Dr. Yaba Blay is a New Orleans’ native, distinguished homegirl, content creator, cultural worker, professor and producer of Professional Black Girl. As a researcher and ethnographer, Dr. Blay uses personal and social narratives to disrupt fundamental assumptions about cultures and identities. As a cultural worker, she uses image to inform consciousness, incite dialogue, and inspire others into action and transformation. Dr. Blay spoke about the beginnings and evolution of the Professional Black Girl hashtag, community, and web series; her recent tour to Historically Black Colleges and Universities with friend, colleague, and #metoo founder Tarana Burke; the persistent harm of white supremacy and the power of Black culture, creation, and community in New Orleans.
Dr. Yaba Blay is the Dan Blue Endowed Chair in Political Science at North Carolina Central University. An ethnographer, scholar, and content creator, her scholarship centers on global Black identities and the politics of embodiment, with particular attention given to hair and skin color politics. In 2012, Dr. Blay partnered with CNN to produce Black in America: Who is Black in America? – a television documentary inspired by her book, (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race. In it, she explores the interconnected nuances of skin color politics and Black racial identity, and challenges narrow perceptions of Blackness as both an identity and a lived reality. Named to The Root 100 (2014), an annual list of top Black influencers, she is one of today’s leading voices on colorism and global skin color politics and, to date, her commentary has been featured across some of today’s leading media outlets including: CNN, BET, MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times, Ebony Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Root, Huffington Post Live, Colorlines, Al Jazeera America. Applauded by O, The Oprah Magazine for her social media activism, Dr. Blay is the creator and producer of a number of online campaigns including #PrettyPeriod – a visual celebration of dark-skinned Black beauty – and #ProfessionalBlackGirl – a webseries and multi-platform digital community dedicated to celebrating Black Girl culture.
Professional Black Girl is a multi-platform digital community that celebrates the everyday magic of Black women and girls! By announcing ourselves “Professional Black Girls,” we assert an unapologetic identity in a world that too often tries to tell us how we “ought to” act. We know that “acting” like anything other than ourselves robs us of our freedom, so instead, we choose, embrace, and celebrate who we are. We are professional code-switchers. We hold Ph.Ds and listen to trap music. We twerk and we work. We are Professional Black Girls.
Jillian Bessett: The voice in the intro and outro belong to songwriter Jillian Bessett. Jillian Bessett is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose evocative lyrics and welcoming stage presence have endeared her to audiences throughout the southwest music scene. Jillian is currently writing music and gigging with her new favorite instrument the Boss RC-505 Looping Station.
*Referenced in the interview: *
Sonya Renee Taylor is the Founder and Radical Executive Officer of The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company promoting radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation. Sonya’s work as a highly sought-after award-winning Performance Poet, activist, and transformational leader continues to have global reach. Sonya is a former National and International poetry slam champion and author of two books, including The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love. She is an educator and thought leader who has enlightened and inspired organizations, audiences and individuals from board rooms to prisons, universities to homeless shelters, elementary schools to some of the biggest stages in the world.
Tarana Burke ‘s passion for community organizing began in the late 1980s, when she joined a youth development organization called 21st Century and led campaigns around issues like racial discrimination, housing inequality and economic justice. Her career took a turn toward supporting survivors of sexual violence upon moving to Selma, Alabama, to work for 21st Century. She encountered dozens of black girls who were sharing stories of sexual violence and abuse, stories she identified with very well. She realized too many girls were suffering through abuse without access to resources, safe spaces and support, so in 2007 she created Justbe Inc., an organization committed to the empowerment and wellness of black girls. The impacts of Justbe Inc. are widespread, as the program, which was adopted by every public school in Selma, has hundreds of alumni who have gone on to thrive and succeed in various ways. Burke’s role as the senior director at Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, NY, an intergenerational nonprofit dedicated to strengthening local communities by creating opportunities for young women and girls to live self-determined lives, is a continuation of what she considers her life’s work. Since #MeToo, the movement she created more than ten years ago, became a viral hashtag, she has emerged as a global leader in the evolving conversation around sexual violence and the need for survivor-centered solutions. Her theory of using empathy to empower survivors is changing the way the nation and the world think about and engage with survivors. Her belief that healing isn’t a destination but a journey has touched and inspired millions of survivors who previously lived with the pain, shame and trauma of their assaults in isolation.
Chef Linda Green. Chef. Keeper of Culinary Traditions. Winner of Food Network’s Chopped – Pride of New Orleans. ‘The Yakamein Lady.’ Professional Black Girl.
Queen Tahj Williams. College Student. Track Coach. Mardi Gras Indian. Big Queen of the Golden Eagles. aka “Queen Pocahantas.” Professional Black Girl.
Bozoma “Boz” St. John is an Ghanian-American businesswoman and marketing executive who is the current chief marketing officer at William Morris Endeavor. Previously, she served as chief brand officer at Uber until June 2018.
Raynell Steward, AKA Wuzzam Supa/Supa Cent. Entrepreneur. Social Media Personality. Influencer. Makeup Mogul. CEO of Crayon Case Cosmetics. Professional Black Girl.