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Creative Women of the Diaspora

  • Earica Parrish
  • March 05, 2024

NVE kicked off this year’s Inclusive Learning Lab series by celebrating creative women of the African Diaspora. Our co-moderators Earica Parrish (Senior Strategist) and Latisha Hanna (Senior Manager, DEI and Engagement) spoke with our dynamic panel of multi-hyphenated women to learn more about around how one’s culture can inspire the work they do, as well as the importance of community and investing in others.

Our panelists line-up included the likes of Pan-African Image Maker Raven Irabor, media personality Destanee Bonds, and co-founders of The Black Art Vanguard Cerina Shippey and Sydney Oshuna. 

Diverse storytelling, led by women from all parts of the African diaspora, is imperative for encouraging more representation, breaking stereotypes, and fostering cultural understanding. It empowers communities, preserves heritage, and inspires a global audience—all while contributing to a more inclusive and enriched narrative landscape. 

During our conversation, Raven Irabor discussed how her cultural identity and upbringing has inspired her work as an image maker. As a first-generation Trinidadian and Nigerian American woman from The Bronx, she makes it her mission to showcase, amplify, and work with the people that reflect the African diaspora as a whole.

“My work specifically exists at the intersections of fashion, art, media, and film. So growing up in New York City and being around alot of art and fashion influences have really found its way into my work,” says Irabor. 

Our panelists are multi-hyphenated not just in their identity, but in their creative talents. They spoke about how important it is to own every part of who you are and what you do, not allowing society to put you in a box. People like Destanee Bonds has been able to gracefully navigate both the corporate world of advertising as well as entrepreneurship. She’s allowed herself to explore all of her creative passion points from writing, to podcasting, to hosting events across the country. 

“I feel like that is authenticity–that you can’t be pinned down to one thing or one area, but who you are remains true, no matter what you do,” says Bonds. 

The central key to pivoting, creating, and scaling any great idea is fostering community and collaboration with your peers. This is an area that panelists Cerina Shippey and Sydney Oshuna have mastered in cultivating their company The Black Art Vanguard together—where they work with Black and Queer artists to elevate their work. Both Cerina and Sydney shared that in their experience, they’ve found that businesses and brands often hesitate to invest in smaller projects or organizations, preferring to focus on bigger ventures and more high-profile talent. However, fostering community and supporting smaller initiatives can lead to long-term benefits, rather than solely chasing quick gains. It’s essential for corporations to prioritize community building alongside profitability. 

“It comes back to that whole thing of knowing the power of negotiation and you have to talk people through it, but also knowing your worth is hard. And I feel like having that community to uplift you allows for you to be able to have that proof of, yo, my community supports this,” says Oshuna.

Our NVE community got to interact with our panelists to share their takeaways from the discussion, as well as allowed our panelists to drop any creative projects they’ve worked on. It was an open space for us all to learn more about their work with brands ranging from Farfetch, to Chipotle. 

“It was clear that the learning lab selected creatives that aligned with one another, we were able to build community while also sharing our experiences,” says Shippey.

As we think about what equity and diversity truly means in contemporary business practices, it is important that industry leaders continue to invest in diverse creatives who are eager to tell more impactful, culturally nuanced stories. By fostering effective collaboration and embracing equitable and inclusive practices, we pave the way for more diverse and impactful narratives that reach global audiences.

We’re grateful to our esteemed panelists for sharing their stories! Check in with us here and on social to learn more about the amazing work we’re producing at NVE, and stay up to date with the Inclusive Learning Lab programming for 2024!  

Books, Articles, and Other Resources for Reference

  1. The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Expression & Reflection
  2. Art on My Mind: Visual Politics by Bell Hooks 
  3. Insignificant Things: Amulets and the Art of Survival in the Early Black Atlantic by Matthew Francis Rarey 
  4. Creative Quest by Questlove
  5. Restorying a Black girl’s future: Using womanist storytelling methodologies to reimagine dominant narratives in computing education – Journal of the Learning Sciences 
  6. Black Americans in the Visual Arts: a survey of Bibliographic Materials and Research Resources – ArtForum 
  7. What’s the creative industry doing about diversity? – D&AD 
  8. Breaking Boundaries: How Diversity Fuels Creativity In The Era Of Imagination- Forbes
  9. How Sharing Our Stories Builds Inclusion –  Harvard Business Review
  10. Shattering Boundaries: The Powerful Legacy of Black Women Artists – Art Lyst 


Earica Parrish
Senior Strategist, Inclusive Marketing
A creative multi-hyphenate who works to inspire others, incite change, and promote artistic values. An extensive background in writing, design, digital strategy, content production, guest services and community engagement.