I’m Emily, those close to me call me Em. I work in graphic and digital design within the Portland area. In my own work I focus on Black women, our bodies, our divinity, and our protection. It’s important to me to represent the majesty of Blackness, and to create work that makes Black women feel powerful, desirable, and seen. I’m currently freelancing but, seeking a new job within a design agency.
My inspiration was the iconic Black supermodels of the 70s and 80s (Iman, Grace Jones, and Naomi). I chose to design my poster around them because they are powerful women that embody the quote “Slay All Day”.
Being creative allows me to tap into my deeper self, into Spirit. It helps me to find peace and quietude within a world of chaos and strife. I’ve always loved art since I was old enough to hold a crayon. It’s just always been my main passion in life.
My Black experience within design is probably very similar to other Black folks experiences, which is that we have to spend most of our time playing “the game” and the rest of our time actually being creative. The design industry loves to label itself as liberal, but it is far from it. Most if not all of the DEI work being done is performative and focuses more on what words you can’t say than actual systemic changes. They are not sensitive to our emotions, their true objective is their own comfortability (and we know who “they” is). Professionalism means you have to pretend to be them, you have to be happy all the time or else you have an attitude or aren’t a team player. Calling them out on their racism or anti-Blackness could get you fired. And if you do get fired you have no power to publicly call them out for fear of getting blacklisted in the entire industry. It’s exhausting.
We need more Black folks in positions of power, specifically Black women and queers. We will not see real change in a world that is led by our oppressors. They will continue to feed us crumbs until we starve. Large companies like Nike and Adidas need to stop giving Black projects to non-Black agencies and then they need to pay us what we are worth.
I can’t say it enough: more Black leadership, more Black people (especially women and queers) in positions of power. We need to have more Black-owned agencies, we need more capital, we need more recognition for the fact that we are the creators of cool. I also believe as a community we must gate-keep our culture in order to preserve its essence and its truth.