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12 mins read

Daughters of the Diaspora is teaching young Black women about Reproductive Health

When Shanaye Jeffers was in fourth grade, she often skipped touch football and double-dutch jump rope at recess to read a book on puberty. In fifth grade, she jumped at the chance to do a school project on childbirth.

By the time Jeffers got her period in sixth grade, she was already well-versed in reproductive health. She knew that women are most fertile when they’re ovulating. That wearing tight, synthetic clothing can increase the risk of a yeast infection. That it’s important to wash private parts but not with heavily scented products.

And she also knew her dedication to understanding reproductive health was unusual.

Daughters of the Diaspora

Most girls don’t know about the inner workings of their bodies, sexual-health experts say — especially black teenage girls, who often face stigma against asking questions at home and are poorly served by sex-education school curriculums tailored for a white majority.

“Sex ed is not serving young black women really at all,” said Jeffers, now a 28-year-old obstetrics and gynecology resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

She’s trying to change that. As Philadelphia site director for Daughters of the Diaspora, a nonprofit founded in 2012 to teach black teenage girls about reproductive health and self-esteem, Jeffers is working to give other girls the same knowledge and passion to take charge of their health that she had as a child.

The information is often hard to come by, Jeffers said. If girls ask family members about sex or development, they’ll likely be accused of “trying to be grown.” Many parents fear discussing sex is the first step toward having it. For immigrant families from Africa, there can be additional stigma around the topic of HIV, which is widespread among young women there and causes more than half a million deaths on the continent each year.

In U.S. schools, black students are more likely to receive abstinence-only education than white students, according to a Washington University study. And even when they receive a comprehensive curriculum, it is rarely tailored to their lives and culture, experts say.

DAUGHTERS OF THE DIASPORA Shanaye Jeffers (center, front) with girls at a Philadelphia summit held by Daughters of the Diaspora.

The problem is not just about satisfying girls’ curiosity. Studies show that receiving comprehensive sex ed can delay the initiation of sex, increase contraceptive use, and reduce teenage pregnancies.

Though birth rates for black teens have dropped significantly in recent decades, they are still more than twice as likely as white girls to become pregnant. They have a higher risk of facing sexual violence and contracting a sexually transmitted disease, especially in Philadelphia, where rates of transmission are three to five times higher than the national average.

“I really want to break the cycle,” Jeffers said.

Daughters of the Diaspora (DoD) recruits medical students to lead groups of three to five teenage girls, typically from West or Southwest Philadelphia, in lessons on female anatomy, contraception, and goal-setting over a three-month period. The teens are recruited through local schools and community connections.

Though the curriculum is heavy on medical information — describing how different hormones interact with the brain, ovaries and uterus — it’s meant to be relatable. A SEPTA map is used as an analogy for the endocrine system. Quotes from Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston are scattered throughout.

The medical students, as young black women themselves, act as role models, often sharing their own experiences in the hopes of boosting girls’ self-esteem and helping them envision new futures.

“We try to get these young ladies to see themselves in a way they probably haven’t before,” Jeffers said. “As agents of their own health.”

Not just a Philly problem

Joy Cooper can still remember sitting in a health class at Philadelphia High School for Girls, listening to her middle-aged, male volleyball coach recite textbook passages on contraception to an all-female class.

Students were too uncomfortable to answer questions, let alone ask any, said Cooper, a co-founder of DoD and now a 34-year-old ob-gyn in Oakland, Calif. “I realized who’s delivering the information makes a difference,” she said.

More than a decade later, 18-year-old Fatme Chaloub had a similar experience. A 2017 graduate of Girls’ High, she said her sex-ed class was also taught by a middle-aged white man. The class had good information, but “if an older person is talking to me, I feel uncomfortable,” Chaloub said. The DoD curriculum, taught by women just a few years older than she, “was more relatable.”
Nenna Nwazota (left) and Joy Cooper are co-founders of Daughters of the Diaspora.

But this isn’t a Girls’ High problem. Or even a Philadelphia problem. Across the nation, research shows, black girls are poorly served by sex ed, if they’re getting any at all.

In Pennsylvania, schools are required only to provide education on HIV and AIDS, with a focus on abstinence. The Philadelphia School District provides teachers with additional information on contraception and dating violence, but it does not require any specific curriculum. What students learn can vary greatly depending on the teacher.

At Horace Furness High School in South Philadelphia, health and physical education teacher Colleen Hanna supplements the district-provided textbook with song lyrics that discuss sexual stereotypes of women. She is working to include more information on gender identity and sexual violence, too, but it’s a slow process. While the district provides guidance, “a lot of the research comes down to me,” Hanna said.

Though it isn’t the case in Philadelphia, research shows that, nationally, black students are more likely to receive abstinence-only education because they are often in poorer school districts that rely on federal funding. “Schools with few resources can hardly afford to turn away these offers of outside help,” a report in the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy states.

But abstinence-only curriculums can reinforce harmful stereotypes of black people, said Tracie Gilbert, an independent sex educator with a doctorate in human sexuality education from Widener University. “The narrative is that, without restriction, black girls will be the most amoral sexual beings of society,” she said. Rather than teaching them to make informed decisions about their sex lives, many curriculums suggest they must be abstinent to avoid harming themselves or others.

Even more expansive curriculums, though — often created by white educators and based on research of white subjects — can be tone-deaf for students of color, said Laura McGuire, a certified sexuality educator and founder of the National Center for Equity & Agency. They often tell students to use birth control, but “there might not be easy access to any of those things,” she said. Similarly, telling someone to delay pregnancy because it will help her get to college ignores students who don’t plan to take that path.

Some early, but slow, progress

Daughters of the Diaspora tries to supplement the shortcomings of school-based sex ed by creating a cycle of education within the black community. The idea is to make learning fun and show that it’s not confined to a classroom, Cooper said. The goal is that girls who participate in the curriculum will pass on that knowledge to their friends.

“How we educate people [in schools] is about the majority,” she said. “So when you’re in the minority, it’s left up to people in your community to try to make things better.”

About 40 girls in Philadelphia have gone through the curriculum in the last two years, Cooper said, and there are smaller chapters in New York, Oakland, and Apam, Ghana. Some of the students have started spreading the message.

Chaloub, from Southwest Philly, gave her cousin and her best friend recaps after every DoD class. She’d recount for them the different ways someone can contract an STD, the difference between bacterial and viral infections, and how to treat them.

Fatme Chaloub completed the Daughters of the Diaspora curriculum as a student.

Efforts similar to DoD are underway around the country, with organizations such as In Our Own Voice and Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) pushing for more culturally inclusive sex ed.

“There’s a recognition that the way it’s always worked hasn’t worked well,” said Mariotta Gary-Smith, co-founder of WOCSHN. “These communities are going to continue to find ways to make sure their voices are heard.”

But it’s unclear whether educational efforts will impact the larger health disparities faced by black women in America. Research shows that even highly educated and high-income black people experience higher rates of hypertension, preterm birth, and other negative health outcomes compared with their white peers.

Education is only one piece in addressing this systemic issue, Jeffers said. “I can only hope this program makes women feel more inclined to seek help if there’s something abnormal or off in the future.”


Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

10 mins read

Nenna Joiner explains why Feelmore Adult Gallery is More Than Just a Sex Store

We are bombarded with images of sex everyday in magazines, on television and the internet. However, the topic of sex is still considered taboo and is seldom discussed in many circles.


One reason might be because of the stigmas attached to sex and the fear people feel of being judged because of their preferences. Businesses that operate in the sex industry also have stigmas attached to them. When some think of sex they imagine dark, creepy places that cater to perverts.

One business owner who is doing her part to remove these stigmas and educate people is Nenna Joiner, owner of Feelmore Adult Gallery in Oakland, CA.

We recently had a chat with her. This is what she had to say:


SB: We’ve all heard the phrase, “Sex sells.” Apart from the potential profitability, what sparked your decision to open a sex store?

NJ: Sex does sell, but it is really sex and not products that sell more than not. Thought I‘d put that notion into perspective. Yes, the adult novelty business is profitable as is any industry that has a high barrier to entry. Understanding profit and gross margins along with what products sell will contribute to the bottom line.


I honestly woke from a dream and decided this is what I wanted to do. I purchased novelty products and DVD’s to sell around town. I then, loaded up two boxes with product, popped it in the trunk of my Toyota Camry, and stood in parking lots and front of bars doing my best to sell what I could.

Sometimes I got grins from women more out of “How cute!” vs. “I need a product.” It was really a lesson for me to become okay with being uncomfortable and not knowing. I’ve come a long way, yet I’m still not as comfortable. I’ve learned to stay with the road of uncertainty.


SB: What challenges did you run into when trying to open the store?

NJ: Anytime you have a high barrier to entry business it takes money to begin. I started with a solid 401k, IRA, and stocks I began purchasing while working for ‘The Clorox Company’ in Oakland. The permits were very expensive. Changing the hours of operation to much later also came with a price.

Given that I did not have a preexisting business reputation; it was difficult for the majority of the community to rally behind me. Many assumed I would pimp kids and be a bad influence on the community. Many dissenters, after seeing how I ran my business, came by to apologize months later. I understood that they were protecting their youth base from at risk clients. I’m just happy NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard Thinking) did not win.


SB: Would you say that Feelmore is much more than a sex store?

NJ: Feelmore is absolutely more than a sex store! Anytime anyone opens a business we always want to say we are different, yet we all carry the same products. I did my very best to make certain that many products that clients wanted were carried yet I wanted to make certain that we carried items that you just couldn’t get elsewhere.

This is where your product and business differentiation comes in. You have to give people more than they expect otherwise new businesses will lose out to businesses that have been there for years if not decades. There is enough [money] to be made.


SB: How would you describe the typical Feelmore customer?

NJ: Well, first of all, Feelmore doesn’t have a customer. Feelmore has clients. We treat people with the utmost care and respect for their information. Respecting privacy is instilled in our Team.

Clients will share some very detailed and graphic information and you want them to know that ‘Your secret is safe with Feelmore.’

Our clients are all over the place: They include Hipsters, Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, church goers and politicians. New businesses always want to say “Our target market is…”, but from my own experience, you just have to take everything and allow the client base to sift through the process.

Most adult products can cost upwards of $200-$300, or more, bringing in products that can be had for as low as $10-$20 is important. It doesn’t change what the client looks like but it distributes the purchasing power across the board to demographics.


SB: Where do you see your company five years from now?

NJ: I honestly see Feelmore as a lifestyle business. Not that we will not continue to sell traditional adult products but the industry is changing. The access to products is changing and as the consumer is able to buy, at times, what stores procure; it makes it hard to stay ingrained in an industry that has less control over purchasing sources.

Overseas manufacturing is helping to lead the way but also leads to inferior product on the market.
As I’m looking now to open Feelmore in other locations/states, I feel there is an opportunity to buy out businesses that are all out of ideas. I’m just getting started and I can see more than a light at the end of the tunnel. I can see a whole new galaxy that I will create!


SB: What is the most gratifying part of being a business owner?

NJ: The best part of being a business owner is the repetition of solving problems…sometimes the same problems with different solutions. Personally, I enjoy being in a challenging industry. I did not know what to expect in the beginning. You should never do too much research when opening a business especially asking questions such as, “How hard was it?”

I did not have a partner nor a lover to go into business with. I depended only on GOD to get me through the difficult times…and trust there were plenty. If ‘it’ were easy, everyone would do it. I’m able to see what I am really made of and if I really want what I say I want.


SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

NJ: Go for it! You have nothing to lose. When you look back after giving it your all, you can sleep well and be at peace knowing that you got your dreams out of your head and into reality. It will not be easy yet it is satisfying. It will let you know who your real friends are quickly.

It will teach you how to manage yourself and others. It will teach you to keep your word. It will teach you how to get back up again. It will teach you how to get out of your comfort zone if you are truly to be successful.

Success attracts people (the good and the bad). Be mindful when people just want to be around you. Do not use your business as a hangout spot, pit spot, or take it as a joke, especially if you have a physical location.

With all the gentrification going on in the world, people of color having ownership to commercial space sometimes keeps us in neighborhoods that are quickly transitioning. You are the last bastion of hope for many communities – treat it as a coveted position.

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

16 mins read

Gift Ideas for Bae on Valentine’s Day

Before you hit up the usual suspects for your Valentine’s day gifts, check out these Black owned businesses that offer “romantical” products and services.


Black owned Valentine’s day


p is for pussy book cover -1

P is for Pussy is a raunchy alphabet picture book of double entendres. The creation of artist and curator, Elissa Blount-Moorhead and illustrator Meltem Sahin, it’s a hilarious tongue-in-cheek illustrations that are fun for parents…and for unsuspecting kids.

In The Spirit of Intimacy, Sobonfu Somé shares ancient ways to make our intimate lives more fulfilling and secure. Need we say more?

All About Love is a Bell Hooks classic. She examines her own search for emotional connection and society’s failure to provide a model for learning to love.


Jewelry & Watches

Lorraine West is a trained Illustrator turned Jewelry Designer and Jeweler. Her mission is to empower and make her clients look and feel extraordinary. Her nipple bangles above are sought after. We know firsthand how dope her work is.

Sheryl Jones started out working for a diamond manufacturer in New York City. Now she is currently the only woman of color operating her own jewelry business in NYC’s ‘Diamond District.’

Banneker Watches was founded by Derrick Holmes. This brand was created to “Pay homage to Benjamin Banneker by Integrating luxury woods into every watch and clock design.” History and fashion. Great combo.


Moijéy is the creation of Daniel Moijueh, a Sierra Leone native and Iraq war veteran. His company adhere’s to a strict zero-tolerance policy for conflict diamonds.

Randy D. Williams named Talley & Twine Watches after a neighborhood in Virginia that had a dark past but now revitalized, has a great future. “Talley & Twine represents that future.”

Pleasure Products


Nenna Joiner, owner of Feelmore Adult Gallery, is a sex educator and adult film director. Her business is “more than just traditional adult sex store, its a place that allows you to love on yourself not just with products but with an awareness of your needs.” Feelmore is located in Oakland, CA.

Nerissa Irving created NatuRotica Wellness to promote women empowerment and educate the community on healthier alternatives as well as sexual liberation. Her website offers products and unique insights related to this topic.

V for Vadge is the brain child of Kimi LeVadge. She created this web platform in order to educate men and women of all ages on sex, sexual health and sexuality. Her website also offers products and product reviews.





Suzy Black founder, Diondra Julian, has created “a sexy collection of boudoir apparel that is rooted in fundamental Christian values — specifically, the importance of keeping marriages and families together.” The brands self-appointed mission is to promote and celebrate the Christian paradigm of marriage.

Bijte was founded by Diana St. Louis for the busty girl. She designs halters, flouncy babydolls, plunging neckline camisoles and more. “All designed to fit a full bust and a generous bottom.”

After giving birth to her children, Psyche Torry notice a change in her cup size – It doubled! After a fruitless search for quality lingerie, she and her husband decided to create Urban Intimates, “a line of alluring lingerie designs that are reasonably priced for those hard-to-find bra sizes, and lingerie fitting sizes 8-3x.”


I Am Scarletta  (UK) was created by Ije Nwandu. Her mission is to create a brand that “works for women blessed with a little more in the boob department!” She has created a curve loving and curve enhancing lingerie brand for 30D-40H cup.

Blue Reign (UK) is founded by Alley Clark. After she realized that she didn’t like her day job, she was faced with a decision “Either reign over your territory or subdue to someone else’s….” She decided on the former. All products are proudly designed and ethically produced in a London workroom.The brand is dedicated to the celebration of all body types and preaches the mantra #IWearThisForMe.

Tracey Durrant created Edwards Millers (UK) to provide petite women who have larger cup sizes with beautiful underwear that is hard to find in generic high street chains. This brand was inspired by her grandmothers who moved to Bristol from Jamaica in the 60’s and worked as seamstresses.

Candles and Smell Goods



A Proud Mother Candle Co. is a Detroit, MI based business owned by Bernetta Waller. Their products are hand poured with 100% soy wax. Their factory is located in an impoverished neighborhood and provides jobs as well as entrepreneurship mentoring.

Spa Creations by Christal is an artisan candle and soap company located in Medina, TN. As a retired Cosmetologist of over 21 years, Christal truly has a passion for creating beautiful things. “Our goal is to provide high quality products with respect for our environment and a healthy lifestyle.”

Mallang Candles is based in Hammond, IN and is founded by Katrina and David Jasper. In 2003, Katrina received a gel candle as a gift from her Mother. She was so impressed by it that she told David that she had found a new hobby. “My husband suggested I that I buy the material and make a couple. Those first few candles ended up being beautiful Mother’s Day gifts for my mother and mother-in-law that year. Those gifts were so well received, from that point a business was born.”

Wax Candle Co. was created by Howard University grad, Jennifer Bryant. This is a Washington, DC based boutique candle company that pairs all-natural soy candles with DJ curated mixtapes to create a unique aromatherapy listening experience.


No.9 Candle Co. is the passion project of best friends and business partners, Yasmine Parrish and Alicia “ChaCha” Rodrigo. All No.9 soy blend candles are custom made and hand poured with love in sunny Los Angeles, CA.

Nikki Makes Scents candles are all hand-crafted along with most of their Bath & Body products. They offer over 600 candle scents to choose from. They are described as a “small American company has the big candle factory feel.” Nikki started this business in 1998 in her native New York.

Houston-native, Shanquita Greggs started Simply Scents Candle Co. by making her candles in her grandmother’s kitchen and selling them out of the trunk of her car. Simply Scents Candle Company has several different products that consist of triple scented candles, room fragrant sprays, electric burners, bath and body products, accessories, and more. 


February 5, 2015 - Philip Ashley Rix creates designer chocolate candy made in a wide variety of shapes, colors and flavors with names such as Lotus Flower Bomb, What's Up Doc, Naughty Red Dress, and Bleuboi. (Brandon Dill/Special to The Commercial Appeal)

Phillip Ashley Chocolates is located in the Historic Cooper Young District in the heart of Memphis, TN. Founder, Chef Phillip Ashley Rix left a corporate job to become an entrepreneur and owner of one of the most popular chocolate brands in the country. His one of a kind combinations will have you scratching your head and reaching for more.

CamiCakes is named after Camille, daughter of founder, Andra Hall. Andra was inspired to bake at a young age by her grandmother and her Easy Bake Oven. “CamiCakes specializes in yummy gourmet cupcakes to enjoy daily or for birthdays, weddings, showers, and many other special celebrations.” They have several locations in Florida as well as Georgia. You can also order online for pick up or delivery.

Vivere Chocolates was created by Robert Bowden. Robert works with seasoned chocolatiers to produce handcrafted fine chocolates for luxury gifts and catered events. Their chocolates are made using a premium blend of all natural 70% chocolate and fresh cream ganaches made from cacao beans form Africa, Central America and South America.


Kristina Maury created LuxeLollies to prove that candy can be as elegant and beautiful as it is delicious. Bored with the traditional candy flavors, she decided to create a line of gourmet hard candies in more sophisticated flavors like Pear Rosemary Champagne Spritzer (best-seller), Lavender Vanilla Mint and Pistachio Rose Cardamom. 

Chicago native Maya-Camille Broussard (and Shantrelle’s linesister 38-A-00) picked up the art of baking from her late father, criminal justice attorney Stephen J. Broussard. Inspired by his love of both justice and sweets, she launched Justice of the Pies. Her pies, made from scratch are absolutely delicious.(First hand knowledge)


Bed and Breakfast


Akwaaba Inns is the upscale lodging collection owned by husband and wife team Glenn Pogue and Monique Greenwood. This couple owns a mini bed-and-breakfast empire! 

Don and the late Rose Hubbard built The Hubbard Mansion over 15 years ago. The mansion is an elegant Greek revival home located in New Orleans.

Black owned Valentine's day

The Welcome Inn Manor is one of Chicago’s highest-rated B&B’s. Built in 1893, this Queen Anne historic home is 12 minutes away from the center of Chicago’s Downtown Loop. 


Pure Nuphoria is a one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast that integrates charm with modern conveniences. Their open architectural design includes vaulted ceilings, stone pillars that adorn the meeting and gathering room, slate floors and skylights that allow for natural sunlight to awaken your spirit. Amenities include complimentary breakfast, massage & spa, a personal Chef and Wellness/Business Services.

TheLRoom aka The Ladies Room is located in Durham, NC. It is  “the first bed and breakfast solely for women to come relax, feel safe and de-stress.”  Guests are welcome to stay for a few hours, a day, or the entire week. Guests will enjoy amenities such as clean and beautifully decorated rooms, a library with women centered books, meeting spaces and a gift shop. Healthy snacks, desserts, tea and coffee are provided by local women-owned businesses in the Triangle area.




New York-based illustrator, Instagrandmaw is the creator of some of the most hilarious and creative cards in the “creative card” game. Her hip hop/ pop culture inspired cards will definitely help you convey your message and give “bae” a good chuckle.

Ally Elle Cards is comprised of “A creative duo made up of two girls who cuss like sailors and create awesomeness in their individual fields.” Owner, Elle Lewis says “Ally Elle Cards started when yet another holiday passed and I felt I didn’t have the right card.” These works of art will have you clutching your pearls, LYAO, and applauding the ingenuity and wit behind them.

Black owned Valentine's day

Otis Richardson formed LavenderPop to offer a range of cards to celebrate relationships, friendships, love and pride. “Lavenderpop is inspired by pop culture, Black aesthetic, critical thinkers, revolutionaries, and a celebration of diversity.” Otis studied painting and illustration and obtained a Masters of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University.



Black owned Valentine's day

Tres Lindas Cubanas is named after a Cuban song and celebrates the beauty of the Cuban woman. Founded by two Afro-Cuban, twin sisters, and two African-American cigar enthusiasts.

Started purely as a passion project by Founder and President Sean Williams, El Primer Mundo (EPM) Cigars has become one of the premium cigar market’s classic small-batch boutique brands. 


Don Abram Harris Cigars are the creation of Abram Harris. The brands corporate office in Lexington Park, MD and its plantation and manufacturing crew are all located in Puerto Rico.




Mouton Noir Wines, founded by iconoclastic sommelier André Hueston Mack in 2007, which incorporate his trademark attitude and personal perspective on wine subculture. 

Esterlina Vineyards is a family-owned, California winery. As California farmers with over 30 years of experience, the Sterling family has carefully selected each of their vineyards. 

Theopolis Vineyards is a small lot vineyard and hand-crafted winery located in California’s prestigious Yorkville Highlands of the Anderson Valley. 


Charles Wine Company is based in Inglewood, CS. The founding members are Cherise, Paul, and De’Ondre Charles. Before starting the company, Charles and his wife Cherise did their research driving back from Florida to California and stopping at wineries across the country.

-Tony O. Lawson

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