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Transparent Black Girl Founder Yasmine Jameelah Is Redefining Wellness For Black Women

"Wellness is a very personal experience. Nobody can tell you how to be well for you, but you."

Black Woman Owned

Black Woman Owned is a limited series highlighting black woman business owners who are change-makers and risk-takers in their respective realms. As founders, these women dare to be bold, have courage in being the change they wish to see in the world, and are unapologetic when it comes to their vision. These black women aren't waiting for a seat, they are owning the table.

In this life, there's work that we choose to pursue and work that chooses us. For Yasmine Jameelah, founder of Transparent Black Girl, this work was brought on by pain, growth, and healing that empowered her to take wellness into her own hands.


It was in the early stages of college that Yasmine experienced this shift. Pulled by the incarceration of her father while experiencing abuse in a relationship and deep depression, her world was flipped upside-down. Although Yasmine didn't have the language to self-declare these hurdles as the catalyst to her wellness journey, there was one thing she knew for certain, "I needed to get my sh*t together and I wanted better for myself," she says.

Photo by Camille Shaw

Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah

Better came wrapped in the form of therapy. She started documenting this journey on her personal blog, Meant to Be Yasmine, where she opened up about her experience in therapy and holistic weight loss with her community. Through this exchange, she noticed a common thread in how her readers would relate to her stories. "They'd always say, 'I love how you're so transparent.' It was just everyone's favorite word to describe me."

Once she noticed this communal response, it became clear that the work Yasmine was pursuing was beckoning her to expand. Soon, she realized that her lone place for healing was in purpose to honor Black women and their journey to become who they were meant to be. "I wanted to do something bigger for more than just myself." Funny how God interprets our plans.

When Yasmine started her digital community, Transparent Black Girl, the small but mighty tribe was made up of 300 followers. At the time, social media was in a shift where positive content was resonating more, and Yasmine took notice. "I just started to post these memes like, 'Me: alkaline water, my flourishing bank account, consistent men, my grandmother's prayers,'" and it caught fire. After a viral post, the platform skyrocketed in its following, and it was at that moment that Yasmine knew she had something special and timely on her hands.

Today, Yasmine is on a mission to empower Black women and men to define their wellness journey on their own terms via a wellness collective called Transparent + Black. The space is unique in that it offers an accessible and equitable ecosystem for Black people to heal. As Yasmine puts it, "With trauma, it's important to address that there's no collective healing unless we address the collective trauma that we all share as a people."

For decades, society has given Black folks molds to fit into in order to belong in certain spaces, but when it comes to mental health and intergenerational healing, Yasmine's purpose is clear, "Wellness is as multi-faceted as we are."

Photo by Camille Shaw

Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah

xoNecole: You’ve mentioned that “you didn’t find wellness, wellness found you.” Take us back to that season. Where was Yasmine when wellness found her?

Yasmine Jameelah: The older I get, the more I realize that, in many ways, wellness was always inside of me. When I turned 18, I hit a really deep depression. My father went to prison, I gained over 100 pounds, and I was extremely depressed. And while most people spend their first few years of college having the time of their life and having all of this fun, I spent the first few years of college isolated. On the weekend when my friends would be going out to clubs, I was visiting my father in jail. While that was happening, I found myself in a really abusive relationship, and to say the least, my life was a hot mess.

What changed everything for me was therapy. I decided that I just wasn't happy anymore and at that point, I didn't really have the language to be like, 'This is a wellness journey.' I just felt like I needed to get my sh*t together and I wanted better for myself. I finally decided that I was going to leave the [abusive] relationship and go to therapy. I found a therapist and that opened up so many doors for me.

Why was it important for you to place an emphasis on transparency, not only for yourself but for the women who make up the Transparent Black Girl collective? 

I'm like a real-life transparent Black girl, so if anything, I think that this space has allowed me to be comfortable in that. Since I was a kid, I always felt like I shared too much, so this has been a space where I have felt power in owning every part of who I am. While I am transparent, the older I've gotten, I have become more selective about who I share with and even how I share. The days of me being a blogger and talking about so much, I don't even share to that magnitude anymore. But there is still so much vulnerability that goes into what I share with our followers and with the women that we meet when we have events in real life.

How have you found power in your transparency?

I just feel like it's given me confirmation that God made me the way that I am for a reason. I used to feel embarrassed about being so transparent. I used to wish I could be like people who were super-selective and who didn't share their feelings and weren't open books. But I think redefining Black wellness and owning who you are is a part of wellness. I went from being really embarrassed about being such a sharer to finding a lot of strength in it. The goal is to remind yourself that being a Transparent Black Girl is to allow yourself not to shrink, own who you are as a woman, embrace your inner child, and know that there's a healer in all of us.

"For one Black woman, [wellness] can be you aligning your chakras and getting into tarot cards. For another, it may be you going to church, driving the boat occasionally, and going swimming—like myself. It's important that we honor all those experiences and not make it seem like one is better than the other."

Photo by Camille Shaw

Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah

The work you do can be heavy at times. How have you been able to find joy while balancing what you do in this space?

Although these conversations can be heavy, there are so many beautiful opportunities that you can find to heal from trauma and there is so much joy that you can experience along the way. I have recently decided that I was going to own traumatic experiences, and while they are painful, there are so many happy moments that can occur because of them. For example, because of my weight fluctuating and having so many years where I did not feel comfortable in my body, I find so much joy in twerking, owning my sexuality, and having fun trying on different clothes. That is a joyful experience for me.

At TBG, we talk about all aspects of wellness and one of those things is Black joy. One day that can look like me going out with my friends to do yoga, but it can also look like driving the boat. So just understanding that this idea that wellness is always this meditative experience, it's just not true, at least not for me. I feel like we often believe that when we have lifestyle changes that everything has to change, and I'm just like nah, I'm always going to have balance. I'm so grateful that our community has also leaned into that too, just understanding that this is not always going to be this super meditative experience all the time and that we're going to have fun and tend to ourselves. That might look like matcha in the morning and D'usse in the evening, and that's totally fine.

In the three years that you’ve been pursuing collective healing through Transparent Black Girl, how have you been able to redefine wellness for yourself?

I think duality is so important. When I first got into the wellness space, I was seeing women that were in the space, and, while they were doing beautiful work, all I saw them posting about was meditation, and I was like, 'I don't know if this speaks to me.' Even in terms of wellness, from the get-go, it's a very white-washed space. Because it is, we don't always feel seen and accepted. It felt like I was diminishing myself just to fit in, and I decided that I was going to have confidence and lean into owning all of the facets of who I am.

Even that was a healing experience within itself: to know that I am just as transparent as I am reserved. I find joy in the fact that I am just as confident as I am unsure about myself. That I am just as brave as I am afraid of things when times change. It's been such a beautiful journey to know that I don't have to filter any parts of my personality or how I show up in the world to receive God's best for me.

Last year was such a tumultuous one, one that served a great purpose, but left a lot of us fatigued socially, politically, and mentally. In that, how has your approach to Transparent Black Girl shifted? 

It taught me two things and that was one, while I was building this space, I was not doing as good of a job taking care of myself in the process. While I thought I was doing a good job taking care of myself, being at home during the pandemic showed me that I really needed to double down on my self-care and be really unapologetic with it. I've been doing my best to pour into me first. It's a journey, but I'm definitely getting more confident in that.

I'd also say that in tandem, while I have learned to take care of myself more, I have also learned how to dream bigger. This last year was really difficult, and I felt at times, as a single woman and spending most of my time within the four walls of my room, I felt really isolated, but I also felt really affirmed. If I made it out of this year and made it out of all of the feelings that I was experiencing, it was for a reason. And once I collected myself, it was OK to dream more and that I could have clarity about what I was building.

"I am just as transparent as I am reserved. I find joy in the fact that I am just as confident as I am unsure about myself—that I am just as brave as I am afraid of things when times change."

Photo by Camille Shaw

Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah

How has swimming played a role in your healing and self-care practices? 

I have loved to swim ever since I was a kid. I started to swim when I was about six or seven years old. My dad was really adamant about me learning to swim and just doing stuff that they said Black people couldn't do. While that was happening, I actually had a cousin the same age as me who drowned and pass away at the Jersey shore. When I got older and started to feel self-conscious about my body, I stopped swimming for a long time. I didn't swim again for over a decade.

When I got to college, I gained weight and was trying to lose it, and I injured my knee, so I had no other choice but to swim. My physical therapist and personal trainer were like, "You should swim." I still had this fear of people judging me because of the trauma that I experienced as a kid. When I started to swim again, I fell in love with it all over again. And I swim now more than I ever have. Not only did it help me lose weight, it became this beautiful experience, like another form of therapy. It's my favorite thing to do for myself. When I'm not swimming, I don't feel like myself.

Your collective, Black + Transparent, looks to address the Black community’s needs to cope with intergenerational trauma. How were you able to tackle this fear in your own journey?

There are so many layers of the trauma that we have but there are three things that, in terms of intergenerational trauma, have kept us at risk of certain things. [One] is access to doulas, as a result of slavery. If you look back in terms of doula work, how Black women are treated in hospitals, and how midwifery is still illegal in certain states, Black women were no longer allowed to practice. Also, so many Black people still don't know how to swim, and in terms of mental health services, we are still at risk more than anyone else.

When it came to deciding what I wanted to build, looking at all three of those experiences, those are three things that we are still suffering from. So I wanted to make sure that in building a wellness space for Black people that it was rooted in the real work that we desired to address. Also, [it was important to] collaborate with intergenerational trauma therapists who are open to working with families and making sure that we're able to be just as transparent with our families as we are with ourselves and our own personal wellness journeys.

"Wellness is a very personal experience. Nobody can tell you how to be well for you, but you."

Photo by Camille Shaw

Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah

What would you say to someone who is looking to create their own space of healing, whether through a collective or even therapy, but might be a little hesitant to start?

First, you need to know that you are worthy, even if you are in the lowest place in your life right now. I truly believe that I knew that I deserved wellness when I was deep into depression and contemplating suicide because I knew that I deserved better. That in itself is an act of wellness: knowing that you deserve better than your current circumstance. I would say that you're already on the journey if you know that whatever bottom you're in right now, you know that's not meant for you. Also, be patient with yourself. Know that while there are so many wonderful resources we can use, wellness is a very personal experience. Nobody can tell you how to be well for you, but you.

Join the Transparent Black Girl community by clicking here, and keep up with Yasmine Jameelah on Instagram.

Featured image by Camille Shaw

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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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