Aiesha Turman

Aiesha Turman

Educator, writer, storyteller, filmmaker, artist, activist, mentor, mom — Aiesha Turman is a force to be reckoned with. Tired of not seeing positive images of black women and girls in the media, Turman decided to take matters into her own hands. She founded Super Hussy Media and The Black Girl Project.

Transcripts

Sandi: Welcome to another addition of The 51%, Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein. Meet Aiesha Turman, yet another woman with many titles after her name; educator, writer, storyteller, filmmaker, artist, activist, mentor, mom, and they’re all interconnected. There’s plenty to talk about when it comes to Ms. Turman who happens to be an educator at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, which by the way, is the world’s first children’s museum, it opened in December of 1899. Tired of not seeing positive images of black women and girls in the media, Turman decided to take matters into her own hands. Six years ago, with little film experience, she made the documentary The Black Girl Project. Its goal, in her words, to have black girls speak their truths. What started as a film grew into a movement. Actually, a non-profit organization that uses the film identity, obstacles, goals, family, stereotypes to help build critical thinking, inspire dialog and empower these girls and women. The Black Girl Project happens to be an extension of Super Hussy Media, the company Turman founded. Which explores what it is to be black and female. Super Hussy’s goal is frank dialog surrounding the issues of race, class, gender, spirituality and sexual orientation and the roles they play in the lives of black women and girls. Lots to talk about, so let’s not waste any more time and welcome Aiesha. Hi.

Aiesha: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

Sandi: Well, first things first. What is the genesis of the name Super Hussy and was it a turn off to a lot of people?

Aiesha: I’ve always loved comic books, particularly Wonder Woman. I grew up watching the series as a little girl.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: I would spin in front of the TV. I was her for Halloween several years in a row. I wanted something that evoked that. Something heroic. Hussy, my maternal grandmother did not swear, she was very proper, southern lady, when she called you a hussy or someone else a hussy, you know something was up. That’s really just in honor of her. She was a really big force and a big presence in my life. I wanted to show a different side of her in a way. Because most people know her as this sweet genteel woman.

Sandi: Mm Hmm. So, you don’t see that they’re sort of two opposing terms, super and hussy?

Aiesha: Not at all. Not at all. I think they go together perfectly actually.

Sandi: Would you like to be called a hussy?

Aiesha: I’m fine with it.

Sandi: Okay.

Aiesha: I’m completely fine with it. I think a lot of people have issues with the word because of how they were taught the word meant. I’m really a big fan of language and of words and word usage. Knowing that the word comes from the German for housewife. Its meaning obviously changed over the years, I’m a big fan of embracing things and creating meaning for what you want to make.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: Not necessarily going along with general consensus.

Sandi: Because hussy could certainly be viewed as a pejorative term.

Aiesha: It could be.

Sandi: Oh, that hussy.

Aiesha: Yes. It could be. I mean, I’ve gotten emails from people about the name, and I’m like, that’s your issue, not mine.

Sandi: [Laughing] So, we’ll go back to Super Hussy.

Aiesha: Mm Hmm

Sandi: But I want to know what led up to The Black Girl Project.

Aiesha: Sure. I was a coordinator of a high school culture arts and academic internship program. We had about fifty students and it was in Brooklyn. All the girls were coming to me with their business, which was great.  They knew that I was a safe space and a safe person that they could come to tell me anything. Actually, the boys were coming to tell me their business too but the girls were telling me everything. Part of it was, I can’t believe twenty years after I graduated from high school, it’s the same stuff, particularly within communities of color. Most of my students, all of them would term themselves African American, most of them were of Caribbean decent. Either they had come when they were children, or they were born here and their parents came here; so they weren’t that far removed and with my background, with having had grandparents who were from the south and were born pretty close to the turn of the twentieth century, a lot of the ways of being, are similar. Are very, very similar. I was just like, really, you all are dealing with this stuff? Why? Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about this. Another part of it was, in the media, what we see of black women, and its gotten worse [Laughing], I feel.

Sandi: Isn’t that terrific, that it’s gotten worse?

Aiesha: Since then. Yeah, it’s gotten worse. I don’t ever see myself or people I know represented. I understand the idea of movies. I understand the idea of television. Take yourself out of your reality, but if I can’t

Sandi: Identify?

Aiesha: Identify, even in a small kernel with people, then, uhhh.

Sandi: What were these young women saying to you? What were they lamenting or what was upsetting them?

Aiesha: Not really having to be able to actually have a space to talk to someone, or being discouraged from going outside of their family, or outside of their religious communities to have dialog with someone. I had a student who wanted to go to therapy and her mother literally said you don’t put our business in the street.  That’s a long standing thing. A lot of communities, particularly ethnic communities.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: We are insular. We’re going to be alright. We’re going to take care of ourselves.

Sandi: Ourselves.

Aiesha: The statistics show that mental health issues in communities of color, they still go untreated. There’re high rates of depression because people are too afraid, too ashamed, or don’t have access to the services they need. I was able to find free or low cost service providers.

Sandi: You were more than just a listening device as it were.

Aiesha: Right.

Sandi: You were proactive. Here I’m going to match you up with such and such.

Aiesha: Yes. Yes.

Sandi: Uh Huh

Aiesha: Go see these people, these people are free.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: Even conversations about sex and sexuality. Not being able to have those kinds of open conversations with their mothers or aunts in their families and so not really having those tools.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: Available to them. Particularly at that time, and even pretty much now, there was really no really grounded full comprehensive sexuality education in New York City schools. They’re not getting the information that they need. They’re getting it from each other, which is like, no.

Sandi: Mm Hmm. Or Miley Cyrus.

Aiesha: [Laughing] They’re getting it from popular culture.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: That’s not necessarily the way to go.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: I was able to bring in people to speak to them.

Sandi: So, this was your side job in a sense.

Aiesha: That was my full job. My job was, I was coordinator of this program so I laid out the curriculum, all of that.

Sandi: Right.

Aiesha: Then I became this extra. I considered it as part of the job.

Sandi: Okay.

Aiesha: Not like I’m doing you a favor. I’m here, I’m a resource for you. I want to be a resource for you. I think it’s vitally important for young people to have an adult in their life, outside of their family, who is non-judgmental.

Sandi: And who they can trust.

Aiesha: Who they can trust and come to with anything. I became that for a lot of young women and I’m still in all their lives now. [Laughing]

Sandi: That says. That’s a testament that says a lot.

Aiesha: Yes. I know all their business. [Laughing] They’re part of my life too.

Sandi: Did you feel that you brought some of the girls back from the edge?

Aiesha: Yes. A couple of our young women. I definitely feel with being able to provide them with the resources that they were able to get, they were able to stabilize and normalize their lives. Not everyone worked out that way, but, as they were getting older and I was still present because I’m not intrusive, so, I would just hey, ever thought about this?

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: Ever thought? I’m not one to tell people what they should do. That didn’t work with me when I was a teenager. [Laughing] I know it’s not going to work. I would give information, send an email, send something via Facebook message, or anything like that, just to give them information that they need. So, all of these young women that I worked with at that time, are all healthy, thriving. They’ve all had their hiccups like we all do in life.

Sandi: But here’s the thing.

Aiesha: Mm Hmm

Sandi: It’s one thing to advise and listen and tend to and be sympathetic.

Aiesha: Mm Hmm.

Sandi: And then it’s another thing to give birth to a movie.

Aiesha: [Laughing]

Sandi: To give birth to a project. How did you do that? Because you didn’t know how to do that.

Aiesha: I had no clue. [Laughing] At all.

Sandi: Okay.

Aiesha: My last full year as project coordinator, every year we have the teens create a huge product together, ninth through twelfth grade, toward the spring. I had the bright idea, hey, they should make a film because this way, I figured I’d be teaching them. In order to teach them, I have to teach myself. That’s how I learn. I learn by doing. So, they made this twenty minute short film that was actually based on Spike Lee’s film School Days. It was called High School Days.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: It was all kinds of hilarious drama. They wrote it, they did everything for this film.

Sandi; How many kids were involved with this?

Aiesha: About forty-three kids.

Sandi: Boys and girls.

Aiesha: Boys and girls. Ninth through twelfth grade.

Sandi: Okay.

Aiesha: They made this film together which was wonderful and they had a great time and so, I’m like, okay, now I have skills.

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha: [Laughing] I have skills. I had a DSLR camera. I had a program that a lot of anthropologists use. It’s a free program that you can record, you can audio record, its Mac based. I went and downloaded that, had that. I said, okay Aiesha, what do I want to do? I want to make a film where they are telling their stories and they are just being human and it’s just their voices. Okay. I was no longer working with them. I was gone at this point. They were all entering college as well, for the most part. I said, okay, this is what’s going to happen. I started sending emails, hey I have this idea for a film. We have this relationship. Every single person I asked said yes.

Sandi: Hmm

Aiesha: It was really easy in the sense that I didn’t have to prod them with questions. I’m like, hey how are you doing? How are you? Tell me about your life. It just flowed.

Sandi: You’re shooting and their talking.

Aiesha: They’re just talking.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: I have nine young women, they’re diverse. They all consider themselves black, however they’re Panamanian, Puerto Rican, Haitian, Jamaican, and I also wanted to show that too. We have this myth that there’s this monolithic black thing. There’s this black community.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: They all fall under this one umbrella.

Sandi; So, there’s diversity within.

Aiesha: There’s diversity within that group. Diversity within experiences.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: Diversity all throughout the culture.

Sandi: There’s no stereotyping.

Aiesha: No. None.

Sandi: Which is really, I would imagine, so irritating.

Aiesha: Quite. Quite a bit. Quite a bit. That’s how the film came to be.

Sandi: You edited it?

Aiesha: Yes. I had. [Laughing] Yes. Two years. The first time I actually spent money on the film, was when I went to go buy a DVD to burn it for the first time. I would meet them at their homes. I would catch them when they would, the kids who went out of state or out of New York City for school, I would catch them on their vacations. When they would come in. I literally had. I had seventy two hours.

Sandi: Wow.

Aiesha: Worth of audio and video. I just decided, okay. Here’s a story. Here’s a framework. Being a writer, I set it up like it’s a book. There’s an introduction. That’s the only time you hear my voice.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: Is in the beginning of the film.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: There’s an introduction and then we go right into their stories. All of their stories overlap. It’s set up via, we talk about goals. Literally goals, obstacles, hopes.

Sandi: Give me one heart wrenching story.

Aiesha: Heart wrenching story. A young woman who, brilliant. Brilliant young woman. She was in that prep for prep program. Where they take students from disadvantaged communities and they prepare them to go into these elite schools. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant young woman. She went, she graduated from high school, went to a large university, and she was out by the end of her first semester. She hadn’t been able to deal with a whole lot of things; there was depression, it was heavy depression. She was one of those young women, similar to myself, she developed early. I think I had a kinship with her from that. Being a ten year old girl but in a sixteen year old’s body.

Sandi: Uh Huh

Aiesha: She had that issue. She had the fact that she stood out because she was so smart, so she was in all of these programs.

Sandi: Tremendous pressures then.

Aiesha: Tremendous pressures. Because of the film, I had not known this. I knew her for three years and I had not known that she had been a cutter, something that we do not talk about in the black community at all. We do not talk about self-harm.

Sandi: Hmm

Aiesha: She was a cutter, that she was sexually assaulted, that she had made more than one suicide attempt. All of this came out in our conversation.

Sandi: This filmed conversation.

Aiesha: I did not film her. I photographed her and I recorded her voice.

Sandi: Okay.

Aiesha: Yeah. So, she was not filmed speaking about this.

Sandi: But she’s part of the film?

Aiesha: Oh, she’s part of the film. Yes. Yes. Parts of these stories come out.

Sandi: Right.

Aiesha: Mm Hmm

Sandi: She was, so overwhelming for this poor young woman.

Aiesha: She stopped going to class. She said that, she literally withdrew. She’s at this large university and similar to myself, she went from a school where I think they had like a hundred and fifty graduates to a school with fifty thousand people.

Sandi: Wow.

Aiesha: Yeah. I did the same in my life too.

Sandi: But the irony, there was probably a lot of support systems.

Aiesha: That she didn’t know about.

Sandi: Didn’t know about or wasn’t comfortable using.

Aiesha: Yes.

Sandi: Is she okay today?

Aiesha: She’s okay today. She’s working.

Sandi: She graduate?

Aiesha: No.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: She has not gone back to school, yet.

Sandi: Okay.

Aiesha: But, she’s had. She’s really been working on herself. She’s a lot more positive and a lot more healthy. That’s really all I can ask for is for her to be healthy and in a healthy space for herself.

Sandi: Now, contrast that with a woman, a young woman you talked to, with a very uplifting story.

Aiesha: Let’s see. One student who, at one point, was homeless, was homeless during high school. She graduated from high school. She went on to college. She’s now working in the world. We’ve had that. We’ve had another young woman, her family came from Haiti, she went on to school. Her sister graduated from college. She looked at her sister as a motivation. Those kinds of stories. Where family is really the big support system. Where she knew that, I’m going to make it. I’m going to do this. I have all these people and it doesn’t matter what I have materially,

Sandi: Hmm

Aiesha: it matters what’s inside. We have those stories and we have stories of struggle. Of, I’m unsure of myself. I’ve been teased. I looked like this when I was a kid then I developed and now I look like this. People make assumptions about me. I’m afraid to take risks. We have all of these stories. My family, I love my grandmother. My grandmother did this for me. That was really the purpose for me is to show all of these.

Sandi: Just talk.

Aiesha: Just talk. Just talk.

Sandi: One of your points is so well taken, that everything old is new again. You’re saying what you struggled with. Today, everywhere, women are still fighting that, slogging up that hill, whether it’s in business, in life, whatever. It just, stop already.

Aiesha: I think a lot of it has to do with a lack communication and openness and vulnerability. People talk about the success. People, like, oh she’s made it here, she’s made there. They don’t talk about life. Because there is nothing that has happened to you that has not happened to someone else. You are not in a vacuum. You are not alone. But, we live in a culture, and it’s increasingly a culture, even though the world is getting smaller, because of technology, it’s also getting to a place where people are not with people as much. So, you have all this time to be in your head.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: And not out in the world experiencing things. Change occurs through action and if you’re not out there doing it and experiencing, you just spend more and more time in your head so you begin to wallow in whatever it is that is going on. If you’re sad, you become sadder, unless you have appropriate tools to help take you out of those spaces. I think there’s just a really; I’m a big fan of intergenerational conversation. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts. I believe that anyone can mentor anyone else.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: My daughter has been a mentor to me and she’s only nine years old. We are not having these conversations. They’re not public conversations and there’s also that whole need of that appearance. People are very busy trying to make sure they look good. Trying to hide whatever crack they may have, trying to make everything look shiny. For me, the cracks are what makes you beautiful.

Sandi: It’s not wanting to show your vulnerability also.

Aiesha: Yeah. Yeah. That’s for me, is how I’ve grown through my vulnerability. Putting myself out there, being transparent. I was one of those people, like, oh no. No one should know about that. No one should know that I dropped out of college, like, two times, three times.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: No one should know these things, because I’m perfect. I had all these expectations. No one should know about these things.

Sandi: But people needed to know about your movie.

Aiesha: Yes.

Sandi: So, how did, so you edit this down?

Aiesha; Yes.

Sandi: And then what did you decide to do with it?

Aiesha: Oh. I started. I edited the film and in the editing process, we already had a Twitter account.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: For both Super Hussy and The Black Girl Project, which became The Black Girl Project. I would just talk about it. Put things out there and have conversation and then other people would tweet about it and I decided that the premier of the film,

Sandi: Which was where? And when?

Aiesha: Long Island University Campus. The Spike Lee Screening Room. It was

Sandi: Spike Lee as in Spike Lee.

Aiesha: Yes. He gave them the screening room for their school.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: It was in August 2010. It was a fundraiser to launch us, literally, to do The Black Girl Project work. I had no idea who was going to come. I was like, is it going to be me and my mother

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha: and my daughter sitting here watching this. The theatre was packed. People I hadn’t seen since I was sixteen, seventeen, twenty,

Sandi: Isn’t that fabulous.

Aiesha: Were in the audience.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: People I had no idea who they were, were in the audience. It was the screening and then we had cocktails and you know, hey.

Sandi: Feed them and they will come.

Aiesha: Feed them and they will come. Then we had a panel afterwards which proved to be very, very eventful. Yeah.

Sandi: That then was the pre-cursor to your organization?

Aiesha: Yes.

Sandi: Which is still very much alive and well.

Aiesha: Yes.

Sandi: And you do what?

Aiesha: Our mission has changed a little bit.

Sandi: Mm Hm

Aiesha: Initially, we wanted to tackle that middle school, high school range. But in New York City there’s a lot of stuff for girls in that middle school range, just so much stuff. We had initially thought, oh yeah, we’re going to go into schools, do these kind of things. That model just did not work because we’re in a changing world. As someone who has led programing, where kids have to come at certain days, I’m seeing how the world has changed. I’m a believer that you don’t have to do something four days a week, two days a week from two to six to get what you need. Our mission really to empower young women and girls, both locally, well, locally, nationally, and globally to use their voices and to engage as citizens as global citizens.  We’re really focusing now the seventeen to twenty five year old range because I’ve done screenings at campuses. Lots of screenings on campuses and having either me speaking afterwards or a panel. Some of the young women in the film have been able to go with me to be on panels. Which is always awesome. That is a group that we just throw out there. You’re grown now. Mm Hmm. Whether they’re in school, whether they’re working. You are an adult. I didn’t become an adult really, until I was like thirty.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: [Laughing] I just was not grown in any sense of the word.

Sandi: Uh Huh

Aiesha: We treat, particularly women and girls, we treat them like okay, you’re eighteen. Go on out there. Young women were like, we’re struggling. We don’t know what’s going on. We’re just in this liminal space here. We need help. Now that we’ve shift our focus to that age group and I love that age group.

Sandi: Who’s the we? You’re clearly not doing this by yourself.

Aiesha: I have an advisory board.

Sandi: Uh Huh

Aiesha: How we became a non-profit is a long time ago, when I ran away to New York as a nineteen year old.

Sandi: Huh.

Aiesha: I volunteered with an organization who had a fiscal sponsor. The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization and they’re based in Harlem. I kind of maintained contact with them, sort of. I sent them an email because I knew they continued to do fiscal sponsorship. Sent them an email, sent them a proposal of what I thought I wanted Black Girl Project to do, had a meeting and within in a week, we became a product of IFCO. They handle all of our administrative stuff, we get to do the work. One of the conditions with that is that I have an advisory board.

Sandi: I don’t want to let go the line that you threw out, just tossed out there. At nineteen when you ran away from home to New York. Why don’t you explain that?

Aiesha: I was completely overwhelmed. I had always wanted to live in New York.

Sandi: Where did you live?

Aiesha: I was born in Albany, New York. Grew up in Rochester, New York.

Sandi: No wonder you wanted to come to New York. [Laughing]

Aiesha: Can I tell you, can I tell you? [Laughing] Only child, girl. Really strong mom. I was one of those, I graduated from high school at sixteen, had been in advanced everything from, I think age of ten, overachiever. Over, over overachiever. Went to a very small school. A hundred and thirty nine graduates on graduation day.

Sandi: High school?

Aiesha: High school. Go off to a college with thirty five thousand undergraduates.

Sandi: Oy!

Aiesha: Uh Huh. I didn’t want to go to that school. The school I wanted to go to, was a very small private school in New Orleans. I made a case to my mom. Mom, they have curfew, its run by nuns, none of the dorms are coed, they’re going to give me a lot of money. She’s like, no. I can’t get to you. [Laughing]

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha: I thought, okay, I get it. I get it. I went to school as a biology major, physics minor. Mm Hmm.

Sandi: Uh Huh is right.

Aiesha: I literally started college the week after high school ended.

Sandi: Wow.

Aiesha: For a special summer program. Yes.

Sandi: So, you were running as fast as you can? Dancing as fast as you can.

Aiesha: I was running faster than I had ever even thought possible. I had no self-awareness. I was literally very sheltered. When I think about, I had a lot of freedom, but I was really sheltered within all that freedom because my mother knew everyone in the city of Rochester. Very sheltered. I get to this big school, I have a few friends that I was able to make during our summer program, but I just got so emotionally, physically just torn to pieces. It was just

Sandi: Just like the woman who you interviewed in your film?

Aiesha: Yes. I was not. I had, again like I said, no self-awareness. I was making poor choices. Just, things I knew were stupid. Just stupid stuff.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: I’m not going to pass.

Sandi: That’s almost liberating.

Aiesha: It is. I stayed at school for about a year and a half. Came home to Rochester. Decided I was going to work, had a secret plan with my eighty-eight year old grandfather who was in Albany. I would go to visit my grandfather.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: The bus changes in Albany. You have to get off the bus to get on the bus for New York City.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: We weren’t lying when he said he saw me. When he would tell my mother. Like, yeah, she’s here.

Sandi: Wow.

Aiesha: He would slip me some money and I would come to New York. I did that three or four times. I had a few friends from high school who were in college here in New York. I had a cousin who had graduated from school here in New York. I said, I’m going to New York. Did everything I needed, forged my mother’s name on my financial aid application.

Sandi: Holy cow.

Aiesha: Did everything. [Laughing] All of these things. Came to New York City.

Sandi: And the rest is history.

Aiesha: And the rest, and my mother was so angry. My father drove up from Albany. She was like, what are you doing here? I’m taking Aiesha to school. What you mean you’re taking her to school? My father had the car, we all packed up the car, my mother jumped in at the last minute. At the last minute, angry, angry. Of course within the next year, it was all, you know my daughter,

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha: went to New York all by herself as a teenager. She didn’t need my help. She’s so independent. That’s how

Sandi: It all started.

Aiesha: It all started.

Sandi: That’s a great story.

Aiesha: I love New York and I, it’s been my home. I’ve lived in Harlem but I’ve primarily been in Brooklyn most of the time that I’ve lived in New York and it’s my home.

Sandi: What are you doing, for example to smash the stereotypes that in your words describe minority women, hypersexual, booty shakers, deviants?

Aiesha: Mm Hmm

Sandi: Unfit, uncaring mothers. Superstars, to go to the other end of that.

Aiesha: Mm Hmm

Sandi: These are heavy duty stereotypes.

Aiesha: Yes. As an organization, we have our big event every year. The last weekend of October. It’s called the Sisterhood Summit. I had been to a lot of youth summits as the adult chaperone. I began researching them. I’m not necessarily had been a fan because a lot of them seemed like marketing events.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: I actually planned this summit to be something different. We have a call for proposals as if it were an academic conference or I had attended the Allied Media Conference in Detroit as a presenter and I screened there and I loved their model. I wanted to use their model for young women. We get proposals from all throughout the East Coast. Texas, California. Each year we have a theme. This year’s theme is Digital Daughters: Black Women and Girls Bridging the Divide. It’s all about life in digital space. It’s relationships, sexualities, your identity, creating businesses in that space. It’s all about anything that you can think of that can exist digitally. That’s what it’s about. They choose what workshops that they want to go into. It’s all day long. It’s an eight hour day of them going in and out of workshops and getting tools that they need for themselves. That’s our big program and what we’re working on now is replicating that in other cities. There will be Sisterhood Summit Brooklyn, Sisterhood Summit D. C., Philadelphia. That’s our goal.

Sandi: Do you see this as an uphill slog of trying to change images or perceptions of hypersexual, booty shakers, deviants, you know.

Aiesha: No. I refuse to see it that way, because if I did, I’d pass out. [Laughing]

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha: I refuse to think of it as something that’s really so difficult that it’s almost insurmountable. I know other people may think that way. I believe if you do the work, and if you are authentic in the work that you do, who will come will come, and they’ll get what they need and they’ll eventually pass that information on.

Sandi: That’s a great way to look at it. So let me ask you this.

Aiesha: Mm Hmm

Sandi: You’re a full time educator at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

Aiesha: And I’m a PhD student. [Laughing]

Sandi: Okay. And you’re a PhD student and you run the Black Girl Project. And you run Super Hussy Media.

Aiesha: Mm Hmm

Sandi: So, how is that possible?

Aiesha: We all have the same twenty four hours in a day.

Sandi: That’s my exact point. That’s fourteen balls you’re juggling in the air.

Aiesha: But they’re all interconnected. That’s one thing.

Sandi: And you’re a mother.

Aiesha: I’m a mom.  My daughter’s big inspiration for me. I’m a mom of a daughter with special needs.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: She’s a huge inspiration for me. I just do. I’m not working on everything every single day, that’s number one. I don’t really care how messy my apartment gets, that’s number two.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: I had to work on that. Oh, I had to work on that. Everything in its place. I’m like, you know what, it’s okay if there are a few dishes in the sink.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: It’s okay if the bed is not made. As long as the garbage is taken out and there’s no funny smells, I’m good. [Laughing]

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha: There have been those kinds of trade-offs. I have had to pull back on my own ideas on what being able to do a lot of things looks like. Like I said, I’m not working on everything every single day so that’s one of the things. But I just do. I just do, for me, it’s very difficult for me not to have a lot of things to do. That’s when it gets crazy. If I don’t have several things happening.

Sandi: More than one burner going.

Aiesha: Yes. I need to have at least three of the four going.

Sandi: Uh Huh. Uh Huh.

Aiesha: At once. Yeah.

Sandi: And you never feel overwhelmed?

Aiesha: Oh! I get overwhelmed.

Sandi: Oh. Good.

Aiesha: But I deal with it.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: That’s what meditation and yoga are for. I’m all about taking care of yourself. If I need to stop, I stop. I don’t have any problems stopping, powering down, no problems with that whatsoever. I’m like, I come first, out of all of this. If I’m overwhelmed, or if I’m feeling myself getting overwhelmed, go for a walk.

Sandi: So, you have a really good sense of self.

Aiesha: Yeah. Self-care is really important.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: That’s something that I do with young people too. Talking to them about your own self-care. Not out there.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: You. You’re container is important.

Sandi; That sometimes is not innate. It’s amazing how that has to be taught.

Aiesha: It has to be taught.

Sandi: Especially to women.

Aiesha: Yes. And the funny thing is, I have a mother who’s been like, girl you need to take care of yourself. I’m like yeah mom. (Burnout)

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha: It took me, it took a while for it to register. It was up here, in my brain, but I hadn’t embodied that at all.

Sandi: I did ask if you feel overwhelmed. You’re a single mom, right?

Aiesha: Mm Hmm

Sandi: That’s just.

Aiesha; I don’t like that term.

Sandi: Because why?

Aiesha; Because my daughter’s dad,

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha: He’s present,

Sandi: Okay.

Aiesha: in her life.

Sandi; That’s really interesting, because that’s a term that’s bandied about.

Aiesha: I can’t stand the term, I mean, I am not some woman by herself with a kid. I’m not at all. I have his mother. I have, even, and his mother’s here in New York. Even though my parents are not in New York City, the beginning of the summer my daughter was with my mom. The end of the summer my daughter was with my dad. I have friends and family. There was a day I was really sick and I was able to call a friend to go pick her up from where she needed and bring her to me. You have to create community around yourself. My community has come naturally. I have former students whom, I live and work in the same community. A lot of my students, I can walk to their houses.

Sandi: Mm Hmm

Aiesha; Even like

Sandi: You’re a fixture in your neighborhood.

Aiesha: Yes. From elderly to, and people know my daughter.

Sandi: Uh Huh

Aiesha: She’s a bright ray of sunshine.

Sandi: Uh Huh.

Aiesha: People, I’ve been in airport lines and people say, hey.

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha; I had a TSA agent say I know you. I know your little girl with the afro.

Sandi; [Laughing]

Aiesha; I’m like, yes. Yes.

Sandi: [Laughing]

Aiesha: I embrace community. I embrace about a ten block radius that surrounds me.

Sandi: I hear everything that you’re saying. I also think that it can be a little anomalous, because that term, whether it’s positive or not, oh she’s a single mom or Oh, she’s a single mom. It’s great to hear you vocalize that.

Aiesha: I don’t feel that way. I’m not saying that the word is negative or positive. It’s just is what it is.

Sandi: It doesn’t apply to you.

Aiesha: Right. It doesn’t. Her dad is taking her to dance class at nine o’clock on Saturday morning. He and I have a great relationship. It’s not like there’s some guy over there paying child support or something like that.

Sandi: Or not.

Aiesha: Or not. Our goal, we have a child to raise and we are going to be the best relationship that he and I can be in so we can raise a happy healthy productive child.

Sandi: That’s clearly a message in the work that you do.

Aiesha: Yes. Yes. It’s about doing the best you can for yourself and your life.

Sandi: I got to tell you. You’re doing the best, more than the best that you can. You’re really inspirational Aiesha.

Aiesha: Thank you.

Sandi: It was such a pleasure to meet you.

Aiesha: It was wonderful to be here.

Sandi: I just want to wish you continued success with The Black Girl Project and Super Hussy Media.

Aiesha: Thank you.

Sandi: It was really my honor to meet you.

Aiesha: Wonderful. Thank you. Same here.

Sandi: Join us again for another edition of the 51% Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein.

Narrator: Thanks for listening to The 51% Conversations with Creative Women. For show comments and suggestions please follow us on Twitter at #sandikleinshow. You can also find us on Facebook at The 51% Conversations. The show is produced and recorded by Chad Dougatz at the Hangar studios in New York City. Sandi Klein is our executive producer.

Chad Dougatz
Chad Dougatz
Chad Dougatz brings more than 20 years of radio and media experience to the show. Before working with Sandi Klein, Chad was a Senior Producer on numerous nationally syndicated radio programs, including The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The Governor David Paterson Show, and Mornings on Air America. Chad is also the owner of The Hangar Studios, an NYC audio production company, where he provides multi-media marketing and production solutions for authors, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
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