Black&Gifted: Elevating Black Stories & Experiences

A visit to blackandgiftedblog.com and you’ll find dozens of stories on a host of issues and topics from a diverse group of Black voices.

There’s fitness tips, profiles on local musical talent and artists, interviews with young entrepreneurs, thoughts on Black Lives Matter from a biracial writer, advice to repurpose your screen time and much more. The Black&Gifted blog serves as a venue to highlight Black experiences, stories and talent.

It was founded by Terrionna Brockman in 2016 when she noticed a void of Black voices. We talked with Terrionna recently about how she made the decision to start a blog, the stories she wants to tell, why it is important and what she wants to accomplish moving forward.

You started your blog in the summer of 2016. What inspired you to do so? Was it something you had considered for a long time or a sudden decision?

Throughout college, I knew I wanted to create a blog, but I never dedicated my time to bringing the idea to life. Mainly, due to my workload at the time. Once I graduated in 2016, the idea was still in the back of my mind. I created Black&Gifted out of frustration as a black creative. There was a lack of representation, and still is in the arts.

I went to school at Wonderview, a predominantly white school from kindergarten through fifth grade. I was the only Black student in my grade all those years aside from a few— and I do mean a few— other Black students. From sixth through twelfth grades, we moved to Morrilton where it was a bit more diverse: Black, White, Latinx, Asian. I was surrounded by students who looked like me, which was new, but I remember how great that felt.

Arkansas Tech — where I went to college — is also predominantly white. I was a graphic design major and I was quickly taken back to my elementary years— the only Black student or one of a few. I joined the African American Student Association (AASA), but I had never been a part of a community that was solely for Black artists and creatives.

I spent a lot of time on Facebook, searching for Black art groups. I joined a few and interacted, but I never felt a genuine connection. I felt that those communities were based on popularity and there was no real relationship building or networking. It was difficult to be seen or heard. Black&Gifted is my way of bringing representation to the arts. I wanted to create a community that specifically highlighted the talents of the overlooked and unheard. I sat at my laptop, designed a logo, created a website and shared it to my Facebook. There was no turning back. 

I knew that I wanted to bring other creatives on board, so I reached out to close friends and pretty much everyone on the internet to find individuals who were interested in being a contributing writer. I connected with so many talented Black writers from varying backgrounds across the country. Their perspectives and voices were needed and so relevant to not only Black&Gifted’s mission, but the Black community as a whole. In the beginning, I would say that we were more focused on sharing content through our website. Aside from the talented writers who helped to push my brand forward, I had the idea to connect with up-and-coming artists — fine arts, musicians, entrepreneurs, musicians, photographers, everyone! I featured them on our website and it’s amazing because a lot of the creatives I highlighted in 2016 are still connected with us today. The relationships and support are there, which is so important to me. People joined us in our growth from 2016 to now, that’s wild!

In the beginning we were pretty much online, but when I relocated to Conway, I wanted to expand my brand and did just that. I put out a job posting on Indeed looking for people to join the team. I am so thankful for the group of people who helped to create a presence in the community. Everyone who has been a part of our growth, whether they are still with us or moved on, I’m thankful. It speaks volumes when others believe in your vision so much that they dedicate their time and creativity to aid in your success. It’s such a selfless act and I’ll always be appreciative of each of them.

We did a lot in the community from fundraising, donation drives, open mic nights and our first ever Black&Gifted Awards (2018). Thinking back on those times brings a huge smile to my face. I would go back and do it all over again because of the love, creative ideas, dedication and vision. We were truly hungry and wanted to best represent our communities.

Where did the name Black&Gifted come from?

The name is pretty straightforward. Of course, I’m Black and the creatives that gravitate to my platform are Black — representation. Gifted is a reflection of who we are as a people. I feel that we are gifted in many ways and our talents transcend time. We’ve contributed so much to this world, then, now and will always do so. When thinking of a name, Black&Gifted came to my mind first and it resonated. I am Black&Gifted. We are Black&Gifted. It’s an affirmation.

One of the reasons you started your blog was a lack of representation for Black people in the arts. Why do you think this exists? How do we change it?

The lack of representation exists due to Black people’s unfortunate history. There are many instances where Black people, Black ideas and Black creations are erased or whitewashed. The lack of representation stems from inequality — segregation, others seeing Black people as inferior, and the masses not wanting to see us excel.

One thing that never sat well with me is how Black art — African art — is critiqued, often by our white counterparts. Everything I learned about African art came from books and articles written by white men and women. The information given was not from the people who created the art, but from white people who felt the need to insert themselves into various cultures to understand them. I read an article that said “Black people’s histories are best viewed, but not physically experienced.”

That’s how I feel when it comes to representation in the arts. Change starts with people’s mindsets and learned behaviors changing and allowing Black people to tell Black stories, be it through fashion, music, art, film, or literature.

Why is Black&Gifted important to you?

Because it is my blood, sweat and tears. It’s an idea that I brought to fruition in 2016. I’ve done exactly what I hoped to: connect with the people and shed light on the many creatives that are doing amazing things with their gifts and for their communities. There have been moments where I question my purpose and if people truly support the brand, but regardless I’ve done what I can to keep it alive and stay rooted in the vision. It is my way of positively contributing to the culture and giving Black creatives a platform to be seen, heard and feel a sense of connection.

Why is music so important to you and what do you hope your blog accomplishes for musicians in Arkansas and the region?

I was hoping others didn’t assume we were a music platform, but that’s okay! To be honest, myself and two others contribute to the website and sometimes it’s only me. My way of contributing is writing about something that I’m passionate about — music. Due to the lack of consistent writers, articles haven’t been as diverse. That’s an area that I am currently working on, bringing on more writers to add diversity in content. However, this has been a struggle — finding consistent, talented and committed writers. 

But to answer your question, I hope that Black&Gifted brings recognition to who these creatives are, not only the musicians. I’ve learned that many of the interviews and features that I’ve done have been a first for many. So that alone is something to be proud of, which goes back to the mission of giving Black creatives a platform to be seen and heard. If anything, that’s what I want.

To speak on Arkansas specifically, Black&Gifted is rooted and will always be rooted in Arkansas, but we are not confined to Arkansas. Some of the first writers to join us in 2016 were from different states and cities. We highlight creatives across the country and even internationally. I view Black&Gifted as a global platform! I think that we can show other creatives in Arkansas that they can also branch out. That’s who I am as an individual, too. I’ve always wanted to experience the world outside of what I knew. In adulthood, that was traveling the world and living in different states — Los Angeles, California currently! I want the same to be true for Black&Gifted. We will never forget where we came from.

What do you want your readers to obtain from your articles and posts?

I’d hope that they connect to the articles. One thing I love about Black&Gifed is that each writer’s voice is conveyed throughout the article, which makes it relatable and engaging. I think there’s something for everyone, whether you want to be entertained, gain a different perspective or discover a new creative!

How does the unrest we see in our society impact what you want to accomplish through your blog?

It definitely reassures me that my platform is needed, now more than ever! I wouldn’t say that it is impacting what I want to accomplish, though, because like I mentioned before about representation, this is an ongoing issue. What I want to accomplish has been the same since 2016 — giving Black creatives a voice. The unrest we are seeing today is the same thing we’ve dealt with for centuries. Black&Gifted is a product of our country’s exclusion of Blackness.

What have been some of your favorite posts over the years?

I wrote, “A Letter To My Incarcerated Father” on June 19, 2016. The same month that I created Black&Gifted. It’s one of my favorites mainly because I was transparent and used my voice outside of academic writing. I needed to get that out of my system and I did so through writing. It was well received and provided a different perspective for those who didn’t directly relate and also resonated with those who could relate. 

What has been your proudest moment thus far?

The Black&Gifted Awards, hands down. We held the awards show in Morrilton at the Rialto Theater and it was a night to remember. I’m not sure what I expected, but we had a great turnout. We put a lot of time and planning into the execution of the show. We held bake sales and yard sales to cover the expenses, partnered with businesses for sponsorships, reached out to the community and other creatives to volunteer their time — that’s another thing. The people who helped to bring the Black&Gifted Awards to life volunteered their time when they didn’t have to. That’s love!

I learned that I’m capable of anything — well, that was before I taught seventh grade reading for two years! Lol. But, I really had to step into my leadership and I can say that I’m proud of who I’ve become because of it.

One of the things I like about your blog is the incorporation of outside voices. What made you to include that? What do you feel it adds to Black&Gifted?

Outside voices are necessary and needed. I always want to add value and variety to Black&Gifted. I am one person with a specific perspective and path. I cannot speak for everyone and I cannot relate to everyone. Each writer has something that makes them who they are, which I love. Black voices and stories are unique!

Looking ahead, what are your plans over the next 3-5 years for Black&Gifted?

We will definitely stay rooted in our mission, but I would love to expand our team. I want to work with like-minded individuals who can use their skill sets to help Black&Gifted elevate. Like I mentioned before, we’re rooted in Arkansas, but I’m currently living in Los Angeles, so there’s a lot that could happen. Speak great things into existence for us. I have so many ideas, but I am not ready to share those just yet! We will continue to be a voice for the culture. 

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