Installation #3: “The Color of Friendship” The ways Black women practice sisterhood in our journey through becoming.

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As I watched The Color Purple by Alice Walker again as an adult, I realized how much the four main women: Celie, Nettie, Shug and Sofia helped each other to come into their strength. Of course when developing this post an all purple dessert set up came into mind, but I also wanted to touch on how women of color today help each other navigate through society and working to become our best selves.

 

HOW ARE WE NAVIGATING? 

The little girls who grew up on sleepovers, tea parties, three way calls, and double dutch would soon grow up to learn exactly what it meant to navigate different spaces as women of color, especially the workplace. In recent years we’ve seen a spotlight on WOC’s experiences in different work spaces and in our creative communities, especially with the #MeToo movement and the fight to gain equal pay gaining traction. As we started to see how trash our experiences can be, we started to ask “Well... How do we navigate non diverse work spaces, not being heard, dating in the digital age, breaking generational cycles, entrepreneurship and fitting in self care to operate as our best selves?” We create communities where we can and find solace in our peers.

We know the comfort of walking into a predominantly white space, finally seeing that one other Black Woman, and sharing that sigh of relief. 

Now you’re able create a safe space where you can look out for each other and keep each other up on game.  

In my time of working in corporations, it made my day to hear that “Okay jacket!!” or “Okay skin!!” from my work sis before I put on my chef uniform and had to engage in all types of respectability politics for the rest of the day. 

Another way that I’ve been able to connect with creative women of color is through events. Events and social media have been the main vessels to the connection and support of other women entrepreneurs. We’ve seen a lot of panels and events centered around shining a light on women, whether it’s the intentional exposure of women in different industries or bringing women together by creating a space for networking. It’s empowered me a lot to know that I’m not the only person jumping through hoops and working to get everything out of the mud. The abundance of transparency in women sharing their stories, especially through podcasts like Jesus and Jollof and Black Girl Podcast, has helped me a ton as far as gaining perspective on this journey that I’ve set out on as an entrepreneur, business owner and creative.

Through all of these outlets, the reocurring themes are transparency, understanding and taking the initiative to help others. A lot of us were introduced to the idea of “networking across” through Issa Rae, and we really took it to heart.

Recently I was asked in an interview if it’s challenging for me to progress as a Black Woman creative and I acknowledged that I find a lot of companies and creatives looking to give Black Women their shine and women of color looking to work together rather than against each other. I’ve seen this moment in time referred to as a “Black Renneisance” and I have to agree.

 

Here are a few companies created by Black women geared to bringing women of color together and helping them reach their goals:

- Creative Women Build

- The Idea Girl Co. 

- Applauding Power

- She Will Mentoring 

The support just hits different when it’s coming from someone who knows the depths of what it takes to take up certain spaces. It’s necessary for us to have safe spaces that remind us that Black Women are still magic even when we fail.

 

THE INSPIRATION 

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As I stated earlier, I was inspired to write about this topic after seeing how the themes of sisterhood in The Color Purple allowed the women characters to step into their power.

Let’s talk about the movie itself.  

When watching the movie, we’re taken through Celie’s life and see her go from a very shy and timid woman to a fearless one who finally curses out her husband after years of abuse and mistreatment in the iconic “Until you do right by me everything you think about is gonna crumble!” scene. The journey of her slowly building up her strength is significantly influenced by the love and empowerment she receives from the women surrounding her including Nettie, Shug and Sofia.   The literal color purple was used throughout the story as a symbol of Celie’s growth from a little girl into a woman, after all it is her favorite color! 

In the beggining of the movie we watch her find solace in her sister Nettie when she needed to escape the reality of being abused and left pregnant by her stepfather, who gave away her children without her consent. Her relationship with Nettie, especially when she was teaching Celie to read and write, allowed her to feel empowered and invested in. Fast forward to her adult life, Celie starts a romantic relationship with Shug which although they ultimately separate from each other, she’s able to experience real love, attraction, pleasure and adoration towards a partner for the first time in her life. Shug is able to make Celie feel important and practice their form of unconditional love. Then we meet Sofia, who’s a fireball from the jump. We watch as Sofia stands up to anyone who tries to make her feel small or “stay in a  women’s place”. Even her husband tries to eat a lot more so he can be bigger than her and establish his dominance. In the beginning Celie is jealous of her and convinced Harpo to beat Sofia to bring her down to size. Sofia confronts Celie with the iconic “You told Harpo to beat me?”

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We watch as a turn of events causes Sophia to become a white women’s personal helper and changes her into a quiet and submissive person who doesn’t have much to feel powerful about, much like Celie. Ironically, seeing Sophia become an entirely new person brings them closer and shows Celie that she really can’t afford to play small anymore.

Finally we arrive at the dinner scene where Shug returns to Celie and Albert’s home, but tells announces to everyone that when she leaves, Celie will be coming with her. Of course Albert objects, why would he want to lose his workhorse? But this time Celie stands up for herself. 

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Sofia is present for this entire event and after years of speaking in short sentences and in hushed tones, she snaps right back into her fearless and vibrant self. 

What we saw was a display of women supporting and empowering each other against the powers that be.  

Sounds familiar? That’s because we can still relate to a movie set in the 1920s, here in 2019. The fight for equality overall is long from over but Women of Color are showing up and doing what needs to be done.

 

 THE PASTRY TIE IN 

I wanted to bring a little light to the tea party culture that existed in the 1920s time period. To this day tea parties are considered a symbol of being high class and having decorum. All ladies were required to abide by a strict dress code and conduct themselves with propriety. There were always rules to follow in these spaces like unfolding your napkin onto your lap, putting sugar in your tea first then a thinly sliced lemon — never adding milk and lemon together, only splitting scones horizontally and holding your tea cup with your thumb and middle finger — never with your pinky up. 

Do these strenuous codes of conduct sound familiar? That’s because we still jump through hoops to be “twice as good” as our counterparts to achieve respect in different spaces. 

The Geode Macarons were created when I wanted to put an artistic twist on the classic macaron. Adding these to the set design is my way of saying that in these tight spaces there is still room for us to grow, be unique, be creative, be innovative and create our own rules. 

 

WHAT’D YOU THINK?

Leave a comment below answering any of the questions posed throughout the post or any thoughts that developed for you as you read.

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See you in our next installment of Table Manners: The Food Blog.

Chef Nakai2 Comments