CASSANDRA DOW: Mama to Lennox, Founder of Womxn of Color Create
Tell us about yourself? Who you be? Where you from? Where you rest at?
I'm Cassandra, found of Womxn of Color Create, an online community and media company chronicling and empowering the intersection of being a woman of color and a creative.
I was born in Brooklyn, and when I was 5 my mom moved us to Oregon. This was a shock to my brown skinned, curly headed, train riding, Spanish speaking system and I hated it, to say the least. It wasn't till much later that I learned just how useful this isolated brown girl experience would be to my creative identity. I completed college in Oregon, where I started out studying Ethnic Studies eventually switching to an Art School to study Interior Architecture. This original presence of choice between social justice and creativity would also become foundational in the creation of wocc.
I completed school, working at various showrooms, surviving the crash of 2008 and the newly dried up design scene in Portland. I had been in a long term relationship of 8 years which was also dried up and not serving me. Looking back on it it seems sudden, but it was actually a long time process, I finally made the decision to leave the relationship and leave Portland. I emailed a long time family friend who had taken on his dads growing leather accessory company and asked for a job. Within 3 months I had ended my relationship, packed my stuff up in a U-Haul and moved back to a town I hated to start a job I was finally excited about. It's hard to articulate just how powerful this transition was in my life. It was truly internally activated. All I can say is, always take a chance on yourself.
I worked for the same company for close to 5 years. It was a family owned business. In this environment I learned a lot about breached boundaries, but I also got to learn so much about the aspects of a growing brand and everything it takes to build. I got to work on so many aspects of the business from product development to brand management, web commerce to wholesale management, product shoots to trade show production. I got to travel with them for several years repping them as a brand ambassador and opened doors for them such as Fred Segal, Saks 5th Avenue and my personal favorite Brooklyn Circus. It was truly some of the most fun I've had and my first time standing in my creative power.
The job eventually moved me to Los Angeles. I burned out on the business for various reasons and floated around LA for a couple of years working for some other smaller design labels, eventually coming to the conclusion I needed a break. Once again, I found myself packing my car up and headed back up I5 to the town I hated but seemed a good resting place for me.
I was uncertain what I would do there. But I knew that the previous 10 years between design school and creative jobs, I was a desperately lonely creative black girl. In all of these environments, I was 95% the only person of color and 98% the only black woman and 99% the only one with an active critical voice of our environments. Black people create the culture. This became glaringly obvious when I was the token one expected to be sent into the "cool" spaces and accounts in order to open doors. We used Guatemalan fabrics to make bags and accessories at the leather company - I was certainly the only one uncomfortable with not acknowledging the source, issues around appropriation and more. This was pre Trayvon, pre Mike Brown, pre Sandra Bland. Rachel Cargle was not yet educating the masses via Instagram. Nothing about my opinions on these creative concerns was appreciated in these environments and shutting it all in was starting to become exhausting and heavy.
I opted to re enroll at the university and complete the Ethnic Studies degree I had walked away from to pursue creativity. I needed company, I needed to articulate and express everything I had seen and all of my discomfort with it. And I also needed some room to reimagine what left me so exhausted. A bit on Ethnic Studies, it is the study of power, essentially. You study who patriarchy, misogyny, white supremacy, nationalism and capitalism have constructed all of the oppressive systems we live within. But the liberating and ground breaking part of Ethnic Studies is you spend almost as much time reimagining these structures to set us all free, as you do studying how they are constructed and maintained. If I could go on a personal tour about how every person of color should double major in Ethnic Studies and whatever else they want to study - we could tear this shit down and rebuild it in such a way we'd all be liberated and thriving, even the oppressors.
So I did it. In there, I got pregnant, in getting pregnant and being at a personal transition around my work I became a stay at home mom and relocated to be with my partner back to LA. In this down time it became apparent and staring me in my face that what I was obsessed with is what women of color create. How we navigate our spaces, and what we create in them. How we decorate them. How we express all of our beauty, power and thoughts. The first drafts of what is becoming Womxn of Color Create were birthed shortly after.
Why did you start Womxn of Color Create?
I started wocc quite simply because I needed it. I deeply desired company as a creative woman of color, but I also want to see more of us laying claim to our creative power. In the US, black women play leadership role in producing the culture. Women of Color as a global demographic are the larges number, but we hold the least amount of capital. I want to see these come into congruence from top to bottom. I want to see individual women pursuing and advancing their creative careers, and I want to see more of us in positions of power within creative industries, and I want to see us owning more of our own culture creating capital.
Our first step is building an online community where us as individuals can share resources, from experience to skills and job openings. We are building a space where creative women of color can come with the questions, their needs, as well as their experience and share with with each other for individual empowerment and collective growth. We are chronicling our stories as creative women of color by us and for us. We are collecting as many of our stories about how we got to our various positions and archiving them for all of us to reference and see ourselves in.
What kind of women do you see benefiting from WOCC?
wocc is for any woman who is pursuing a creative career. Architecture, fashion design, interior design, photography, writing, media and more. We include all free lance and entrepreneurial careers creative as well. wocc is for women in any stage in their career as well. We plan on building a tool shed of resources and an actual swap meet of skills to help us all advance our individual needs and aid each other in building experience.
wocc is for any woman who calls her self a creative. Who is creatively living her life. Who is creating herself and her highest goals.
wocc is for any woman of color who has felt the isolation of being a woman of color or of being a creative. woc is for any woman who has found herself the only one in her work place. We are for anyone looking to grow their skills and community around their current trade and skill. It is for anyone wanting to turn their creativity into a side hustle or a full time career but doesn't know where to start. It's for women at the top of their career who want to hold the door open for more of us to enter. It is for any creative woman of color who quite simply wants company and community. So often being a creative woc can be so lonely if you're working in primarily white spaces, or even if you are free lance or an entrepreneur. It can be hard to find like minded women who speak the same language and understand the pursuit of creativity. wocc is for those women, and any of us wanting to build and lay claim to our creative power.
Who are some women you admire?
Lindsey Peoples Wagner. I find the path she's carved for herself while never compromising her voice and blackness incredibly rich.
Arlan Hamilton. Her whole story is inspiring, but mostly I respect her vision, instinct and action. It's the perfect recipe.
Alexandria Occasio-Cortez. Because she belongs to all of us red lipstick wearing big hoop wearing brown skinned smart girls who's mouths and brains got us called "angry" and "opinionated" long before it got trendy.
IG accounts that you love to follow:
@kaiaventdelon I just want to live in her whole life.
@pamelashamshiri / @studioshamshiri my favorite interior designer at the moment. The spaces she makes are both sophisticated and full of life.
@notesfromyourtherapists I was raised by a therapist, and am completely burnt out on the superficial social media wisdom everyone is dropping. This one is the only one that is a few degrees smarter in it's posturing and not just calling everyone you have trouble dealing with a narcissist (sometimes it's you, and we all need therapy!