Meet Kandrisa in Morocco!

booooI’m a college graduate of St. John’s University, wearer of cute accessories, semi-decent speller, member of the Peace Corps, perfume enthusiast, budding feminist, Beyonce fan, proud owner of nothing because materialism is wack, art history lover, someone who is always trying to lose five pounds, a sister as well as a Sister as well as a sista, and to my utmost delight a black girl in the world.

1. What made you move to where you are today? Job? School? Adventure?        When I was young and even more naive than what I am now, I dreamed of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was fixated on the idea of being a world traveler and as I am now, completely aware of how broke I am. I knew that I would need help “getting out there” (there being some place beyond Wal-mart) and so I made a pact with myself that I would join the Peace Corps. In those days, the volunteerism was secondary. In this day in age were I am continuously confronted with social inequality and discriminatory acts of all sorts, I am humbled by my decision to join the Peace Corps and I only hope to continue my advocacy for change.

walk2. How did you prepare for the move? How did you find housing? Did you need to learn a new language? Etc.?

I totally did not prepare for moving to Morocco. I mean I brought a mini-skirt. My ideas about living in a Muslim country were completely unintelligible and ridiculously uninformed. I remember looking at the CIA’s country factbook twice and being overwhelmed by all the information both there and in the “Lonely Planet’s Guidebook for Morocco.” Still, I had made a mental–and contractual–commitment to serve the nation of Morocco and that’s what helps me power through.

As far as settling down for these twenty-seven months, I originally lived with a host family in Sefrou, Morocco. I stayed there for three months in which I did a dismal job of learning Darija (Moroccan Arabic). It was just so cold! And sometimes learning isn’t on my agenda. Afterwards, I moved to my final site, a medium sized village on the outskirts of Marrakesh. There I lived with another host family who drove me up the wall. It was all I could do to find my lovely one bedroom apartment with newish tile and the water closet outside the front door. That’s a longer story, but in summation, I’m in my first ever own home and as cheesy as this may sound, I think its really special that the address is in Morocco.


3. Whats the most difficult thing about being a black woman where you are? Blatant racism? no black community? No hair stylist?!                                        Wow! This question is this question. I’ll just start with the easy stuff. To know me is to know that my hair is a mess. Plaits all day, every day. I had embarrassing amounts of stereotypical racism to work through when I first arrived in-country. I held a monolithic viewpoint in which the only countries that stood out were the ones that I had connection to on a personal level. Plus, I just made the very ethno-centric, neocolonist (I do not give myself any leeway for practicing racism) assumption that all black people were the same. We aren’t and its our diversity that makes all of humanity beautiful. So what I really struggled with is developing a multiplicity in my understanding of what it means to be black in general and especially outside of the American racial binary. In Morocco, yes there is colorism, yes there are people who question the authenticity of my American heritage because I’m black, yes there are super ignorant comments about “Morocco not being in Africa,” but there is also a trend to recognize the indigenous tribal culture, ShelHa, a greater cultural connection to the Middle East, and other influences that make being black something different here than what I experienced in America.

4. On the flip side, what do you LOVE about where you live?
Can I be sentimental? I love the personal growth that I’ve undergone. I love the way my mind deliberates over issues. I love knowing that my family is growing and become amazing people without me. I love the people that I’ve met and the stories that they share with me. I love it because it was my dream.


5. How have your friends and family reacted to you moving abroad?                           I know some very complex people. Their responses have been all over the emotional wellness map. Originally, my family was very angry with me for leaving. These days, sure they want me to come home, but they want me to succeed more. My grandmother is immaculately invested in my happiness. My friends can’t wait for 2015 so we can party together again. The loves of my life are proud. In there own way, everyone I know is rooting for me and I am incredibly grateful to have an amazing network of friends and family.


6. Whats next for you? Plans to move back home? More living abroad?
I’m that girl with a ten year plan. I am so excited for the next countries in my life! Recently, my dad suggested that I take year off and live in Japan with he and his family. Maybe I’ll go there and be a live-in babysitter and/or meet a super handsome Japanese man and errr…live happily ever after. All jokes aside, I have always wanted a doctoral degree. My plans include going back to university and being an adult student. I hope to pursue a degree museum studies and in’shallah (God Willing) do public relations for a fancy museum. Promotion of the arts is a career I feel like I can commit to for the rest of my life. If not there’s always another term in the Peace Corps or maybe an extended vacation in an exotic land some place south beyond the border. And if not that either than I guess I’ll become a cat lady.
Follow Kandrisa’s adventures at 🙂

My Issues with Feminism…


First off, the writer of the above linked article is using all of the words, TOO MANY WORDS.

To summarize, she is mad that people are calling Beyonce a feminist because she feels that Yonce actually represents a “simplistic, pro-capitalist, structurally violent sampling of feminism.” The author labels this type of feminism as “Bottom Bitch feminism” which she says is having “an appearance of power within a structure of male dominance, but in reality this power is merely vicarious and not a positional power in and of itself.” She goes on to ramble that “the coontocracy of assimilationist corporate negroes is in full effect, riding for patriarchal capitalist agendas and having us believe that somehow Bey’s success is a step toward some dystopic vision of progress for Black women.” Sooo under all that she is saying Beyonce is making black women look worse, feel worse than we already do.

All this article is, is a perfect example of the shaming many of us self proclaimed black feminists can engage in. There is the false belief that there is only one definition of black feminism. Like there are ideals that should be projected within all feminists, we should all be relaying not only the same message (which is fair), but the same image as well. As if when you join this club of black feminists, you should be prepared to be very homogeneous, not too sexy or vulgar, or anything that would deem you as anti-movement. Feminists can be sexual, overtly so, they can be coy, they can be whatever they want. To say that Beyonce is a feminist can be deemed a shallow interpretation, but it is someone’s interpretation and thats fine. Let her be a feminist, she’s a boss, a mother, a wife, a sister, a billionaire, and she controls her empire well.

If I wear tight dresses, get tipsy, and drop it low in the club to ratchet music, in many circles, I would be perpetuating un-feminist ideals. I have had black “feminists” tell me that the fact that I put such effort into my looks and trying to keep my weight down makes me compliant with society’s definition of what women should look like. The part of me that wants to be married and have children can also be considered anti-feminist. I had a gender studies professor tell me that marriage is inherently anti-woman and engaging in it leaves women vulnerable and defenseless to patriarchy. NOTHING works, you can never win. At this point let everyone be the type of feminist they want to be, we all will be criticized for it anyway.

Like Adiche says in her TED talk, feminists believe in social, political, and economic equality between sexes. That doesn’t always look the same for everyone. Now, is Beyonce a feminist? I think so. Are we the same type of feminist? Heck naw. I am trying to navigate the white, patriarchal world of international development. Trying to structure my career so that I can represent African women in a world where they are raped, beaten, and spoken for by men. I am still trying to speak up, and be more assertive, and not shrink myself professionally. I am still having a hard time demanding more money and more benefits when I know they are owed to me. I downplay my education and my experience because I don’t want to look like I’m bragging or intimidate anyone. I’m still learning to do a lot of things. I want to learn these things so one day my daughter doesn’t have to question herself like I often do. So she won’t feel threatened, so she will get paid the fair amount and if she doesn’t she will speak her damn piece.

Thats what my feminism looks like, but it doesn’t trump anyone else’s. I’m not more of a feminist than Beyonce because I work in Africa, and she’s not more of a feminist than me because she has more money. We are both trying to make it in a world where people like the author of this article are telling us what to say as to not make bell hooks and Audre Lorde feel shame.

Shrugs, I can’t live that way. I think Beyonce’s version of feminism, my version of feminism, your version of feminism is fine, so be free.

“Beyonce Makes me Want to Turn 30”

beySo, it’s early afternoon, I’m checking my work email, looking up some flights on Kayak, doing my usual, and BOOM. BOOOOOM. Beyoncé dropped an album on our asses. While we where all sleeping and watching TV, Beyoncé said “here is some holiday cheer for y’all fools…now gimme your last $16.” Well first, I didn’t know how to act so I just stood up in the middle of the office. Really, I just stood up and stared at the computer screen. And then I sat down and went to iTunes to begin downloading. And after 10 minutes of jumping up and down, (and professing my undying devotion to Beyoncé on all forms of social media) I began watching the videos. I began listening to her lyrics, I began understanding that she really is a GROWN ASS woman. A woman who seems transformed in these new music videos. She seems empowered, boasting a sexiness that screams indifference to the haters and an appreciation for the 32 years it took to get to this point in her life.

Beyoncé is making her 30’s look damn good, and if this is the kind of woman I could be in my 30’s, sign me up right now. Taking charge of my career, allowing my work to speak for its self, feeling confident in my abilities. This is a side of growing older that I sometimes miss while worrying about what my family thinks I should be doing with my life, or how I’m still single while apparently all of Facebook is getting engaged. Your 30’s always seemed like this peak that you reach, an age where you should have your things in order. But as I get closer to the big 3-0 I realize that, like Beyoncé, there is power in your personal growth. I mean so much had to come together for her to feel comfortable having her man hop on a track and tell us how he likes to push her panties to the side in their foyer. Even the juxtaposition of having a piece of Adiche’s “We Should all be Feminists” speech over a track that tells you bitches to bow down paints the picture of a woman who knows who she is, and enjoys confusing us all with her mélange of vulnerable, erotic, thug, feminist, art.

Isn’t that who we all are on the inside? Balls of inconsistencies and contradictions? I loudly declare myself a feminist while still being unable to fully define the term, all the while wondering if my desire to put on a freakum dress and drop it low to the new Juicy J joint will ruin my credibility in certain circles. What I think Beyoncé has showcased here is that we don’t need to define ourselves or our dreams, we just need to act on our visions and let that do the explaining. We can just be, we can just live, and move forward in the direction that feels right. Write a book, start a business, shit or don’t. Be free.

As I look to my 27th birthday in March, I think of how I still have very little figured out. How I think I may know what I like, what I want, what I envision for my future, but those ideas change everyday. Literally, everyday I am wondering what my next move will be in 2014. Should I go to law school? Move back to DC? Go be a vagabond in Europe? I don’t know, and for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to feel ok with the ambiguity of it all. I look forward to reaching my 30’s and having an even better understanding of the woman looking back at me. I look forward to feeling sexier, being more confident in my voice, arriving at a place of comfort for myself and no one else. Thanks Bey.

A Black Girl in the Philippines: Meet Laura Wise!

What made you move to where you are today? 
I moved to the Philippines for a job and adventure. I’m a young adult missionary for the United Methodist Church. When I applied for the program I accepted having no idea where I was going. So my appetite for adventure definitely allowed me to be open enough to go where I was summoned. And viola..15 months later I’m here in the Philippines working for peace and justice with a local NGO.
 How did you prepare for the move? How did you find housing? Did you need to learn a new language? 
In my case I definitely over-prepared. Before moving I went through an intense 3 week training preparing my batch-mates and I to live and work internationally. The theme was: simple living, and I really took it to the extreme. I brought no cute clothes, no heels, none of my fabulous jewelry, minimal makeup…essentially the things that give me life. After arriving I quickly realized I took it way over board, and that simple living doesn’t mean I have to live in poverty or deprive myself of the things that I love. Looking back though, stripping myself of all of the ornaments that help to make me fabulous was a blessing. It really forced me to get in touch with myself in a new way. My organization provided me with housing, and I’m still trying to learn the language…Lord help me. It’s the first language I ever seriously tried to learn. I can understand a lot more than I can speak. I get by though 🙂
photo (17)
Whats the most difficult thing about being a black woman where you are? Blatant racism? no black community? No hair stylist?!
All of the above! lol When I first arrived I was shocked and appalled at the booming skin whitening industry (I’m pointing at you P&G and Unilever). This is a country that was colonized for almost 400 years, so I find many people maybe subconsciously buy into the ‘white is right’ syndrome. I’ve had people joke about me being “dark.” And many people here don’t understand how I can be black and from the United States. I find myself giving a 5 minuet history lesson at least 3 times a week. People are really curious about my hair more than anything; how did I get it this way, do I comb it, do I wash it…with shampoo, etc. I’ve chosen to wear protective styles while here because It’s just easier for me. I stocked up on Shea Moisture products before I left and all is well! They have really great virgin coconut oil here. I’ve adopted it into my routine and will be smuggling a couple dozen bottles back to the States with me.
On the flip side, what do you LOVE about where you live?
I love the spirit of the people here, everyone is so warm and welcoming. I’ve experienced hospitality like never before. My work has allowed me to see and do things I could have never even dreamed that I would be able to experience, so I love every bit of living and learning in this new culture. My time here has really been defined by the amazingly strong women I’ve met here in the Philippines. I’m talking true feminist who might not necessarily identify with the term ‘feminist’. I’ve loved every conversation and all that I’ve learned from them.
 How have your friends and family reacted to you moving abroad?
Everyone has been really supportive. Since my life has taken a turn in this direction I can see how my friends and family are starting to take interest in some of the issues that I’ve become passionate about and that I’m working on here. It’s really cool.
 Whats next for you? Plans to move back home? More living abroad?
New York, New York is next for me. I will be moving there early spring 2014 where I will work with the communications team at the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church for the next year and a half. After that only God knows. I’ve always been a ‘go with the flow’ kind of gal, so I hope that life will take me abroad again. It’s really a life changing experience.

Find the amazing Laura online at…

Twitter: @ellewisedotcom

Instagram: ellewisedotcom

My Mamas and their babies.

Artisan headshots WC 027 Mubayange 063 Mubayange 079
Artisan headshots WC 024
Photos taken by our intern Yasmine while visiting our artisans throughout the villages. I strongly feel that African mothers are a different breed of human. There is a peculiar sense of  selflessness that, having experienced this first hand with Mme. Kimou, envelopes children and strips the mother of any sense of personhood. It’s like these Mamas become just tools to protect and nurture their children until they can take care of themselves. Like they can not be people until their families are ok. Does that make sense?

It’s a scary notion, but also very sane at the same time.

My Man Crush!

I recently found out what #mcm means, Man Crush Mondays! Ha, how cute. Well this Monday I needed to share with you all my crush. Blogger/DJ/Ashesi University Lecturer/DUST Magazine Editor/Accra Mover and Shaker Kobby Graham.

He’s an afropolitan living in Accra making moves through his awesome DJing sets, his innovative lectures at Ghana’s only liberal arts university (think analyzing the text of Kanye and Jay Z’s “No Church in the Wild”), his witty and funny take on life in Ghana on his blog, basically his overall cool. I mean really, a man of the diaspora who returned to his country and is shaping the conversations within one of Africa’s most burgeoning and influential cities through education, art, music, and journalism. Plus he shows loves for his mama. Yup.

I actually met him in 2012 at a conference I snuck into in Cape Town, I spoke to him for like 4 mins about the differences between Abidjan and Accra. I asked for his card but was too chicken to write cause I didn’t really have anything interesting to say lol. The struggle.

Sigh, unfortunately as I was stalking reading his blog recently I saw something about a girlfriend. Darn, the fantasy came to an end.

Nonetheless, he’s definitely someone to watch, and DUST is a great publication to check out. Oh and if anyone knows any beautiful West African men who sound like this, please contact me as soon as possible. Like seriously.


Australian artist Virginia Ryan moved to my beautiful Cote d’Ivoire a few years ago and started making art inspired by Ivorian fabrics and of course our women 🙂 I love it all.

Once I save up enough money (in 1o years) I’ll buy one and hang it in my foyer. Cause thats what adults do, they have foyers and buy art. For now, one of her pieces is my current background, thats free.

African Women have BEEN Feminists


Definitions of feminism first came from the West; a term deeply rooted in a history that didn’t include women who looked like my ancestors or me. I remember reading “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan in my undergraduate Gender course. Excuse my French, but that shit confused me, this was a book all about middle-aged white women who were tired of being housewives, they were unhappy with their plush lives and unsatisfied with suburbia. THIS Friedan called “the problem that has no name,” the unhappiness of 1950’s white homemakers who apparently wanted more for themselves than a life of leisure and reproducing. I was concerned, and that’s when I knew there had to be a different sect of feminism. I knew there had to be more layers to feminism because there were more women in the world than white suburban housewives.

I remember calling my mom in Abidjan one day asking her to define feminism. It was mostly a joke, like when I ask her opinion on Kim and Kanye or H&M’s Versace line.  Asking her about things that she doesn’t think impacts her life breeds funny answers like, “Does Kim pay for my fuel? Is Versace in my family?” So when I asked her for her definition she surprised me by telling me the story of how she urged my dad to play a bigger part at home when they first moved to the US. She told him that he needed to help clean, and cook, and wash my older brother because that’s what good men did, they helped their wives.  She said even though her in laws saw her as emasculating my father, she stood her ground that helping your wife did not make a man any less masculine.

My mother went on to tell me that my grandmother was a feminist; she fought with men for her space along the banks of rivers so she could fish for herself instead of depending on her husband. My grandmother was a single mother who happened to be married, so she worked hard everyday of her life to find the money to send my uncle to pharmacy school in Dakar and my mother to Paris. My grandmother knew that while my Grandfather was having children outside of their marriage, she had to be the one to provide, that was her role. My grandmother was a feminist, my mother is a feminist, neither is able to give you the long convoluted definitions that have confused the academic world for decades, but their strength and demand for respect and equality in a historically patriarchal society is their definition.

As women of the diaspora, educated abroad, existing in many different worlds, its important for us to understand that our ancestors have BEEN feminists. Strong women who have triumphed over domestic abuse, single motherhood, colonization, war, all while carrying their communities on our backs. Senegalese writer, Awa Thiam, puts it so well when she says that “the Black woman of Africa suffers a threefold oppression: by virtue of her sex, she is dominated by man in a patriarchal society; by virtue of her class she is at the mercy of capitalist exploitation; by virtue of her race she suffers from the appropriation of her country by colonial or neo-colonial powers.”  With so many things against us, how could we survive without the strength to fight for equality, respect, and recognition? We have fought for our voices to be heard, for our pay to be equal, for us to be recognized as vital parts of our societies.

So, as the West continues to try to define Africa, and its women, in the paradigm of poverty, disease, and helplessness; its important to remember that while American and European white women were burning bras, our ancestors were raging against colonialism. They were becoming the first black women educated in their respective countries. They were fighting in civil wars. I mean lets be honest here, African women have BEEN feminists, lets not let academia confuse that for us.


I’m Thankful for:

Africa and living here

My Mother and Father and their ability to make me laugh over skype

My brothers and their complete faith in all that I do

My job that pays me money even when I feel like running away

New friends I’ve made in Tanzania

My close girlfriends and their emails, calls, and messages

My nieces and nephew

My waist cause its small

My skin cause its pretty

My faith

The internet

My masters degree

Hello internet friends!

I just got back from a wonderful two weeks in Dar and Zanzibar 🙂 I went swimming, dancing, saw P Square in concert, ate all the food, and of course I did some work for WomenCraft (Holiday Season=ALL the craft fairs).

My coworkers and I even took some photos of the products out on the beach in Zanzibar! The photos came out beautifully! My girl Yasmine does it big behind the camera, she even caught my big behind in one of the shots! Its cool doe, she made my waist look small 🙂

Anywho,  I’m back in rainy cold Ngara, but in 3 weeks I’ll be back in Zanzibar for NewYears!

It is good oh.