Head Women In Charge: Tanya Fields, Creative & Executive Director of the BLK ProjeK
MN: What motivated you to start the BLK ProjeK?
TF: I could give a really rehearsed and “proper” answer but I am going to opt to keep it real for Madame Noire readers. I was a young mother. At 22 years old I found myself living on my own in the South Bronx with a three month old while going to school full time. I struggled, getting a crash course in the lesson that poverty is rampant among women, particularly women of color because they are women who many times are subjected to policies and services that are created to marginalize them. In a patriarchal society, single mothers are PENALIZED for that “decision” and in turn their children are at higher risk for poor nutrition and poor nourishment. As someone who did not grow up in a cycle of poverty, violence or poor education, I had outside resources. I had educational capital, social capital and cultural capital to continue to propel me forward. I began to think, what about the women who did not? What about their children? These were my sisters and if with all that I still continued to face what felt like impossible odds how were they going to fare? I created the BLK ProjeK for those women. For me, for myself. I am linked to their success because I am inextricably linked to them.
MN: What’s your long-term vision for The BLK ProjeK?
TF: I want to create new opportunities for women centric and mother centric workplaces and communities. I want to be clear that doesn’t mean I want to exclude men but I do realize to create more equitable communities men themselves musty become “feminist.” I want the BLK ProjeK to help create not just jobs, particularly around food but I want to catalyze a more equitable industry where a woman with a low social and economical status can see a real example of pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps or if need be make herself a pair of boots first! I want to eventually get into real estate development, cooperative – family centric homeownership for low-income/working class people of color and I am still marinating on the idea of getting involved with education somewhere down the line. I realize nothing happens in a vacuum. We cannot look at one solution to alleviate poverty because poverty is complex and multi-tiered.
MN: Do you want to take the BLK Projek national, even global?
TF: Absolutely! My plan is to be global and an identifiable household name, within the next 10 years.
MN: How hard is it to balance being a mother and an entrepreneur? What advice do you give to single black mothers who want to pursue their dreams and goals?
TF: I am still struggling. I am a success story in the making, I do not want to give the impression that I have it all together. As I’m speaking to you, my car was towed and I am trying to figure out how to get the money to get it out. There is always something, but I never stop. EVER! My advice to women, you are only as limited as you let people make you believe you are. There is a conspiracy and much investment given to helping to perpetuate our poverty. Times get hard and there will be people that say you can’t do. That’s OK, if opportunity doesn’t knock, educate yourself on how to build a house, then build a house. Take risks, ask for what you want and learn to deal with rejection.
MN: Who are some African American women philanthropists and entrepreneurs that inspire you?
TF: I have so many! African American women are doing our thing! I’ll name a few. There is a sister named Kolu Zigby– she is my biggest inspiration right now. She is a funder and absolutely brilliant, Google her. My former mentor Majora Carter– I admire the level of success she created for herself. Madame CJ Walker – She grinded and made a dollar out of 15 cents did it her own way. Not only did she create wealth for herself she passed that on to other black women and talked all over the country about economic development. Cliché,but of course Oprah.
MN: What other career goals do you have?
TF: I want to write a cookbook and become a TV personality on a show focusing on empowerment and food. I also sing really well, LOL and entertain the idea of doing an one woman show. Don’t mean to toot my own horn, but a sister is multi-talented.
MN: What other projects or charities are you involved with?
TF: I am currently developing an urban farm in the Bronx. We will be opening a community led farmer’s market in the Bronx as well. I envision it becoming a Bronx Flavored cultural and culinary experience. I am also working a lot currently with a plethora of NY based organizations. I don’t do charity. I don’t believe in charity. I believe in liberation.
MN: Well put Ms.Fields! To keep up with Tanya & The BlK ProjeK, follow her on twitter @theblkprojek
Tianna is a NYC girl about town, blogging about beauty and business. Follow her @TeeNecole