The Black Girl In Om List: Roe

Interview by Chelcee Loraine. Introduction by Lauren Ash. Photography courtesy Roe.


The Unapologetic Liberation Leader


We throw the word unapologetic around too much these days. But Roe’s self-proclaimed term for how she (and her lovely partner E) craft their lives, and encourage all of us to do so, as unapologetic living, is spot on. And far from an energy of “I’m doing what I want and I don’t care”, Roe’s form of unapologetic living is also radically rooted in reducing harm, empowering communities of color to get free (truly), getting to the source of what we really desire and having that show up loud and proud in our everyday. Roe and her love downsized from 800 square feet to 150 square feet because eliminating debt matters and a bunch of space for “stuff” doesn’t. Roe and E teach us the Jar Method because it’s an accessible way all of us can get more conscious about spending we can all relate to, while reducing food waste and wasting our money. Roe opens up about how a scarcity mentality still shows up in her life, even while in the most abundant, expansive landscape, so that more of us can get aware about how it shows up in ours. Call her a minimalist, intentional living thought leader, or another phrase that feels right to you, I call it practicing the art of living free. And as a black woman, that’s where I’m trying to be. Follow Roe’s continued journey @BrownKids and keep your eyes out for the beautiful ways they engage with their community and co-create practices for liberation for us all.

Your journey into minimalism, financial freedom and intentional living has inspired many. How did it start? What was the main catalyst that made you move in this direction?

I think that there were a lot of catalysts, really. It's kind of hard to pinpoint the little changes that make the biggest difference in your life. And, I think that they are an accumulation of different kinds of things. It’s a story that's constantly unfolding and if we're finding pivotal points or whatever, it's because that we're imposing a story on our lives. So, all of that being said I think that it had to be the first one, what I shared on Hey, girl, which is when I went to East Africa and learned by accident where all of our donations go.

I had never thought about it. I never thought about the end of life of any kind of object. I loved to shop. I shopped all the time. It was my favorite thing to do and I was taught this is what women do. And so I bought and I bought and I bought and I bought and I bought and I bought fast fashion especially because it's what I could afford as a student.

Going into international development and really wanting to be a person that made a difference in people's lives, it was shocking to me to walk through the market in Kampala and see more prom dresses and tennis shoes and t-shirts than you could ever see or sell in a lifetime. All of these items had been shipped to East Africa on big shipping containers and sold for pennies to the people to sell them back to their own.

It had depressed the Ugandan textile market.

So, those two things together, I had my epiphany right then and there: something's wrong and something's broken. And, I'm contributing it. And that train on thought took me on probably the funnest, most wild journey of my life, driven by the question what's my part in this. But also down roads of all the emotional things in myself that built my shopping addiction in the first place:

  • “What am I trying to replace?”

  • What’s my emotional reasons for shopping compulsively?

  • Where might I be causing myself harm

  • Where do I actually have freedom and power here?

  • and what's the kindest thing that I can do to myself?

And, this led me to really deep psychological evaluations, healing, and making different choices in my life -- similar to a ball of string, you pull on the string and the ball begins to unravel. 

Realizing that you don't have your finances together, you are not anywhere near freedom and you don't own anything. Right? And, all of these things are connected and have impacts and all of the different areas of your one beautiful life. That was my start. It changed my whole … everything.

What are some daily practices that keep you rooted in this lifestyle?

It's kind of funny practice. I think being on Instagram is a daily practice for me. Thinking every day, I wake up every day and I ask myself how can I love on them today? And, how can I love my community through the lens of which we're offering, which is intentional living and living a life of freedom?

I try to figure out what to say and what to share and how to improve on the silence. That is the way that I ground every day and remind myself what it is I'm up to in the world (which is to create resilience in communities of color and intergenerational wealth and to have land).

But most of my bigger practices around living an intentional life in particular is weekly and seasonal. It’s weekly in the fact that I go and look at what I spent within a 7-day period. I try to look at my bank account two times a week—it helps me practice mindfulness on what I'm spending and I ask myself questions about why I'm spending it, which is so connected to our emotions and how we honor ourselves 

And then the seasonal is that every season, because I have a shopping addiction, I do give myself permission to buy something new to incorporate in my capsule [wardrobe], but it's still a capsule and it still has a finite number. It’s 25-30 pieces and I have to evaluate what served me this season. What was I hoping that was gonna work out and what really worked out and how can I be honest about those things that didn’t? I get to clarify who I want to be and which objects really serving me in that goal, in the mission to show up looking like and feeling like the person I want to be in the world.

We’ve watched brown kids grow in so many ways. From your challenging hike to downsizing even more with the recent move, what was your biggest aha moment while on the hike and what have you learned about intentional living by downsizing?

That hike was crazy. It was the most momentous thing we've ever done. And, also at the same time, the most mundane, you know? It's really just waking up and telling yourself you're going to walk every day. And, that just so happens to be 159 miles (we hope to complete the whole 210-miles next year). I think the biggest aha moment I learned on the trail itself was what my body could do. And the stories that I was telling myself about my body that I can't do. This is hard. This is difficult. I'm going to struggle.

When you're in the middle of this hike and the most sort of  fantastic landscape you could ever imagine. Like, there's no one who can show you a picture of it and there's nothing that you've seen on Instagram or social media can even compare to what the Eastern Sierras are really like.  But you're climbing up a mountain and it's maybe like the third one you've climbed and you look at the top of it and you're like, “I'm going to get over that. I'm going to get over that no matter how long it takes me but I'm going to get to the other side.” And it's a different kind of reframing about what's possible. I lean into my body in a different way than I ever have before and ever will. I just counted [my body] to be there for me instead of questioning its ability to get me there.

So yeah, I just have a completely different relationship with myself. But also I got to reframe the story about who I was and what I'm capable of because I was telling myself particular things like, “I don't do this, I don't backpack, I don't, you know, whatever.” And now I can no longer tell those stories. So the biggest learning was to come face to face with the tales we're all telling ourselves and asking ourselves if those stories are serving us anymore. click to tweet And they weren't serving me. And I wanted to hang on to them.

I noticed in my thinking or in my storytelling when I talk about the hike, even now, I'm like, I don't do such and such and I never do such and such and an interview I did with a friend on his podcast really held me accountable. And he's like, it's funny, I'm noticing that you keep on saying that you don't do, but you did it. (Laughs) So I think that was a big gift.

And I think what have I learned about intentional living by downsizing because we moved from 800 square meters to 150 square feet for the two of us is that everything needs a place! (Laughs) And we don't always have a place for everything and when everything doesn't have a place, it’s chaos. And so our little closet feels very, very, very, very, very small and I can't wait to get it together. But the importance of place and the importance of your items are really key. But also I think like that at any size of place can be a haven. And that is what I'm hoping to create in our little tiny space that we have right now because we're for real livin’ tiny.

What was one of your biggest struggles in creating your platform and how did you rise above it?

I struggle with answering this question because I feel like my greatest challenge is what I’m in right now. I'm in it. I'm still trying to figure that out. One of my biggest struggles in stewarding Brownkids is how to make sure every person feels seen and touched there.

The whole entire reason we started Brownkids was to be more intentional about our point of view and, personally, I was simply looking for friends! I wanted some friends that I didn't have them in my everyday life and I made myself a commitment that I was gonna, like, connect with three badass ladies who inspired me. To make social media social. To reply back to people and to really engage with what they were saying. And it's very possible to do that when you have 3,000 community members, even 9,000! but it just gets a little out of control when it's a 33,000.

My community knows I haven't had a cell phone for 13, 14 years! I really witnessed social media grow as a movement as a phenomenon and so in that I developed a different relationship with technology and social media than other people. From 2005 to 2018 folks really developed a dexterity! But me, I don't have that dexterity. I come on [Instagram] today with this unconnected iPhone 6S whenever there's Wifi and I post something and just the sheer volume of communications that come back to me is mountains to to manage.

As a group facilitator in real life, what I know is that when you're in a room of people, the person who contributes or has the opportunity to speak is more likely to contribute as the event goes on. That’s what makes people feel like they belong. I was really aware of that in our Instagram community, so I made sure that everyone was sort of seen and touched and got a lot of affirmation and they would be like, “Oh my God, you have a large following but you're the first who's ever responded back!” And I knew that that was really significant, poignant for them. And sure enough they were more likely to be involved with others and step up as a champion for other people in this community that we've really, really built!  

And now with the sheer volume of communications that come through, I've got like 200, 300, 400 DMs and I just can't get to them. I can't. I can't touch everybody and it kills me and I don't know how to find balance. I don't know how to have a personal connection with so many thousands.

So, something needs to shift and pivot. I'm at a transition point and I'm open and curious and I'm sort of petitionary here: if anyone knows how to surf that growth transition in a well way where everyone feels cared for, I’m all ears and love you already.

If you had to describe your journey from to rise in three words, what would they be to describe your journey to rise?

My voice matters.

What are a few practical steps you would advise others to take in order to manifest their passion projects they may be thinking of for 2019.

Oh my goodness! I love the manifesting question and, feel like...maybe similar to Lauren that I like really have this down. I manifest things really fast! (Laughs) So, a few practical steps: I would advise others it's less about the words and it's more about the feeling.

Like I said in Debt Diary, when you feel the feeling it's more likely to manifest.

And, so the first step is to get clear what you want and say it in the affirmative but don't put a time bound on it, okay? Avoid saying: I want to get this by this particular time. Say: I want this as soon as possible and speak to the universe about that. And then the second part in the work of it is to feel the feeling.

Close your eyes, to imagine it, you have it, taste it, feel it. It's around you, already have it. And then you bring up the feelings and you focus on the feeling. And then you let it go. Release in trust. And with those few steps you'd be surprised about what shows up in your life as soon as possible!

Those are my three manifesting tips: be clear on what you want, don’t put a timestamp on it and say as soon as possible (because the universe delivers quick if you want it), and let the universe do of the lion’s share of work. Feel the feeling and let it go.

How has your definition of success have evolved as you've risen into who you are today?

I think I was thinking that success was in titles. I wanted to work in the UN because when I was, I think, 14 or 15, I saw a show and it was about ambassadors. And I was like that's what I'm going to be, a US ambassador. And, so it used to be about positioning and the level of influence where people could look up to me.

Over time, in the work that I've done, especially in curating and stewarding communities of entrepreneurs, I realized that bullet points on your resume don't fucking matter. They. Don't. Matter! What matters is if you can do or not do. Like, if you have the ability and friends, I would say, reach out and invite your community into a movement. And that's what creates results. That's what creates impact. That's what creates latitude. And all of those different kinds of roles and things people have tacked their way into are not interesting to me. They don't impress me in any way;  but their spirits, gumption, and integrity do. And that’s what I want for myself. I don't want to be hiding behind position names to obscure actually what I'm in up to in the world.

So, I think my new definition of success is making sure that I'm alignment with Spirit and making sure that I'm in alignment with Source and partner with it everyday; to be open and surrender and to move forward. I have seen it change my entire life.

Share a message to your highest self, the woman of your dreams who has risen.

I find myself getting emotional. But I think I would say, “Even though she couldn't see you and she couldn't imagine what you would become, your mom's proud of you, girl.” That’s my message.

Receive something meaningful from this phenomenal woman? These 20 black women embody our mission fully. And their journeys over the past year illuminate what it means to root to rise. Share with us on social how you plan on doing the same in the year to come. #BGIORootToRise