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Black Women Have a Branding Problem. We Aim to Solve It.

Google “personal branding” and you’ll get about 3,140,000 results.  In other words, there is no shortage of advice on the internet about how to build, grow and manage the “Brand Called You.“

I have read many of these articles and books.  As a Black woman, I’m always interested in learning more about what I can do to enhance my leadership, skills, and life.  I admit it.  I’m looking to be the “best personal brand I can be.”

The problem is, much of what I’ve learned doesn’t apply to me and the vast majority of Black women who are not (in)famous because:

Personal branding is not just about being “authentic” or self-confident. Contrary to what these advice columns suggest, my brand or reputation is not solely defined by me.Click To Tweet

Black women are tired of being branded.

As a Black woman, I’m painfully aware that my reputation (aka brand) is only partially determined by how I handle myself, what I know and what I say.  Stereotypes and prejudice also dictate how others, especially white folks, perceive me. And, let’s face it, most stereotypes of Black women suck.

The Mammy, the Welfare Queen, The Tragic Mulatto, The Bitch.  These are the hateful and stultifying stereotypes we must contend with at work, school and more. Is it any wonder our personal branding efforts can’t compete?

According to a recent survey coordinated by the American Advertising Federation’s Mosaic Center for Multiculturalism and the historic black sorority Zeta Phi Beta, “Only 12 percent of African-American and Caucasian women believe there are positive images of African-American women in the media,” says Mary Breaux Wright, international president, Zeta Phi Beta.

“Something has to be done.”

“Ain’t I a woman?”

Sojourner Truth recognized the “branding issue” facing Black women over hundred years ago at a Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio when she famously asked the crowd assembled,  “Ain’t I a woman?”  Truth knew she was being overlooked by white women and black and white men who were ignorant of or indifferent to her experience.  Yet, she was determined to define herself and not be eclipsed.

“And a’n’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a’n’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear de lash as well! And a’n’t, I a woman? I have borne thirteen chilern, and seen ’em mos’ all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And a’n’t I a woman?”

“Den dey talks ’bout dis ting in de head; what dis dey call it?” (“Intellect,” whispered some one near.)

“Dat’s it, honey. What’s dat got to do wid womin’s rights or nigger’s rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yourn holds a quart, wouldn’t ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?”

If Sojourner Truth teaches us anything, it’s that we cannot leave our branding to others or we’ll often be on the losing end of the stick. #BlackHer”

“The most powerful thing you can do is tell your own story.”
– Oprah Winfrey

Corporations and politicians know that carefully crafting and managing your own reputation can also be extremely lucrative or costly.  That’s why branding books sell!  It’s also why, according to Glassdoor.com, “the national average salary for a Brand Marketing Manager is $108,802 in the United States.”  Who knew?  We did.

The good news is that more and more Black woman also get the power of narrative and are gaining the influence and access to resources they need to advance their own and our collective stories. In the past few years alone, it’s been amazing to follow, learn from, and look up to  “storytellers” like Ava DuVernay, Stacey Abrams, Tarana Burke, the late Erica Garner, Mellody Hobson to Kamala Harris who are advancing a new narrative for Black women and the country as a whole.

Giving us back to ourselves.

BlackHer is honored to be a part of this larger tradition and movement to give Black women back to ourselves by standing in our own subjectivity.  By taking on those who would dismiss, deny or deride us and sharing the stories of our beauty, brains and enormous contributions to this country, we’re replacing tired stereotypes with our own empowered narratives.  It may sound trite but we’re navigating our rebrand.

You define you.  We define us. This is the only way to gain the personal, economic and political power we are due.

In love and solidarity,

Jocelyn

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