Black Entrepreneur Spotlight: Tammy Williams, MSW Founder & Owner of Imena Salon

Imena38Tammy Williams, MSW is the Founder & Owner of Imena Salon in East Harlem. Trained in Social Work & Cosmetology Tammy and her staff  provide holistic haircare to their clients. Imena Salon specializes in natural hair but the staff can do a variety of styles for all textures of hair. Other Imena services include eyebrow shaping, make-up, workshops and events.

While studying at Hunter School of Social Work Tammy researched hair, mental health and Black women, the result of this research is the documentary Beautiful which she produced and directed.

Listen to the interview below for Tammy’s words of wisdom on building a business, natural hair, beauty and mental health. For more information visit: http://www.imenainc.com.

“As a business owner you have to have faith.”-Tammy Williams

 

 

 

A Great Blessing & A Great Responsibility: Sojourners Emerging Voices Project!

I am humbled and blessed to be apart of Sojourners Emerging Voices Project which is a  initiative that aims to raise the voices of new leaders for faithful justice. I found out about this in the spring but the project was officially launched yesterday. God is hilarious because a few years ago I  complained to friends and God about the lack of women and people of color speaking, leading and writing in the faith-based social justice world. Often when we complain about something that needs to get done God will point back at you and say “why don’t you do it?” In 2007 I was discouraged about the lack of concern for justice I observed in the church, had recently left a really bad church situation and was praying and crying about the gap between my reality and the church. During that time after a fast I learned about Sojourners from a email to Union students inviting us to apply for a scholarship to the Pentecost 2007 Conference (which I thought was a Black Pentecostal Social Justice Conference, one of my girlfriends even thought I was going to meet somebody there, LOL). I attended the conference and found a community of Christians striving for justice nationally but more importantly in NYC. At the conference I met Lisa Sharon Harper (a fellow Emerging Voices member), Rev. Peter Heltzel and Anna Lee Winans all founders of NY Faith & Justice. I returned home fired up to organize people of faith for social justice. A year later I was able to intern at Sojourners as a Beatitudes Society Fellow and began writing for the magazine and blog. I never expected to have these opportunities but God does hear our spoken and unspoken prayers. Those who know me know that I come from very humble circumstances and I was not raised in church, all I have to qualify me for this work is God’s grace and the words of my testimony.

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Proud Black Mary

The Black Madonna can be found thoughout the world especially in Europe, but also in India, America and of course Africa. The Black Madonna represents motherhood, Mother Earth, Life, Death and Lady Wisdom(referred to in the Biblical book of Proverbs). The Black Madonna’s lap represents nurturing which is why many of her depictions show Jesus on her lap. Furthermore, she is a mother to the oppressed, marginalized and the poor which is best shown in the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Sadly many of these Black Momas were buried, hidden in the basements of churches and cathedrals or even “whitened”- ironically when they were whitened many European Christians would demand that she be painted black again. Some say Black Madonnas were blackened by candles burning nearby but some religious scholars attribute this theory to racism. There is proof that many Black Madonnas were created to be Black, but as the transatlantic slave trade picked up the Black Madonna was made in a white image so that European Christians could enslave, rape and dehumanize the Black woman without guilt. Today an interest in the Black Madonna has reemerged and my hope is that this will inspire Black women to look to the Black Madonna as a divine mirror reflecting the dignity, natural beauty, wisdom, love and power that we should display as Black women.

For more information on the Black Madonna read:

Return of the Black Madonna by Rev. Matthew Fox, Ph. D

Interfaith Marian Pilgrimages- The Black Madonna

The Magnificat or Song of Mary Luke 1: 46-55

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Show-Up! Show Out! A Celebration of Natural Hair!

I am currently in Saas Fee,Switzerland doing a short term Philosophy & Media program and today we looked at the work of the German Philosopher Theodor W. Adorno who speaks of “Natural Beauty” vs. “Artistic Beauty” and this reminded me of the agony many Black women have over their natural beauty. Adorno was speaking of nature vs. art and the fact that art tries to capture what is seen in nature but cannot.Many Black women have difficulty accepting their natural beauty which is unfortunate because natural beauty cannot be duplicated. As Black women we possess Mitochondrial DNA and from this DNA all of humanity was born, therefore the Black woman is closest to nature and natural beauty. Sadly, we fear and often resent our natural beauty. As the Bible says “we perish for a lack of knowledge” and as Black women we are not loving ourselves because we lack the knowledge of who we truly are. We attempt to look like everybody else yet we are the prototype of humanity, which does not mean we are better than others but it does mean we are valuable.

On Saturday July 28th I attended a fabulous event: Show Up, Show Out hosted by Imena Salon and I Love My Fro. This event was a night of fun to celebrate women with natural hair and the men who love them. The celebration was held at the fitting Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center in Harlem. As I walked up the stairs of the center I saw a powerful quote about beauty from Malcolm X where he talks about true beauty or what I would call “natural beauty”.

“Love is disposition, behavior,attitude, thoughts,likes, dislikes-these things make a beautiful woman, a beautiful wife. This is the beauty that never fades.”-Malcolm X

The night included a hair show, massages, dancing, vendors, belly dancing and more. I loved seeing so many sisters in their natural beauty, confident in the crowns God gave them. See the pictures below.

   Amen! (I don’t know where the light orb came from)

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Poetry Challenge Day 30: The New Jim Crow

Today is the last day of my 30 Day Poetry Challenge! I can’t believe I am done. Today I am in Cincinnati, Ohio for the Children’s Defense Fund National Conference
which is convening thousands of child advocates, faith leaders, Social Workers, community organizers and activist to build a movement to protect children in our country. This morning at 6:00am young leaders convened outside the convention center for a time of silent reflection on African-Americans, especially young men in the prison system. What many may not know is that the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world and it is overwhelming inhabited Black men. Author Michelle Alexander calls this phenomena the New Jim  because many of these men were led to prison due to economic and racial circumstances. After getting out of prison most ex-offenders lose voting rights and can’t get jobs which means they are basically a separate class. The poem below was inspired by poems I read this morning that were written by young people in prison, their poems touched me and reminded me that I was born and raised in one of the 12 communities in NYC that sends the most people in the state to prison. To read my poetic reflection:

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Black Women and Fibroids; the Silent Epidemic that’s Screaming in our Community Part 3: The Role of Hair and Skincare Products

This blog was first published on Your Black World, written by Onleilove Alston.

Recently, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology linking hair relaxers to fibroids in Black women was released and made its rounds on the internet, shedding light on the role that common habits can play in our health. Many of you may have read reports about the study but if you have not,  here is a summary of the findings: Scientist followed more than 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women from 1997-2009 and found that the high rates of fibroids among black women could be connected to chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns from hair relaxers(Blackdoctor.org).

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Black Women & Fibroids the Silent Epidemic that’s Screaming in our Community Part 2: Foods that can Cause Fibroids

See Part IOn Your Black World
In this second part of the series we will take a look at the role food may play in causing or aggravating fibroids. Just to review fibroids are smooth muscle cells that may grow in your uterus during childbearing years. Though fibroids are not cancer, they are still tumors and are quite common for African-American women. Many women do not realize they have them and though they can shrink after menopause they can hinder the ability to get pregnant. From What Are Fibroids

Some very common foods may contain substances that may lead to and increase growth of uterine fibroids. According to NutritionMD women who eat more than one serving of red meat a day have a 70% higher chance of developing fibroids. If you have fibroids limiting red meat will help you a great deal. The second culprit are foods and beverages that contain Methylxanthines a.k.a. coffees, teas and caffeinated sodas and chocolate that contains some caffeine. Carbs can also play a role in causing fibroids according to Dr. Christiane Northrup, cookies, breads and cakes, can alter the way that estrogen is metabolized and may increase your risk. Additionally, according to Nutrition MD eating a great deal of refined foods may also influence your weight if you do not get enough exercise because as women gain weight, their risk of fibroids increases.

And though must of us love happy hour alcohol can also play a role in causing fibroids because it is metabolized in the liver and may slow down the metabolism of estrogen, which leads to higher estrogen levels in the body, as noted by Tori Hudson, ND in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients Online Magazine. The longer you have been drinking the higher this risk becomes. This may sound like discouraging news, what can you actually eat and will you have to kiss happy hour goodbye? Well the good news is there are healthy alternatives that can also help you deal with current fibroids or better yet prevent them from occurring. More After the Jump

Your Black World Series: Black Women & Fibroids the Silent Epidemic that’s Screaming in our Community

I was elated to be accepted as one of Dr. Boyce Watkins “Your Black World” bloggers a few weeks ago and decided to  do a series of post on Black women and fibroids. Please see my first post below:

Fibroids are more common in African-American women than in women of other racial groups. One study showed that fibroids are three times more common in African-American women than in Caucasian women. Additionally, fibroids tend to be larger and occur at an earlier age in African-Americans.” The Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Project

Instances of fibroids are of epidemic proportions among Black women and yet we are not hearing about this issue in our magazines, television shows or on our blogs. If left untreated or diagnosed too late fibroids can cause heavy and painful menstruation, painful sexual intercourse, urinary frequency, hinder pregnancy and may even lead to a hysterectomy. Black women develop fibroids earlier than their white counterparts and have more sever symptoms. While many feminist groups cry out for reproductive health this issue is ignored, could it be because it affects Black women at disproportionate rates? Like most of America the healthcare system is infected with racism, which means that conditions that affect the Black community are ignored and so like so most issues we have to take matters into our own hands. More After the Jump