Interview by Chante' Delore. Photography Courtesy of Browngirlalchemy.
I love when women, especially Black women, take up space with their unique stories and perspectives in the world. When I first followed Amber J. Finney of Browngirlalchemy on Instagram, I was immediately drawn to her ability to perfectly highlight Black images that truly reflect our beauty and divinity. It was clear that this young woman knew who she was in this world and where she came from. Come to find out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree at all. I love the natural love and light that Amber and her mother Jeannell display through their multiple bodies of work. They travel and they live life. When I heard the first episode of their podcast, this love was felt in my soul even as a listener. I wanted to know more about how the two create together and use their art and platforms to uplift the community.
We believe that part of our purpose is tied into inspiring, uplifting, and projecting authentic images that project us in the goddess light that we see ourselves. The world hasn't quite shown it's appreciation of the beauty that we bring to the table, so in essence we're validating ourselves and putting a patent on the table that we've built.
PHOTO: Amber J Finney
I want to start off with addressing Brown Girl Alchemy's purpose statement. It is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. What gave you both that confidence to embrace and create that goddess image of ourselves that we KNOW we are, but weren't seeing in dull mainstream media?
Jeannell (Mother): We wish that we could say that this was a plan, that there was always a knowing that lingered in our lives, but there wasn’t. The conceptualization and realization of BGA came to us as we both searched for our purposes. In the midst of us seeking, we realized that parts of our purposes were intertwined. This was clearly written, as you may know if you’ve listened to podcast episode 1, where we discussed how a spiritual reader shared that we would have a business together that would be spiritually guided. At the time, we had not even an inkling of the magnitude or depth that we would begin to create, nor did we consider the process. This was definitely God’s plan and it came in divine timing. Once it did come, it all made sense, because there was a connection our experiences collectively and individually. We lived in our blackness, we lived in our Goddess light; Now that feeling was innate for us; something I always felt and knew and I passed it down to Amber. Our connection to source and living in our divine light weren’t just part of our experiences, they were the totality of our sense of self. As teachers and healers we knew that our journey led up to this pivotal point and it was our purpose to assist in activating and cultivating what is already in all of us. The work really has already been done for us and we are just conduits being used to remind the world, wake up the sleepers and encourage the discouraged. Black women ARE the revolution.
Have either of you ever faced adversity in your communities, friendships, relationships, or workplaces in regards to the strength that you possess while walking in this unique purpose? Amber, I gravitated to you through social media because of your confidence and your voice. You seem like a warrior goddess and I'm sure there are moments in your personal life where this is challenged.
Amber(Daughter): My mother literally had me watching Roots at 7 years old and made me write essays giving thanks to black revolutionaries. In retrospect, I’m eternally grateful that at a young age I was instilled such a strong sense of self and strength, because I spent quite a bit of my upbringing in white spaces. When you’re the minority in the room there’s a ton of baggage that comes with that. You feel like you’re not only representing yourself, but you become the spokesperson for people of the same hue. Though, in these spaces, I was always a proud blackity black girl. There wasn’t a day that didn’t go by that my mom didn’t tell my how powerful and beautiful I am, but it took me a while to truly own it and walk in that power. I had to learn on my own that dimming my light was a form of self sabotage and really take the necessary steps to remove the pattern of downplaying myself & coddling those who were too insecure to accept my light. Jeannell: For me, my home life and childhood didn’t cultivate this sense of pride; in fact at home I felt that blackness was a circumstance. My mother would always say, “where do you come from?” I was born with my fist up, repping this defiant, militant stance about the relevance of my melanin. Also both of our experiences have been parallel and unique in the sense that we’ve both been the only black girl or one of a few in school and work environments. I think our strength was evident in how we responded to those situations. Where many may have shrunk themselves or conformed, we both reveled in our blackness.
PHOTO: Amber J Finney
I can literally feel the positive, loving, fun-spirited mother-daughter energy between you two through my headphones. Positive Black motherhood representation is so important, and I am thankful that you two are giving us listeners something to look to in admiration, as many of us do not have the same type of relationships with our parents. Jeannell, you were a young mother when you had Amber. Where did you pull that wisdom from to raise such a forward-thinking and spiritually inclined young, strong, Black woman? I can only aspire to raise my future daughter(s) in the same way one day!
Jeannell: I believe wholeheartedly that my maternal wisdom comes from past lives. I believe that I’ve been a mother in many, many lifetimes together and I was waiting for her; she was a necessary part of my journey and giving life to her has life and purpose to me. I didn’t know much at 21, but I did know that my daughter would never doubt that she was completely and wholly loved without conditions. I led by example with love and spirituality as our foundation. Amber has also seen me experience fear, heartache and pain, but she witnessed me respond to those experiences with more love, honesty, resilience and vulnerability. Amber has always made me feel like I was the queen mother and I always let her know that I was giving her the tools to do better and be better than me. She makes me extremely proud, but she doesn’t belong to me, she belongs to God and as a mother, I’m doing God's work. You see how many times I’ve used love? It’s the most important message that I can send. Showing her how much I love her and teaching her the art of self-love has created the amazing young black queen that stands before you. I am her and she is me.
So, why a podcast? You two are incredibly creative and I'm curious to know where the idea of a podcast came from, and how you plan to evolve and create content that we can now listen to? What ideas are you most excited about manifesting?
The site seemed the most natural place to start our revolution, because we’re both writers and artists. Once we launched it, Spirit told us both, you know what’s next and we did. We knew that we could really communicate on a more personal level and deliver our truth in the most authentic way with our voices. Speak and it shall be; we needed people to really hear us, discern our energy, our commitment and our love. The podcast is a testament of our journey so the content will flow with lessons and experiences that will assist our sisters whom are on the same journey. In essence we will let the podcast lead us. The most exciting part of this is the amazing and heartfelt feedback. We’ve gotten emails and videos of testimonies from listeners and it humbles us in a way that’s unexplainable. The feedback assists us in deciding what topics we need to cover, because we’re listening to everyone and we not only feel the gratitude and receptiveness, but we also feel the collective desire to heal and grow. This isn’t just about us two, it’s about all of us.
PHOTO: Amber J Finney
Amber, I really resonated to the part of the podcast where you talked about working in fashion, and how that kind of took the back burner as you were growing more into your spirituality. I am absolutely living through that right now! How do you balance the spiritual work that is priority with the playful passion work that is fashion? We are by nature multi-dimensional beings, but sometimes it's hard when society forces labels and classifications on everything, even the way we brand ourselves on social media. How do you create space for all of your layers to coexist?
Amber: I’ve learned that embracing that I am a multidimensional black woman means manipulating the facets of myself which I choose to display. Although, I may not reveal everything about myself in every environment, authenticity is what remains consistent. It’s common for us to be molded & shaped by our environments, but in the midst of that our true identities get lost in translation, word to W.E.B Du Bois’ “double consciousness” . As I dove deeper into my spiritual beliefs, my values & morals were amplified and it was only natural for me to stand firm in them in all that I do. Even working in fashion, my blackness and spirituality always takes precedence.
That was crazy how years ago Jeannell, you went and got a reading in Harlem which revealed that you and your daughter will have a business together and it will be spiritually led. This was before BGA existed! I've never gotten a reading myself, but have always wanted to. My problem is I don't trust just anyone, and even now living in Seattle I feel like I have to be mindful of who I'm allowing to work with me on that spiritual level. Do you have advice for people like myself wanting guides but not necessarily knowing who to trust in their community?
Jeannell: Follow your intuition, but also step outside of your comfort zone and explore. Finding a tribe of like minded individuals is an amazing way to discover new resources, because there’s nothing like a word of mouth referral. Social media is also a good tool, because they’ll be honest commentaries of services. There is no clear path, but what I’ve learned is that the universe always provides exactly what you need and what you’re asking for even if it isn’t what you need. My intuition has been my strongest tool in seeking out spiritual guidance. I’ve had experiences with readers that were clearly fraudulent and I’ve had experiences with readers that blew my mind with their strong connection to spirit. Don’t let any negative experiences deter you from this journey, everything that you’re seeking will eventually find its way to you, because that’s just how the universe works.
Amber: In the spiritual community we hear so much about energy workers, ritualistic practitioners, etc. that we rely on their services to tell us things that subconsciously we already know- they become a security blanket. Like my mom said, intuition is strongest tool. We all hear that voice within, but many of us deny ourselves from an elevated consciousness. Instead of taking a moment to connect with self, or just listen to that voice, we’d rather go to someone else to guide us. Aside from spiritual gifts, in reality the only thing that separates us from those guides are faith and trusting the inner voice or feelings. When you become more connected to your intuition, it’s easier to navigate through whose authentic and who isn’t- you’ll feel it.
In 2018, We claiming the term witch! I love it. Because you two are right, we are magic. In what ways do you cast spells in your practical, everyday lives?
Amber & Jeannell: We cast spells in our everyday lives, from the time that we awake ‘till the time we say goodnight. We wake up with the knowing that we are magical and alchemists, so we put intention and speak life (spells) into everything that we do. We create and recite affirmations, we carry crystals to enhance, protect, or alter the energy around us. We perform rituals such as cleansing baths, we perform Candle magic, we pray, we heal, we communicate with our angels and ancestors and we love. This is all magic and a huge part of our everyday lives. Remember that you can’t create magic if you don’t believe in it. Light (consciousness) travels faster than sound. In order to create this magic, your thoughts must always be aligned with what you’re verbally affirming.
Let's talk about healing from trauma. Like Hov said best, you cannot heal what you can't reveal. In my own life, I'm trying hard to identify my pain and use my own inner magic to work and evolve through it as opposed to waiting for the person who contributed to that trauma to "make it better." How does one use alchemy to heal from painful experiences?
Amber & Jeannell: Alchemy is about transformation and in order to transform we have to know what materials we’re working with. The most important part of the alchemical healing process is revealing your trauma and I would say as a rule that it’s most likely childhood trauma. Most experiences in our young adulthood and adult life that we consider traumatic are actually reminders of the wounded child in us that hasn’t been healed. We do everything in our power to avoid pain, including remaining in toxic relationships, but this avoidance only causes disruptions in our lives and deters us from living in our purpose. If we continue to avoid, we will never learn the lessons that we need to learn in this lifetime. The only way to heal is to actually acknowledge and sit in that pain, explore it, understand it, and then work on acceptance and forgiveness which will lead to healing. In the wounded state we are iron; strong, but a little rusty and maybe neglected. In the healer state, we have metaphorically transformed to gold. There is no timeline in this process, just know that as an alchemist the power lies within you, and claim your right to be at peace, healed, whole, and healthy: emotionally, physically and mentally. I’ll say this again, as an alchemist, the power resides within you, you have all the tools that you need to heal yourself, because you are connected to source. The true power is in knowing that you have the power.
Last but not least, it's BLACK HISTORY YEAR! What are some Black books, art, music, podcasts, tv, movies, that you are looking forward to getting into in 2018?
Amber & Jeannell: In the words of Issa Rae, we’re “rooting for everybody black”. In our shared Kindle library we’re planning to read Dust Tracks on the Road by Zora Neale Hurston, Seed to Harvest by Octavia Spencer, Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur, The Spook Who Sat By The Door by Sam Greenlee, Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis, and much more! In television, there’s been a spark in mysticism and the supernatural; We loved Superstition because of the all black cast AND the alchemy room! We recently came across a new web-series, Avant Guardians, about black women guardian angels that we can’t wait to dive into. We’re anticipating discovering new black artists and would love to see more work from Mickalene Thomas, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and Toyin Ojih Odutola. The Schomburg Center in Harlem always feeds our soul, we know there will be some incredible exhibitions there this year. Jamila Woods’ music and visuals are highly underrated, we can’t wait to see her get more shine in honor of black girls!
Be sure to listen and subscribe to BrownGirlAlchemy podcast here.
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.