Unedited moments in my life, using a personal ink to portray what lies beneath the picture.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible

 'Slay in Your Lane’ by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene  is an inspirational black girl tool book that gives an insight into the challenges black women face in every sphere of life.
The black girl bible features 39 successful black British women spanning from different industries and explores what it means to be young, black and female in the U.K.
 How did you meet and come together to create this book?
Y: We met at university in our first year and it was a predominantly white university. There were very few black people and we became very close from there.
Essentially how the book came about was from  Elizabeth's interest in reading  a lot of self help books, she was also keen on furthering herself in her career. She worked in the corporate world and had read a lot of books such as 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg, 'Girl Boss' by Sophia Amoruso  and all those kinds of books about how to survive in the workplace, the secret rules of how to get ahead and how to be more confident.  But often as a black woman when you’re confident it can be read as arrogant, and there were a lot of rules in the books that didn’t translate for black women. They spoke to white women. So Elizabeth rang me one day and asked if I can write her a book about how to get ahead as a black woman in the workspace. I thought it was an excellent idea and thought someone has already done it, but they hadn’t!  I always joke for the sake of our friendship that this is too good of an idea for her to gift me and thought we should do it together On a serious note though, she’s massively talented in marketing and was a marketing manager at that time. I had my journalistic expertise and thought we should just do it together. We needed it be more than just a book but a movement.
How did you decide on the title of the book?
Y:Elizabeth sent me a picture of Solange Knowles at New York Fashion Week and she captioned it ‘slay in your lane’ I called her and said I’ve never heard  of that phrase before in that way. Obviously it was a play on the term ‘stay in your lane’ I thought it's a memorable title.  When you look at Solange Knowles she could have lived in Beyonce’s shadow but instead she carved her own path, found her own lane and found herself. The picture encapsulated that she’s forging her path and doing her own thing. That’s essentially the essence of what the book is about as a black women:  to stay in your own lane, slay in it and do well in it!
The book also includes 39 inspirational black British women. How did you select them to be apart of the book and what did you learn from them? 
 Y: We had a long list of about 200 women but it was very much about throwing everything by the wall and seeing what sticks. We knew there were several black women in this country that were doing amazing stuff. If we could speak to all of them we could. It was about whom do we have access to, and at the beginning we had access to none of them. A lot of it was quite literally sending DM’s on instagram, twitter, googling for agent details and going to events we knew they’d be at and hoping to maybe get a chance to speak to them. For instance we went to the Afrohair & Beauty Live event, which is an annual hair show in the U.K. and knew presenter, June Sarpong would be there. We asked her in person if she would love to partake in the book and she agreed. We were bypassing the gatekeepers because some agents would’ve been dismissive over it. As soon as people hear something is black they become cautious and view it as not being an important thing. We did our best to speak to the women directly and it worked really well. We also learned a lot from them. From health to dating, to workplace and representation. It was so wide and broad. Our oldest interviewee, Margret Busby who was the first black female publisher in the U.K and the youngest is currently 73 years old. We spoke to women in our age group like Florence Adepoju,  she’s a beauty entrepreneur. All the women have a wide breath of experiences.
                                                 credit: Waterstones
What challenges did you face whilst writing the book?
Y: The biggest challenge was probably time management. We both had fulltime jobs whilst we were writing the book. It was physically, verging on impossible to do what we wanted to do. We did the interviews by ourselves with the women; we had a photoshoot with them that we organised ourselves independently. We were physically writing the book and doing the research. Thankfully we lived together at that time to ensure we stay on top of it. There were a lot of ‘sick days’ and lunch times where we were sneaking out to interview people. Every weekend was dedicated to writing the book. There was very little downtime during that period.  We were hands on and ran social media accounts and website. We even had interns cause the workload was too much.
 Has anything changed after publishing the book?
Y: Literally so much! We’ve never been so visible, despite me being a journalist before. We put a lot of ourselves in this book, in terms of our own personal experiences. Like doing book signings and people genuinely coming to see you and engage with your book because it spoke to them. It has been humbling and overwhelming. In the book I speak a lot about representation and the lack of it in a British context. When we see black women it’s very rare in terms of good media representation. They also tend to be African American. We have little good black British representation in this country, not because there aren’t any positive role modes, as evidence by this book but they don’t get the visibility that they should. It’s been interesting becoming part of that representation by virtue of writing this book because we’ve done a lot of press and did a shoot with Vogue, ELLE, Times Newspaper, Refinery 29, appeared on the metro and did an interview with BBC Breakfast. Being on the other end and providing that representation and people talking about how much it means to see girls like us on TV has been a massive change.  I’m seeing the difference our visibility has made in terms of black women knowing there’s space for them in publishing and that our voices and stories do matter.
What are your personal experiences of being a black British woman in the workplace?
E: I’m unable to talk about my personal experiences in a great detail but I think that there are a couple of things from across the board that black women experience in the workplace. These things range from having an idea and voicing it but people not acknowledging it. Whereas if someone superior to you, or if a white male or female voice it people tend to acknowledge it. I’ve personally seen it and experienced it. That feeling of your ideas not being taken seriously is something we talk about it in the book. There’s a term we use  called ‘white co sign’ it's when as a black woman your ideas are being vouched for by a white man . It is not something we encourage because it's not the best place to be in and a lot of black women have experienced it.
Imposter syndrome is what a lot of women experience, but when it comes to black women it doesn’t come from the same place. A lot of it is embedded in the notion that we are women and black and our identity alone presents itself a lot of challenges. When you work twice as hard and get to a particular workplace, you’re almost grateful to be there, even though you have all your qualifications and probably have more qualifications than your white counterparts. You have  that feeling of being grateful to be there. It’s almost a feeling of ‘oh they’ve let me in’. When you have that mindset it manifests in your interactions and you’re likely to let things slide and not speak up for yourself because you’re internalising your achievements. 
What micro –aggression experiences have you had?
E: In the book we talk about micro-aggression in great detail and we list the different types of micro-aggressions, how they come into effect and how to deal with them.
I think a lot of the times we know it has happened to us but one of the amazing advices in the chapter was around how to pick your battles. I’m one of those people who don’t want to let anything slide. There’s a chapter that details out how to deal with micro aggressions and for me one of the ways to deal with it is to  trust my instinct, because I believe there’s no particular way to deal with it cause we are all different. One of the key points about micro-aggressions is to learn to pick your battles so you know how to take an educated approach and also know when you need to walk away.
How did your families react to the book?
E: Our family and friends have been aware of this book for a long time because it's been in the works for a while and they’ve finally seen it come to life. They are proud and it was amazing and overwhelming to see them proud.
What has been a ‘pinch me’ moment after publishing the book?
E: We’ve had so many  ‘pinch me moments’ that have made everything so exciting along the way after publishing the book. One of those moments was when Sheryl Sandberg emailed us and wrote a formal endorsement for our book. We always say to her this book wouldn’t exist without her essentially. She opened up the conversation about women in the workplace. Another 'pinch me moment’ was when we were at our launch party and Denis Lewis who is one of our interviewee’s came up to me with 3 books and asked me to sign her books. I mean, she’s Denis Lewis! She's an Olympic gold medalist. It was so surreal.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
E: One of the things that I wrote in the afterword of the book is that when I turned 21 and graduated, I wrote a note to myself about the kind of approach I want to take in life. It was kind of a manifesto and a promise to myself. Whenever I lacked motivation, I could refer back to that note as something that would give me a broader perspective about what I wanted to achieve in life and how far I’ve come.
In that note was a quote from Maya Angelou "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style."
That’s one of the things I want a reader to take away from this book, especially a black girl. Your mission in life is filled with opportunities, ups and downs but there’s still so much beauty and great things to come from it. I just want a black girl to be in control of her future as much as possible and just thrive and have a great time whilst doing it. Over the years I’ve always gone back to the note and its reignited that spark and  helped me refocus my purpose. I hope that once they read this book its something they can go back to depending on where they are in life and it will reassure them that they’re not alone. There’s a sisterhood captured in this book to guide them in difficult but also triumphant moments in their lives.
Can we expect more books?
E:I feel like my life has been leading up to writing ‘Slay in Your Lane’. Everything life has thrown at me has all been leading up to this book.  It was such a therapeutic and cathartic experience to take this journey especially with my best friend. It definitely feels like we’ve given birth and our baby is out in the world. We hoped it would manifest in different ways, mediums and platforms so we excited to see what other things could come from the book and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a book. So at the moment we are open to a lot.
Describe a black girl in 3 words
E: I don’t know if I can describe a black girl in 3 words cause I can’t pigeonhole who we are in 3 words but the main thing I would say about every black girl I’ve met and also basing it on our stories is the fact that we are so resilient and that resilience comes into play in positive ways. We are go getters, we strive for the best for ourselves, our families and communities. We seek inspiration in so many things and we go against all odds. The resilience on the other hand can be quite detrimental to ourselves in terms of our mental health and self care. It’s a double-edged sword and that super woman complex of being perfect and flawless. When you’re resilient there’s no other option but to be great.
Slay In Your Lane (£16.99, Harper Collins) is out now.
For more information on the book follow the  Slay in Your Lane twitter and instagram account @slayinyourlane


No comments

Post a Comment

Blogger Template Created by pipdig