The 2016 election may have emboldened some, over there, with an eagerness to maintain the tired old status quo amidst a changing tide, but we nasty women are fired up, too, ready to take our rightful place as leaders, as warriors, as goddesses. Leading the charge in our little metropolis are incredible, powerful women, confident in their purpose and magnificent in their blackness.
The ladies on our list are authors, community leaders, artists, entrepreneurs and social activists, and that’s but a mere drop in the bucket of badassness compared to the totality of melanin magic permeating through this city and beyond. Our cover stars are wearing white, a nod to the congresswomen who wore the color as an emblem of solidarity and unity during Trump’s recent State of the Union address. Who says you can’t fight the patriarchy, build an empire, raise a family and usher in a new women’s movement, all while sculpting a razor-sharp cat-eye?
Sydney G. James, muralist and fine artist
This 2017 Kresge Arts fellow has traveled all over the world, from Honolulu to Ghana, painting murals that depict the beauty and pain of black life. Women are often her subjects, their energies tugging on something deep inside and drawing you in. “I’ve been an artist since I was 3. I think art chose me.” Recently, she partnered with Desire Vincent and DeAndre Levy’s Our Issue campaign on an Eastern Market mural and a line of T-shirts meant to spotlight the problem of sexual assault, and remind that the burden of change does not fall solely on the shoulders of women.
Her dream for black women: “I really want us to be at the top of the food chain, like we should be. I feel like that’s where we’re supposed to be. I feel like that’s our origin and somehow, through all of this life, we’ve lost our way.”
adrienne maree brown, author and pleasure activist
She’s multi-faceted: a writer, social justice advocate – working with Black Lives Matter and other pro-black organizations – pleasure activist, healer and doula. “I’m passionate about being alive. There are a lot of miraculous aspects of life that blow my mind and heart out of the funk I can sometimes get into.” She penned Emergent Strategy, Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and co-edited Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. In February, Source Booksellers hosted the release of her latest work, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, a book that asks, “How can we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience?”
Her dream for black women: “That we reclaim the birthright of our bodies – for pleasure, connection, dance, celebration, for feeling (and) for intuition.”
Brenda Perryman, author and TV host
She’s been called “a renaissance woman.” She’s directed plays, hosted workshops, authored books and currently hosts a show on TV33 WHPR, Talk 2 Me with Brenda Perryman. “What I like to do is to inspire other people who watch me to say, ‘Golly, if that person can do that, I can do that too.'” A devastating car accident at 18 left her paralyzed with doctors telling her she’d never walk. She did walk again, so she’s not one to stop at “no” and loves to instill in other people, particularly young women, that same sense of bravado. “Sometimes we underestimate what we can do. I hate to use the word ’empower,’ because it’s overused, I believe. I call it ‘realizing’ or realization that we can do more.”
Her dream for black women: “I find that a lot of women are trying to keep up with the Joneses and compete. I just think we need to cooperate as opposed to competing.”
Bre’Ann White, photographer
If any whispers remain surrounding whether photography is art, her achingly beautiful photographs officially dead the issue. From artistic beauty shots, fit for the pages of any fashion magazine, to maternity and corporate campaigns, she sets out to capture true emotion and illicit in the viewer an equally authentic response. White considers herself a storyteller. “The funny thing is, I don’t take pictures of my actual life. The only time a camera is in my hand is when I’m shooting for a project or a client.” Her first solo exhibition Definition of Red is on display at Playground Detroit through March 16 and circles Sudanese model and artist Ronis Aba, showcasing “the beauty of her personality, her skin, her culture.”
Her dream for black women: “I want them to be prideful of who they are, how they look. I want them to love who they are and spread that love.”
Monica Duncan, early childhood director of IFF
IFF is a critical resource to nonprofits and communities, working with them to develop high-quality facilities based on data, sector knowledge and community feedback. “Whenever we build anything for prenatal to age 8, then I’m involved in the magic that happens on the inside,” figuring out how it can be sustained and best utilized. She works to “foster these beautiful minds into the brilliance they were designed to become.” Duncan will be directly involved in the building of an early childhood center on the Marygrove college campus, a leg of the P-20 Partnership, the cradle-to-career institution slated for 2019, helped by a $50 million commitment from The Kresge Foundation.
Her dream for black women: “That we will be comfortable in our own skin. That we would feel led by our purpose and confident in it, and regardless of what anyone else thinks, that we would press toward it.”
Remonia Chapman, director of Gift of Life‘s Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education program
The black community as a collective has been hesitant to consider, if not outright opposed to, organ donation, and she says, “We’re not as on board yet, but we’ve made some significant strides.” Chapman credits donor recipients and the families of those who’ve donated with changing many minds, acting as “strong ambassadors” in spreading the message. From giving those in need of a transplant a second chance, to comforting families who’ve lost a loved one with the knowledge that their death was not in vain and that their legacy goes on, she says, “It’s an opportunity to honor life.”
Her dream for black women: “That they realize the greatness of who they really are, that they are the female expression of God’s image creation. I want black women to come into the understanding of who we are, and I believe we can do that through faith and family and friends and community.”
Kamilia Landrum, executive director of NAACP Detroit
This a new role for her, but social advocacy has always been a part of her life, since she first dealt with the issue of affirmative action in high school while applying for colleges. “Since then, it’s led to more opportunities to stay involved.” Being a part of the storied NAACP, “to continue to work and fight the new faces and systems of racism, it just is empowering.” It’s no longer a push for access to the lunch counter, but she’s amped to instead take on ensuring transportation downtown to get people to areas “that they could be shut out of,” affordable housing, upward mobility in the workplace and the like.
Her dream for black women: “We love the term ‘black girl magic,’ and I love it with my whole heart. But I don’t want people to look at us as if we’re some myth. We are educated women. We lead our families, we lead our communities, so I want us to be respected as such.”
Ericka Murria, sexual assault awareness advocate
You may have seen her in the HBO documentary I Am Evidence, an exploration into the untested rape kits in Detroit and other major cities. A rape survivor herself, she told her own story and, through her organization Supreme Transitions, works with others to test these kits and bring justice to survivors. “Social activism, it’s just who I am.” Her line of T-shirts, emblazoned with “I Am Evidence,” a Detroit-style Old English “D” in “evidence,” help spread the word and fund the revolution. “Sojourner Truth, she still mentors me from beyond the grave.”
Her dream for black women: “For them to ignore their age and become activated to do big things, move mountains that were shifted before them. I dream of black women having equal pay, voices and seats in areas that have been siloed and suppressed.”
Brittni Brown, publicist and owner of The Bee Agency
She’s made a career of telling stories, connecting small businesses and entrepreneurs with their audiences. Her first contracted client was Tommey Walker of Detroit vs. Everybody, and since, she’s added The Lip Bar – recently placed in Target – JOURNi and others. What thrills her is working with people who’ve stepped away from guaranteed stability to take a chance and follow a dream. “They’re trusting me with something they’re making an investment in, as well as making an investment in me.” She was named one of Huffington Post’s Top 25 African American PR Millennials to Watch in 2017, and this past year, Michigan Chronicle awarded her Best Publicist at its Black Detroit Awards.
Her dream for black women: She wants to see more partnership and to dispel the notion that we can’t work together. “Black women together, we are a forceful power. We’re magical creatures.”
April Anderson, owner of Good Cakes and Bakes
This trained pastry chef opened her colorful bakery in 2013 on Livernois‘ Avenue of Fashion to a supportive neighborhood of sweet tooths. Whether she’s concocting Frutti Pebbles cupcakes or a Lemon Gooey Butter Cake, she always appreciates the science and reliability of baking. “I have a very, very wandering mind. So, when I bake, it’s peaceful.” Anderson served as the pastry chef for the James Beard Media Awards in New York City in 2018. That same year, she also took part in the James Beard Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, a multi-day retreat during which chefs learn about important challenges facing our food system and about opportunities for advancement.
Her dream for black women: “Not only do I want us to get the respect that we deserve, but I want us to be compensated correctly.”
Vickie Thomas, city beat reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950
It was, in part, her knack for putting together pieces of a puzzle that led to her decision to pursue journalism. “I love giving a voice to the voiceless.” Aside from meticulous reporting, she’s created a signature of sorts by refusing to ignore those details and nuance that really bring a listener into a story, be it the description of an intoxicating smell or the sound of a cat purring. This dedicated journalist has garnered awards from the Detroit Press Foundation, the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, the National Association of Black Journalists and others. Most recently, Thomas was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Her dream for black women: When it comes to a career, a family and, most importantly, respect, “that they could have it all.”
Dani Woods, Detroit Police Department LGBTQ liaison
“I kind of look at myself as the bridge between the LGBTQ community and law enforcement.” She’s a corporal officer with DPD and gay, so she wears a badge and waves a rainbow flag, which makes her the perfect translator and influencer of respect, understanding and equality. Woods implements specialized training with the department and wherever else it’s needed, and acts as that go-to person that the LGBTQ community didn’t have before, considering the “long history of mistrust and the flawed relationship between the community and law enforcement.” When she took on the role in 2011, she wanted to target more than just Pride, which is where she found a lot of other liaisons in other cities stopped. “It’s so much more to this life than Pride.” Her program offers the only Michigan-certified LGBT sensitivity, diversity and cultural competency training.
Her dream for black women: “That we don’t have to overexert ourselves to prove our worth.”
The plush velvet and soft pinks of this Siren Hotel bar were the perfect backdrop to showcase our lovely ladies in white. Stop in to sample their all-new drink menu debuting this spring, designed by bar manager Amas Muhammad who says, “I’ll be doing a number of things that will give you a nostalgic factor.” Expect a cocktail that’ll remind you of banana pudding and another that will make you swear you’re drinking a pineapple upside-down cake.
1509 Broadway St., Detroit • 313-277-4736