Lady J and I crossed paths on Instagram when I first started my IG page for ASCSW. She was one of the first people to follow me and show support while I was getting my blog and Instagram page off the ground. What I love about her page is the fact she talks about self care mental health and other topics that impact women of color. Her page is informative as she shares tips for self care, tips on how to stay motivated, she has guests on her podcast speaking about relatable issues and invites guest bloggers to share their stories or opinions about various topics. Lady J is also a teacher, for those of us who are not teachers can you imagine what they’re going through during this pandemic? We see daily how politics has forcibly entered their lives as well as the students. I’m all for supporting teachers especially since my mother was a teacher, teaching is truly a task but as my mother told me it is very rewarding as well. Salute to all the teachers, thank you and we appreciate you.
ASCSW: Hello Lady J, I hope all is well. I always see you on Instagram promoting information about self care, mental health, your blog and podcast For My Brown Girls. I wanted to request an interview with you to talk about your mission and purpose of your blog as well as your informative podcast. I’m ready to jump into this interview to chat and let the readers learn more about you. So let’s begin.
ASCSW: I would like to start off our interview talking about your blog For Brown Girls. What is the mission/purpose of your blog? I love the name but I know you currently changed the name and rebranded everything, correct?
Lady J: Yes, I recently changed the logo and mission to be more inclusive. I wanted to write and post about more topics that impact Black Women other than mental health. #ForBrownGirlsBlog is now committed to educate, uplift, support and empower Black Women while on their path to wellness. #FBGB seeks to promote self-care, self-love, healthy living and improving one’s mental health through content that is relatable, reliable and useful.
ASCSW: I noticed a few things on your social media that I would like to touch on with you such as mental health and self care. In my interviews that is one of the questions I ask my guests because self care is very important and that’s speaking from my own experience. So could you explain to the readers why mental health and self care is important to you?
Lady J: Mental health and self-care go hand in hand. A few years ago, I was in a very dark place mentally and I just didn’t not have strength to practice self-care. In fact, I didn’t think that I was deserving to participate in self-care; my self-esteem and self-worth was nonexistent. I felt unlovable and I only had the energy to do the bare minimum for myself and my family. Thoughts of suicide crossed my mind daily and I could feel myself slipping into despair until one day I broke down and admitted I needed help. I started going to therapy, was put on medication and with this combination I started to get better. With a clear mind and healthy coping skills, I started to participate in practicing activities that improved all aspects of my health. I want to emphasize the word practicing, because self-care is something that we have to make a point to do often if we want to see results. After I came out of that dark place, I told myself that I will never ever let my mental health get that low. In order for me to be in place to practice self-care, I have to take care of my mental health. How I take care of my mental health comes in many forms: I take my meds on a regular basis, I keep my therapy appointments, I set boundaries for myself and others, I rest when I can and ask for help when I need it. Have I perfected this? Ha! No, I have not. However, everyday I get up and put one foot in front of the other and do my best.
ASCSW: While I was growing up in my neighborhood and attending school speaking about mental health issues wasn’t taken seriously and our community would brush it off as something not important or as a joke. Do you think in the black community mental health is finally being looked at as something serious and not so much as a joke anymore? Especially now, that kids are possibly exposed to more violence, abuse, bullying, police brutality, homelessness and even politics?
Lady J: From my experience, our community is becoming more accepting of being diagnosed with mental health disorders, taking medication and going to therapy. However, I believe this is largely due to the younger generation being more open minded about mental health. Sadly, I also believe that because of the recent police killings of 2 Black men (Walter Wallace jr and Daniel Prude) with mental health disorders, we are faced with the reality that mental health is something that can’t be prayed away or ignored. For those of us in the community who are challenged with mental health issues, we need to be brave enough to come forward and talk about our experiences so others know it’s okay to get help. Our stories of overcoming will break the stigma and pave the way for others to feel brave enough to get the help they need.
ASCSW: Next, I see you promote your podcast For My Brown Girls. What inspired you to create your podcast? What type of topics can the readers expect to hear when they listen to your podcast? Where can the readers find your podcast and what time do it air?
Lady J: Yes, I do have a podcast and when I rebranded, I changed the name to #ForBrownGirlsBlog Presents…. Conversations With A Brown Girl! I had toyed around with the idea for a while and my social media friends who are podcasters encouraged me. I was still doubtful until I saw a social media post that said, Start The Podcast Sis. I did a bit of research of what went into making a podcast, learned how to edit and one day hit record and the rest is history….. or herstory. Conversations With a Brown Girl episode topics include: self-love, how set boundaries and creating SMART goals, just to name a few. I will be having conversations with a few of my friends and some experts as well. I want my listeners to feel like they’re talking with friends about topics that impact the lives of Black Women. You can find Conversations With A Brown Girl on all major podcast platforms the second Wednesday of every month.
ASCSW: On your social media page you mentioned you’re a teacher. How has Covid- 19 impacted your normal teaching routine?
Lady J: That Bih Rhonna has made teaching A LOT harder than what I’m used to, I feel like a first year teacher! I’m trying to find what works for me and my students all while adjusting to this virtual way of teaching and balancing my home life. I’m exhausted at the end of day! To offer some context: I taught for 9 years, took a break, went back teaching part time and then stayed home for 3 years. When I was hired, I didn’t think teaching virtually wasn’t that hard, but I was very wrong. I’m pretty tech savvy, but I had to learn how manuver my school’s learning management system and incorporate online learning programs while creating engaging lessons. This in itself has been difficult, but being a new hire has added another level of stress that I have to deal with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the experience that all of this is teaching me, but I’m ready to go back to school the old fashion way!
ASCSW: What inspired you to become a Teacher and what do you love most about it?
Lady J: I am a teacher because of a Black man named Mr. Richard Bartell, my middle school History teacher. He would sit on the edge of his desk, legs and arms folded and tell stories of the past which fascinated me. He saw something in me and pushed me to do better. I knew he cared about me and his actions showed that, he wasn’t afraid to call my mom or call me out when I didn’t meet his expectations. He also was the first teacher that taught me Our history didn’t start in chains, that always stuck with me. Mr. Bartell inspired me to major in History and Secondary Education with a minor in Black Studies from Lincoln University and earn a Masters of Arts degree in African American Studies from Temple University. I do my best to treat my students with the same tough love, respect and high expectation of them the way he had of me when I interact with my students.
ASCSW: Something else I noticed on your page, are a few social injustice pictures such as Breonna Taylor. If you can answer briefly, how has the current events surrounding all of the civil unrest taking place across the country affect you? What do you do to relieve yourself of the chaos taking place in the world?
Lady J: Simply put, I’m a Black Woman married to a Black Man and have a Black son. I have to be vigilant and stay informed of the world around us so that I know how to do my best to protect my family. I also teach Black and Brown students and do my best to keep them informed as well. The last few years have been hard, but this past year has been exceptionally rough on my family, but we have leaned on each other for strength and joy through it all. What keeps me sane in these crazy times is limiting what I watch on tv, taking social media breaks, listening to uplifting podcasts/audio books, watching YouTube and of course Netflix and Chill with a glass of wine!
ASCSW: How do you prioritize your time between teaching, writing/maintaining a blog, hosting your podcast, and finding time for yourself? Do you have any self care rituals? What do you do for fun?
Lady J: It’s funny that you ask this because I’ve been thinking about how I can balance it all and the answer is I can’t. With all that has been going on with my job, it was hard for me to do all of the above so I made the hard decision to stop blogging every week. Now, I micro blog through Instagram and Facebook and host guest bloggers. I have also gone from releasing my podcast twice a month to once a month. I’ve learned that trying to do too much can lead to burnout and I can’t afford for that to happen. My job is very demanding right now, I don’t have the same time or energy I once had to put into my blog and podcast so I needed to cut back. My self-care routine includes getting my hair and nails done every other week, a massage twice a month and seeing my therapist on a regular basis. For fun, my husband and I go on dates every few weeks which includes going to Target and when I get a quiet moment to myself, I watch true crime videos on YouTude. I also enjoy reading and cooking!
ASCSW: What are some experiences you have encountered so far during your journey of life that has helped you grow into the woman you are now?
Lady J: Oh man, I could write a book on this topic! Being in 2 abusive and toxic relationships at a young age, being a people pleaser, having low self-esteem, feeling like an outcast, battling with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts have made me into the Strong Black Woman that I am now. I’m not perfect and I still struggle, but I’m still here, I’m still standing and I know that because I made it out of tough situations before, I have what it takes to keep fighting.
ASCSW: When you were growing up was there a woman in your life that you felt represented A Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman? If so, what are some of the characteristics they displayed that made them A Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman?
Lady J: My mother, Kate Jenkins, a woman from my church Candace Stanley and my former co-worker, Margaret Fleisher. Each of these women are strong, regal, sophisticated and classy. The Bible says that when you walk with the wise you become wise, I have been blessed to walk with these women and I’m wiser because of the things I’ve learned from them. Talking with them about their life experiences, laughing with them and just being around them has taught me so much about what it means to be a woman. I have learned that being quiet and gentle is a form of strength. I have always felt like a square peg trying to fit in a hole for a long time, but no more, I embrace the uniqueness of who I am. I have learned to stand strong in the midst of adversity and let God fight my battles.
ASCSW: I reached out to you because I truly admire the content you’re putting out there about self care and mental health. Also, I can tell you’re driven and ambitious because if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. In my opinion anyone who creates a safe space to spread awareness about maintaining your mind, body, and soul is a caring person because not everyone is understanding when it comes to the importance of maintaining our mental health, especially with the current times we are living in. I believe some of the elements of being A Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman is being caring and wanting to help people, like what I see you doing with your platform. Lady J, in your opinion what do you think makes you A Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman?
Lady J: Wow, I’m honored and humbled by your words, thank you. What makes me a Sassy Classy Sophisticated Woman is my willingness to use my pain as a platform to help Black Women and break the stigma surrounding mental health.
ASCSW: Last question. What would you want the readers to take away after reading your interview/story on ASCSW?
Lady J: I’m not perfect and there are days when I still struggle, but I’ve learned that I have a strength in me that keeps me going. I have come out of a very dark place and I’m still here and still standing. I hope that after reading some of my experiences, that you feel educated, uplifted, supported and empowered that you can do the same.
ASCSW: Lady J, thank you once again for taking the time to speak with ASCSW, I greatly appreciate you taking time out to talk. I wish you nothing but continued success but before we go is there anything else you like to share with the readers that we may not have touched on?
Lady J: I am so honored and humbled that you chose me to interview. I appreciate the opportunity to share my story and to promote my brand. I pray that many blessings come your way. Thank you!
ASCSW: Please provide your website and social media.
Lady J: Please see links below.