#SWAAYthenarrative
5 Min Read
Career

Since the controversial flood of the #blackouttuesday black squares on Instagram, newly-inspired social media activists have been grappling with how to contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement in a productive and authentic way. In addition to protesting, signing petitions, and donating to various organizations, social media has risen as an essential platform to share useful information and promote self-education. After all, the conversation cannot stop here; we must continue to educate ourselves and support Black people across all channels always.

Enter: She Did That, a documentary directed by New York-based filmmaker Renae Bluitt, which tells the story of successful Black women entrepreneurs. The film, born from Bluitt's In Her Shoes blog, is streaming on Netflix and is one of the many ways you can support Black voices, specifically in the entrepreneurial sector. The film centers around four protagonists: Luvvie Ajayi (Awesomely Luvvie), Lisa Price (Carol's Daughter), Melissa Butler (The Lip Bar), and Tonya Rapley (My Fab Finance), and includes additional interviews with other Black women entrepreneurs as well.

When young Black girls who dream of becoming bloggers, entrepreneurs, or engineers see strong, independent Black women in the fields they dream of pursuing, they feel empowered.

In addition to interviewing a number of contemporary entrepreneurial powerhouses, Bluitt also points out that there is a history of Black women entrepreneurs that dates back far beyond Oprah Winfrey. Take, for example, Clara Brown who was born into slavery but eventually became the owner of multiple successful laundry mats. She was also the first Black woman to participate in the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. Brown is just one of many early entrepreneurs often not shared in the typical history classroom setting, but who has nonetheless laid the foundation for Black women entrepreneurs today.

The film also makes sure to include outstanding statistics that mark the progress Black women have made in the business world. In fact, African American-owned firms grew 34.5% between 2007 and 2012 and there are approximately 1.9 million Black women-owned firms. However, the work doesn't end here. Black women still have to work at least twice as hard in any industry to get ahead; those who rise to the top tend to say their success derives from not letting anyone tell them they aren't good enough.

After all, nothing says women empowerment like starting your own business and watching it take off successfully. Melissa Butler was a successful side hustler before her start-up beauty brand, The Lip Bar, turned into a nationwide phenomenon. The makeup brand, from its vibrant lipstick colors to 26 shades of foundation, is available at Targets everywhere and has graced the pages of Essence, Ebony, Cosmo, Huffington Post, and The New York Times. This of course doesn't mean Butler did not experience any obstacles along the way. When her business partner Rosco Spears (current Creative Director at The Lip Bar) and her went on the popular TV show Shark Tank to pitch The Lip Bar, they were told they would not be successful. Instead of talking business, the panel of businessmen and women complimented their outfits. The anger Butler felt only inspired her to go full steam ahead and take the plunge. As Maya Angelou said, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated."

Many women featured in the documentary have had their fair share of challenges, and Tonya Rapley is no exception. Rapley was in an abusive relationship which turned her finances upside down. After leaving the relationship and working her way back to financial stability, she decided to share her newfound knowledge on her Blog My Fab Finance and eventually became recognized as a millennial money expert.

Black women still have to work at least twice as hard in any industry to get ahead; those who rise to the top tend to say their success derives from not letting anyone tell them they aren't good enough.

Rapley is an exception (in the predominantly white business world), not the rule and that is the crux of the documentary. Black women are often overlooked in the corporate world and have had to work harder, smarter, and faster to get where they are because they've faced far more scrutiny than most every step of the way. So much so that another major topic of the documentary is the "superwoman complex" in which Black businesswomen feel they have to be "on" all the time and never say no — after all, in a world where they already have to work twice as hard to achieve their goals, it should not comes as a surprise that Black women can often experience severe burnout. Psychotherapist Therese Kempf speaks to how important taking care of your mental health and practicing self-care is, especially for Black people who often report being hyper-vigilant and "on guard" while in the workplace.

Despite the obstacles and struggles a Black women entrepreneur confronts along her journey, Black entrepreneurship is helping future generations in profound ways find inspiration and empowerment for their own journeys.

But when young Black girls who dream of becoming bloggers, entrepreneurs, or engineers see strong, independent Black women in the fields they dream of pursuing, they feel empowered. Dr. Nadia Lopez, founder & principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, expresses the joy she feels when her students' faces light up when they see women of color in business –– "From us, by us, for us." And it's not just the young girls who are being inspired by these incredibly successful women, this air of mutual support and inspiration continues throughout these same women's lives and careers.

Luvvie Ajayi, a New York Times bestselling author and creator of the blog Awesomely Techie, discusses Black girl magic, referring to how dedicated Black women are to supporting each other in their entrepreneurial pursuits. In an article for The Root, Bluitt states "It's so important for us, as Black women to come together because we don't have the resources that a lot of our counterparts have. And we're so much more powerful together. We come together and get things done in a way that most people don't even comprehend." This is Black girl magic in action: an empowering phenomenon that creates community among the Black women entrepreneur community and offers a support system to combat the aforementioned "superwoman complex."

Despite the obstacles and struggles a Black women entrepreneur confronts along her journey, Black entrepreneurship is helping future generations in profound ways find inspiration and empowerment for their own journeys. Bluitt concludes the film with the sentiment that we still have ways to go — Jessica O. Matthews, CEO of Uncharted Power, states there are currently only 26 Black-owned startups — but there is a shift happening. There will be both trials and triumphs, but somewhere out there, there is a young Black girl watching these trailblazers and dreaming of doing exactly what they're doing… but in a world where they are finally the rule, not the exception.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.