; made in the Bahamas.
21. Carolyn Carter | carolyncarter.com
Carolyn is a Miss US Virgin Islands, art curator. Beauty, fashion, travel blog coming soon.
22. Defining Devonnie | definingdevonnie.com
A lifestyle blog. JA born, NY raised, LA based obsessor of love.
23. ri-Fresh | ri-fresh.com
Online publication run by Sherri J and Ashley Fern about life, music, style health and a dash of Caribbean girl magic.
24. 242BlqRze | 242blqrze.com
Youtuber and blogger based in the Bahamas. CEO and fashion stylist of the The Style Diaries.
25. Paloma De La Cruz | palomadelacruz.com.do
Fashion blogger living in paradise. Radio host and producer.
26. Chic And Cherry | www.chicandcherry.com
Patricia Atiles is a fashion lover and influencer.
27. Cay To Style | caytostyle.com
Wildflower. Social media specialist and blogger.
28. Style and Vibes | www.styleandvibes.com
Lifestyle blog for “the fly Caribbean chic”. Curated by Mikelah Rose.
29. Charlie XXO | Charlie XXO (Youtube)
This Youtuber is happy as heck.
30. Love, Fashion & Friends | lovefashionandfriends.com
A lifestyle blog by Dileiny Rodriguez highlighting style and inspirations from travel, poetry, love, family, friends and events in the tri-state area.
31. Tingz Nice | tingznice.com
Sha is a caribbean lifestyle blogger, carnival enthusiast, designer and entrepreneur.
32. Buenas Vibras By S | www.buenasvibrasbys.blogspot.com
Sarah is a mother and a fashion and lifestyle blogger.
33. Fashion Revolutionary | www.fashionrevolutionary.com
Alexa is a Dominican fashion blogger and stylist based in NYC.
34. Style to the T | styletothet.com
Christina is a blogger based in Brooklyn, NY who loves fashion and is passionate about style.
35. J’adore Mi Amor | jadoremiamor.com
Michelle Natalia is a NY blogger, stylist, latina and lover of life.
36. Bahamianista | www.bahamianista.com
Crista S. is a bahama-mama, carnival and style junkie.
37. Julie’s Vanity | julieesvanity.com
Beauty blogger. Julie has a passion for makeup and all things beauty.
Ms Toya is a fierce Jamaican Youtube Vlogger, freelance makeup artist and protective hair stylist.
39. Style With Mykie | IG: @stylewithmykie
Malika is a 21 year old fashionista hailing from the twin isles of Trinidad and Tobago.
40. VeePeeJay | veepeejay.com
Vashti is a wife, natural hair advocate, blogger/vlogger, event host, thrifting aficionado, island girl, statement necklace lover and DIYer.
41. Melenigma | itsmelenigma.com
Melenigma is a real life introvert, virtual extrovert. JA/NYC stylist and blogger.
42. Charlotte Salabie | Charlie Pop (Youtube)
Virtual glam girl, vlogger.
43. K. T. REED | www.KTRstyle.com
Sunshine mixed with a little hurricane. Founder, designer, blogger, skirtsaholic.
44. Teifin Chic | www.teifinchic.com
Gigi is a Jamaican stylist and blogger and self-proclaimed “vintage hoe”. Growing up obsessed with fashion, her answers and thoughts are now translated through the way she dresses and styles her hair.
45. Brittany Chris | kyssmyhair.com
Bahamian style and hair blogger/vlogger.
46. MarvyKayStyles | www.marvykaystyles.com (coming soon) IG: @marvykay_
Katherine Rodriguez is passionate about fashion and beauty.
47. The Urban District | www.theurban-district.com
An art blog created by Rosalia Mendoza.
48. Just Analise | justanalise.com
Analise Kandasammy is passionate about curls, consciousness and curves. Authenticity is her drug of choice.
49. Le Style Clash | lestyleclash.com
Jody Szabo is a fashion, travel and lifestyle blogger.
Samantha is a natural hair, beauty and fashion vlogger.
51. Trinidad Look Book | trinidadlookbook.com
Mel Gabriel is a caribbean fashion and lifestyle curator based in Trinidad and Tobago.
52. As Worn By Gigi | aswornbygigi.wordpress.com
Gigi is a Barbados native, brand curator and ‘a tiny renaissance woman on a massive mission’!
53. TAP | Youtube — They Call me TAP
Based in the Bahamas, Tracey Ann is a personality, actress, producer, writer, brand ambassador, risk taker and island gyal.
54. JOA Photography | joyannepanton.com
Joyanne Faith Panton is a published model and photographer hailing from the beautiful isle of Jamaica.
55. Tanique Coburn | IG: @taniquecoburn
Tonic hails from Jamaica. She is a fashion designer and consultant.
56. Micaela Verrelien |micaelaverrelien.com
Micaela is a caribbean gal, actress and personal style blogger.
57. Simply Pamarie | simplypamarie.com
Simply Pamarie is a NYC blogger and event planner that enjoys exploring food, travel and entertainment.
58. Stella Press B | stellapressbox.com
With St. Lucian roots, she is a mommy, a wife and an excellent writer.
59. Guyanese Sista | guyanesesista.com
Julie is a twenty something woman living in NY who started Guyanese Sista as a way to express herself and share her interests.
60. BENEMGN | benemgn.com
Benedicte is a french speaking blogger originally from Guadeloupe based in Paris.
61. Caribbean Travel Blog | caribbeantravelblog.com
Created by nomadic couple, Nicole and Michael who’ve spend 2 years traveling full time.
62. Dress and Express | dressandexpress.com
Kaitlynn Simone is a personal style blogger who’s goal is to encourage others to use clothes as an expression of who they are.
63. Loydi Carrion | www.LoydiCarrion.com
Loydi is a sassy girl loving everything beauty. Official blogger for Cover Girl Puerto Rico. Sharing everything from fashion to weight loss.
64. A Girl Named Nydia | www.agirl-namednydia.blogspot.com
From Puerto Rico to Florida, Nydia is a life and personal style blogger, wedding photographer and island gal.
65. JannStyle | jannstyle.com
She’s a caribbean blogger from Dominican Republic.
66. Christen Chantalle | christenchantalle.blogspot.com
Bonaire based blogger; full of island life and city vibes.
67. SwankxTar | swankxtar.com
Tanaka is a fashion enthusiast from Jamaica.
68. Coco Miely Brillo | Youtube – youtube.com/ikisseddaly
Fashion, makeup & decor aficionado. Part time Youtube.
69. My Repeat Offender | myrepeatoffender.com
Kristia Franklin is a merchandiser, blogger, wardrobe and personal stylist and budding fashion designer.
70. Fashionably Fabulous | www.fashionablyfab.com
Natasha B is a mom, interior maven, music lover, foodie, travelista, stylista and award winning blogger.
71. Explore TNT | www.madtraveldiaries.com
Expat returning to island life in Trinidad and Tobago. Uncovering the hidden charm of the twin isles. Blog exploretnt.com coming soon.
72. Beauty & The Beat | beautyandthebeatblog.com
Margo is a writer, beauty and style aficionado, book worm based in Florida.
73. Liliana Santana | lilianasantana.com
From the Dominican Republic, Liliana is a lawyer and blogger.
74. That Girl Cooks Healthy | thatgirlcookshealthy.com
Charla is a health enthusiast, food photographer, recipe developer. Based in the UK.
75. Verdelicias | verdelicias.com
Food and lifestyle bloggers. Colorful dishes with fresh ingredients. Food ventures. Green tips. Chicago and Puerto Rico.
76. Fashion West Indies Tv | Youtube: Fashion WiTV
A youtube channel based on fashion, beauty, makeup in the caribbean.
77. Glam Dapper | glamdapper.com
Rosanna Candelario is a fashion, beauty blogger.
78. Little Ray of Light | littlerayoflight.com
Originally from Puerto Rico, based in Florida, Raquel is a life, style and family blogger. Mama to Lucas M. and Max.
79. Zilmy Vasquez | zilmyvazquez.blogspot.com
Zilmy is a blogger, creator and modern mom.
80. Bella Rosa Blog | bellarosablog.com
Lifestyle blogger and Youtuber. Youtube: Bella Rosa
81. Natalia Bosch | nataliabosch.com
Fashion blogger and journalist. Travel enthusiast from Puerto Rico.
82. Becky Boricua | beckyboricua.com
Claudia is a Lifestyle, entertainment, fashion and beauty blogger.
83. Shivi Ramoutar | shiviramoutar.com
Shivi is a Caribbean chef, writer and presenter.
84. Kokoloom | kokoloom.com
Youtuber (Kokoloom) and blogger. Island gal; style obsessed.
85. Helen Blandino | helenblandino.com
86. ZEENAXENA | www.zeenaxena.com
Moroccan, Bajan & Dominican. Freelance blogger outreach specialist and founder of blogginggals.com
87. Love Design Barbados | www.lovedesignbdos.com
Natasha is an interior decorator, blogger and creative director.
88. Lemon Lime Bitters| lemonlimeb.blogspot.com
Laurissa is introvert-ish, a reader, day dreamer, pathfinder and daughter of the King.
89. Fabiana Pineda | Youtube (Fabiana Pineda)
Fabiana is a blogger based in Puerto Rico.
90. MavTips | mavtips.com
Mávely is a personal style and lifestyle blogger.
91. Unique Fashion by Taryn | www.ufbytaryn.com
Puerto Rican fashion and lifestyle blogger. Lipstick obsessed, nature lover and explorer.
92. SU-style | su-style.com
Stylist, body activist, entrepreneur.
93. Jehan Can Cook | jehancancook.com
Guyanese, mommy, wife, recipe developer, food blogger.
94. The Sang Collective | thesangcollective.com
Plus size model and blogger. Hails from Puerto Rico & New York.
95. HEALTHYBYMLEEE | healthybymleee.com
Marshalee is a health and fitness blogger.
96. Sherelle Naturalle | Youtube — Sherelle Naturalle
Sherelle is a blogger and blogger and brand influencer.
97. Xayli Barclay | thexaylishow.com
Blogger and visual coach. All about selfies, fitness, business. Based in NY with Trini roots.
98. Kreamy Kurls | Youtube: youtu.be/wiwelDKCgSo
Chevanne is a Jamaican hair and lifestyle blogger, Christian and poet.
99. Mission: trend | mission-trend.com
Marlene is a part-time blogger and full time geek. Hails from Puerto Rico.
100. Style Weekender | styleweekender.com
Keyma is Jamaican born, LA living. She is a fashion and lifestyle blogger, nail polish hoarder and weekender.
101. AfroBella | www.afrobella.com
Trinidadian born beauty, hair & culture blogger extraordinaire, loving life in Chicago. The Godmother of brown beauty blogging!
102. Carry On Friends | www.carryonfriends.com
A career, business, and lifestyle blog with the Caribbean American in mind. Live. Build. Achieve.
103. Musings of Krav | www.musingsofkrav.com
Opening the hearts + minds of women to follow their dreams through curated interviews w/ professionals, advice + internships—with style.
104. Jay Blessed | jayblessed.com
Acclaimed, award winning queen of Caribbean news and content.
Caribbean American wife, mother, blogger, author, law student, and friend.
106. Kazelle Care | kazellecare.wordpress.com
Everything you don’t know you know- love and light.
107. Marie’s List | www.marieslist.com
Marie’s List is a year round guide for fellow bibliophiles, film aficionados and TV enthusiasts.
108. Rewind & Come Again | www.rewindandcomeagain.com
American born, Caribbean bred.
109. Sandals and Sunnies | sandalsandsunnies.blogspot.com
Caribbean girl born into the skin of particular circumstances. Writer, TVI, performance poet on a journey as a passenger of planet earth and the universe at large, awkwardly discovering herself.
110. Joanna E. com | www.joannae.com
A travel and lifestyle blog.
111. AV Does What? | www.avdoeswhat.com
Visual artist and DIYer that lives in Brooklyn, NY.
112. Culinary Road Trips Puerto Rico | www.culinaryroadtripspuertorico.com
Weekend adventures of a girl with food allergies.
113. Boston Naturals | bosnaturals.com
Largest Natural Hair Community in New England.
114. Shanny De Lioness | shannydelioness.com
A Jamaican lifestyle, travel, food blogger.
115. Caribbean Style | caribbeanstyle.me
Caribbean, lifestyle, voyage.
116. Upon My Curves | www.uponmycurves.co.uk
Fashion, lifestyle and opinions.
117. Ana Rosario | bloganarosario.com
Personal style blogger.
118. The Realest Real | therealestreal.com
Chris is a researcher, writer and blogger.
119. Nigra Sum | ashg4906.wordpress.com
Sweet toothed, wander lusting, afro fluffing Leo.
120. Anekia Nicole | anekianicole.com
Hippie spirited, open diary, nerd.
121. 121 on Park | https://121onpark.wordpress.com
Where style, fashion and life collide. Website coming soon. Follow on IG: @121onpark
122. Physical Canvas | physicalcanvas.com
Be your own piece of artwork. Be the canvas.
123. ISLANTIQUITY | http://islantiquity.com
Currently seeking a great perhaps.
124. Raye Social | rayesocial.com
20 something year old mom, fiancee obsessed with fur, shoes, yoga, Starbucks, DIY, cheap clothes and make up.
125. Wiser Girls 1 | wisergirls1.blogspot.com
Christian girl and Army wife. I love makeup. Self MUA. Blogger ,Couponing Girl and Mom to be from PR.
126. Chantel Da Costa | chanteldacosta1987.tumblr.com
The stories of Chantel Da Costa.
127. 876 Lover | 876lover.com
The life of a Jamaican girl.
128. Peg City Lovely | pegcitylovely.com
Lifestyle and blogger mom.
129. OK Dani | www.OKDani.com
Fit mom creating a kick ass life.
130. A Life In The Day of Andrea | alifeinthedayofandrea.com
Freelance writer & blogger. Brooklyn girl. Belizean roots.
131. Everything ENJ | everythingenj.com
Visuals on the family that fuels me. Editor at XoNecole.com.
132. Ain’t I Latina? | aintilatina.com
An online destination created by an Afro-Latina for Afro Latinas.
133. Deep Fried Stilettos | deepfriedstilettos.com
Charity is a Caribbean girl, adventure seeker, natural hair enthusiast and lifestyle blogger.
All pictures originally taken by each individual blogger and their respected sites.