BLACK GIRL BLISS
Ok, I am in love with your website, Black Girl Bliss! It's so fun and full of great resources and information. When did you start BGB and what was the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! It's always surprising to me when people find my site because I don't promote it as much as I could. I'm glad you find it useful!
BGB started as a text message some time in 2015. My sister-friends from college (the illustrious Howard University) were texting all at once about yoni eggs. Very random, but we were fascinated. Instead of having lots of different conversations, I created a group on the GroupMe app and called it the "Crystal Coochie Clique" where we could all talk together. You can judge us, it's fine.
From that point on, that group became our own little sister-circle-sanctuary. We were in there talking about anything and everything regarding sex, spirituality, self-care, relationships, etc. We were answering questions and venting on subjects we were too nervous, embarrassed, or ashamed to admit we didn't know or that we knew too well. We learned so much from one another and would have never known that this wealth of knowledge existed amongst us had we never been led to each other to form this group. It's still going strong, btw.
I began to wonder what would happen if this group was recreated on a larger scale. Like, what if instead of 25 women, there were 250 women, or 2500 women, or 250,000 women to laugh, cry, learn, vent, share, and celebrate with? How absolutely magical would it be bring all these women together for the purposes of liberating, celebrating, and cultivating the fullness of our womanhood?
When I have a new idea, I'm obsessed. I cannot do anything else until I create what's in my head. So I pulled an all-nighter (which I do as often as possible because all my best work happens after 2am) and created the first draft of the Black Girl Bliss site. I officially launched on 1/11/16 and here we are!
I love how you've created this space for us that is dedicated to our joy and pleasure. YES! I consider myself to be a hedonist or pleasure seeker. I was recently chatting with someone about how we have learned to put such a high value on suffering/ pain to the point where we believe that we need to suffer in order to grow or that it is suffering and our ability to persevere that makes us powerful. This is a program that I am challenging in my own life. I am upholding my ability to give and receive joy, love, and pleasure as my source of power. Ashe! Do you have any thoughts about our societal and cultural attachment to suffering?
Oh. My. Goodness. Do I?! I absolutely reject the idea that life is hard, that pain and suffering is just a part of life and then you die. No. No. No. I used to hear this a lot when I was younger. Adults would say to me "enjoy it now, because it won't last." I watched adults toss their dreams to the wayside,work jobs they hated, keep lovers that were toxic, and in so many other ways show me that they were no longer being an active participant and co-creator in their lives. I've known for a long, long time that that life was not for me. For what? There's no trophy for "saddest story", no prize to be won for doing anything or being anywhere that makes you unhappy. It is our pleasure, our happiness, our joy, our passion, our love, that elevate us to that high-vibing place where all the magic happens. Honestly, I think the powers-that-be know that if everybody found their happy place they would no longer maintain the control they have, so they have implemented policies to keep us down. But black people, black women, are resilient. We can always rise above. We just have to remember how.
What started you on your self care journey?
Thinking about the way my journey unfolded I could have never known that here is where I would end up. The first instance that I remember is my senior year of high school. We had to do a senior project and it could be on anything we wanted as long as we could write an academic report on the subject and create a physical product. I chose makeup and skincare for my topic. This was back when the internet was not as vast as it is now so I spent weeks in the library and the bookstore looking up everything I could find about my topic. I learned about all the harmful chemicals in mainstream products and natural alternatives so I started creating my own products. I was really into essential oils, and when I started learning their different uses and effects I fell down the rabbit hole even more into information about self-care. Except it wasn't called that back then. I actually don't think it had a name. But I started to learn the importance of taking care of myself and being mindful of the things I was putting into and onto my body.
What has been most rewarding about your self care journey?
The most rewarding part about my journey has been how it has all come together. From those days in high school when I learned how to take care of my skin, to my freshman year of college when I learned how to care for my mind and my body and was subsequently introduced to my first ideas of spirituality, then later on when I met a magical black woman named Thema Aziz Serwa who planted the seeds for my understanding of the connection between sexuality, spirituality, and self-care at my first womb sauna ceremony when I was 20 years old. Now, I feel like I am in a position to teach other women what I have learned along the way and I am grateful for the journey that led me here.
Why is it important for Black women and femmes to engage in intentional self care?
We take on soooooo much! Our ancestral mothers have passed down to us their magical abilities to be and do and help and fix and generally save the world. And while this divine mission is uniquely ours and I am grateful for it and humbled by it every day, we have to remember that we are no good to anyone else if we are not good to ourselves. We cannot fill up anyone else if our own cup is not only full, but overflowing! I always say that self-care is like your oxygen mask. You can do much more for people when you put yours on first.
What is your ultimate wish/vision/desire for Black women and femmes?
I want us to learn to put ourselves and our happiness first, and to learn to fill ourselves up and stop looking to external things and people to do that for us. I want us to remember that everything is possible, and that we create our reality with our focus and intention. I want us to love each other, stand with each other, help each other, teach each other, and together raise a generation of women who know their power, and who know their magic. (I think it's happening.... I hope it is!)
What is a favorite self care ritual for you?
Ahhh! I'm the self-care lady! How could I pick just one?! I try to teach people that self-care is whatever fills your cup and makes you vibe higher and that's not always going to be bubbles baths and scented candles and face masks. For example, hiking is a self-care ritual for me. Nature in general just does it for me. Sitting near any body of water, laying out in the sunlight, playing with puppies (lol). I can go to the park and gather my whole life!
When I can't get to a park though, simply sitting in silence is excellent in helping me process and relax, as well as certain aspects of my spiritual practice when I need to do some deep diving into "WTF is my problem right now?"
Who are some magical black femmes who inspire you?
Sooo many! I will say right now my go-to girl is India Ame'ye, author of You Look Like Something Blooming. It's a book chock-full of sacred and sexual self-care rituals. India lives her life as one long, indulgent, incredible act of self-care and I love it. That book is like my bible, it lives in my bed with me and everything! She has a new book on the way and I am ecstatic about it.
What's next for you?! What are you currently creating or dreaming about?
Currently I'm dreaming of the day when my life's work involves traveling the world to teach women and girls about sexuality, spirituality, and self-care. It's just not talked about enough and it's so so so important. I am a super introvert though, so I mostly prefer to be behind the scenes. I have a few eBooks in the works and a lifestyle brand that I've become obsessed with launching in the next couple of years. And besides all of that, I'm preparing to start my doctorate in education (did I mention I'm a school teacher?) so that I can create schools where brown babies will flourish and go off to save the world.
Anika Tene is city-born, southern-bred queer femme wild woman with a Sagittarius sun, Cancer moon, and Taurus rising. She realized her ability to manipulate energy for physical manifestation when she was in middle school and began her journey of sacred self-care in high school. Since then, Anika has dedicated her efforts to teaching young women to cultivate their own power through the divine feminine aspects of sexuality, spirituality, and self-care. Her site, Black Girl Bliss provides digital content to educate and encourage women on their path of understanding what it means to be a magical black woman. Learn more at BlackGirlBliss.com and on all social media @blackgirlbliss.