Unbought and Unbossed

Unbought and Unbossed /ənbôt and ənbôsd/  phrase. – 1. to beholden to no one. 2. writer Robert Gottlieb created the phrase as a slogan for Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign. See also. Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress (seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives),the first Black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Interview with Khrystal

Tell me about yourself. What’s your background?

My name’s Khrystal. I’m an artist and from Wyandotte County — Kansas City, Kansas. I was born and raised here in Kansas City. I come from a Black middle class-ish family. I’ve always been into music and the arts. My parents really cultivated the love of arts in me. Which has led me to what I do now… I guess you would call it a full-time artist. I act at various theaters in the city, as well as, I’m a musician. I play the piano, bass, trumpet, and a couple of other instruments that I’m working on. I compose, I write and create my own stuff…. Not only to express myself but to bring empowerment. Particularly to Black women. Any creative endeavors that I do are really geared toward Black women empowerment. It’s hard. It’s worth it. So, overall, I just want to really empower myself and empower others on my journey.

How would you define beauty?

My definition of beauty would definitely rely heavily on auras and energy. I tend to find the most the beautiful things are things that can’t be explained. It’s just like a feeling. So like, things that leave you feeling like a better version of yourself or a joyful person as yourself… things that leave you feeling empowered and willing to do more to create beauty. I think that’s how I would define beauty.

“My definition of beauty would definitely rely heavily on auras and energy. I tend to find the most the beautiful things are things that can’t be explained. It’s just like a feeling.”

How would you define Black beauty?

I think strength. It’s really interesting. I’ve just created my moodboard for this year. I have intentions that I set for myself and just things that I want to get done in a year. But when creating a mood board, I don’t really go into it like, Ooh, I want to find deep images and neat words or whatever. I kind of let things come to me. And when I finished my moodboard for this year, I realized that like all these images — which is a variety — are images of just Black women, feminine Black women, masculine energy Black women. Looking at my moodboard, I saw a lot of strength and a lot of power. That’s how I see Black beauty. A lot of strength… A lot of power throughout various centuries.

How would you describe Black culture?

When I think about Black culture, I think super innovative… innovative would be the word. Like, the first thing that comes to mind is like, yo, we really create something…and a lot of times out of nothing. Our imagination is immaculate. The way that we were able to just think of ideas, think of new things, transform things that have already been created into versions that work for us. So yeah, super innovative. That’s what I think of when I think of Black culture. Oh. And, it’s not only innovative but like is the culture setter… Like our culture sets the culture for United States.

What societal pressures do you feel because of your race?

I have to be the best… As a Black person, as a Black woman, anything that I’ve ever done, I can never be mediocre at it. I can only strive to be the best at it. And I think that builds a really good work ethic. I think that it makes us strive for better, strive for more… makes us even more innovative, makes us even more forward thinking. But it also is kind of a double edged sword… There is a feeling like you’ll never be good enough. So, it’s interesting trying to balance between striving for the best that it can be and being content with the idea that I don’t have to compete with anybody else or anything else.

How would you describe Black womanhood or sisterhood?

Oh my gosh, Black sisterhood is my favorite. Cause I love, love, love, love my sister friends. We hold each other accountable and we love each other. We are there for each other. It’s really beautiful. And you know, growing up I watched the show Girlfriends and I didn’t have like a whole bunch of super close girlfriends to as a child. Like I had different girl best friends, but in my adult years, I’ve just gained a really close camaraderie of Black women who are my sisters. They are just amazing people and we’re edified — Like you just know that every interaction is going to be something that you could walk away with some new information, some new wisdom about how to approach a situation. It’s super special and unique. Oftentimes, I feel like Black women were the only people that were able to be able to relate to me and even cared about my well-being. So, I think it’s like super, super beautiful, super, super important cause we’re amazing mirrors for each other.

And if there’s a Black woman who doesn’t have some close girlfriends, my suggestion would be like, yo, go find you some really good girlfriends, like some really good close people that you can trust, because it’s all worth it.

Khorage - a Black teen magazine by Khrystal

Why do you think Black women don’t get the respect and recognition they deserve?

I mean, this goes back to like slavery days, where people didn’t recognize our own value. They don’t see us as human. They don’t see us as deserving of respect or love, which is why I think it’s really important that we show each other that we are deserving of those things — cause if we show each other that we are deserving of those things, that we know it, and then we can demand it from the people around us that don’t think that we are deserving. So yeah, people don’t think they were beautiful… that we’re valuable… that we contribute anything. And so why include us in anything? Why include us in society if you don’t think they were valuable? So, we’re often misrepresented. We’re often not represented at all.

That was one of the leading motivations behind starting a magazine for Black teen girls. I started a magazine in 2013 or ‘14 for Black 10 year olds. It was kind of like Ebony or like back in the day there was Teen Beat, Cosmo Girl, Teen Vogue, Seventeen type-magazines. magazine type thing. And so, I created a magazine just for Black girls so that they could see themselves represented in a publication or at least somewhere cause we aren’t represented very often. And oftentimes it’s not in variations of Black women… If we are represented, it’s a certain type of Black woman, just one type. It’s stupid and it’s not accurate.

From Viola Davis to Kerry Washington, now you are seeing Black woman representation… What does that mean for the culture?

It’s incredibly empowering. Like, if I can see images of myself, that makes me also feel like I can do it too. I can do it the best. I deserve to be able to be recognized for what I do. I am good enough. It just reaffirm so much — Seeing Black women excelling, being themselves, not having to conform to a version of whatever society says that they have to be, seeing them with their natural hair is, seeing them play different characters, seeing them with personalities, seeing them being loved by Black people… That’s incredibly empowering.

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

Yeah, definitely. So growing up, I did a lot of speech and debate. I remember just walking into competitions and already being labeled as not as good or having to prove myself more than others. And not only that, but just being treated unfairly by other students. Like when I would, excel, when I would win an event at the debate tournament or at a speech tournament, I was not always greeted with graciousness from the other competitors. A lot of times I was really with malice and it was like, How could she possibly be better than me at this?

One of my main events in forensics was oratory and I went to Sumner Academy in KCK. And we would compete often like in like the Olathe School District, the Blue Valley School District and it was particularly one time when we were competing for nationals, for NFL (National Forensics League), and I beat out one of the competitors–whose dad is a well known news reporter, actually–and at the end of the tournament when they were placing us he got first runner up… and you know how at the end usually you’re supposed to shake hands and congratulate the other person? He looked at me and and walked off. And I was like, yo, it’s only forensics. Everybody in the auditorium was looking like, what the heck? And yeah, I think in that moment, I probably couldn’t have felt more Black and more Woman and slightly embarrassed. That moment stuck with me for a very long time.

Those were actually life shaping. In our formative teenage years we start to form our own ideas and opinions about people and this was my first experience where my parents weren’t involved with racial tension. I had to learn how to navigate that by myself. And it’s been a journey into my adult years having to reconcile that and not let those things affect how I put out art or anything that I do moving forward.

“So as an artist, we’re sensitive about this shit. But as a Black woman artists, we’re even more sensitive about this shit. Cause not only does the world expect you to do better…”

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

So as an artist, we’re sensitive about this shit. But as a Black woman artists, we’re even more sensitive about this shit. Cause not only does the world expect you to do better, but then even within your own culture…Even Black men sometimes don’t acknowledge all the beautiful work that Black women do, all the beautiful art that Black women make. So, I think my resilience…wanting to continue to make beautiful art, and perfect my craft despite any backlash that I’ve ever received…that’s something I really love about myself. I love my ability to be able to do that. And to not let others opinions of what they think I should do, or how I should act ,or what I should be doing affect me.

What are your personal dreams?

Ooh, I have so many dream. I really would love to be on the list of people that have an EGOT… Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. That’s just like my own, little personal goal. Also, to be recognized worldwide for my art and I want it to empower other people. And for them to be recognized for their art because they were inspired by something maybe I did or said. Um, and I would love to sell out an arena, act in movies, or be on Broadway and travel the world.

When did you first fall in love with music? Or, I guess, how did you fall in love with music and knew that that was a path that you wanted to go in?

When I was younger — I had to be maybe two or three — My mom told my dad that God had told her to buy me a piano. My dad was like, okay, we’ll buy her a little keyboard. My mom was like, no, we’re going to buy her like a piano, like a Yamaha piano. My dad said, so like a big regular piano from her? She’s only three. My mom said yes. And, so, I think that’s where it just started.

My mom felt that in me and she’s very clairvoyant. She’s super in tune with herself, with God, with spirituality. And so when she heard that I needed a piano, she made sure I had a piano. And you know, I don’t ever remember not loving music, not loving art, not wanting to create and be a part of that process. So I can’t even tell you when that moment happened cause for me it just was.

What are some Black musicians that inspire you and why?

Nina Simone. I like just how bold she was. I really liked a lot of the older artists. The way they spoke was so eloquently and their music was not only a means for them to get out but the things they said were much more important. So, for me, it’s not just about the music itself… it’s just the easiest means for me to get out the information that I want to pass along. So people like Nina Simone and any of the Motown artists. As a kid, I really liked newer artists from that period… So like, Erykah Badu, Solange, and Beyoncé. There’s just so many.

What are some songs that you love to perform or listen to?

Some my own songs “Melanin poppin” is just like super reaffirming me that I’m amazing and poppin’. I really like my song “Don’t Be mad.” It’s a super frank song — same thing — reaffirming my Blackness, my womanhood, and my journey. I really love “F.U.B.U” by Solange. I think really her whole collection of songs in her last two albums — or EPs — are Black women anthems in a lot ways. “I’m Not My Hair” by Inda Arie. In album context… New Amerykah Part Two by Erykah Badu, like, how could you not.

What is it like performing on stage? How do you connect with your audience?

It feels very purposeful. I take it very seriously because it’s like I’m transmuting energy — I’m giving energy. And I want that energy to come out in the purest way. So even setting intentions and praying before I go out that whatever message is meant for a person, I pray that it sticks with them. You know, my goal is just laying it all out on the stage. Like, all right, I did the work and now I’m going to put the energy out here. Hopefully, whatever you’re supposed to take from this, you’d get from this, and you walk away with something that you can give to someone else.

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

I think one of our biggest hangups is that we can sometimes be divisive and divided. We sometimes divide out of insecurity or we are often divided on different issues. I think when we are able to come to a common ground… like a basic belief that we’re people and we’re all loved. Despite our differences, we come from the same thing and that we all really do want the same thing for ourselves and each other. I think then we could move forward as a community more smoothly. We could accomplish even more things. And we’ve seen it — a lot of times in history where Black people have put aside whatever differences they had and decided that the goal was more important. I would like to see us do that more.

What are you dreams for society?

Oh my gosh. And, I think it could totally happen — For all of us to be at peace and to recognize each other. I think if we can apply that idea in the Black community… that even though we’re different, we can still get along. We recognize each other and still love each other. If we could show what that looks like to the world, I feel like everybody else would follow us just like they follow us with everything else. Like our culture, we put out things that are super cool and other cultures naturally gravitate towards it. I don’t see why they wouldn’t also gravitate towards peace if we (Black people) also chose that.

How do we make progress on your dreams for society?

Finding the peace within ourselves. If everybody did the internal work to just really discover who they are and how they operate in the world… For example, I’ve noticed that when I went on my journey to love myself the best way I could and discovering my own peace, freedom, and joy. Naturally… I interacted with the people around me with much more peace, much more joy, much more love. So if we do the inner work, I think that would be a great place to start. Usually, people like to start on the outside like, Well this person needs to change and this person needs to change… But I think that we just start with ourselves then we can make the outside better. It sounds super cliche, but like it is true… When you feel better about yourself, you just interact with people better.

“I’m not a victim, but I’m a victor. I’m victorious. I feel like sometimes there’s this propaganda — especially in the United States — to make us feel like we’re victims… And we don’t have a voice… And we’re always going to be struggling… And we’re always going to have to fight. So, I would just say we need to take our rightful stance as victors.”

What advice would you give to other Black people?

I would say something that I told myself — I’m not a victim, but I’m a victor. I’m victorious. I feel like sometimes there’s this propaganda — especially in the United States — to make us feel like we’re victims… And we don’t have a voice… And we’re always going to be struggling… And we’re always going to have to fight. So, I would just say we need to take our rightful stance as victors. We are victorious . We are amazing. We are great.

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

I don’t think there’s anything that would help someone who’s not Black to understand the Black experience, but I wouldn’t say listening and being an ally. Being willing to put yourself on the line. We are only as strong as the weakest link and so I feel like in the same way, there’s this kind of propaganda to make Black people feel like the weakest link. Yo… If you see that happening, stand up — and that goes for any minority or anybody. Use your voice and the power that you have to be a real ally.

Additional Information

Interview Date: January 10, 2019

Day 13 — Story posted on February 12, 2020

Personal links:

Check out Khrystal’s album The Awkward Muva. You can also follow her on various social sites.

Chisholm's 1972 campaign poster

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