When I interview with Michelle Martin
MM: Hello Ayana or should call you abuttafly or Yonnie lol?
AW: Hello Michelle I usually go by Ayana and close friends and relatives call me Yonnie and abuttafly is simply a surname. You are welcomed to call me whatever you like.
MM: Thank you Ayana, we’ll go with that for now and after we have dinner I will start calling you Yonnie. Now let us get into a little bit about your mentoring programing and how it all started.
AW: Sure basically I created a blog called neosoulsistahs back in 2012 initially with other women but that did pan out as planned so I decided to venture out on my own. I had a crappy blog on wordpress.com and had no idea really what I wanted to do with the blog. The intent of the blog was to discuss, natural hair, beauty, health, fashion and music. I wanted to carve out an original niche of the neo-soul genre that encompassed a lot more than just music, similar to how hip hop is a culture. My belief was why not. A lot of neo soul artist share a fundamental understanding what type of music they make and the people who enjoy it have the same understanding.
Michelle Martin: what understanding would that be?
Ayana: the understanding that music can be positive. Music can enlighten, motivate, and commiserate all the while not fitting into mainstream ideals of what the masses enjoy. Then there’s the look. I wouldn’t necessarily call Erykah Badu a fashion icon but she definitely has her own unique style. Now that brings me to the issue of hair. Even in 2013 we are still battling this notion of good hair primarily in the African American community. What I noticed about a lot of neo soul artist is their unabashed bravado to sport big natural curly naps.
Michelle Martin: Yes I absolutely agree. I have discussed this topic on my show possibly more than once and I do find it amazing that as black women we continued to be so heavily defined by how we wear our hair. Why do you think so many neo-soul artists are not afraid to wear natural hairstyles?
Ayana: I believe it has a lot do with self expression and being real. When I listen to lyrics by India Arie I hear real women experiencing real life situations and I can relate. Case in point her song, I am not my hair, people claim hair is a trivial thing to concerned about but when you are a young black girl growing up going through the torment of being burned by hot combs and relaxers just so you won’t be burned by society for having nappy hair, society we have a problem.
Michelle Martin: Ayana I would like to use that point as an excellent segue into the talking about your non-profit. Can you let the listeners know about the program?
Ayana: Yes I have a mentoring programing geared towards to young girls building self-esteem and it’s called Building Beautiful Flowers. I am a licensed Social Worker and much of my career has been centered on working with young people. I grew up with a terrible self image and my passion to help build the self esteem is deeply rooted in staving off other girls having to go through the same trauma. My program is an offset of my blog and the curriculum is neo-soul themed. For example singer song writer Nneka powerfully written songs and one of our activities is based on being internally powerful. We look at lyrics and find power in their meaning and how we can utilize those feelings to be empowered in everyday life.
Michelle Martin: Ayana I think your program is absolutely innovative and I wish you nothing but success. You are a lovely person and feel free to follow up with us on your journey because I see a lot of great things in your future.
Ayana: No, thank you Michelle, I have been fan of your show for a very long time, and words cannot express how grateful I am to here today. Thank you so much.