The Black American film canon is an often untapped resource that many people, even the most ardent of film fans aren’t familiar with. That’s why film programmer and writer Maya Cade launched The Black Film Archive last year.
The Black Film Archive is a personal passion project of Cade’s dedicated to cataloging decades of Black American film histories from as early as the 1910s with the mission to share it with the masses. What began as a Black History Month Twitter thread she wrote for the Criterion Collection turned into a full on archival project.
Sparked by her general love for film and her reaction to the Summer 2020 uprisings against police brutality when people were turning to film to help process their feelings of rage and helplessness, Cade’s archive shows the vastness of Black life documented on screen. Her work has been eagerly embraced and celebrated by the film community, garnering her awards from prestigious institutions: the National Society of Film Critics Film Heritage Award and the New York Film Critics Circle Special Award. xoNecole caught up with Cade about the year she’s had since launching the site and what Black films mean to her.
xoNecole: When you decided to make the archive, did it feel intimidating or were you excited to do it?
Maya Cade: Intimidating – that's an interesting word. I'm a very self-assured person when I have set my sights on something. My only question is: How can I have the support I need to get this done? But as someone who knew that I didn't want to bring this to an institution, I knew I wanted to do this on my own, support really meant talking my friends’ ears off about it. It meant like allowing other film friends to fact-check the site and copy-edit the site for me. You know, those kinds of things that I just knew that I had that support. I knew that I could set out and people could look at it before it launched and be like: “Okay girl, great! Go on and go forth.”
I really am self-assured. I am a person who calculates every possible wrong thing. But I knew that my reasons for doing it, which really are to bring and collate Black film knowledge in one place outweighed any risk that could possibly have been. And my investment of time and energy was just so well worth it from the joy that it has brought people and the joy it's brought myself. I knew when I launched the site that how people reacted to it was outta my hands. I knew that I had done the best thing I possibly could have and that's all I set out to do.
xoNecole: Were you surprised by the reaction it got?
MC: My God, deeply. If I had launched it at 11-ish, by 1:00 PM, I had received 50 emails that were people saying: “Hey can I interview you for this? Are you interested in this thing and that thing?” And I'm just like, wow. And as a person who studies the internet – just as a user and my life before I started working in Black Film Archive full time, I was a social media strategist. So from what I know, there are very few internet-based projects for people who aren't necessarily famous in the way that we think of it. There are very few people who have launched something and it changed the direction of their life. Like, I can name very few of those who didn't have institutional support. So the surprise really comes from me that I was able to garner trust in a community, which is very hard. It's nothing you can buy. But to have people's trust and for them to feel like I'm – or the site is guiding them to where they wanna go with their full knowledge. That's the ultimate surprise, right? Trust is the hardest thing to garner, and for Black people to trust me? I mean, that's the gift.
xoNecole: There's a debate amongst cinephiles and film historians about what is a Black film. Whether it's just a film created by a Black filmmaker, a film with a predominantly Black cast who might have a white filmmaker. What was your thinking when creating the archive?
MC: I think that's a very valid debate. Black film, Black aestheticism in film, there’s an amorphous kind of quality to it. For the archive, I define Black film as any film that has anything significant to say about the Black experience. And to me, that was a central starting point because these films are in conversation with each other.
It's one of the first times that many people will be engaging with a large swath of Black film history in this way. For instance, if I said only films directed by Black people – Nothing But a Man – this essential film from 1964 would be missing. So there's the way Hollywood maneuvers means that what people would even consider a Black film would be excluded [from the Archive]. I think those conversations are something that with this foundation that I've built are able to be had.
Thinking about Black aestheticism between a Black director and a white director, and how they imagine Blackness and how they haven't is on screen often, most obvious to Black people as spectators.
xoNecole: What is something that you've learned in the year since launching the Black Film Archive as a person and as a creator?
MC: This year has really taught me that you cannot take trust for granted. You cannot take community care for granted. And also I've really learned how precious it is to be changing the public dialogue around what Black film is. That's a very precious gift that I have in my hands. I do not want to do wrong by the films, the filmmakers, the actors, and the audience. I think the other thing that I've really come to focus on and I saw this really early on, but it really is quite special to be changing how Black films are seen. To change and transform collective memory around Black film.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Deanna Robinson, a health and wellness advocate and professional based in the Washington D.C. area has been helping Black and brown women reach their fitness goals for more than a decade. And with her brand of self-love and faith, she's redefining just what "fitness" means when it comes to women of all shapes and sizes.
There's definitely a need for women like Robinson, especially since recent research shows that between 47% and 55% of Black consumers' needs "are not being met" in the wellness space, and the U.S. fitness industry hit $32 billion last year and that it's important for Black women to see themselves prominently in the space.
As a health and wellness programming expert, licensed nutritionist, mom, wife, and former all-women's gym owner, Robinson has built up a body of experience that has culminated into doing something she loves via the FabBody Retreat, an experience for women ages 30-60 to be enriched via group activities, good food, and connection in the backdrop of tropical peace and tranquility.
This year's retreat was held in Grenada, with special guest and TV host icon Free Marie (BET's 106 & Park). Next year's event will be held in St. Maarten with plenty of opportunities to enjoy beach vibes, authentic and healthy dishes, and all the pleasures of being among other fabulous Black women seeking holistic wellness in paradise.
"My God-given purpose is to help serve, connect, and heal Black and Brown women," she said, taking her experiences serving corporate and individual clients via projects like the NFL's "Fuel Up To Play 60" initiative and the Nike Training Club live experience, to do just that.
xoNecole caught up with her to talk about why she chose the fitness industry, her success in launching and running the FabBody Factory, and how she's pivoted to use her skills to build impact on a larger scale in health and wellness.
xoNecole: What sparked your interest in a career in health and wellness?
Deanna Robinson: I have always been involved in sports, always been active in cheerleading, dance, [and] gymnastics. In my college career, I was a competitive cheerleader at the University of Maryland, College Park, and I've just always been passionate about physical activity, health, and fitness. I double-majored in kinesiology and public and community health, and it's always been a passion for me about others being well.
Out of college, I wanted to be a personal trainer, and I interviewed at a big-chain gym. I was really excited about getting this job, but when I had the interview, they informed me of what the split was—what the client paid, what I'd get as a personal trainer, and what the gym got. And I just thought it was a ridiculous split. I've always been into entrepreneurship as well, and doing things on my own terms, so I actually opened up my own gym in the community I grew up in called the FabBody Factory, an all-female gym in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
I was able to hire several trainers, offer group classes and personal training, and one of the things I was always a big proponent of is making sure that they got a better cut than they would get at larger chains.
xoN: Talk a bit more about that in terms of starting a gym, especially one that caters to women. What was the process and motivation?
DR: I have worked out in big-box gyms before and just never felt comfortable. It was always really uncomfortable working out in a huge gym where men would be gawking at you or try to get your number when you're trying to focus on yourself in that moment. So I always wanted the FabBody Factory would be a safe haven where we didn't have to worry about our titties flopping when we're doing jumping jacks, it was just for us by us, and we could just [be] comfortable making ourselves a priority.
I was almost talked out of doing something like that because people would say, "You're cutting off half of your potential clientele," but I never had an issue. Women flocked to the gym, and I'd sometimes have to split classes. I might have to do part one of a class at one time and a second another time. It was majorly successful. Ladies loved it. And on top of this being all-women, it was all Black and brown women.
Culturally, we get each other, so it was a big social thing for us, too. We were able to fellowship with each other and get fit at the same time.
xoN: Your brand includes the concept of a 'Fab Body.' What does that mean for you---and just wellness---in general, for Black and brown women?
DR: FabBody in itself is not a look at all. It's more of a mindset and a willingness to invest in your mental, spiritual, and physical self. In promoting the FabBody Retreat, I actually had someone DM me and ask me, "Do you have to have a 'Fab Body' to come on the retreat?" and my response to her was that you do have a 'Fab Body.' Everyone has a Fab Body. It's more of a state of being—a sound, healthy mind, body, and spirit. It's not about aesthetics at all but about overall improvement.
xoN: You decided to pivot from owning a gym, which you ran successfully for more than a decade, to your current role in health and wellness programming and launching the FabBody Retreat. How did this come about?
DR: My gym closed last year, and the reason was because of where I saw myself going and where I wanted to be in the next 10 years. A lot of my time at the gym was selling and getting people to register for classes, and it wasn't as lucrative and fulfilling for me as it had been in the beginning.
Now I'm doing more consulting work with larger companies. One of my passions is programming, and that is where I see my future going. I'm moving more toward passive income, coming from my being able to use the knowledge I have from years in this industry and putting together programming that can reach the masses versus individuals.
xoN: What can people expect from the FabBody Retreat next year, and how does this venture continue your love for advocating for health and wellness among Black and brown women?
DR: One of the things that really sets this event apart from so many other retreats is that I have married everything that is important to me: wellness, my faith, and my community. God is a huge part of all of the events we do, and all are interwoven with faith-filled, intentional activities, and I think that's what makes it different. On Sunday, we do a service on the beach, and we always have a guest speaker—someone you can relate to where you don't feel like you're being preached to. It's an awesome experience, unlike any retreat I've seen.
It's definitely rooted in faith, but at the same time, there's a balance. We'll get on a boat and have a cocktail with an umbrella in it, and then we'll go back to wellness. There's a healthy balance.
Find out more about Deanna Robinson via Instagram @deannarobinsonfit and more on the FabBody Retreat via the website.
Featured image courtesy