Six Black Individuals Who Inspire Our Team

With February being Black History Month, we chose to share and amplify members of the Black community, who inspire us or whose life and work we appreciate, during our internal anti-racism discussion this month.


We thought this was an important exercise for our team because, consistently over the past few years, we’ve seen the amplification of Black trauma and violence against the Black community. As a nation, we need to normalize Black joy and talent and recognize the on-going contributions that Black culture and Black folks have made to the America we know today.


Black joy is revolutionary. Black joy is essential. Black joy reminds us that there’s more to Black life than pain and suffering, even if the world tries to convince us that Black life can only be agony. Black joy inspires us. Black joy rejuvenates us. Black joy–Black community, Black art, Black people dancing, Black people partying, Black people just being happy and free reminds us what we’re fighting for.”


Black excellence is all around us. Here are the six individuals our team brought to the table this week.


Arielle Bobb-Willis

Photographer


Toting the line between fashion and contemporary art, [Bobb-Willis’s] use of bright vivid colors is therapeutic and speaks to a desire to claim power and joy in moments of sadness, confusion or confinement.” Our teammate, Shereena, chose to amplify Arielle Bobb-Willis because she loves the way Bobb-Willis uses her camera as an empowerment tool for her community.

Shereena says, “Arielle enjoys expressing Black people in abstract art, through her photos, to press against Black artist oppression by providing creative range. She’s known for capturing portraits of people in disjointed positions with a colorful eye. I appreciate the underlying meaning behind her art by conveying the message of finding joy in all of life’s moments of confinement and confusion. Ultimately, Arielle wants to inspire other artists that look like her to feel seen and accepted. As someone who enjoys film photography as a hobby, I appreciate her work in the most heartfelt way!”


Shereena suggests you follow Bobb-Willis’s work on Instagram to keep up with her latest shots and find inspiration in her creative style.


Candace Molatore

Self Love Advocate + Branding Consultant


Candace is Portland-based, just like our Avenue team! “Candace uses her photography and writing skills to broadcast the message of self-confidence, body positivity and inclusivity online,” making her a local-favorite for our Avenue team member’s!


Our team member Reed says, “When I think about the Portland creative, influencer and marketing scene, I think of Candace! I've been following her for years on Instagram and am always filled with so much joy by the digital community she's created. Her focus on body positivity, inclusivity and self-confidence brings a much needed brightness and joy to a social platform that often can lead to self doubt and negativity."


Candace’s content is so empowering to a team of women, like we have here at Avenue. With a light and welcoming aesthetic, Candace promotes authenticity, self-love, healthy habits and lifts up many of the small businesses and places that make Oregon special. Not only does she fill our feeds with confidence and a light aesthetic we need more of, she’s girl-bossing it out there, building a brand and successful business while staying true to herself!


Constance Baker Motley

Lawyer, Advocate, Judge, Elected Official


Judge Motley was practicing law during America’s Civil Rights Movement. Not only was she involved in some of our most well-known history, she was making it herself. “LDF’s first female attorney, Constance Baker Motley wrote the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education and pioneered the legal campaigns for several seminal school desegregation cases. She was the first Black woman to argue before the Supreme Court and went on to win nine out of ten cases.


Megan shares, “​​I chose Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to become a federal judge and a civil rights trailblazer who worked alongside the likes of Thurgood Marshall and MLK Jr.. She often cited her greatest success to be reinstating 1100 Black children who had been expelled from school for participating in street demonstrations in 1963.” Some of our team members’ previously had law career aspirations, so it’s been incredibly eye opening for our team to learn about the high profile cases Motley was involved in and leading the charge on.


Megan suggests listening to Code Switch’s podcast episode about Motley, from earlier this month, to learn more about her career, life and commitment to the civil rights movement.


Gloria Jean Waktins (bell hooks)

Author


Gloria Jean Watkins, who goes by the pen name of bell hooks, after her maternal great-grandmother, is an inspirational and courageous author, feminist and social activist. Anna shares, “I admire her bravery in writing over 40 books on topics of race and intersectionality, gender, oppression, feminism and more. In honoring her passing, she has inspired me to read more of her works, continue my own learning and to elevate awareness of her and her legacy.”


As a team full of voracious readers, it’s not surprising that an impactful author would be one of the selected folks for our team to amplify. We are all at different stages of our anti-racism journeys and the works of bell hooks will help us to continue to think critically about our own experiences, bias and continued areas to grow.


Anna’s favorite Bell Hooks book is Teaching to Transgress and she recommends you read it to continue your anti-racism journey and education. Additionally, you can learn more about the Berea College bell hooks center, which honors Watkins by supporting students in becoming social justice leaders.

Dr. Jessica B. Harris

Culinary Historian


As a culinary historian and one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2021, Dr. Harris’s research on culinary history has amplified the influence of Black culture as a foundational piece of, what is known today as, “American” cuisine. Dr. Harris is the author of “My Soul is Black”, “High on the Hog” and 12 cookbooks. Her research and travels have contributed to our knowledge that many “American” foods originated from Black chefs or Black culture.


Jazmyne shared her admiration of Jessica B. Harris’s work in successfully shedding more light on the impact of African American cuisine, and the unique way in which she makes food more approachable for the everyday learner. She notes, “Dr. Harris is a true champion of the cuisine of the African diaspora.”


Most recently, Dr. Harris’s book, High on the Hog, was adapted into a Netflix series. Jazmyne recommends that you check out this four-part docuseries for a deeper look into the more hidden history of American cuisine origins, and a chance to meet Dr. Harris along the way!

Melissa Koby

Illustrator


Koby’s art empowers women today, by showcasing that there’s a place for intersectionality and femininity within the social justice movement. Koby says, “My current work is inspired by my need to process our climate. There are themes addressing social justice, but the underlying themes are always a celebration of people of color and the peace and tranquility that comes from beautiful landscapes.”


I love Koby’s work, which is why she is the person I chose to share about. The BIPOC joy and women's empowerment reflected in her work is so energizing to me. Her work is some of the first art I've felt truly connected to, because I can see myself and the diversity of my girlfriends in the work she creates.”


Lastly, as mentioned before, here at Avenue we love a girl boss and seeing the business Koby has built, packed with strong collaborations and partnerships, is so inspiring for our team!

I’d suggest learning about Koby’s piece, Community Spring, which was created specifically for the non-profit, Community Spring, which Koby sits on the board of.