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What Self-Care Looks Like To Black Girl Beautiful Founder Nikia Phoenix

"My heart makes me feel beautiful. It leads everything that I do."

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

If nothing else, Nikia Phoenix is proof that there is undeniable power and wherewithal in a name. Symbolically, a phoenix is flamed bird that represents renewal and rising above challenges to succeed and be powerful. As a multifaceted woman, the Atlanta-based creative has made waves in a bevy of industries: as a model, a writer, a managing editor, an influencer and anything else that she sets her mind to accomplish. "No one can put me in a box. I am stepping into my stride and becoming the person I always knew I could be. A title or occupation does not define or limit me," she told xoNecole. "What I am doing now in this moment is part of the evolution."

And the evolution encompasses what she's doing now, which is being a light in the efforts to propel black female empowerment with initiatives like her movement Black Girl Beautiful. Black Girl Beautiful began as a beauty and shopping event for women of color by women of color after Nikia realized the needs of black women weren't being met. "We were and still are spending all this money on beauty products yet not enough brands were catering to us," she explained. "I figured it was time to educate us, empower us, and mobilize."

With the much-needed mantra of "Hey black girl, you're beautiful," the initiative has since bloomed into a safe collaborative space for black women and all women of color. "I want BGB to ignite the flame in other women so we can set this world on fire. I truly believe in the power of black womanhood," Nikia concluded.

In this installment of Finding Balance, we talk to Nikia about affirmations, a typical day in the life, and ultimately how she finds balance.

Why do you think it’s important that we hear, “Hey black girl, you’re beautiful”? What are some of your favorite affirmations?

Nikia Phoenix

Photography By: Vanessa Hamb

It's critical that we hear and see this simple affirmation "Hey black girl, you're beautiful" or "Hey brown girl, you're beautiful" because all of us still have yet to completely believe it. We've gotten so used to the world tearing us down and the lies that we can be so self-deprecating. In order to combat this negativity, we have to tell ourselves that we are loved, we live in abundance, and that we are worth it.

And what makes you feel beautiful? 

My heart makes me feel beautiful. It leads everything that I do. It allows me to come from a place of love and deep intention. My heart allows me to see the beauty in everything.

You recently unveiled a Brown Girl Beautiful mural in Atlanta, how did that idea come to you to create this mural?

Atlanta is a city full of black people. We are the majority, however there have been very few murals specifically dedicated to uplifting women of color. I'm an agent of change and knew I needed to fix this. I knew what the message would be. I knew the artist, Faatimah Stevens, who could help me create it. What I didn't know is how it would actually come to fruition... In steps Pledge World, who said they wanted to help me fulfill this dream.

I think of the mural as my love letter to brown women. In bold print alongside a beautiful sketch of my friend Mary Akpa donning a crown, the mural says "Hey Brown Girl You're Beautiful." Talk about powerful! The colors, the imagery, the words literally stop people in their tracks. Brown girls are able to see themselves reflected in this piece of art. The message affirms what I know to be true of us and I hope every black and brown girl feels this love.

What does the average day or week look like for you? 

Every day is a bit different. Every week is a bit different. I am always working on a project from conception to completion. With everything I do, I'm very hands-on. But inspiration has to come from somewhere, so I make time to live. Maybe one week, I'm traveling. Maybe I'm ideating for the next adventure. I breathe creativity.

What are your mornings like? How do you wind down at night?

Photography By: Vanessa Hamb

Mornings are my favorite time of day. I ease into it. I wake up with prayer and meditation then make my way into my daily affirmations. I love, love creating peace to start my day. At night, I wind down by lighting candles or incense and meditating. With all is hectic in this world, I have to bookend my day with love.

What do you find to be the most hectic part of your week? 

The most hectic part of my week depends on what I'm working on. I do my best not to have a Case of the Mondays. Starting my week in a frenzy is not the business. Other than that, if there is a hectic time of the week, it's most likely Thursday afternoon, because I know I'm trying to complete all my tasks before the weekend.

Do you practice any types of self-care?

Photography By: Vanessa Hamb

Self-care for me is daily. It's saying affirmations. It's unplugging from technology. It's spending quality time with people I love without talking business. At night, I love turning down the lights, lighting a candle, and dancing in my bedroom. This allows my soul to be free. Simply put, self-care is literally me loving on me.

What are some products and rituals you swear by in the name of self-care? 

Washing my hair on the weekends is also self-care for me. While my hair is deep conditioning with SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil hair masque, I'll put on one of those Korean sheet masks from The Face Shop and chill out. I'm also obsessed with rosewater face mist and my jade roller. Talk about an instant face massage to lift my spirits.

How do you find balance with:

Photography By: Vanessa Hamb

Love/Marriage?

When I love, I love hard. I give it my all or nothing. I guess that is my balance. I do know that love fuels me. It's essential to my being.

Friends?

It's about making the conscious effort to be present. Any relationship, whether that's romantic or platonic, needs to come from a place of respect and not obligation. I feed into what feeds into and nourishes me.

Exercise/Health? Do you ever detox?

A year or so ago, I began practicing kundalini yoga, and it's become my saving grace. It helps me release the frustration and work through difficulties by pushing my body and realigning my spirit.

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it? 

I have to give myself the space to work through the feelings fully. That may mean hanging upside and screaming my head off or whatever I need to do to relieve the tension in a healthy way. I'll talk out the problem. I'll meditate. Then I come up with a solution. The trick is not to dwell in the hole. Dig your way out.

What does success mean to you?

Photography By: Vanessa Hamb

My intention is to evoke feeling... to evoke love. At this point, I get so much joy from watching a complete stranger being moved by my work. If what I create encourages and lifts someone else up, that's my goal. Success means feeling like I am living on purpose and being fulfilled.

Ultimately, how do you find balance? 

I laugh. I cry. I do both at the same time. And most importantly, I LOVE. Love brings balance.

For more of Nikia Phoenix, follow her on Instagram. And check out previous installments of xoNecole's Finding Balance here.

Featured image by Vanessa Hamb, courtesy of Nikia Phoenix

Originally published March 31, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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