Resistance Through Community: Building, Thriving and Surviving With Black Collective Hella Black Hella Seattle

INTERVIEW BY CHANTÉ DYSON. COVER PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC MICHAEL WARD. PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF HELLA BLACK HELLA SEATTLE.

It is such an invigorating experience to be writing for Black Girl In Om again. My life has truly moved faster than I could really keep up during these past 6 months. I graduated from college and immediately moved across country to begin “the dream” of working in corporate America. I was making more than anyone that has ever provided for me. I knew my parents were happy and proud with their daughter. However, I was truly not fulfilled in this space (more to come on this later), and decided to step out on faith. I attribute this confidence to my experience working with Black Girl In Om prior to accepting my first post-grad job position. BGIO taught me how to truly prioritize my wellness and self-care, and also how to say no to the things that do not fulfill my soul’s purpose. After only working in corporate America for 3 grueling months, I decided I needed to get back to intentional living, in my opinion the only true way to live. Thank you BGIO for actively teaching and showing me what this looks like in practice. I am happier than I’ve ever been in this big new city, and can say that the work I am doing now is back in alignment with my true purpose on this planet: to empower women and to use my skills as a writer to tell stories that help to liberate us and move our collective consciousness on this planet onward and upward. For anybody reading that can resonate with an uncertain area in your path, please trust that the Universe will provide; you must trust your process. There is no real thing as failure.

One of the first struggles I experienced upon moving to Seattle was the prominent whiteness in the air. Why weren’t there people who looked like me? Where are my safe spaces? Why do I make so many people uncomfortable? Now, there is no state in this country immune to the harsh realities of racism and prejudice, but this was new. Being born and raised in the DMV (DC, MD, VA area) I was surrounded by Black culture in all forms, of all different socioeconomic statuses, and of all diverse forms and backgrounds. Blackness never seemed like a definitive or even limited concept, but rather expansive and all encompassing. We represented all areas of society. New York was diverse in a different way, but in a way that still affirmed the beauty of my culture as a Black person in this country. Moving to Seattle was the first time I really had to search long and hard for businesses and even social spaces that reflected my culture and who I was in the world. Seattle labels itself as a progressive city, but like many others in this country, fails at truly being a safe and accepting space for non-white people. It was through this struggle, that my roommate Ciara decided to intern for an amazing, very Black, community collective in this city called Hella Black Hella Seattle. I recently had the opportunity of speaking with visionary Eula Scott, ⅓ of Hella Black Hella Seattle. I am incredibly excited to share her story with the BGIO community, because it is imperative to highlight the unique steps, processes, and challenges that come with building strong community in those areas of the country (and beyond) that feel further removed from ancestral wisdom/tradition and all around Black culture and appreciation. I know that many of us can feel ostracized in these spaces, and it is time for us to learn from each other and build communities and spaces that reflect our magic and all around greatness. Let’s meet Eula!

Chanté Dyson: Where did the need to start a Black community collective come from? Was HBHS (HellaBlackHellaSeattle) birthed rapidly or over time, and was there a specific moment or series of events that prompted this need? I'd love to know about your background/upbringing and how this contributed to the birth of HBHS.

Eula Scott: Jasmine, Alaina, and I were friends for a long time, childhood friends who grew up together. We had a large social circle, but that dwindled down to just the the three of us. I was raised with a social justice mindset. My parents were both activists. I am a professional woman, a wife, and mother. I am also a party goer. This is usually reserved for young, single, white women. I want to focus on activism but also want to have a good time. I gave myself until 30 to change the world. At age 30, I became a doula and through this work I help to change the world. At 30, I also got married and went on a honeymoon for three weeks. After a lot of talking to my husband, I decided to spend time writing. I have a degree in radio broadcasting, but it wasn’t seeming promising. I really wanted to interview people because in Seattle we’re losing our community, and every time I meet a Black person they need advice on surviving this city. I didn’t feel like I could do that, but I knew a show could. Jasmine, who is an incredibly organized planner works events and Alaina covers food in the city. I wrote it all down on the beach in Belize and didn’t know if everyone would be up for it, but they were down. I cried at my friends commitment and that’s how we started.

 Hella Black Hella Seattle: Jazz, Eula and Alaina (from left to right). Photo Courtesy of Hella Black Hella Seattle.

Hella Black Hella Seattle: Jazz, Eula and Alaina (from left to right). Photo Courtesy of Hella Black Hella Seattle.

Chanté Dyson: I believe that what initially hinders us from taking risks and cultivating our dreams into reality is the fear of just starting. A lot of the times we want to organize and create, but feel limited in financial, educational, and social resources in order to do so. Was this a thought process in your head in the beginning? What practical and attainable resources did you come up with to build up your platform? Realistically, what is the first step to starting something creative around building community?

Eula Scott: On that beach I did not figure out how to record the show. I knew we needed a studio, and my cousin has one but we weren’t super close as adults (he is older). I reached out to others first, but realized I needed to reach out to my older cousin. I believe that him being able to help a family member is good for his mental health. He truly believes that if he can help make anyone’s path to success easier, it should be his own family. All the other resources I pulled on my own---I’m well-spoken and can write, these are all resources. I have a computer, I’m educated. I wrote letters myself in order to get sponsorships. We all have resources that we don’t even realize. Reach out to those strangers and let them know that you have something they’d want. We also utilized our community. We get all of our guests through the community and through personal networks. Our first season had 8 episodes, and 7 were people we already knew. Grow with the people who want to grow with you.

Chanté Dyson: What is your overall goal for HBHS in its relationship to the Black community in Seattle? Have you found that mission to be successful thus far, and how would you like to expand on this mission in the future?

Eula Scott: Thus far, I can see that we’ve accomplished a great deal. Having our interns has been a huge moment of reflection; the 3 women we’ve brought on board bring incredibly dope perspectives. People don't put themselves out there for things they don't value so if these 3 girls are a sample of who we are reaching, we are doing fine. We want to bring them on and stretch that forward. We’d love to keep working with them and expand our events. We see our part in the renaissance/revolution as a good time. For us we are the sound board and the party. We are guaranteed party girls-- we don’t come to kick it, we come to have a good time. We value that and we throw parties, and if we get more money we will do it on an even bigger scale. We’re planning a Black History Party in February (with a kids version). During the renaissance era there were artists, poets, athletes etc… In other cultures they have things for their children that reflect their history, and we want the same for our children. We plan to have an all-city family reunion with foods and t-shirts. We from Seattle and we f*ck with y'all. We plan to do a lot of meet ups during the summer, which is great in Seattle. We would love to expand to YouTube and continue to interact with young people and and eventually create an even younger version of our show. Ideally, our interns would create a show and high school girls create a show because we need each other. White people ain’t looking for us.

Chanté Dyson: What challenges come with throwing these events and creating the podcast series? If you could've prepared yourself before starting your creative ventures, what would you have done?

Eula Scott: Just money/wealth. That’s the hardest thing for all people of color. We spend all of our time helping the White man make money and then we have to heal and decompress from that hardship. To have an event you need a space, DJ, food/drink, security, decorationsnone of this is free. Let your community build you up, use family and friends. Our whole door went to our help, so we didn’t walk away with the money. The couple of hundred we make, goes right back into HBHS. We have never gotten a check. We have a manager we don’t pay. Nobody is getting paid but our interns, we would rather them get paid.

Chanté Dyson: Has your creative outlets opened the gateway for more joy in your personal life? How have you been able to reflect on this experience and what it means to your own personal growth?

Eula Scott: Yes and no. The struggle is that working with your best friends is hard. It’s not easy to work with your loved ones because now we are in an era where we have work that needs to be done, and we need to focus on building our brand. Every text from them are about things we need to do, and that’s difficult. Sometimes you have to choose between being best friends and work partners, but you never drop your best friend, you drop the work because you don’t just find another best friend. This is also because of money, because we could hire people to help ease a lot of the work. If we could work 4 days at our full-time jobs and 1 day at HBHS it would work, but it’s not like that. We are working at our jobs and during our commutes. I see the growth with my interns. Jasmine knew that the community needed this before I did. We get emails from transplants about surviving this city and navigating it properly. We are so excited about our Black History Month party because we’ve been to hundreds of party and never were we the ones organizing it. This event is a complete reflection of us and our hard work.

 Hella Black Hella Seattle: Alaina, Eula, and Jazz (from left to right). Photo Courtesy of Hella Black Hella Seattle.

Hella Black Hella Seattle: Alaina, Eula, and Jazz (from left to right). Photo Courtesy of Hella Black Hella Seattle.

Chanté Dyson: How do you ensure that your creative endeavors are safe spaces for all different types of Black people in Seattle. We know the importance of inclusion from a racial lens, but how do you operate with the same sensitivity within your own community?

Eula Scott: We just are that; we just embody that as people. Jasmine and Alaina are locals who claim to be progressive. We are those things even if Seattle isn’t all the way. We have queer family and friends from all socioeconomic classes and abilities. We recognize we are all we got and we would never leave out anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. It’s not fair to divide us. We’re not different; we all have the same wants and needs. Everyone wants a party and a roof over their head, and for their family to be safe, their children educated. That’s it. We want a good time and a safe space. In a black/white convo, someone will be uncomfortable, but it won’t be me. We just want to take care of ourselves; we don’t want white people to take care of us. Only Black people face this, so call it out when you can. We see the humanity in every one of us and if people act differently you have to speak up. We need spaces for all of us, because the white spaces are for none of us.

Chanté Dyson: I personally have struggled with dealing with the passive micro-agressions displayed by White people in the city [of Seattle] in both a personal and professional context. As Black professionals, how do you navigate and rise above any prejudice or injustice in this city?

Eula Scott: I always say that if someone is gonna be uncomfortable, it ain’t gonna be me. When you feel uncomfortable you should speak up. When I work in retail I have to be the most constrained version of myself, but I always speak my truth. Own it and be confident in it. Call people out when they say something really uncomfortable. Ask, “What made you say that?” It’s not on us to have to unpack their issues. They are never talking about you, they are always talking about themselves. Black people are the tastemakers, white people only have privilege of safety and nepotism. But that’s mainly white man's privilege, not white women’s. There is a lot of jealousy. If you do find white people worth taking care of, make sure they are giving you as much as you’re giving them. We need real allies. Don’t let white people just show up and try to take all of your energy. If you love a white person, trade off resources/knowledge with them and be patient.

Chanté Dyson: Let's end by discussing your viewpoint on resistance in action & the importance of Black joy. What should we be doing in this current political climate, and when are we making time to express our joy out loud?

Eula Scott: Just do it. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself first. I knew Trump would win, I knew White America was going to show their ass. I woke up the next day not being devastated. He is not going to derail me, I cannot march in the streets everyday, I have to spend time with my son/family/friends/self and make it to this party. This is not our battle to fight. We need to vote and if you want to run for office you need to run. If office isn’t your thing, you just need to vote. Find your calling and natural passion and that is your resistance. Sometimes people think their job is too small to be a part of the resistance, but it’s not. The best form of surviving in this country is doing what feels right to you. I have drained friends who work in social justice. Give yourself permission to go and have fun. Caribbeans don’t look for white spaces to party in. Segregation is not so bad, if you feel safe in your spot or you feel like you need to be around a bunch of n*ggas and laugh then go for it. Don't feel guilty for having a good time. You only have energy to change the world for so long.

 Hella Black Hella Seattle: Eula, Alaina and Jazz (from left to right). Photo Courtesy of Hella Black Hella Seattle.

Hella Black Hella Seattle: Eula, Alaina and Jazz (from left to right). Photo Courtesy of Hella Black Hella Seattle.

Chantè Dyson is a DMV girl currently residing in LA. After graduating from Rutgers University, she moved cross country to continue pursuing her fashion dreams. A writer at heart, Chantè is passionate about telling women's stories and using words to empower and raise our collective consciousness globally. Her fashion magazine background exposed her to the biases in mainstream media as it pertains to relatable stories that center women of color. Serving as Editorial Coordinator at Black Girl In Om is a dream come true for Chantè, as she has always hoped to highlight the stories and identities of amazing women of color around the world. Personally, embracing a more holistic and wellness-centered lifestyle has been transformative to Chante's experience of growing more into her womanhood, and it is her honor to contribute to Black Girl In Om's magic through inspirational and impactful storytelling. Follow her on social media @chantedyson.