How this founder changes the narrative of the strong stereotype of the black woman
Every day people make hundreds of quick decisions and judgments in order to survive. Forging an opinion about others is a way for people to see the world and to understand how they fit in, what they like and what they don’t like. The acquisition of stereotypes is more complex and is usually formed during childhood under the influence of one’s surrounding environment. As social values change, stereotypes generally change. A common stereotype within the black community is the Strong Black Woman (SBW) schema. Quarterly Women’s Psychology published an article stating that SBW is associated with negative psychological outcomes, which leads to poor health. This stereotype places specific cultural expectations on black women that include unwavering strength and caregiving roles for people of multiple generations.
Francesca Andre, award-winning filmmaker, author, photographer and founder of Creative Group21, creates work that redefines stereotypes in black communities and educates individuals on how to break the racial narrative cycle.
“I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this word [resilience]», Exclaims André. “Don’t call me resilient to deny my pain, because often times when people call you resilient it makes them powerful spectators; you don’t step in and help yourself carry the burden if they could. Because they’re like, ‘You got this. You are a strong girl. Put on your big girl pants. You’ve got it covered. This is what I got while doing a lot of things for a living. People look at me and say, “You are resilient”. What I wanted was for someone to say, “What do you need help for?” I wanted to open up about my vulnerability. I don’t want to be strong every day. That’s why I don’t consider myself to be a strong black woman. I don’t use this. Women don’t have to be strong every day to be superior. “
Andre’s artistic career began when she began to model for commercial print advertisements. She has been featured in commercials for Mercedes Benz, USA Today, Time Magazine and billboard work. Although she landed auditions, she got bored of being in front of the camera; she wanted to be the one to tell stories. After studying and practicing the use of the camera on his own, André submitted his work to the New York Daily News, which led her to become independent with the New York Post.
She eventually attended film school to understand all that is involved in producing and directing films. In 2017, she released her award-winning short, coal, which captures the stories of two black women as they embark on a lifelong journey to overcome internalized colourism, find self-acceptance, and ultimately find redemption.
“There have been documentaries about people bleaching their skin in Jamaica, people bleaching their skin in Africa, and an article on BBC about women who take pills because they want their skin to be clearer, ”she explains. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, this is happening all over the world.’ … I need to do something about it. I didn’t want it to be dark skin versus light. I didn’t want it to be money laundering. I wanted it to go a little further. Like the ideas that we consume and the ideas that have been incorporated into us in terms of beauty. What do we believe that beauty is? How to internalize these different ideas? And what is their impact on the decision we regularly make in our life? “
Her son was seven months old when the pandemic and George Floyd’s brutality hit the world. Feeling paralyzed and helpless, instead of remaining silent, André decided to write a series of children’s books, I’m a phenomenal black boy, as a way to start changing the narrative of young black boys. She illustrates how young black boys can enjoy nature, meditation, and develop a positive body image.
“My son is cute now,” says André. “Everyone considers him non-threatening. What happens when he’s 14 and has a man’s body? What’s going to happen? … I know a lot of things that I have to unlearn. I learned them at a fairly young age in terms of all of my surface problems; they all come from my childhood. So I thought, “Let me write a book.” But I want a book that is not just a book about self-esteem, but a book that will be like a nice kind of dish that has a bit of everything.
As Andre continues to pivot in her career and expand her artistic endeavors, she focuses on the following essential steps:
- Be ready. The more research you do, the more you will learn about a new market, but don’t let research become a form of procrastination.
- Grow your network. If you try to do it all on your own, you will only delay your success.
- To ask questions. Discover up front the potential challenges you might face so that you can prepare for them.
“I don’t need a label because it changes all the time,” concludes André. “I could talk to you now and sound sane and good.” And in the next hour, it might be a different story. … one thing I don’t want to do, I don’t want to smile when I struggle. I don’t want to look presentable or pretty in quotes while doing it. I don’t have to make a forehead to say, “I’m so strong.” Some days I’m strong, other days I’m not.