Celebrating Black History Month – Open Conversations
It’s been an incredible experience this past month celebrating Open Conversations celebrating Black History Month. We wanted to recap a little more and share some extra resources so we can all keep in touch and continue learning–and unlearning–from these people, organizations, and communities!
Thank You Palesa, Deon, and Desiree!
Thank you to Palesa Koitsoie, Deon Releford-Lee, and Desirée Dawson for your willingness to share your truth and knowledge with us, and for introducing us to amazing community projects happening in your circle.
Palesa Koitsoie, Imbali Bloom Consulting
Palesa Koitsioe is a Mindset and Emotional Intelligence Coach. Her pronouns are ‘She/Her/Hers’. Through Imbali Bloom Consulting she is able to offer (i) a one-on-one mindset coaching program and, (ii) personal and group identity workshops (for corporate and grassroot organizations).
Palesa moved to Canada five years ago and currently She works and lives as a settler on the traditional unceded homelands of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Palesa was born in Johannesburg, South Africa; and comes from a strong-knit family. When she was young she dreamt of having a “therapy stand” rather than a lemonade stand! She loves how cathartic communication and conversation is, and is using her expertise in therapy and psychology to help others navigate their journey in life and nourish their mind and soul. Palesa also has a background in Psychology and Neuroscience; and graduated with Honours from the University of the Witwatersrand.
Palesa is multi-passionate and is a multipotentialite. Her creative endeavours include writing and performing poetry, singing and songwriting, and writing short stories. During her adulthood the journey to mastering her creative outlets allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of the creative process. Which in turn affords her the ability and capacity to build and create curriculum, brand designs, graphics, and manage social media pages for different organisations.
She is currently volunteering with several grassroots non-profit organizations as a Project Lead/Coordinator. Her mission in life is to empower and guide folks on the journey to self-actualisation (becoming what they deem ‘the best version of themselves’).
Find Palesa on Instagram @imbali_bloom_consulting
Deon Releford-Lee, Free Black Millenials
Deon Releford-Lee is a black, queer, cis, actor, dancer, singer, artist, activist, host, educator, food maker, rump shaker, and generational curse breaker currently based in NYC.
Deon graduated from HBCU (Historically Black College/University) Fayetteville State University with his degree in acting and concert dance in 2014. Promptly after graduation, Deon became a teaching artist/choreographer and threw himself into the regional theater and film festival scene in the Carolinas and surrounding areas.
Being from predominantly Black and diverse spaces, growing up in West Philadelphia and all over the country in the military, he was reminded that he was a member of the subordinate caste in America when he ventured into white communities to teach summer conservatories at various theaters in the south. Deon’s presents in these spaces allowed him to see what it took to change the culture of an area where people don’t have access to different perspectives. This is where he discovered his work in diversity, equity, and inclusion was possible through art.
Deon has also worked alongside and earned scholarships to train with dance companies like Eleone Dance Co., Philadanco, Black Dance Theater of Dallas, Koffee Dance Co., and Lula Washington Dance. After moving to NY in 2018, Deon booked his first off broadway show and that same fall he joined the first Broadway National Tour of Beautiful: the Carole King Musical. After closing the tour and before/during quarantine he has been involved in various readings and workshops in development of new works in NY and producing his own work.
In March of 2020, Deon traveled to Vancouver Canada where he witnessed people that could have been his uncles, aunts, mom, dad, sisters and brothers die on television in his own country as the world watched; all while being surrounded by people that didn’t understand his trauma or experience. That summer, Deon launched the movement and production company “FREE BLACK MILLENNIALS” which aimed to celebrate, entertain, heal and educate through Black culture & stories with a focus on social/systematic change, equity, diversity and inclusion; and launched “FREE BLACK MILLENNIALS: THE PODCAST” which aims to do so through amplifying the unique voices of artists, upcoming pioneers, scholars, everyday civilians and world changers in November of the same year.
FBM: The Podcast just completed their first season and can be found wherever you listen to them. Deon is also currently circulating in a national commercial for Biktarvy, the one a day pill for people living with HIV.
Desiree Dawson, Desiree Dawson Music
Desirée Dawson is a queer recording artist, songwriter, producer and yoga teacher from Vancouver BC. Desirée is very passionate about music’s role in collective healing, by encouraging listeners to find a connection within themselves and the people and land around them.
A CBC radio favorite, Desirée has been featured on numerous CBC programs, has her songs on regular rotation and won the CBC Searchlight contest in 2016. Her single “All In” premiered on Billboard Pride and was featured in an episode of Wynonna Earp, August 2020. Her most recent single, To Be Me is available on all major streaming platforms and is a song about self-empowerment and reclaiming our identity during difficult times.
Desirée was born, raised and is currently residing in "Vancouver" on the traditional, unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ / sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations, and can often be found sharing her music internationally.
Whether performing solo with her baritone Ukulele, in harmony with her band or leading sound healing workshops, Desirée’s music is made to get us feeling and healing.
In the business of facilitating mindful music spaces through concerts, sound healing sessions, teaching yoga, and more, Desirée’s goal is to create spaces where people can show up in their full authentic nature and tap into the healing power of feeling and healing–within a community setting.*(Bio taken from Desiree’s website)
Find Desirée on Instagram @desireedawsonmusic
Here’s where you can find the community projects mentioned in the past month:
Empowered Black Girl / Black Women Connect Vancouver
Empowered Black Girl is a conference hosted by Black Women Connect Vancouver, focused on mentorship for Black girls in British Columbia, Canada. The conference provides a platform for Black girls to interact and have empowering discussions with other Black women from the private and public sectors in Canada.
Visit Empowered Black Girl’s website: https://www.empoweredblackgirl.com/
Visit Black Women Connect Vancouver’s website: https://blackwomenconnectvancouver.com/
A.R.C. Community Project
A.R.C. CommUNITYwas co-founded in the Spring of 2020. During the early COVID-19 school closures and the increase in public attention to racial injustice, ARC CommUNITY founders created events that prioritize Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) families to gather and share knowledge, skills and inspiration that will guide children to participate in an equitable future.
Visit A.R.C.’s GoFundMe to learn more: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-arc-community
Find them on Instagram @arccommunityproject
Breana C. Venablé & Unarmed And Dangerous
Visit Breana’s website: https://www.breanacvenable.com/
Know Knowledge Know Peace
A big shout out to the awesome Miiko community, who joined the conversation, sent words of affirmation, and made purchases to support these initiatives!
Open Conversations Continues…
Self care is about opening up to the realities of injustice and oppression in the world, and stepping into the discomfort to work towards a better future! A future where people can be themselves and not worry if they are being judged by the colour of their skin.
There are more conversations to be had, and we are both nervous and excited to grow. Systemic oppression, unconscious/conscious bias, inequity.. It all exists in the beauty industry. So it is our business to be gut-clenchingly uncomfortable, so we can learn and unlearn, and participate in a better beauty industry.