TheBlackManCan: Aiehsa, What is the The Black Girl Project and what inspired you to make this documentary?
AT: The Black Girl Project is both a documentary film and a non-profit organization. I have worked with young people in New York for over a decade, with the past few years being dedicated primarily to high school students. It was in this work, I began to hear the stories of young women, many of whom were outwardly accomplished, but were dealing with a lot of issues from homelessness to sexual assault and depression. I was lucky enough to be trusted enough by them that they would talk to me. Their lives reminded me of mine as a teen aged girl. I was highly accomplished academically, but when it came to dealing with issues, many of which were shared with my peers, I turned inward for fear of embarrassment or disappointing my parents. The non-profit (http://blackgirlproject.org) is an outgrowth of the film and my commitment to helping young women reach their fullest potential.
TheBlackManCan: How did you go about choosing the participants in The Black Girl Project?
AT: Just about all of the participants in the film were young women I had worked with in the past. When I conceived of the idea, I began contacting them and they showed up, ready.
TheBlackManCan: How did you become so passionate about being an advocate about the segment of society which is Black girls?
AT: I became passionate about advocating for Black girls the more I worked with them. Actually, I’d probably have to say it’s always been a passion, albeit dormant. However, as I began working with young people, it became much clearer. I began to realize that my life is a tool for transformation. Not many people know this about me, but I’ve gone from college dropout, to having an MA. I have gone from a depression so deep that it almost ended my life on several occasions, to a woman who is fully invested in making the best life for myself, my family and Black girls. There is nothing that a young woman can say to me that will shock me or make me love her any less.
TheBlackManCan: You are the owner of Super Hussy Media. What is the company about? How did you choose the name Super Hussy?
AT: Super Hussy Media, LLC is a Brooklyn-based, independent content creation company which focuses on the lives of women in the African Diaspora. Basically, Super Hussy uses film, traditional and emerging media to explore and an illuminate the lives of Black women. On the name Super Hussy: “hussy” was my maternal grandmother’s favorite/only swear word. Regardless of your age, if you pissed Nana off and you were a female, you were pretty much a hussy. Now, after looking up the etymology of the word, I found out “hussy” was derived from the German for housewife and began thinking about how patriarchy (particularly the white supremacist brand) twists, labels and misconstrues anything that does not fit into its neat little power structure. Hussy became to be known as a wanton, lascivious, ruthless and sexually promiscuous heathen.
Language can be used to both uplift and nourish or belittle and hurt. Any woman who goes against the grain and/or lives lives by her own rules, not the ones forced upon her, has been labeled something or other (bitch and whore come to mind) which seeks to minimize who she is in the world. As far as the “super” goes, I’ve always loved comics, so I might as well be a hero!
TheBlackManCan: You have various platforms that you can speak out but your flagship workshop is You Rock! Can you give us more insight into this workshop you have created for Young Girls?
AT: You Rock! is a workshop that uses literature, art, culture and media to help foster self-esteem and build critical thinking in girls. It helps to show them that they are the architects of their lives and that they can do or be anything they want.
TheBlackManCan: What is Okra Stew? Where did the name evolve from and what can we expect when this art project is finished?
AT: Okra Stew pretty much means “a little bit of everything”. Okra has to be one of my favorite vegetables and I’d love it when my maternal grandmother mixed okra, corn, tomatoes and lima beans and served her succotash with rice. But it also is a bit of a euphemism for the African Diaspora, since pretty much everywhere Africans who were affected by the slave trade has landed, now has a signature okra dish. I can’t reveal much about what’ll happen when the project is finish, but I guarantee it will make you laugh, cry, get angry and think!
TheBlackManCan: How did you develop you passion for multimedia and video production?
AT: I have always loved film, media and technology. I have friends who are filmmakers and have led young folks through creating their own film projects. I’ve always been a storyteller and I see this as an amazing way to communicate.
TheBlackManCan: Aiesha, you truly are an Exquisite Woman, what advice can you leave with the youth of today?
AT: My advice for youth of today would be to chart your own course. Sit down with yourself and truly figure out what you are passionate about and go for it. Don’t let anyone dissuade you — even your well-meaning family members. I’d also say, develop your own set of moral codes nad standards. Know what you will and will not accept of yourself and from others. It will take you a long way.
Exquisite Women is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Women who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society. Nominate a Black Woman today on the contact page or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Exquisite Woman!