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When people ask me where home is, I say Palo Alto, Sacramento, and Portland. All of them have deeply influenced the way that I navigate my life today.

My dad’s side of the family came from the South with the Great Migration, and my other grandparents are Norwegian and Swedish. Both sides moved to Palo Alto. My family has been there for generations. I think it’s one of the weirdest places ever in that it’s a very chill place, but also has Facebook and Apple in its backyard. It’s been interesting to watch it change and grow over time.

My parents had me when they were pretty young—when they were 22, so my grandparents were also a part of my caretaking.

My family was really involved in the Black Power Movement. My grandmother was a part of creating a Pan African school out there during that time, called Nairobi College. My parents had me when they were pretty young—when they were 22, so my grandparents were also a part of my caretaking.

All of them were involved in their own art communities. I have really strong memories of my dad hosting multi-generational parties where all of his artist friends and their kids would come by. I was almost always surrounded by many people working together to create something, whether that was dinner or a song they were all working on. It wasn’t uncommon for me to walk out of my room to my dad playing instruments with his band and my grandmother doing something on the piano. It was a very open flow.

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When I was in the second grade, my family moved to the suburbs of Elk Grove, which is near Sacramento. That move coincided with a period of gentrification in the Bay Area and families being pushed out. So I was in the suburbs, but it was a really diverse suburb—folks from all over were there.

A lot of my memories involve exploring the big beautiful fields around there on my bike. Meandering around and listening to music was a big part of my experience. We lived there a few years until I moved to Portland, Oregon in middle school.

So, I went from environments with a lot of different kinds of people to the whitest metropolitan city in the United States. It was a difficult transition. Now I look to Portland as a home. But when I moved, it really was this traumatic space where I went from having a pretty strong Black community to not having one.

Tumblr was one of the first places that I was able to ... learn about these Black, queer archives of knowledge and art and dreaming.

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One way that I was able to find joy, freedom, and care was in reading Black artists’ work and getting really into books, and the way I accessed that was online. Tumblr was one of the first places that I was able to connect with other Black and queer people who were my age, and learn about these Black, queer archives of knowledge and art and dreaming.

In high school, I got really into making zines and playing video games. I was trying to figure out like, Okay, I kind of like tech and I really like art. How can I do this in the future? So I went to college and I studied psychology and sociology and gender and feminist studies and Africana studies, all of which is to say that I just really wanted to understand people.

I was also the head of the music venue on campus. That was a huge turning point in my life because the space allowed me to bring in Black and queer artists from all over the country to perform. It also involved me having to design flyers for those artists. I learned what design communication can do for Black, queer people, and about what it means to create an artistic community and ecosystem.

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I started learning more about digital spaces where people could share their work and the possibility of a future rooted in exploring. That path led me to user research, user strategy, and specifically human-centered design, which is essentially thinking about how we can create an experience to be inclusive and designed from a place of care for all different kinds of people.

I believe that the internet is a tool that can help us connect to each other, to co-create, co-dream, and co-learn. At the same time, the internet is in a really nefarious place, especially if you’re a person that comes from a marginalized identity. And internet culture would not exist without Black culture. Black culture drives internet culture in so many different ways.

That’s really saying something in the age we’re in, where internet culture is such a big part of culture at large. I deeply believe with how much Black culture has contributed to internet culture that the internet is a part of archiving Black knowledge and Black work. I believe we deserve online spaces that are rooted in Black expression and that celebrate Black expression, while also allowing for users to feel safe and secure.

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That belief led me to leading design at Somewhere Good. We just launched. Many startups don’t even last long enough to put a product out into the world, so I’m proud that we were able to create this platform that’s reimagining what social media can look like when it comes from a place of celebrating Black expression. And that I built it with such an amazing Black, queer, Asian, and Latinx team.

What led me to creative direction was honestly a refusal to stick to one creative facet, which I think is reflected in the breadth of the work that I do. I did lead design at Ethel’s Club, which was a social and wellness platform for people of color. That was a really beautiful project and I’m really grateful to have worked on it. I’m also a head curator at Black Feast.

I deeply believe with how much Black culture has contributed to internet culture that the internet is a part of archiving Black knowledge and Black work.

Black Feast was founded by Salimatu Amabebe in 2013. After college, I moved back home to Portland for a year and I found one of their events on Facebook. I believe that dinner was based off of bell hooks’ work. And Portland is mad white, so when I saw that there was a Black chef and artist creating a dinner inspired by bell hooks, I said, “This person, I need to know them immediately.”

It’s funny, I didn’t end up making it to that event, but I ended up meeting Salimatu at an open mic a couple weeks later and we connected. They told me about their work and we just started creating together from there.

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Black Feast creates culinary interpretations of work by Black artists. Our events aren’t simply dinners. The meal in itself is an artistic experience. We’ve worked with artists like Jamila Woods, Madison McFerrin, and Yétundé Olagbaju in different cities across the country.

We did a dinner in Portland that was based on Amenta Abioto, an incredible music artist. The dinner was at an outdoor farm space. We had Amenta performing her music at the same time as these dishes that Salimatu prepared were being served. It was a gorgeous experience. Folks were getting up out of their seats and dancing to the music and it was just really beautiful to see because people were interacting with Amenta’s work and with the food itself in a really sensory way.

A lot of fine dining experiences are driven by really white conceptions of how to show up in a space that can look very controlled and constrained. We have a poem we always share at Black Feast experiences and the ending is, “This is an offering, this is a song, this is a dance. This meal is made for you.” The line “for you” is really important to us because, in language, the default audience is often thought to be white. It’s never a Black person. So when we say “This is for you,” we’re really speaking directly to Black people. We’re saying this experience is created for Black people, by Black people. It’s created to celebrate and welcome you.

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Claudia Rankine talks about how so much of the work of domination is policing imagination. It’s really inspiring for me to think about how we can root our imagination in reality while also imagining possibilities beyond this reality. And a part of that is care. I think care is what makes pulling new futures into the present possible.

So in my work, I’m really inspired to think about how care can be a part of my artistic process and it can help me access new futures. Octavia Butler is someone whose work comes to mind. I also think of Janelle Monáe. I think of Faith Ringgold. People whose work is about how we can dream of a future beyond the present. And when I think about care, I specifically mean communal care. I think self-care is important, also, but it’s been really commodified by capitalism. I’m more inspired by how we can create communal care structures.

I think Mariame Kaba said, “Everything worthwhile is done with other people.” I’m finding a lot of pleasure in my friendships right now. Really deepening the love I share in them and thinking of friendship beyond a heteronormative conception. How friendship can be a really deep and essential form of love rather than the secondhand experience to romantic love. So I’ve been making intentional friend dates, making beautiful dinners together, being intentional not just in spending time together but how we’re spending time together.

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I think care is what makes pulling new futures into the present possible.

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My most visceral first memory of cannabis was when I was in high school and some friends asked me to smoke. I was a pretty sheltered kid and very, very nervous about breaking rules and getting in trouble. I did not have cool kid energy. I tried it and didn’t understand the hype. That was definitely because it was my first time and, honestly, I probably didn’t do it right. But when I got to college, cannabis became more a part of my life in a way that supported my connection to my creativity.

I have anxiety and depression and that has been with me for a really long time. So when I got to college, I started connecting with other neurodivergent students and friends who helped me learn how to support myself a bit better. At one point, I was so anxious that I wasn’t able to sit down and create my work. Weed gave me a way to slow down and be present with my body and allowed me some space to better be able to sit down and write. It meant a lot—and still means a lot today—as somebody who has ever-racing thoughts.

It was important for me to find cannabis brands that I felt aligned with on a personal and political level.

It definitely took some trial and time and effort to find the method that worked best for me. I can’t just use any strain. I need a blend that has a higher CBD content than THC, and I also tend to have the best time with a hybrid or a more indica-dominant strain.

It was important for me to be able to experiment on my own timeline, which meant moving through it really slowly. I also think it was important for me to find cannabis brands that I felt aligned with on a personal and political level, because of how Black and brown communities have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs. As somebody who grew up in Portland, the face of cannabis culture was always white people.

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In Portland, I really like Green Box and Green Muse, which are two Black-owned cannabis spaces. I’m also inspired by brands like Gorilla Rx Wellness, which is a Black woman-owned dispensary in L.A. The way they do political education and also reinvest in the Black community in their area is really inspiring to me. Cannabis is a political space as well, and a political space that has impacted Black communities so deeply. So I’m inspired by brands that think about that intentionally. Xula is a Latina- and Black-owned CBD brand that’s awesome, and their products have been really dope for me in terms of anxiety and sleep.

I also have a deep connection with the use of mushrooms and with psychedelics. Calling it a tool feels so sterile, but it has allowed me and continues to allow me to connect with my spirit in really important ways. It’s been an important part of my self-care over time.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Annika Hansteen-Izora photographed by Cayce Clifford in Berkeley, CA. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.