Slay All Day

Slay All Day /slā ôl dā/  slang. – to consistently do something or perform exceptionally well or impressively. The slang, specifically ‘slay,’ began in the 1980s and 1990s ballroom culture where LGBTQIA+ people of color used it to compliment each other.  See also. Formation by Beyoncé, Slay by YG ft. Quavo, and Slay by Kirby

Interview with Adora

Tell me about yourself. What’s your background?

Sure, I’m a first generation American. My parents were born in Uganda. They both moved to the United States separately, for different reasons, and they met each other and decided to stay here because they are both from different ethnic backgrounds in Uganda. So I grew up in Michigan and I’m the eldest of four kids.

My parents always said, When you’re in this house, you’re in Uganda…when you’re out there, you’re in America. Also, I had this dichotomy of my mom views me very much as a Ugandan and was really concerned with me embracing that aspect of my identity while my dad cares about me knowing my roots and stuff, but he sees me more as an American.

“My parents always said, When you’re in this house, you’re in Uganda…when you’re out there, you’re in America.”

So I think growing up I felt this crisis of, Oh my gosh, what am I? I don’t really fit in with African-Americans kids at the school, they don’t see me as one of them….Okay, I’m obviously not white either, so how does this work? It wasn’t until I went to college that I met some other people who had my background, in terms of being the children of immigrants, and that helped me just know that there are other people like me. But then a few years after that I kind of just came to the decision that, You know what? I’m both. I am African American and I am Ugandan. There are quirks about me in both groups, so I can understand if people don’t wholly see me as one or the other, but that doesn’t bother me so much anymore.

But yeah, my parents are great people. They definitely tried to do the best for me. I know they sacrificed a lot for me. They both moved here individually and they both had dreams to move back to Uganda. But they stayed here because they thought that their kids would have better opportunities here. So I know they sacrificed so much for me and my siblings. That’s always had a huge impact on me. And also they were just very loving — thankfully it was a household where they were very much in love with each other and, um, they made sure that we were opposed staff in that dormant.

And…I’m a journalist. Wanted to be one since I was a teenager. My mom says I was a very outgoing child when I was really young. But in middle school I was really insecure and just felt uncomfortable in my own skin and felt very ugly and worthless…And one day I was watching the news and I was like, Wow, that reporter looks confident. They look like they know what they’re talking about. They look authoritative. I want to do that. So it was more of a shallow inspiration, I suppose. But then my parents encouraged me to shadow journalists when I was in high school. In college. I eventually joined this journalism learning community with a bunch of other minorities and I got a full ride scholarship — That was awesome — And I would do internships every semester as a part of that program. And journalism just continued to be the green light.

I joke that I’m not good at that many things, but some of the things I’m good at are talking and writing. So that lent itself to journalism. And then, you know, being a journalist is awesome. You meet a ton of different people…you’re exposed to different environments and situations that you might not choose for yourself otherwise….It constantly keeps me on my toes, it constantly, makes me uncomfortable. I constantly meet new people.

How would you define beauty?

So I would say, immediately the word authentic comes to mind. I think beauty is like true and authentic. It’s not false. It’s not a mask, it doesn’t parade or masquerade. And I think that the truest form of beauty, what is inside someone reflects or somehow comes through exteriorly. Like when I’m looking at you, I’m looking at your virtue or your goodness.

“I think beauty is like true and authentic. It’s not false. It’s not a mask, it doesn’t parade or masquerade.”

How would you define Black beauty? 

It’s confidence. Because it has to be. Just by what people have gone through in this country… and in Africa…because slavery is a legacy that binds and separates at the same time. I think it’s chosen. It’s very much intentional and chosen. Like, it’s not accidental. I can speak for myself, as a Black woman, I know exactly like when I chose to embrace that I was a beautiful person, because no one else is going to give that to you.

Have you ever experienced any hardships in understanding your beauty versus what the mainstream wants you to be?

I think… skin and hair, those are the big things. So I knew from a young, young age — even though no one said it out loud to me — I knew that, Gee, there are no women who are as dark as me who are considered beautiful. All the Black women who were upheld as beauty icons…all had really light skin…or they had straight hair…or something that lended itself to Eurocentrism. So, I noticed that when I was a little kid, you know what I mean?

And then that literally remained true until I saw Lupita Nyong’o in 12 years a Slave ….that was really the first time where I saw that, as a culture, a bunch of people were like, Whoa, this Black girl is beautiful. I knew she was beautiful when I saw that movie, so I Googled her and then I was shocked that other people thought she was attractive.

So…skin…number one… noticed from a young age that dark skinned women were not seen as beautiful. And then my hair…you know I’ve got really kinky hair.

I had a relaxer until I was in high school and then my mom went natural. Like, she went natural-before-it-was-cool-kind-of-thing. So she just went and got a big chop and then came home one day and we were all like, What happened? And she was like, I cut off my hair, and was very unapologetic about it and over time she started wearing different styles and I thought it looked cool. And so I’d be like, Mom, can you style my hair like that? And she was like, Nope, cause you have a relaxer…Nope. Cause you have a relaxer….

So then one day, it was that same kind of conversation, Mom, can you style my hair like yours? — I think she had finger coils — and she was like, Nope. Cause you have a relaxer….

But then she high-key gave me a big chop without telling me….Which now I’m grateful for…But at the time was a little bit traumatizing….

So that’s how I went natural and then started embracing my own texture. Then natural hair kind of became a thing in the culture overall — like I said, my mom went natural before it was really a movement — and I guess I just got lucky and kind of fell into the fact that it happens to be a popular thing culturally right now.

What societal pressures do you feel because of your race?

I more just feel like an outsider sometimes. You know what I mean? I don’t necessarily feel like I have to do X because I’m Black…And I’m definitely not going to, even if I felt that way, you know what I mean? But I do feel that people interpret me from a more limited scope because I’m Black.

And there’s a double consciousness for sure. Like when I decided I am a beautiful person…I just think it would be a pity for me to live my life trying to please white people. If I inherently can’t please them by virtue of my skin color, then why would I conform everything else? To try to measure up as best as I can when I can’t measure up?

“I just think it would be a pity for me to live my life trying to please white people. If I inherently can’t please them by virtue of my skin color, then why would I conform everything else? To try to measure up as best as I can when I can’t measure up?”

Have you ever experienced racism or discrimination? If so, any stories you would be willing to share?

So sometimes I’ve had more obvious incidents…for example, once I was walking in my neighborhood with my brother to 7-11 and a bunch of like white guys in a truck just got out screaming, n****r, n****r run away. So that is very scary, and very overt and obvious. Or, once when I was a TV reporter in Northern Michigan, I was ringing people’s doorbells and someone again said, n****r. If you don’t get off my doorstep, I’m going to put this cigarette butt in your eye. Okay. Wow. Deuces…. You know?

So I’ve had things like that happen that are scary, but I think the things that are more hurtful are not that overt. When I think of the racism that’s the most hurtful to me is just that idea of beauty and am I beautiful?

So right now, like I said, I have decided for myself that I am beautiful, but it does hurt to feel that maybe most people might not think that, you know what I mean? But for me, that’s what’s most hurtful. Even though that’s not like an overt, obvious experience. An example of how I know that this is true — So in high school, I went to this really white-Catholic high school. And nobody asked me to go to prom with them, but a lot of my friends had dates. And all my friends were white at this school (it was, again, a super white school). So, we were all just talking and everyone was like, Oh my God, Adora, I just can not figure out how you don’t have a prom date! Like, you’re so awesome… You’re so this…you’re so that…. blah blah blah.

And I was just like, Okay, high key, it’s because I’m Black, you know what I mean? I didn’t say it, I didn’t have the confidence to say that. I think, hopefully now, given such a conversation, I would just say what I thought…but I had that thought in the back of my mind and so that thought is just always in the back of my mind. So again, not like a super overt experience like the people on the truck or the guy has a cigarette butt, but far more painful.

“So I’ve had things like that happen that are scary, but I think the things that are more hurtful are not that overt. When I think of the racism that’s the most hurtful to me is just that idea of beauty and am I beautiful?”

Do you ever feel the pressures of being the token? Being the standard compared to other Black individuals or the majority of the group utilizing stereotypes to say something about you?

Quite honestly, I’m so used to being the token that I do wonder how that impacts me psychologically. Um, but I’m so used to being the token. I grew up in a white neighborhood. I went to this like super-white Catholic school. I’m in like very white circles so much of the time…I always know I’m the only Black person there…but I am so often the token that I wonder how that impacts me.

I don’t walk into a space feeling like, Okay, the Black image is on my shoulders. I mean, yes it is in terms of like, sadly white people are going to look at me and make judgements about all Black people, but I’m not all Black people at the same time. So that is their problem and I refuse to deal with it.

Now, this is pretty messed up…I don’t even know how to describe this. But there are certain characteristics about me…and I’m pretty used to being the token….So, sometimes white people will say things to me about Black people thinking that, like I’m on their side because I’m not like “those” Black people in their mind.

What do you feel you have accomplished in your life? What are you proud of?

I am proud that I strive to love my family and friends. Well, and I think that is like the most important “achievement” that I could have. Like, if I have a great career and I’m a shitty friend then I don’t think that’s too great, you know what I mean? So I will say, I definitely put in intentional efforts to use my natural gifts to love my family and friends. That’s my number one accomplishment, probably.

And then also, I see goals through. Like for example, I ran the marathon this year. Um, it was a hard goal and I thought it through. Um, so like those are the moments I’m most proud of. And then also just striving to know myself and be real with myself about who I am, even if that means I learned something negative about myself.

And then also, I see goals through. Like for example, I ran the marathon this year. Um, it was a hard goal and I thought it through. Um, so like those are the moments I’m most proud of. And then also just striving to know myself and be real with myself about who I am, even if that means I learned something negative about myself.

“I think my accomplishments that I’m proud of… that I think are worthy of note… or actually build my character and represent my character…have to do with how I conduct my relationships and how I seek to know who I am.”

What are your personal dreams?

Love and be loved. So I definitely want to have a family, that is a dream of mine. And I want to like “see the world”. You know, I do want to see all these other cultures. And be good and kind and giving. Like hopefully, my dream, my ultimate dream is that — God willing — I live to an old age and I can look back and be like, Damn we did that.

So, you get to investigate all these cultures, unpack them, report the news to everyone… But, you also get a piece of that insight for yourself. How does that make you feel?

I feel so honored. Because, my work depends on other people being willing to talk to me. So if I ask you to interview and you say, No… that’s it, I’m out. But consistently again and again, people say, Sure, be on my couch…Have a seat…. Would you like some tea?…Let me share this intimate part of my life with you. Sometimes to the point of tears, you know? Several times I’ve had to pause the interview and just be like, It’s okay…Comfort the person…and then we keep going. So people are very, very vulnerable with me when they have no idea who I am. That is certainly the biggest honor of my work and I definitely carry that with me.

I also think another advantage of my work is that these skills that you use to report and interview really do translate to everyday life….translate to friendship….translate to starting a conversation with someone at the mall. You know, these interpersonal skills carry everywhere. So, even if I stopped doing journalism tomorrow, what I have learned with how to communicate with others and how to find ways to communicate with others, will carry with me for the rest of my life.

What story have you’ve been able to cover that has impacted you the most or that you’re most proud of?

I’m going to mention two stories that impacted me for different reasons.

One of them I did when I was in TV. It was about a family that adopted nine severely physically and mentally handicapped kids. And that story really inspired me because it’s just amazing to see how people stretch themselves. Like, this was just a couple that just decided, Hey, there are a bunch of these kids facing these particular circumstances and we should help them. And it was that simple. They transformed their whole house to be handicap accessible so that they could fulfill what they really saw as a mission for them. I think that was just very generous and bold of them. So it was really cool to meet them and be around their kids and be in their house. So that is one story.

Another one is a story about the natural hair license in Ohio — which, basically, you can get a cosmetology license, but it costs like thousands of dollars…So by the time natural hair became popular, a lot of natural hairstylist, were not getting cosmetology licenses and they were getting busted by the law. But their argument was, Okay, we don’t learn anything about natural hair in cosmetology school. Do you want me to spend thousands of dollars to learn how to put it in relaxer and then style the hair? That’s the only way they learned how to style Black hair in cosmetology school — to alter the texture and then do a style. So, these women were just kind of like, No, we’re going to do our own thing. And then the state ended up creating what they saw as a compromise so that they could still regulate the natural hair industry to some extent, but, acknowledge that, Yeah, you’re right, cosmetology school does not cover the services that you’re providing to these people. So it was just awesome to see the resilience of those Black women and how they were like, Okay, no problem, cosmetology school just isn’t going to work for us, we’re going to pave our own path. I mean, that’s the story of being Black.

What is one major problem minorities face that you would like to bring awareness to?

I think in regards to Black women, I think two fold. I think 1) Black women are not seen as feminine. I think that’s a big problem. And 2) I think a lot of times Black women are carrying everyone on their shoulder…carrying the whole family on their shoulders. They’re just responsible for so much and therefore carry so much emotionally as well.

As a journalist… how do you stay “fair” when you know that you carry your experiences and perspectives with you as you report?

First of all, I’ll give a caveat. –I’m certainly imperfect at doing that and I think that’s why it’s super important that we have diverse newsrooms in the first place. Because I have a viewpoint that no one else in my news room has… I’m the only first generation American on our staff….I’m dark skinned Black… You know, there are certain experiences that I carry that other people don’t. And that’s the value. But that’s also true for like so many different people and we need more diverse newsrooms so that we can help counteract that balance. Because I think people, including me, do naturally have more sympathy or natural empathy for people whose experiences they understand or share. So we really need a diversity of experiences… of political views… of religion…race…you name it. We need diversity.

That said, how do I remain fair? I just try to play a little devil’s advocate in my head. And not assume that everything that people are telling me is true. So I just try to play some devil’s advocate so that I can get the other side and try to provide as much balance as possible.

You’re not the first person that has mentioned that Black women carry a lot on their shoulders. Why do you think that Black women has not been recognized more in the mainstream mediums?

This is totally wrong….but if I’m being 100% honest about what I think about what white people think they’re looking at… I think they’re just looking at it as like, Well, Black people, like, chose to get themselves into their problems. I think there’s a lot of that mentality that Black people chose their struggle. And so if they have it…sucks to suck. And I also think, back to what I said about Black women not being feminine, I think white people view Black women as harsh and mean and rude and sassy… And then for all those reasons you can kind of dismiss her struggle cause it’s like, Well, she’s not even nice. I can’t empathize with her and she doesn’t deserve my empathy either.

What are you dreams for society?

For Americans, in particular, I hope we can be less individualistic. I think that’s a big root of a lot of our problems. I also think it’d be amazing if we could add to that implicit racism and if we truly could recognize different types of beauties that would make my day.

How do we make progress on your dreams for society?

Hmm. That’s a tough question. I’m not sure how to do it on a society-wide scale. I’d have to think more about how that would be done society-wise…I think like man-to-man, though, I think being truly open to meeting new people and hearing about their experiences without being defensive. People are so closed minded and isolated.I feel like that’s a double whammy.

“Don’t wait for society to show approval for you, cause you might die first.”

What advice would you give to other Black people?

Don’t wait for society to show approval for you, cause you might die first. Um, I’ll think about it in terms of my little sister — I’m the oldest kid in my family, I have a little sister and I love that girl to death. And I really tried to make sure that she would look at her beauty choices as options more than obligation. So, I really encouraged her to look at natural hair from a young age, for example. I consistently would affirm that she was a beautiful person…would pick out features that are attractive…compliment those…and also compliment her mind. Cause, like I said, I think beauty is the interior drawn forth through the exterior. So I just wanted to build her up. So I would say, Build yourself up. Cause even when I had to make that choice for myself, it was like, Okay, I need to be discriminating with what media I consume.

What advice would you give to non-Black individuals to help them understand the Black experiences?

I would say, make a Black friend, but knowing that they’re not all Black people, you know? Cause I do think meeting people, sitting down, and hearing their stories is the most genuine way you can get to know a person. But of course, not to confuse that with like, Gee, I met one Black person…check! I know all of you now. But yeah, like maybe you’re at some sort of party or something and you would not be drawn to talking to that Black person who’s there because you have people who have more similarities to you in the room — taking the extra step to go outside yourself and reach out to the person who you’re not naturally inclined to think that you have something in common with.

Additional Information

Interview Date: November 8, 2020

Story posted on June 19, 2020

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