Last year, corporations and allies took to their social media accounts to demand justice and shine a light on our very real daily struggle as Black people. There were pledges of millions of dollars to be invested into our communities and promises to amplify our voices in all ways moving forward. But as the Black squares disappeared and the world stopped pretending to be concerned about the wellbeing of Black people, it became increasingly clear that we need spaces that were for us, by us. We started to play closer attention to those already doing the work to make space for our healing and progression.
Yasmine Jameelah, founder of Transparent Black Girl and the Transparent & Black collective, is one of those people. Through her movement, she is encouraging intergenerational healing among Black women and plans to build a wellness studio that specifically serves the Black community.
Iman N. Milner: Who is Yasmine Jameelah?
Yasmine Jameelah: Yasmine Jameelah is a woman that's as multifaced as the spaces she's building. She's a believer, founder, journalist, swimmer, daughter, and friend. She's also very shy upfront but a whole comedian and twerker on the low. I occupy many spaces like most Black women, and I've learned to take great pride in that. I remember hearing in the VERZUZ battle, where Jill Scott asked Erykah Badu, "Aren't we a lot of things?" when she explained the many dimensions of who she was as a woman, I've never felt something more than I felt that.
IM: What is Transparent Black Girl?
YJ: Transparent Black Girl is a wellness brand created for Black women to heal, own power, and ease into wellness. TBG is part of a wellness collective we formed last year called Transparent & Black. The collective was born out of a discussion where I imagined what intergenerational healing spaces for Black people could look like. Our next step is building the first wellness studio created for the Black community with trauma-informed swim classes, access to therapists, and on-site doula matching. Our first location will open in Brooklyn, New York, where our community support and inquiries have been the strongest.
IM: How did you start on this journey?
YJ: I always loved yoga and swimming, but this part of my journey began during undergrad. Most people have the time of their lives in college, but I was severely depressed. I gained over 100 lbs, had PCOS and GERD issues, and was in an emotionally abusive relationship. It was a really dark time, but after some years, I took control of my life and started therapy. It changed everything for me and gave me the tools to see that my circumstances were a direct result of my unresolved childhood trauma.
I started blogging about my mental health journey, celibacy, naturally pursuing weight loss and reversing my PCOS and GERD symptoms on my own. Black women in different states and countries read my blog weekly and thanked me for my transparency. Something inside of me said I needed to dig deeper and create a space for Black women like me-from there, Transparent Black Girl was born.
IM: When were you first able to put a name to your trauma and start working through it?
YJ: Therapy. Before that, I knew I had the language to explain that specific life experiences were traumatizing, but I had no idea how much trauma I was still carrying around. My parents split when I was three, and my dad has six children with five different women. The funniest part is I thought I was so mature (a frequent trauma response of children from broken homes) because I never fantasized about my parents getting back together.
Even as a kid, I knew my mom deserved better than abuse and infidelity, but therapy showed me that at almost 30, I was maneuvering this earth as an abandoned little girl, feeling unworthy of so many things. It was the first time I realized I had a negative internal dialogue that told me I didn't deserve a healthy marriage or family because I didn't see it in my own home. People talk about healing in this pretty way but facing unresolved trauma can be ugly. However, it’s the best work I've ever done.
IM: What do you think Black women would be surprised to find out about how trauma affects our minds and bodies?
YJ: Two things have really shocked me: how many traumatic moments the brain blocks out while we are in pain and how much trauma stores in our bodies even when we try to forget. Specifically, with physical injuries, our bodies remember them for years to come. Our bodies do their best to hold on while we move through the world but they can only handle so much, and then they start to talk to us through those aches and pains.
Recently I've been focused on addressing the trauma in my body more than ever. Transparent Black Girl just launched a movement series with Foot Locker called Healing Through Movement, and I'm traveling to California to get Gua sha work done on my lower body next week. I'm committed to giving my body what it needs.
IM: In the wellness world, do you find it particularly hard to get people consciously thinking about how specific the relationship between Black women and trauma is? How do you handle those conversations?
YJ: Yes and no. The wellness industry is very whitewashed but I believe that Black leaders in wellness are just not going for that anymore. I'm just happy to be one of the women saying I'm Black, I'm well, and I'm gonna make sure my people are well too. Wellness and our community consciousness of trauma is in a much different place than it was even four years ago when I was gearing up to start TBG.
The pandemic has affected everyone to see how traumatized we are, and it's also shown us that the system is not broken; it's operating exactly how they want it to. So now, as we unapologetically take up the space that our ancestors held as healers in Africa, enslaved in America, and in every country we reside in—I know that this is just us coming back to ourselves. Trolls will always exist on Beyoncé's internet, so when I see negative comments from people belittling our experiences, I do my best to tune them out and lean into the love I feel from Black women online every day.
IM: Why was it important for you to branch out into having a brick and mortar space for your wellness collective Transparent & Black?
YJ: Because community is at the center of my work, and while digital spaces are powerful, Black people need physical spaces to honor the healing we need to address our trauma and the intergenerational trauma experienced as a race. Most wellness studios are overpriced, require membership for entry, and aren't located in communities accessible to most Black people live. When I started grad school in Manhattan in 2019, I looked for a wellness studio nearby and discovered The Well. It was like nothing I'd ever seen, and it was so beautiful, but it wasn't inviting. The marketing, cost of entry, and membership fee told me this was not a place for people like me. At that moment, I felt that same nudge that I had when I started Transparent Black Girl, that when I created a studio, our community and allies would feel welcome.
There are far too many entry barriers in this life to Black people; wellness should not be one of them. We can't continue to have conversations about how traumatized we are and sit in that space; we have to address it and demand wellness reparations. That's why as a collective, we're crowdfunding to open Transparent & Black's first studio location. Swimming pools, adequate mental health services, and doulas are all areas of wellness that Black people have had limited access to due to slavery and systemic racism, and that's why we're focused on those areas and building a physical space for the Black community and not just Black women.
There's an imbalance that's clear and needs to be repaired. That's why my work has pivoted to include the collective and a wellness brand for Black men, Transparent Black Guy. I want to see our fathers, partners, uncles, brothers, cousins, coworkers, etc., know they deserve the same access that we do to healing.
IM: What do you hope is next for Black woman wellness?
YJ: I hope what's next for Black women is that we continue to heal out loud and lead full lives. That we don't feel defined or labeled by our trauma, that we call it out to boldly heal. And that we approach healing from the perspective of "I can't believe I have the privilege and resources to heal myself, not just for myself, but the generations in my family I'll never even meet."
Black women give to everyone, and often nothing is left for ourselves and it leads to us losing it. Last year I discovered that I didn't know much about my great grandmother because she died after years in a mental hospital due to severe loss and trauma. I think about her a lot now, and what life was like for a Black woman that was institutionalized. Black women deserve so much more than this world has given us, including the understanding that wellness is just as multifaceted as we are. There are many paths to healing - God, therapy, self-work, movement, reiki, crystals, healers, seers, doulas, counselors, herbalists, etc., and many tools; I pray we grow to acknowledge all of them and take what we need.
IM: Where can people get involved with Transparent & Black, and how can they support the movement?
YJ: They can donate to our crowdfund with IfundWomen and help us spread the word. This past week, we received a $10,000 Neutrogena grant for women in wellness, and our work even caught the eye of Kerry Washington (she reposted our campaign, and I almost fainted (laughs). We've raised nearly $25,000 of our $70,000 goal to open the studio, and every dollar, share and repost counts. Community spaces require community support, so the more people learn of our work, the more we can do! Also, follow @transparentandblack across social platforms, our respective wellness communities Transparent Black Girl, and Transparent Black Guy.