Black Women in the Global Village

Jennifer posing in Stratford Upon Avon, England.

Writer Jennifer Poe, founder of Imported Chocolate, talks about her travels to Buenos Aires, Argentina, starting her own site, and shares her advice for new bloggers in this week’s Black Women in the Global Village.

How did being a black American woman enhance your experience in Argentina?

Well, one plus was that I could have any guy I wanted. I never had a shortage of date proposals.  I actually had to turn some down. I would walk in a room and have guys compete with each other for my affections. My reaction was WHAAAAT!!!!!!  However, sometimes the attention was overwhelming. I would get stared at every where I went and there were some ignorant moments.  But 99.9 % of my experiences were wonderful and I met a lot of amazing people who are still my close friends.

In what ways did living in Argentina change you as a person?

I shed my wallflower petals in Buenos Aires. It’s such a bold, sexy and confident place, and this character about the city almost infects you and forces you to become that too. I was shy and living in a cocoon before I lived in Buenos Aires, but I came back to the states with a huge dose of confidence and a relaxed Buenos Aires swag.  Even my mom noticed the difference right away!

What would you say to black women, especially black American women, who are hesitant to venture out of their communities?
I will answer this question with two quotes from an article I wrote:

“Don’t let any lack of color anywhere stop you from visiting a destination. You may receive stares if you tend to be the only black
person in the immediate area, and yes, this can become exhausting, but let them stare. If the stares are piercing through you, never fold from them.  This is when you must expand your shoulder blades like wings and stand taller. Don’t lower your head in submission, but hold it up high. If we don’t act as strong representatives for ourselves — who will?”

“I for one, refuse to let any level of ignorance stop me from claiming my right to explore this beautiful earth as a citizen of the world. I was born to this earth exactly the way I was supposed to be. If there are individuals who can’t handle this, then it is their problem not mine.”

Did your travels influence the kind of career you wanted to pursue?
I was always a writer and I knew whatever I chose to do would involve writing in some way.  When I turned 14 I decided to give film a try. By the age of 16, I wrote my first short film. By the age of 17, I shot, directed and stared in said film. But when I was 22, I moved to Buenos Aires and wrote to my heart’s content; my love of writing over shadowed my interest in film and I had to finally admit to myself that I just didn’t love film as much as I thought I did.

Story behind ‘Imported Chocolate’

From the first moment a pencil was placed in my hands I was a writer. At the age of 16, I began my artistic career as an underground writer, filmmaker and poet on the Lower East side. I am an autodidact and I didn’t take the traditional roads as far as higher education goes, but still have been able to stay on the right course to achieve my dreams. Right now I work full-time outside of my field by day while I run my blog, write my first fiction series and work to turn my brand into an LLC by night.

The idea for Imported Chocolate came after I returned to the US from living in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 5 months. I returned with the plan to write an anthology about black women living in Buenos Aires. I wanted to do this because I received so many emails from black women who were reading my blog. These women had many of the same fears I had about traveling to a country with an almost non-existent black population. These women informed me that my experiences living in Buenos Aires helped move them through their fears. So I thought it would be great to create an anthology about the experiences of other women of color living there and try to get it publish so that there would be something in bound-form that exists on the topic that could be bought at bookstores — especially since there aren’t many travel books by women of color on the book shelves.

However, when I returned to the states and put out my call for submission, I discovered the task to find other black women who had lived in or visited Buenos Aires was like looking for a needle in a haystack. It just wasn’t happening. Then I took a nonfiction course at Mediabistro and my teacher suggested that I keep the book mainly my memoirs and just include short anecdotes from as many black women I could find. So the project changed its scope a little. Then when a friend of mine (who is like my big sister) was helping me with the proposal, she told me I had something bigger than just one book and that I should strive for creating a travel brand.

I took her advice and started to brain storm what this brand could be called. Clutch Magazine had just published one of my travel stories from Buenos Aires that I titled “Imported Chocolate.” I titled it this because I felt like a rare piece of Imported Chocolate when I was living in Buenos Aires, almost like a delicacy. The men would call me Bon Bon and salivate over me before saying the word “Chocolate.” So when I was brain storming about what I should name my brand, I remembered my Imported Chocolate story and that’s when it hit me like a fire bomb! I knew it was the perfect name for my brand. Everything else came easily after that.

Jennifer and her mom was by the Hamlet statue in Stratford Upon Avon, England.

Jennifer’s Blogging Tips:

Message

When starting a website or blog, strive to be as original and unique as possible. Do your research and investigate how people are doing what you want to do, then think of ways to do it differently so that your blog stands out. Sometimes it helps if you have a strong theme. If you have this, ideas will flow to you effortlessly. For instance, my theme is chocolate; although it is a play on words, this theme allows me to come up with fun ideas easily.

Consistency

Post at least 2 or more post a week. It’s OK to take a short break every now and again; after all you are a human being.

Content 

Make sure your content brings value to others or brings inspiration. Read magazines, blogs or any media in your area of expertise to be up to date with what is going on in your field, so that you can be inspired and report about what’s happening.

Traffic

I am still figuring this one out. But I have been doing guest posts, I did a radio show and I have some projects in the works to expand my audience. Most of my audience comes from word of mouth (the best in my opinion and this is why you should try to make your website and blog as memorable as possible) or Google searches.

Make sure you’re tagging ALL your post with terms that people are searching for in your area of expertise.  Try to think of tags your target audience is searching for but that are not being over used by your competitors. It also helps if you start vloging (video blogging) about what you’re an expert on as well. Start a YouTube channel. It will increase the chances of your website and blog being discovered from a Google search.  As I said, I am still figuring the traffic thing out, but I must be on the right track because Imported Chocolate is only five and a half months old and it has already gained readers from 87 different countries.

Living Well

Imported Chocolate is a platform which encourages women of color to seize the entire world and explore it, no matter their color or socioeconomic status. Imported Chocolate’s trade mark slogan is: “You are beautiful, a citizen of the world first and a color second.” And looking at the world along these lines as women of color is one of the best ways to live healthy and well.

Future Endeavors

I see Imported Chocolate expanding in big ways in a few years time. Imported Chocolate is still an infant, but in time I see E-books, published books, an online shop and collaborations with other companies in Imported Chocolate’s future. For myself, I would love to learn French, and I will be traveling to more places.

I was just invited by one of my very close friends, who I met in Buenos Aires, to come visit her in Africa. So I will be planning a trip to the mother land for August 2012! I also plan to visit Barbados, my mother’s home country, and other places in Europe. But for the more distant future, I would like to take a chunk of time and live in Australia. I have a feeling I will love it there. There are many places to see on this beautiful earth, and I plan to visit all of them!

You can find Jennifer’s full bio and work at Imported Chocolate and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter.

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8 thoughts on “Black Women in the Global Village

  1. “I for one, refuse to let any level of ignorance stop me from claiming my right to explore this beautiful earth as a citizen of the world. I was born to this earth exactly the way I was supposed to be. If there are individuals who can’t handle this, then it is their problem not mine.”

    Awesome, awesome. EXACTLY how I feel and have made the best of experiences as well.

    • I think a lot of times, black American women will use that “level of ignorance” as proof that it will be worse in environment where they aren’t in the majority. Just because there is dysfunction where you live does not mean that is how the rest of the world is.

      There are plenty of places in the U.S. and around the world that safe for black women to travel and explore and they certainly do not have to be in all-black environments.

  2. Pingback: Imported Chocolate Has Been Featured on Black Women Living Well « Imported Chocolate

  3. I definitely recommend that black women leave the U.S. altogether, if they have things going for them: no children, education, class, and ambition. It takes a lack thereof to stay in the U.S. because opportunities are limited for us here in every realm. In fact, I’d rather go somewhere where there are hardly any black people so that I can create the image of how I want to be viewed. You can always work with curiosity of others in other countries, but you can’t do much with flat out discrimination which is what we are used to in this country. Black women need to get some strength to leave this place. Don’t send your daughters to college in the States, either. There could years should be spent abroad which affords more opportunity and greater social connections. I will be moving to Australia in less than a year and can’t wait to come alive. The U.S. won’t even be a memory for me.

    • Thanks for commenting Tina! Do I believe black women need to leave the US in order to live a better life? no. I still believe America is a great country to live in and the amount of opportunities afforded to black women here is endless, its just a matter of taking advantage of them. However, that does not mean that black women should limit themselves to just living /working in the US. There are of course opportunities outside the US that black women should go after related to work, leisure, relationships, etc. I think if the ” no children, education, class, and ambition” black American women should be told to flee, it shouldn’t be from the US, but from the all-black neighborhoods that many of them are getting slaughtered in.

      That is exciting that you are moving to Australia! I hope all the preparations for the big move are going smoothly?! 🙂

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