5 Min Read

In what messed up universe is being called Pocahontas an insult?

Reading the recent letter from members of the Cherokee Nation to Senator Warren, I have been cast into reflection; I have looked back through the three-pound hardcover edition of the compilation Three American Indian Women: "Sarah Winnemucca" by Gae Whitney Canfield, "Sacajawea" by Harold P. Howard, and "Pocahontas" by Grace Steele Woodward.

I understand and hear the objections of the authors of the letter to Senator Warren. Claims are very potent instruments of power and self-determination, of possession and property, of means of survival for a group of people. As my mother's daughter, I also understand that for an individual, claims are also powerful as our tie to history and family, our sense of identity, and in certain circumstances, a means of survival. My mother is like Senator Warren, born in Oklahoma half a generation before us. Senator Warren's family had the power and privilege to pass down the story of their Cherokee ancestors through six or more generations, told parent to child at an early age in hopes that those ancestors would not be forgotten — a story that Senator Warren's generation feels safe to tell openly.

In contrast, my mother's family used silence and denial to hide an ancestry that was plainly written on our faces. For a person of mixed ancestry, throughout our nation's history, being claimed by father, by family, by tribe, could mean life or death. My family's story is lifted from national census information from the late 1800s and into the twentieth century and disassembled from false stories told to keep children from being taken. As I attempt to speak of the complex yin and yang of pressing a claim for a Nation of People versus being claimed as an individual, it may seem that I am playing a game of semantics and that these are two very different definitions of the word claim. They are not, and I am not. These are two low dimensional slices through the highly complex structure of history, slices taken from different angles.

Senator Warren is not the only public figure to make claims of Native American ancestry. Perhaps the "easy button" soundbite to call Senator Warren Pocahontas was influenced by prior incidences. Winston Churchill at one point purported to be related to Pocahontas. This unsubstantiated story was furthered by his son, who, on a trip to South Africa, incensed when asked to specify his race, wrote: "Race: human. But if your objective is to determine whether I have colored blood in my veins, I am most happy to be able to inform you that I do, indeed, so have. This is derived from one of my most revered ancestors, the Indian Princess Pocahontas, of whom you may not have heard, but who was married to a Jamestown settler named John Rolfe." There was also Wayne Newton's campaign in the early part of this century to use forensic anthropology to find Pocahontas's bones and bring her home from Grave's End Church in England, where she was buried in 1617. So strong was the pull of the story of his Algonquin ancestral connection passed down to him, and the force of the mythology of a woman who was Amonute, nicknamed Pocahontas, and the force of the personality and accomplishments of the real human being who lived over four hundred years ago.

Pocahontas's life overlapped that of the English settlers of Jamestown by only ten years. When she met John Smith, she was somewhere between eight and twelve years old. He was an adventurer and a soldier of fortune who claimed to have ten years of experience fighting in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Many of the twenty-six-year-old Smith's claims were viewed with skepticism by his contemporaries. If he had any experience as a mercenary in Africa or Asia, it seems logical that he may have honed the technique of befriending a child emissary to learn the language and rough outlines of the local culture; a child who was old enough to be attracted by his charisma, but young enough not to have an agenda of her own — at least not initially.

Historical accounts paint a picture of Pocahontas befriending nearly every one of the more than one-hundred original Jamestown settlers. There is doubt cast on John Smith's story of her saving his life with a dramatic intervention. However, there are archival accounts of her saving the lives of others within the colony and credit given to the mature young woman for its overall survival. I read settlers' descriptions of her, a stunningly intelligent adolescent, curious about the strange stunted and bearded creatures who were building their structures in a place previously abandoned due to the frequency of hurricane landfall. She is unstoppable in the face of her family and community's antagonism toward the new arrivals. Older generations of her tribe and their neighbors had already seen a hundred years of pirate ships and English privateers stealing their young boys to be sold into slavery in the Caribbean while leaving behind the curse of influenza and smallpox.

I think of the ruminations that I have seen recently by David Brooks, Ezra Klein, and Malcolm Gladwell about identity, community, and tribe. Ezra and Malcolm spoke to each other about the facets of identity that we claim in current daily life in the United States and how easily these are manipulated by others and by our own fears and sense of being under attack. David Brooks described how in the United States, we have moved from a community-focused people in the 1930s to an individual-focused people in the 1960s and 1970s, and are now transitioning to a tribe-focused people whose tribalism manifests in all aspects of our lives, particularly in politics.

I think also about DNA. Nearly all the base pairs that make up the human genome are identical in everyone. It is only the tiniest fraction of our DNA that makes us uniquely individuals. Our DNA is the only truly objective written human history, and it is a history told globally and collectively by all of us.

3 Min Read

Black LGBTQ Woman Powerhouse Launches Vegan Cosmetics Line

I am a proud Black business owner carrying a line of lip colors for the woman who wants to shine. At Vatarie Cosmetics you can find cruelty-free and vegan lip care products, including clear lip gloss and liquid matte lipsticks. The line is still under development, so there are more products in the making that you'll hear more about soon!

My products are high-quality and it is my dream to take my brand into high-end storefronts across the nation and even across the globe.

About Leticia

I have worked my way into my entrepreneurial career as I did not come from money. The goal of my cosmetic line is to bring excitement to everyone who tries the line. My products are high-quality and it is my dream to take my brand into high-end storefronts across the nation and even across the globe. I believe that with added makeup and a good set of threads, anybody can confidently face the world. I am a proud and firm supporter of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and a proud member and supporter of the LGBTQIA community.

There have been plenty of hardships that I have had to face throughout my entire life, the most recent being the recent death of my father who passed far too soon. I have never allowed these hardships to deter me, and won't start now. I will continue to progress and work hard to build my business, knowing that this is what my father would have wanted.

About the Vatarie Line: What It's All About

Upon launching the line, I had the mission of inspiring every human to find their inner beauty and to have fun along the way. With this in mind, my products are designed for people of all genders, races, religions, and creeds. The Vatarie line will have more to offer customers very soon as I am continually working on developing products and expanding the line. In addition to the lip colors currently offered, the line will soon include highlighters, eyeshadows, and new lip gloss additions.

I believe that no one needs makeup to validate themselves, and we are all beautiful on our own. I do believe, though, that makeup can make life a lot more fun. Now more than ever we are living in a world where there is so much sadness and darkness. Sometimes all we need to change our moods and get away from that darkness is something to help us feel better and more vibrant — this is where a pop of makeup and a well put together outfit can really make an impact.

Now more than ever we are living in a world where there is so much sadness and darkness.

I encourage everybody to embrace their inner beauty and inner style, and express themselves no matter what. My line of products is inspired by high fashion and designed to make a bold statement. The running theme across my products is empowerment at every stage and level. I create products that make my customers feel happy, and I ensure I am happy myself with my products before I release every single one. There is no place for cutting corners as I believe in producing the highest quality product.

I bring my sense of humor and quirky personality into my products and you can see this in the names of each item. Take the lip color "Blood Money," which signifies all the money, tears, sweat, and yes, blood that was put into the brand. Let me tell you, it was hard work, and it still is hard work, but at the end of the day, it fulfills me to know the type of quality I am providing. It gives me great pride to create a line of legendary products that will positively affect someone and bring them to a place of self-love and acceptance.

About the Past that Gives My Business Meaning

I have struggled over the years with mental abuse that has left me feeling as if "I wasn't enough." Added to that, being a Black woman in an industry that is predominantly dominated by other races, I had to work harder to get to where I am today.

Coming from a broken home, my family struggled with addiction, making my entire childhood a miserable nightmare. My mother abandoned us as she was being physically abused, and it was up to us the kids to do everything necessary to take care of the home and each other. We eventually ended up living with my grandmother in Miami, Florida. At a very young age, I had to endure physical and mental abuse and was locked up. At the age of 22, I lost my younger sister to gun violence and found myself raising her one-year-old son as my own.

Being a Black woman in an industry that is predominantly dominated by other races, I had to work harder to get to where I am today.

While my past was a rough one, it is what has made me the strong, independent, and vibrant woman I am today. That woman strives to be her best every day and works tirelessly to provide a line of only the best cosmetics products. I couldn't see this while I was living through those bad situations and struggling to grow up, but I can look back and see how I was made more resilient because of my hardships.

As I grieve over my father's recent passing, I become stronger. It is this added personal strength that will push me forward in everything I do and will be reflected in my work ethic and in the development of new products for my Vatarie line of cosmetics.