I Keep it Simple: Raven Best
Have you ever meet someone and just sensed an air of compassion, intelligence, and creativity? That is the initial vibe I received from this young woman. Even though we meet through a mutual friend believe it was meant to be! We have so much in common, we both juice/make fruit smoothies, we both blog, we both appreciate art, and so much more. One reason I know that she is a keeper is that: she commutes to campus during the week and cooks these amazing healthy meals at home. I asked for a plate and she went out of her way on a Saturday to bring me this glorious plate (It was so delicious!) Yet, the reason I know that this younglady is a wonderful individual and friend is because she has a good heart and strong head on her shoulders. She is socially aware but doesn't let that stifle her but only pushes her more to help the people of her community. I can't wait to get to know her even better.
Birthday: June 25
Favorite Word: Wanderlust
Spirit Animal: Humminbird, small but strong
Her 2¢ :
What is your blog and what is it about?
My blog is called “The Free Your Mind Project,” its dedicated to inspiring and connecting women of color. I run it like an online magazine where each month is a new theme, in the past I’ve talked about Body Appreciation, Beauty, Writers, the current month is dedicated to musicians. I wanted to create a space that showed young black girls that there is no one way to be “black” or a woman. As black women we are so diverse in our different talents and passions and you can choose to pursue any one of them. The media shows a very specific image of black womanhood, and it's not always positive. I want the blog to influence young girls that they don’t have to idolize celebrities or emulate what they see on tv and hear on the radio, those images are not real. I want to encourage young girls to realize that the only thing they have to worry about is to find happiness within themselves and to discover what is unique to them.
What are your thoughts on the “Carefree Black Girl Movement"? And your definition of it
I love it! I feel like it's necessary in today's world and the goals for my blog are really similar. I think it does a great job about teaching black women about their history and past role models as well as celebrating current figures and culture. My definition of the carefree black girl movement is a movement that celebrates black women of types: skin color, hair type, background, whatever. It shows black girls who are just doing their own thing
How do you feel you contribute to the betterment of black people? I feel like I show a different way of thinking. Through my blog and how I try to live my life, I want to show that we are all different and beautiful in our own right, but we are still one large community. I feel that so many of us are plagued by society’s expectation of who we are and how we should be, that we’ve internalized it and let it divide us. A lot of people have that “us vs. them” thought process. Team Light Skin vs. Team Dark Skin. Church-goers vs. People of different faith or beliefs. Natural Hair vs. Relaxed. Bougie vs. Ghetto. Black vs. African vs. Caribbean. Mixed vs. 100% Black. Whatever it may be. But I feel that I, along with many others, are working to rebuild the “village mentality.” I encourage girls to find what makes them unique, yes we can acknowledge our differences, but don’t let it divide us. That through living with compassion and acceptance of each other we can rebuild our communities, our families and ourselves.
A Little Perspective on Raven:
Who do you think you are?
I think quirky would be the best word to describe me. Most people would say I'm shy when they first meet me, and I would agree. It takes time for me to get comfortable and open up. But everyone close to me knows how silly I can be. I love making people smile, knowing that I can help someone feel better or enjoy their day more. All in all, I think I'm a simple person, very easygoing. It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Everything that's a part of my life, I measure by how it makes me feel. If it feels good, keep it; if it feels bad, get rid of it; and if I can't decide...then just keep an eye on it. Growing up, I was always really anxious and nervous. I was so stressed about making sure I had it all together and that I was keeping up with everything and everyone. I was obsessed with proving I was good enough. And it wasn't until this past year or so that I finally realized how backwards that thought process was. I didn't want to be that type of person; always second guessing and comparing myself. Never being satisfied or happy. So now, I just focus on meeting the standards that I make for myself and not worry about anyone else. And I've learned to love myself and trust my instincts more. My biggest focus is just finding and keeping what makes me happy. If there's good food, good people and good conversation then I'm content.
What's your thing?
Writing...and cooking. I love a lot of things, but those two are tied for first. I actually feel like I can write better than I speak. When I get excited I tend to talk really fast and jumble my words, I have a friend who told me that that means my mind is just moving faster than my body lol. But when you're writing you have to slow down. When you're talking, you have one chance to get it right before it gets out there. I was always good at writing. I loved reading when I was a kid so I had a pretty good vocabulary. And I can crank out a paper in a few hours, but that was mostly for school. I really got into writing creatively once I started my blog: The Free Your Mind Project I started it in September of 2013 and since then I carry a little notebook with me where ever I go so I can log ideas and contacts when it hits me.Everyone has a different perspective and a different way of putting things and with writing you can tangibly compare all of these different outlooks.
My second thing is cooking. I started cooking when I was 17. For my senior project in high school, I taught myself to cook and created my own cookbook. Since then its been a growing love. I love food and feeding other people, there is nothing better than making something with your own hands and enjoying it with people you care about. Its really therapeutic for me, using my hands and just focusing on one ingredient or step at a time. A dream of mine is to have my own restaurant one day, and all the food will be family recipes.
What is the message you want to convey?
The message I want everyone to hear, especially women of color, is there are no rules. I feel that there are so many standards put on us: this is the body you should have, this is the hair you should have, this is how you should act, this is how you should talk, this is what you have to do, etc. That was a burden that I definitely let weigh me down for a long time. But how can we all reach one standard when we’re all individual, diverse people? It makes no sense. So instead of feeling pressured to conform to some expectation that the invisible “they” put on us, focus on what makes you different, what your passions are, what you love to do and pursue those things. I feel like everyone has their own power, their own source of potential. But if you’re busy focusing on superficial and unnecessary things, you never have the time or energy to access that potential. The whole inspiration behind my blog is releasing those expectations and tensions, freeing your mind, so you can realize your own dreams and maximize on all of the possibilities.
Always follow the golden rule: “treat others how you want to be treated.” I’m a big believer in karma, and I feel like the energy you put out, positive or negative, will come back to you tenfold. So in everything I do, I try to keep a positive, genuine attitude...which is easier said than done of course but I think the effort is what matters.
My middle name, Imani, means faith in Swahili. My mom had a really hard time getting pregnant, she had to get one of her ovaries removed due to ovarian cysts so every doctor told her her chances of pregnancy were very low. But she kept trying and after a few years she proved them wrong. She had to be on bed rest when she was pregnant with me and I came a month early, they had to keep me at the hospital for a little while so I could gain weight but overall I was healthy. My moms pregnancy was a lot easier with my sister Alexa, she was full term and average weight. So long story short, my mom always tells me to keep the faith, even if everyone is telling you no, trust that your journey will always find a way to carry itself out.
How did you come across your medium?
Sophomore year, I had a good friend, Josalyn, who was into PR and blogging. Her business was a mixture of entertainment and sports news as well as helping other companies with their branding and public relations. I watched as she built her blog from the ground up and turned it into a website: www.josalynmonet.com. It has grown so much in only a few years and she utilized different social networks to gain followers. I learned a lot about blogging and self promotion just through observing how she worked. So when my idea hit me, I kind of followed her process: organize my ideas, make connections, find a good site for blogging, stay consistent and maintain a clear message.
When/Where did it all begin?
Second semester junior year, I had just gotten back from Trinidad and I was feeling refreshed. My two favorite classes of that semester were Sociology of Gender and Race Relations and the mixture of what I learned in those two classes sparked the idea for my blog. In my Sociology of Gender Class, we were discussing our reading that we had: “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf. And the essential message from that reading is that the beauty standard does not exist. Wolf states that the beauty standard is a social construct created by men to disenfranchise women. So after I read an excerpt from that book; it hit me, how many girls and women haven’t tapped into full potential because their busy being worried about “am I pretty enough?” “Do I look good?” “Will they think I’m cute?” And its a huge destroyer of self confidence and appreciation.
And my Race Relations course added the racial complex to the mix. As women of color, how the hell are we supposed to meet a white beauty standard?? As diverse and different as this world is, how can we all identify with these white european supermodels that are on nearly every page of every fashion magazine you read? So I wanted to create a blog that focused on celebrating the diversity and complexity of women of color. We are not all the same: we don’t all do the same things, like the same things or look the same. We are not a monolith. And that is a good thing! By creating a space where these different people can connect, it enables us to recognize and embrace our differences and realize that all of us bring something to the table.
Talk about your style of dress and how you create.
When it comes to clothes, I can’t say I have one specific style. It depends on the day, but generally I rely on comfort. When the occasion calls for me to dress up, I tend to go for simple and chic. I believe in understated elegance. If I had the funds, I would do a lot more when it comes to fashion but as a college student, I have to ball on a budget lol So I tend to try to just work with what I have.
When it comes to my writing styles and how I create, my biggest focus is comfort. Am I comfortable with what I’m saying? Am I making sure that I get my message across clearly enough that my readers will get it? With my writing, I strive to create a sense of familiarity, to make the reader feel like we’re having a one on one conversation. Also, I try not to preach or present my opinions in a way that says “this is the only way to be.” I try to be as open and embracing as possible.
Talk about your perspective of society today?
I feel like I’m kind of old fashioned...so to me, most of society is a hot mess right now. The oversexualization of everything, lack of gun control, how processed most of our food is, the economic and educational inequalities. But I think the thing that gets to me the most is the lack of geniality or connection, I think thats the source of a lot of our problems. We have had problems in the past and will probably always have problems in the future, but I feel we’ve reached a new level of superficiality. Where instead of focusing on and taking responsibility for the different issues we have today and putting in the effort and resources to fix them, we cover it up and just sweep it under the rug in the hopes that nobody finds it. We don’t think its necessary to treat others with the same regard that we hold for ourselves.
Who/What Inspires you?
I’m inspired by strong women, anyone who’s turned their passion into a lifestyle. I’m really lucky to have a lot of inspiring women around me. My grandma, my mom, their friends who have been influential in my upbringing. My friends, how we’ve watched each other grow, support each other and have come into our own over the years. And then there are people who I don’t know, but just have a beautiful essence about them: Jill Scott, Alex Elle, and so many others. I strive to have something from all of these women, to reach a balance like they have.
Favorite Disney Movie
Lion King. Hands down. The animation, the music, the story: how only you have the power to reach your destiny. Simba had the rights to pride rock and all of that, everyone knew it, but he was almost willing to let it all go because he didn’t want to face himself. But through his friends he was able to come to terms with it and bring back balance. I still watch that movie, my kids are going to watch that movie. And probably on VHS too.
Want to converse with a ray of sunshine? Maybe you like her vibe reach out to her via
Personal Instagram: @raven_things
Blog Instagram: @fymproject