Mimi - "#BlackPower"
Roots: Widely spread
Pin Drop: El Barrio, Harlem
New Yorker Status: 4 years, 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days (as of 1/20/2017)
What was your hometown like growing up? Was it predominantly white, black, a mix of both? I had several hometowns growing up - I’m a third culture kid so I often lived among a mix of both. That said, whether it was in Cyprus or South Africa ‘whiteness’ as construct or color, tended to define what was culturally normative. I was lucky enough though to go to schools where we were consciously asked to actively challenge that idea.
Who in the black community (dead or alive) do you admire the most and why? This is a tough one, but at the moment it has to be Maya Angelou. I find everything about her and her work cathartic and empowering and hope-giving. I love how open she was about her life, especially her pain. I think it’s still a notably brave act when a black woman reveals her vulnerabilities, and she turned that into her superpower, and that speaks to me deeply.
Beyonce has somewhat deemed herself to be the un-appointed 21st century civil rights and feminist leader for black women - how do you feel about this? Hmmmm. Now, I LOVE Queen Bey. Truly, with my whole heart, but I think “21st century civil rights and feminist leader for black women” is a heavy crown to place on her head. I would argue that her recent work has brought due attention from mainstream culture to black feminism. But, as much as she is #blackgirlmagic, she didn’t create that — and it definitely doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
Break down your ethnic background. I’m the daughter of a Kenyan mother and a Nigerian father, but I’ve lived all over the world, and been in North America for almost a decade. I still feel strongly connected to both cultures and with my African-ness in general. I’ve grown prouder and more conscious of it the longer I’ve lived away.
Have you ever personally experienced racism? If so, when and by who? Yeah, the most explicit was probably the first and only time so far, that I was called the n-word. It was a stranger, a drunk frat-boy type tripping into a cab that I had just waved down. It felt like a slap: surprisingly quick and stinging, and humiliating. I’ve also experienced the silent, more insidious kind of ‘you can’t sit here’ racism. Always strangers. But, among my friends I’ve been on the receiving end of some microagressions. I try to use them as teachable moments though, and hope that comes back around because I’m not perfect either.
Photographs by: Frank Chiodo