(Audio File)


A:

Hi!

N:

Hi!

A:

Okay. So before we formally start, I want you to introduce yourself first, because if I do that…I won’t properly… I will be… I will do a terrible job with it.

N:

Sure.

A:

So, who is Nkem…who is Nkem in her own eyes?

N:

Sure. Thanks for that question. It’s really a good question… and it’s… I haven’t asked myself that question like who am I to myself, but I am… I would say just a ball of energy, probably. Just kind of trying to get the most out of this world and the most out of this life.

I mean I could talk about my specs as per what the world would understand me as in my job and stuff like that, but I don’t think it’s as important as how I see myself in the world which is just someone trying to feel things and trying to understand people and the world through the different things that we do, but for the… for the information that’s more… I guess… easy to understand, I’m a teacher. I’m a writing teacher.

Yah. I work in a university with mostly first-year college students, but also with other types of students, with staff, with post-doctoral people–just everybody on their writings. That’s my main gig, but what makes me so fascinated with that is like just helping people better express themselves. So, that’s really what it comes down to.

A:

Yah. Now that you’re done introducing yourself, now we’re going to… to proceed to the real topic which is your platform called wellspringwords.

Now, my first question is: why did you create that platform that allows women of color to let their voices be heard?

N:

Yah. I created it because I was interested in hearing about other people’s voices. I mean… I guess that you can say that it’s selfish, but I wanted to know what other people were thinking and what other people were doing and what other people’s lives were like and specifically women of color because I think… yes of course everyone has their own story.

Like every single individual has their own story and I think that if each person were to write their own story as like a book or something, it would be interesting to some people but the stories we typically hear are the majority–usually white people; usually white men, you know?

And so, because we only hear diversity in those stories, we don’t hear the diversity in stories of people of color and then, that subset of women of color, like you and me, we tend to have like one depiction of what a black woman is or what her life is; or what a Filipina is or what her life is.

A:

Yah.

N:

Especially that I’m living in the UAE so it’s even more difficult to have a diverse understanding of our two positionalities. So, I’m thinking, “Okay. How can I get women to share their stories in ways that they’re writing their own stories, they’re sharing their own narratives?”.

So you can see, a bunch of different types of women from different backgrounds but there’re a lot of like threads that hold people together so you can see like “Okay, just because she is a Filipina; she’s a Muslim; she’s Black; she’s Asian; she’s Indian; whatever it is, they’re all struggling with identity or learning to love themselves or you know, have this creative style that they’re trying to explore whatever it is, you know what I mean.

A:

Yah. And that their stories matter too.

N:

Absolutely.

A:

So, it is only right to give voices to them.

N:

Exactly.

A:

So I know that this was reiterated in your About page but I just want to… to really… to really ask this: why was it called wellspringwords?

N:

Yah. You know, it’s funny ’cause thinking a name for your brand or blog or something is usually one of the hardest parts because you want something that’s gonna be unique but easily identifiable and something that has a lot of meaning but this one came to me very easily.

I didn’t want the name to have woman of color in it. I didn’t… I didn’t want it to have that because we’re often so tokenized, you know what I mean? Like, as I said, there’s only, truly, usually one or two types or depictions of how our lives are.

I don’t want someone to type it “womanofcolorwriting.com” I mean, then you have an idea of what’s gonna come before you even join in and see what’s the experiences all about. So that’s one part of it: I wanted to choose something that was not going to have the essence of it or like the function of it inside the name so it can be really broad but then also the idea of a wellspring is something that has an unlimited abundance, right?

Like there is just more than enough, always… there’s always… there’s always more. There’s always an abundance of whatever you need in that… in that wellspring. So, I was thinking about wellspring voices, wellspring this, wellspring that, but then wellspring words just came to me because it was about writing and for me, I sometimes think like… okay, if I write something now will that take away my ability to write something meaningful later but it won’t because I have a wellspring of words, a wellspring of thoughts, ideas, passions, hopes… whatever… inside me so there’s never going to be… in my ability to write or to express myself is never going to be extinguished because… some arbitrary force, right? There’s always going to be enough.

I think the meaning behind wellspringwords–there’s a lot behind it, but I think the biggest meaning is that you can always express yourself deeper… more… like there’s never going to be an end to the amount of expression that you can create and the amount… and the variation of voice that you could tell your story.

A:

Yes. It’s actually a great name.

N:

Thank you.

A:

Yah. Prior to this interview, I was actually browsing your site and I read the about page and I was just in awe.

N:

Wow! Thanks.

A:

Because the name was really suitable for… for what you’re…for what you’re fighting for in your site.

N:

Yah. Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

A:

So, my next question is: when did you decide to create the platform?

N:

Yah. So I mentioned earlier that I’m a writing teacher.

A:

Yes.

N:

So, I write. I work at a university and usually our work during the summer… we have what’s called like a summer scholarship program and so it’s a stretched program… stretched pedagogy which means that typically when you’re in session, we have classes during the semester, but between spring semester and fall semester, you have a summer break where people are not typically taking classes and so we have a program that helps to bridge that gap so people don’t just fall off the wagon and forget how to read and write and do all those things that they’re used to doing every month in the semester and with that we have students who opt in to working on their writing projects and so I had four students… five students who I am working with, but one in particular who inspired me to… to start this because I… she was writing her memoir and I was really enthused by her style of writing, her way of expressing herself, her desire to learn more she was learning about herself, and I’m like “Wow! This was amazing. I feel lucky that I get to read this.” and of course the people who read your memoir are in your small circle or whoever you share with are going to get to read about.

What about like a larger community and what about those other people who have the desire to write about themselves and to share their words?

I’m sorry because I retract the question. You asked me when did I decide to do this.

A:

Yah.

N:

I thought you asked me why, but when is over the summer. Over the summer and based on this one student, but then also during June when there was an uprising of Black Lives Matter across the states and across the world.

I’m thinking of… you know, I’m always thinking about impact in my life, but I personally don’t get a lot of value from myself out of protesting and living on the UAE and not the states is not meaningful anyway because no one’s doing anything over here so I’m thinking how I can make an impact that will last longer than a protest to me because everyone has their own way of doing it. So, yah… I decided to create the website.

A:

In a way… now my question is in a way, was it rooted to your past? Like past happenings in your life like was it rooted there or was it really… or it really came from the memoir that you’ve… that you’ve read?

N:

It really came from the memoir because I don’t focus a lot on my own writing in the site. I… I focus on other women’s writing and then every once in a while I have to remember to plug in my own writing so I can do the same thing I’m encouraging other women to do. I mean… I… I have blogs in the past which have been fun and everything, but I… my writing practice doesn’t need to be published for me to continue at it.

I mean I have this huge basket full of journals and I have journals in my… everywhere..! Everywhere I’m always writing. So that… that is taken care of. It’s just a means of getting other people to do the same and to get some benefits out of it.

A:

So, now that you’ve mentioned that it’s actually for… for other people… for the women of color, now my question is among all of the narratives sent to you, what do you consider as your favorite?

Because while I was reading you’re… the site, I actually consider one… one narrative as my favorite. It was the one related to the hijab because in the Philippines we have lots of Muslims and then before when I was young, I tend to see those hijabs as something that… that is limiting them to their religion and then when I realized through the article that the hijab was actually empowering to those people, I suddenly realized how small I think of… of the hijabs and how big it actually is. So, what do you consider as your favorite? Do you have one?

N:

Oh my God! That’s so hard! That’s so hard because I feel like every time I read a post, there’s… there’s parts of them that are… I find so empowering or so uplifting or even so sad or so thought-provoking or moving and because they’re not all the same.

Some of them are poetry and some of them are regular like personal narrative writing, so it’s hard to compare, so I won’t say that I have a favorite but I would say the ones where the women dive deeper to their own experiences and their own reflections on those experiences, those are my favorite because there’s this idea that when you become more specific in what you’re trying to express, that increases the universality of what you’re trying to say.

So rather than saying like everybody bleeds the same, okay fine… yah, sure you can say that but what really means something is talking about your own experience with lovelessness, let’s say. I mean, I think everyone has experienced some sense of lovelessness, hopelessness, you know, depression, even if it’s minuscule in their lives and in that way hey can connect with you deeper. So, that’s where I find like my… my sense of resonance of what I read.

A:

Yah. My next question is now regarding to the people experiencing discrimination based on their color. What is your message to them?

N:

Oh gosh!

A:

Because there was this one issue, but it’s not of women of color. It’s actually the George Floyd, if… if I’m correct. Yah. It’s actually the George Floyd who experienced police brutality. So, how about to the women experiencing discrimination based on their color?

N:

It’s so difficult. It’s so difficult because… I mean… I have what I would want to say, but I experienced it all the time and sometimes… sometimes I’m experiencing it… I experienced it that I don’t know and sometimes I’m not experiencing it but I think I am because of all the past experiences that I have with discrimination… all that trauma, you know, it… it’s a thing that really sets your path and so without making our lives too difficult, I would just say that we have to continue seeking what is the best life for us.

Whatever that means, you know? So, if that means you’re in surroundings with people who are not valuing you or taking you seriously, you need to get out of those surroundings whatever it takes. I mean, sometimes it’s easier said than done, right? I recognize the privilege that I have to be able to leave the US which is dangerous for someone like me and move somewhere else… right… where it’s safer. Not everyone has that privilege, but whatever you can do, you have to do it. So, if that means that you need to stay off social media, stay off social media. It’s even better for you to stay off social media.

A:

Yes.

N:

It’s like a drug that thing.

But these things are really triked and they feel like you’re only touching the surface, I think that a lot of the things that we put value in, they don’t matter. I know from me, I can’t take discrimination seriously like I can’t give it that much value in my life because it is a joke. Like it’s actually a joke. It’s not real.

When someone makes a judgment of me or someone else who doesn’t look like them, it doesn’t matter if they’re white or whatever. If I’m making a judgment of someone because they don’t look… because they don’t look like me, or because they’re not doing the same thing as me… it is like… it is a distraction! I… that’s how I feel.

It’s a distraction from what we should be focusing on which is living our lives, trying to get the most out of the life that we have like connecting with people in a real way… just making the most out of life… like all that discrimination is a distraction but I can understand how it easily distracts us because it digs at the deepest parts of ourselves.

When someone tells you that you are not worthy or shows you that you’re not worthy or valuable, it’s tugging at your essence… who you are as a being, you know? That’s tough. It’s easier said than done to just say it’s not legitimate. Don’t take it seriously but I think at some point we don’t have to reckon with the fact that whoever is discriminating against us has their own problems and it’s never about us. It’s not.

It’s about them and what they’ve been taught… what, at some point… what they’ve been chosen to continue to associate themselves with, you know, because at some point as an adult you have to say “Okay. I know. I can understand that my upbringing didn’t allow me to see that diversity that you know, everyone is truly the same no matter our color, but now, I’m an adult and I’m taking the position of unlearning all those things trying to see for myself what it means to have a friend who looks like this and who does that and understand that we can have the same values and… and… what it’s called… like interests and activities without looking the same“.

A:

Yes. What is your message to the people who are discriminating based on color? Those who have small point of views when it comes to the bigger matters?

N:

Yah. I mean like it’s kind of what I mentioned at the end of the last question, the last answer which is everyone has their own responsibility to… I mean, my eyes are even twitching because it’s stressful. It’s stressful to think about people who discriminate, in general, and I’ve been in positions where I’ve discriminated for sure, but you’re talking specifically based on color.

I think that… I mean, for me, I’m just going to expand it if that’s okay like who discriminated based on anything.

When I find that I’m being discriminated against, it’s an opportunity for me to check how I discriminate against other people because I have a lot of privilege in my life. I’m tall. I’m educated. I’m an American. I’m beautiful.

You know, these things really set you in a certain place in society… in a way our society values these attributes and so that means you can discriminate against other people and get away with it. Like no one is going to say anything to you because you’re already valued so highly so it’s the same thing as someone of a majority… of a majority culture or race or something, they can discriminate and get away with it.

Maybe they will get some like, tap on the shoulder or knock. Typically people will not say much about it or they’re generally going to get away with it then if the tables were turned. So, I think everyone needs to have a sense of self-awareness and understanding that it’s by chance.

It’s not because you actually are… if you’re the one who’s discriminating, it’s not because you’re actually higher value than someone else. It’s all by chance, you know that right? I didn’t ask for this height.

A:

Yes. No one asked for it.

N:

No one asked for it! Just like someone didn’t ask to be born white like that’s just what it is so all of the thing that people think that they’re better than someone else or even in some cases it may not be that somebody thinks that they themselves are better than another person but they are justifying their discrimination based on what they’ve learned so for… religion really has embedded a lot of discriminatory prejudicial practices to what it’s indoctrinating people with.

I’m not talking about spirituality. I’m talking about a lot of institutionalized big religions. They’re based on a lot of discriminatory practices and people come and they start claiming that religion as their own and associating and identifying themselves with those religions or with those education systems or with those education systems or with those systems, in general, these larger systems and they don’t know how to separate themselves from the system, then they can fall prey… I would say prey… to discriminating against people and maybe they don’t even know it or maybe they’re okay with it because they’re justifying it based on what they’ve been taught and you know, whatever you’ve been taught, especially from a young age, is embedded in your subconscious which means this is the way that you’re going to act in life.

There’s no ins and outs about it unless you as an individual do the work to remove yourself from… actually divorce yourself form those subconscious thoughts. I’ve been plaguing you and plaguing your society.

A:

Wow! That’s well-said. That’s very well-said.

Okay. So, the last… the last question that I have is what advice can you give to the women of color.

N:

What do you mean? In what sense?

A:

Like in embracing… embracing their identity because like that’s… while I was browsing your site… that’s what… that’s like the main… the main topic encompassing some of the narratives. It is the identity within themselves. So, that’s my question. What advice would you give them regarding their identity?

N:

Yah. I guess I’ll just say, keep looking in the mirror. Like never stop looking in the mirror and the reason I say this is that because I was watching an episode of some show some months ago and it asked the question… it put a bunch of people in front of him and asked the question “if you were to determine who is the most attractive, and you’re thinking like I don’t know this person this person and they reveal the reason… the way they determine who’s more attractive is by repetition of seeing the person. The frequency… the frequency that we see the person determines how attractive they are so the more that we see ourselves, the more attractive we are going to be to ourselves and so everything actually comes from a place of love and a place of care within ourselves like a seed, right? You plant a seed inside yourself and you water that seed and you cultivate that plant and of course your fruit is going to be beautiful and you’re going to be overgrown with fruits that you’ll be able to give to the people around you but in order for you to do that you have to see yourself. You have to see yourself and recognize that you are worth planting in.

You are worth investing in not from anyone else but form yourself and I think that the way you’ll be able to do that more is to continue to look in the mirror. Yes, physically, to see… to actually see yourself, recognize your face, become familiar to yourself. That familiarity breathes love. That familiarity breathes fondness, you know? But then also, to continue to question yourself. to reflect on your actions, your decisions, your thoughts… all those kind of things because that’s another way of seeing yourself. It’s not physical, obviously. It’s more mental and psychological and then emotionally and then spiritually… all the four corners of I think, the human existence, you know?

We should be reflecting or having ourselves reflected to what’s somehow and I think it’s going to help us with understanding our identities and solidifying our identities and allowing our identities to shift but embracing the shift as it happens.

A:

Yah. I once saw this quote in… in Pinterest and I think it’s really applicable to what you said and it’s the… it was the quote that says only you can change you. Like everything starts with you.

N:

Yah. Absolutely.

A:

Thank you so much!

N:

You’re welcome!


Why, hello there!

Thank you for reading! I appreciate it a lot.

This was my first time interviewing someone of a different nationality so I was not really that confident. I think my nervousness was evident in the audio file. Despite that, I think I was able to give justice to the whole interview. I hope you think so, too. Lol!

If you want to hear more from Nkem and her platform, visit her website and her Instagram account. If you also want to support her platform, donate to her site. I promise your donation will be worth it because her website caters to the stories of women of color which all of us can learn from.

By the way, follow my mom’s Instagram account. Her account will not disappoint.

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Love,

Aaliziyah

29 thoughts on “Letting Other Women’s Voices Be Heard with Nkem

  1. Great podcast and interview. Discrimination is created by society. Due to that white dominates before in the past history in the world. Color is just a label. Nobody is superior. We are created equal by God. Everyone have unique talents, skills and personality. We must find our purpose in life and live our life for that purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great interview. I really love how your blog is coming along. You write about really interesting topics and you get to interview people who inspire others. I like the reason behind the creation of wellspringwords.com. Women empowerment can definitely have a positive effect on the changes we want to see in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I super love this series you have and I’m also thinking of starting my own podcast like you are doing. Congrats on the great work!! And I can relate so much to Nkem and her website. That’s actually what I’m trying to achieve with Sewer Rant and it’s super fulfilling to help other people you know?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sends a powerful message! Women should be able to have platforms like these to share their views. I feel that I really resonate and relate well with Nkem! I’m happy to be able to read her insights ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations. Beautifully said. We are all children of God and there is no need to differentiate between us, to be divided by the color of our skin, our hair, by how we look. The man looks through his heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so happy to see that there are women in this platform who share the same philosophy that I have in my life. Being independent, strong-willed, and passionate about what we do makes this world a better place. I hope a woman will learn to support other women instead of considering them as a competitor. If we are empowered, we are more powerful and could bring a change in how society see us…

    Liked by 1 person

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