To kick off Black History Month here on A Vodka Kind Of Mom we are featuring a strong, intelligent, woman who stands up for all people. Black, white, Asian, gay, straight, trans, feminist, man, woman, and everything in between.
She is the creator of PersonOfCulture and I had the opportunity to ‘meet and interview’ her. I find it absolutely incredible and commendable that she started this page simply to help others feel like they aren’t alone.
- Can you tell me a little about yourself?
My name is Belle, I’m from East Africa (born and raised) and I’m biracial (European and South Asian). I am bilingual, although I’m trying to become fluent in French and also picked up Dutch. My hobbies include reading, writing, listening to music, horseback riding and cuddling with my cat and dogs. 🙂
- Can you tell me about PersonOfCulture? And what prompted you to start PersonOfCulture?
I created PersonOfCulture a little over 4 months ago (4th of August 2017). I followed a lot of activism accounts for a few years, and my friends all are feminists too. We discuss politics and current social issues a lot since all of my friends are people of color and we live in a third world country that lacks a lot of basic rights.
- What do you feel is your biggest focus with PersonOfCulture?
At first, my focus on my page was appreciation and praising people of color. I’d post pictures submitted to me, praise them for their ethnicity and they’d add a little comment underneath stating their ethnicity, what they like to do and whatever else they wanted to share. The focus, however,r shifted rather quickly and I began tackling feminist issues and issues facing people of color, although my page encompasses everything I care about and interest me, which is quite a bit. I can share my stories and others can share theirs in the comments as well, which is incredible and unbelievably interesting, although sometimes heart-wrenching.
- What personal experiences drew you to being a feminist and activist?
I grew up in East Africa, because of that I’ve witnessed a lot of issues people from first world countries couldn’t even imagine their country dealing with from extreme poverty, to kids receiving no education, to girls and women being married off to strangers for money. It’s a daily occurrence and something that has always plagued me, because it feels like I can’t help those around me that suffer due to the political system, the mass amount of corruption that widens the disparity of wealth in my country and lack of ambition to change the things around them in the name of “upholding traditions”. I wanted a larger platform, where I can talk about my country, the problems I have faced as a woman of color in a country that still sees women as less than and a society where I never felt like I belonged because I was mixed.
I want to share things people can relate to, make sure they don’t feel alone in their struggle and make it known to others that the injustices are being recognized and that we are speaking up about it. There is strength in numbers and being a person of color, lgbtq+, a woman or anything else that might make you stand out and suffer from certain disadvantages, can make you feel very alone and I hope I can bring together like-minded people who share their experiences and ideas.
- What does it mean to you to be an activist?
Being an activist is seeing and recognizing the injustices around you and not being able to sit and watch them happen anymore. I think anyone can be an activist, by simply being aware of the things around them and sharing them. Information is key and it can do a lot, sharing things that are happening around the world and telling them to your friends or people in your life that may not even be aware that they are happening. Obviously, if possible go and volunteer at charities or NGOs, which is something I do in my spare time, however, I do understand that many aren’t able to that or go to protests, due to their countries political situation and them not feeling safe to exercise their freedom of speech. When you speak out about things that are bothering you, you already did more than others, who just sit, watch things happen and unfold without ever saying a word.
- Have you ever experienced any threats because of what you’re doing?
I have not experienced real threats to my well being, but I did and still do receive a lot of hate for the message I am spreading. A lot of people don’t realize that feminism is still needed in a lot of countries, where women still don’t have the same rights, lgbtq+ people are being imprisoned and there is just a lot wrong done in many countries, including my own. Many also don’t understand the meaning of feminism or have a misconstrued version of it stuck in their head, one that hates men and wants them all dead, which is not the case. Feminism is about equality of all sexes. There is also quite a bit of racist comments, which are always heartbreaking to see because racism is something I never really understood (although I have experienced a lot of it directed against me), but it just shows how much hatred people can hold in their hearts.
- If so can you tell me about them and how you deal with them?
I have been able to deal with it though. I try to reason with many of them, but with some comments are just inexcusable and get reported and the person gets blocked from the account. I try to create an environment where people feel safe, can share their stories and I don’t want people attacking the people that want to have space where they can be themselves. My policy is simple, don’t be a horrible person and you will be fine, although some would rather insult you and throw around all kinds of slurs. In those situations, I’ve learned to just let it go, block them and move on. My page helps a lot of people and I don’t want to spend a lot of time focusing on those who just bring negative energy to my page. Giving them your energy is what they want and they will leech off of you and suck out all the positivity you’ve created.
- If there was one activist resource that you wish everyone would read or view what would it be?/Is there anyone or any group of people who inspires you or prods you to action?
I personally loved reading The Handmaids Tale and All The Lives I want(which are feminist books), as for TV shows I enjoyed dear white people, although it’s controversial it’s worth a watch. I recommend other activism pages too; a lot of them are so kind and really try to educate those around us. I never wanted to give up my page due to threats, but I have an issue with my account where my hashtags weren’t seen by people and my posts also didn’t appear to those that don’t follow me(It’s referred to as shadow blocked on the internet). I lost followers, my account became stagnant and I got a lot of hate from some people who followed my page just to bash me. Many activist accounts sent me encouraging messages and some even gave me a shout out and asked their followers to support me. It was really touching and it made me continue my page. A few weeks later my page was back to normal and I was back in the swing of things, but I won’t ever forget the kind words and helping hands I received from the community during that time.
They encouraged me to continue and helped me through the rough patch, which was more than I could ever ask for.
- If you could change one thing about this world what would it be?
If I could change one thing, I would get rid of corruption. A lot of issues in my country are because of poor management and corruption from the people higher up, which results in lack of funding and money “getting lost”, which was supposed to help those in need. I truly believe, if my country didn’t have any corruption, the economy would improve drastically and the overall well-being of the country would increase dramatically, especially for those in the poorer regions who would finally receive the aid they need and not have it taken from them from greedy politicians.