As a Black child growing up in America, Blackness can look like many different perspectives based on different locations. Oftentimes, cultural conversations are had in separate rooms with only one culture in the room – making it very easy to see Blackness subconsciously as a monolith. I'm from Brooklyn, NYC, the home of the second-largest Afro-Caribbean migrated community in America, second to Florida, according to the Migration Information Source. So as a child, the first massively Black population I was exposed to was the Afro-Caribbean community.
Then, I moved during the middle of middle school to a predominantly white neighborhood in P.A., and it was a complete culture shock. I immediately felt out of place and missing referencing Caribbean cultural topics with my friends back home. In high school, my family moved to a mixed neighborhood, and it exposed me to other types of Blackness, Afro-Latinas, Black Americans, Africans, etc. It wasn't until after college that I thought to myself, wow, I really only know one Black community in-depth, and that's the Afro-Caribbean culture because of how I was raised and moving back to Brooklyn, and it's still my main friend group.
Looking back to what I learned in my history classes, there was very little information given regarding Black history, that's only taught about 8-9% of the school year. So, 1) we're robbed about learning about majority Black American pioneers; and 2) Black immigrants' stories are often misrepresented from Black media and literature, which leaves our learning about each other through who we grew up around, self-educating ourselves, and traveling, which is another luxury in itself.
For way too long, we have been learning about every aspect of whiteness, from Italian, French, British, Germans, etc., and they are all allowed to take up space and be celebrated as separate white cultures globally. But when it comes to Blackness, we're often looked at as homogeneous and robbed the access to all those resources and tend to go off of stereotypes of each other or comparing struggles of each other's journey.
So let's be open to healing from these stereotypes and learn about our actual cultural journeys. Take a look at some of the resources below to be more informed about the collective Black women experience through the lens of various Black cultures like Black American, African, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinas, Bi-racial black women, and transracial Black women experiences.
How To Learn More About The Afro-Caribbean Experience In America
The Afro-Caribbean community in America started increasing in the 1960s throughout the country. Many immigrants moved here thinking the "American dream" is accessible to everyone, when in reality, it's just a scam. Back in the 60s- 90s, it wasn't cool to be from the Caribbean; they were often told to go back on their banana boats to their countries because, in Black Americans' eyes, they were robbing their opportunities, but that was never their goal. They fled from their home countries that didn't face many racist issues but faced classism and economic issues.
Unfortunately, many people weren't educated enough regarding how the Black American community was treated at the time; Afro-Caribbeans heard stories of how intense segregation and Jim Crow Laws were, but hearing about it and living it are two different experiences. Like many immigrant communities, they tend to flee from their countries to spaces that many other people from their communities are, so some of the biggest Caribbean communities in the States are in Florida, NYC, and Atlanta, but they are also sprinkled throughout the nation as well.
Some books to read to familiarize yourself with the Afro-Caribbean experience in America are Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream by Christina M. Greer and Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realitiesby Mary C. Waters. You can also check out a phenomenal documentary series called Small Axe, directed by Steve McQueen, based on the initial migrating Afro-Caribbean community in the U.K. called "Windrush generation."
How To Learn More About The Black American Experience In America
You would think learning about the Black American experience is easy because they are the dominant Black community in America. However, we live in a timeframe where Black culture is celebrated more than Black history. And often, Black history is ostracized from American history, so it's harder to access it if you aren't self-learning.
The community that deserves the most flowers for paving the way for all Black people in America is Black Americans – for all the doors they've opened thus far.
I think it's essential to read some older books based on the Black American experience from the past few decades prior to be more effective with combating issues in the present. Frequently, patterns of oppression repeat themselves but through new ways in a different generation.
Some of my recommendations for every Black person to read is The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written by Malcolm X, and Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by Bell Hooks, which is an informative read about the history of Black feminism in America. There are countless recommendations regarding the modern-day Black experience, likeBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The New Jim Crowby Michelle Alexander. The latter thoroughly explains today's modern-day slavery in the nation's mass incarnation system that disproportionally targets Black men.
How To Learn More About The Afro-Latina Experience In America
The Afro-Latina experience feels like such a new age sub-culture of Blackness because for so long, I just heard several Latinas say they were just 'Latina' as if it's a race, or they would say they are Black, but they just speak Spanish based on where they come from. But the truth is, Afro-Latinos collectively have existed for generations. According to Pew Research Center, "for a long time, several Latin countries didn't collect official statistics on ethnicity or race, especially from populations with African origins." It was only within the last few years it's been recorded because of the high demand of minority groups requesting it. This means that many people aren't fully aware of their racial background from those countries.
Afro-Latinas, like Haitians, have another layer of an intersectional Black experience in America because their first language is Spanish, French, or Portuguese. Anyone coming from Hispanic countries, inclusive of the Caribbean, Central America, South America, that comes from African descent are Afro-Latinos. Their race is Black, and their ethnicity is Latinx.
An educational documentary series I watched recently called Black in Latin Americaopened my eyes to the lineage and discrimination of Afro-Latino communities in Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Brazil. And a great read to get acquainted with to learn more about the Afro-Latina experience in America is The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United Statesby Miriam Jiménez Román.
How To Learn More About The African Woman Experience In America
African women are a unique group of Blackness because they aren't included in the Black diaspora because they come from the motherland. So to all my African-American sistas, you aren't the only ones that don't know where you come from. Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Latinas also don't know our full roots because we were brought to these western countries based on colonization and slavery.
Don't let our new flags, foods, and cultures fool you; we have always been digging to learn about our African roots too.
They also come from predominantly Black countries that are more fixated on classism and don't deal with as many racist issues as Afro-Caribbean countries. Africans have another intersectional Black experience to deal with in America; many of them speak languages other than English as their native language, like Igbo, Hausa, Oromo, Yoruba, Portuguese, Francophone Africa, etc. An enlightening read to start with is Voices of African Immigrants of Kentucky: Migration, Identity, and Transnationilty by Francis Musoni, Iddah Otieno, and Angene Wilson.
How To Learn The Black Bi-Racial Woman Experience In America
Being a Black Bi-Racial woman in America is a subjective experience based on how you were raised, if both partners were in your life, and what race you look more like. Black bi-racial women are perceived and treated very differently in society based on how dark or light their complexion is, as well as what their hair and facial features like. What could be perceived as two people from different backgrounds in a loving relationship and having a child in the world brings forth a range of conflicting issues to deal with once this child is born.
Most individuals in the world aren't mixed, and they often want their child to choose their race more than their partner's race. I've been there myself because I'm a bi-racial Black woman, that has always identified as more Black based on how I was raised, the parent I was closest to, and what I look like more. But my experience isn't apples to apples with other bi-racial black women that may look less Black or identifies more with her non-Black side.
Then, there is the you're never Black enough to lead the protest, or you can't speak to the Black women experience because you're not "fully" black conversation. And there is a long list of bothersome fetishes as if we chose our racial ethnicities or our existence is some hip trend. Overall most bi-racial people never feel like they truly fit, and we're interrogated of whether or not we are being Black enough or enough of our other race. An informative read exploring the Black bi-racial journey isHalf and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural by Claudine Chiawei O'Hearn. You can also check out this documentary called Armor: Biracial in the Deep Douth directed by Sarah Gambles.
How To Learn More About The Transracial Adopted Black Woman Experience
Transracial adopted Black women are Black women that are adopted by non-Black families. This experience isn't often spoken of in-depth, and it was brought to my attention when I listened to an episode on the Therapy for Black Girls podcast where Dr. Joy Bradford interviewed Judith Sadora about the transracial adoption process. People often see adoption as something to be grateful for, but it's more responsibility to adopt a child outside of your race. It becomes the adopted parents' responsibility to teach and provide resources for their children based on how the world sees them and is going to treat them.
However, many people aren't aware of the additional responsibility and just raise them as their race. And because of that, transracial adoptees often grow up with a lot of identity issues, having no biological parents to reference for things that speak to their direct racial issues.
Some good resources to inform yourself about this particular journey are tuning into the bonus episode of Therapy for Black Girls podcast interviewing transracial adoptee Angela Tucker. You can also tune into her podcast, the Adoptee Next Door Podcast. Also, one of my favorite shows currently streaming on Hulu, called This is Us, is a heartfelt show that features a transracial Black man growing up searching to connect with his Blackness all throughout his life.
There is so much power with learning our stories! It's an unfortunate reality that the world is currently complacent with obsessing over Black culture rather than they are about learning about all the beautiful layers of the Black lineage. The more we are open to learning about each other's specific journeys allows space for less criticizing and the more empathy that we can extend to each other. No more crabs in a bucket lifestyle; we need to change the narrative because it's always gone against us with every other culture working together to help each other, not hold each other back. We all have unique qualities to contribute to the collective Black lens.
As brother Malcolm would say, "Without education, you're not going anywhere in this world." Without learning about each other, it limits our collective growth when staying in segregated cultural Black communities, so be the pan-Africanist you want to see in the world.
Featured image by Getty Images
Ajeé Buggam is a content writer and fashion designer from New York City and an alumna from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She specializes in writing about race, social injustice, relationships, feminism, entrepreneurship, and mental wellness. Check out her recent work at Notes To Self
Nazanin Mandi is never out of options.
About a year ago, the 37-year-old life coach and actress was navigating life after divorce and determined to experience homeownership for the first time as a single woman. She’d been married to the R&B singer Miguel for three years, following a long-term relationship that started when she was 18 years old. But, in 2022, she filed for divorce. It was certainly the most public change she made but, in reality, it was just one of many decisions to refocus and reach her full potential in recent years.
“During my 20s, I was not ready for more. I was living a really crazy life. It was unpredictable. I was helping somebody else grow. It was a lot, and it was intense. I was not pouring into myself the way I should’ve been,” she says in an xoNecole exclusive.
Still, as Mandi worked to get to know herself and her needs during this new phase of life, she realized the home she’d purchased wasn’t a good fit. Overwhelmed by the echoing of her voice in the spacious home, she had a breakdown and called her cousin, who immediately suggested she lease the home and live somewhere else. “I woke up in my house, and I was like, ‘This is not it for me,” she says. “All those years, I had been accustomed to living a certain way [and] in a certain house, so I bought myself a house like [my old home]. But my family was not the same. Waking up in that house by myself, it highlighted the divorce. I was like, ‘Oh, no, we can’t do this. This is not it.’ My life has changed, so my choices need to change.” At that moment, Mandi became open to the idea that there wasn’t one set way to achieve ownership on her own.
“I feel so much better. I’m in a smaller place. My best friend lives a minute from me and I can walk to her house,” she tells me during a Zoom interview from her home one recent afternoon in early February. In the past two years, she hasn’t just been advising other people on varying circumstances, she’s also been healing herself.
"During my 20s, I was not ready for more. I was living a really crazy life. It was unpredictable. I was helping somebody else grow. It was a lot, and it was intense. I was not pouring into myself the way I should’ve been."
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
If supporters began following Nazanin Mandi because of her conventional beauty or the contagious, bright, white smile she often wears in many of her photos, that’s likely not the reason they’ve stuck around. Instead, she’s amassed a following based on her transparency about her own anxiety and depression, along with the encouraging messages of self-acceptance, gratitude, ambition, and humility that are often sprinkled into her social media posts.
In an era where looking at Instagram photos of models can often lead to feelings of self-doubt and insecurity, Nazanin Mandi is determined to be more than eye candy. She’s food for her follower’s souls, too.
Since being recruited to model while dining at an In-N-Out at 10 years old, Mandi has worked in many areas of entertainment. The Valencia, California native has modeled for brands such as Olay, Savage X Fenty, and Good American. As a teen, she sang at Carnegie Hall and auditioned for season 1 of American Idol, making it all the way to Hollywood before producers disqualified her for lying about her age. (Mandi was 15 at the time, and contestants had to be at least 16 years old.) Mandi has acted, too, including appearing on Disney’s That’s So Raven as a teenager and on the BET+ series Games People Play and the Prime series Á La Carte in more recent years.
In recent years, though, she’s also expanded her professional goals outside of entertainment, too. After becoming a certified life coach in 2020, Mandi launched the membership platform You Bloome in 2022 with the hopes of providing wellness services to others, including her self-published gratitude journal. “I wish I had access to something like You Bloome earlier in my own life,” she writes on the company’s website. The actress, who has been forthcoming about her struggles with anxiety and depression, has never had a life coach, but credits therapy as a tool that “really, really saved me and it laid the foundation to who I am becoming.”
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
"I’m trying to find the balance between living life and knowing that whatever is meant for me is going to happen, but also know that I’m doing everything in my power to make those things happen and better myself."
While she’s always had a nurturing personality, Mandi says her interest in becoming a life coach was inspired by the women who would message her for advice on social media. “I would answer them back. It really sparked a fire within myself to help people,” she says.
You Bloome currently has three membership tiers, ranging in price from $2.99 to $39.99 per month. The highest tier offers a motivational text message twice a week, two live, group coaching sessions per month, and more. “We get emotional. We cry. We laugh. It’s really beautiful. I’ve built close relationships with my members through this. It’s been inspiring both ways,” Mandi says of the sessions. Still, the founder says she hopes to take on more motivational and keynote speaking opportunities in the future with the hopes of impacting as many people as possible.
And, she’s hoping to do all of this while continuing to explore a career as an entertainer.
At this point in her life, Mandi says she’s gained enough perspective on modeling, music, and acting to realize what she wants to prioritize moving forward. “We are going full force with acting,” she says, noting her goal is “to book a series regular or a film that impacts my career and the world.” She plans to continue to model, too, but has no desire to pursue music.
“I don’t want any part of that because I know what that life entails,” she says. “I don’t want to tour. I don’t want to do any of that. That is not where my heart is at.”
Credit: Solmaz Saberi
If you ask Mandi, she’ll tell you she feels most comfortable in front of a camera, but she’ll also admit that she’s recently experienced a lot of imposter syndrome when thinking about her acting career. “I think it’s a fear of not succeeding,” she says. If anything, she adds, she’s harder on herself now than she’s ever been. “There were distractions before. There’s no distractions now,” she says. “I’m putting pressure on myself for no reason.”
This is where the life coach’s own personal healing comes into play. Mandi says she’s learning recently that “slow progress is still big progress at the end of the day.”
“Currently, I’m trying to find the balance between living life and knowing that whatever is meant for me is going to happen, but also know that I’m doing everything in my power to make those things happen and better myself,” she adds.
Still, one of Mandi’s strengths is that she doesn’t feel the pressure to limit herself to just one passion. From working as a life coach to pursuing acting, she has given herself grace to explore all other dreams.
“We can be allowed to be many different things in this lifetime,” she says. “As people, our identities are allowed to expand. Don’t put us in a fucking box. I cannot live that way anymore.”
For more of Nazanin, follow her on Instagram @nazaninmandi.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Solmaz Saberi
It's no secret that the dating scene is different from our parents' generation, so as a hopeful romantic, many parts of me feel like I was born in the wrong lifetime. My mother often says that she feels like my husband will be a bit older than me; perhaps that was her way of telling me that she hopes I find someone more mature. But these days, between the countless podcasts debating gender roles and discussions online of who brings what to the table, finding your person can feel hopeless.
Still, people are finding love every day, so how can we go from being amongst the brokenhearted and nonbelievers? How can we get to the meat of what our needs truly are to find the love we've been searching for? Beverley Andre, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist says that the key is getting out of your own way.
Q: How can we get in our own way when it comes to relationships?
A: We get in our own way in relationships by having rigid expectations that make it difficult or impossible for someone to meet. I know this is a hot topic regarding having and maintaining standards, but there’s a fine line between reasonable expectations and creating a barrier that is nearly impossible to break through.
You have to assess the standards and see if they are genuinely in protection of you and maintain the standard of how you want to be treated, or are the standards fueled by fear and what you're really trying to do is avoid feeling hurt and disappointed, so you create this cycle where you set impossible standards that no one can meet, therefore limiting the possibility of close intimate relationships, leaving you feeling lonely and frustrated.
Q: In this dating age and era, how can we determine what our needs are versus our wants?
A: Your needs are tied to the core values and belief systems, while the wants are personality and lifestyle considerations, so I recommend creating a list of both. Identify your core values early on because those are your principles and qualities that matter most to you in a relationship. Those values are fundamental to your overall well-being. For example, do you want to be with someone who wants children, has integrity, and aligns on finances? Your values should be your deal-breakers that weed out people who are not in alignment.
For wants, think of physical, personality, and lifestyle traits that aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, aren’t tied to someone’s core traits, and don’t compromise your mental wellness. For instance, enjoying 100% of the same interests, specific physical attributes, and shared cultural background. As an extra measure, I recommend discussing your needs and wants with a trusted inner circle and getting their feedback. An inner circle should give you fair feedback instead of just agreeing with it because they’re within the inner circle.
"Your needs are tied to the core values and belief systems, while the wants are personality and lifestyle considerations."
Q: Are there fundamental needs that everyone should have or has on some level in romantic partnerships?
A: Yes, to be seen and heard. No one wants to be in a romantic partnership where they feel invisible, and their needs are met with consistent resistance just because it’s different from their partner. One of the core issues I see with couples is their inability to make space for their partner’s voice and influence. They find it difficult to see the value in what their partner is saying, especially if it contradicts their thoughts and opinions. Therefore, they register it as not being good enough and lacking merit and then get into a cycle where they inadvertently want their partner to change their minds and prove to them why they have a point.
Q: What are different examples of needs that everyone has?
Q: How can we get to the meat of what our needs are so we can in turn get better at communicating what our needs are from an empowered place versus a disempowered one?
A: Identify your unmet childhood needs and heal them. I often see people trying to heal these wounds in relationships with people who aren’t responsible for creating them or fixing them. You can communicate your needs from an empowered and healthy place if you’re not starving. Getting to the meat of your needs will require self-exploration, curiosity, and patience to understand why the need is even a need.
"Identify your unmet childhood needs and heal them. You can communicate your needs from an empowered and healthy place if you’re not starving."
Q: What do you find your clients who are succeeding in relationships have done differently in explaining their needs to their partner?
A: They have done the self-work and healing to know their needs through individual and/or couple’s therapy. Most of the clients I’ve worked with never had the space to develop their thoughts around their needs. They’ve adopted their needs based on what they’ve seen in their personal lives from family growing up, movies, and now social media. Until you have a healthy relationship with yourself, where you’ve identified your needs and are meeting them, it isn’t easy to have that with someone else. You can’t communicate and give what you don’t know and have.
Featured image by Maskot/Getty Images