October 27, 2020
Black women, meet Jade, creator of jade(d), your new friend.
“Black women’s voices are often ignored. We have to speak louder until we are screaming to be heard,” Jade states within the About tab of her blog. “Even when we are yelling, people still don’t hear us.” Jade Abston/ jade(d)af
"That was the first time that somebody had ever like questioned something that I was doing. Especially coming from a white man, basically telling me that what I was doing doesn’t matter,” she said. “So I would say that was a pretty defining, jaded moment for me,” she added.
Meet Jade Abston, a digital media professional, who is the creator behind jade(d). A blog created by black women, for black women, to share their experience on subjects ranging from body image, domestic violence, sexual assault in the black community, sexuality, and working in corporate America.
Back when Jade was an undergrad, she attended a hackathon.
“Probably one of the nerdiest things that I’ve ever done,” she confessed. It was at this event, that Jade had a brief interaction with a guy from another team, an interaction that she’ll never forget.
“There’s this moment I always go back to,” she began.
On a Wednesday before the end of September, she was speaking by phone from Baltimore, Maryland, where she was currently starting online orientation sessions for UCLA. Jade is starting a graduate program in film and media studies. However, due to Covid-19 and California Wildfires, she is currently in limbo, waiting for the go-ahead to relocate out to Los Angeles, California.
“Considering the team I was with,” she continued. “We were all women of color. And the only team there that was all women at the time, so that obviously raised a lot of eyebrows,” Jade pointed out. She had been sitting at a table at 2 or 3 a.m., hopped up on energy drinks, talking to this guy on another team.
“I couldn’t tell you why he was significant, but it was more of what he said,” she went on. He asked Jade what her undergrad major was and she responded communications. His response?
“Basically he said back to me,” Jade’s voice quickening. “Well what are you going to do with that? You can’t really do anything with that. What are you suppose to do with that? What does this even like mean?,” she retold passionately.
That was nine years ago. Since that time, Jade has gone on to complete her bachelor’s degree in communications, from Cedar Crest College, Allentown, Pennsylvania. As well as a master’s in communication art from New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), in Manhattan, New York.
Jade explained her experience along the way has encompassed people not understanding what the studies of communications entails, as it’s not something clear cut, like going to school to become a lawyer or a doctor.
“But I think in that moment, especially coming from him, a white man, who worked in like tech and things like that, it was just a weird moment to have. That was the first time I felt questioned about something that was important to me, ” she concluded.
Little did Jade know at the time, but that conversation would serve as a precursor for interactions to come. Well, what are you suppose to do with that? That very question would be continually asked to Jade going forward.
In spite of this, Jade has remained persistent in her dedication to the studies of communications. After receiving her master’s, Jade returned back to Cedar Crest College, this time as a communications professor, where she taught an introductory course on new media. Upon her return, she was asked by her students to step into the role of faculty advisor, for the college’s black student union, which she happily accepted. During her time as faculty advisor, Jade brought back talking circles, as well as a safe space for students to decompress, and talk about issues happening on campus and around the world.
Today, Jade attends UCLA as a graduate student. She also serves as a racial equity committee member for Cedar Crest College, where she partakes in their college-wide initiative to address and respond to the damaging effects of both institutional and systemic racism and bias within the college. Are you ready for more yet?
Jade is also the creator behind the jade(d) blog, Instagram account, and podcast. Jade(d) is celebrating it’s three year anniversary. If there’s one thing this 30-year-old Washington, D.C native has learned, it’s that she doesn’t need to explain herself to anyone, as long as she knows what she’s doing. Jade expressed she doesn’t often talk about or tell people the reason behind her blog. The following is a transcript from that conversation.
I’ve done the whole teaching thing right out of my master’s program. I like teaching but it’s not my ultimate goal. I’d like to take everything I’ve learned to do things on my own, whether that’s writing a book or consulting. Really, I want to do things on my own time. Especially with higher education changing with the pandemic. I want to carve my own path.
It was after my contract ended at the college. There was a lot of trauma and incidents that happened there that I hadn’t dealt with. I started writing things in a journal. Then I told a friend that I thought I was going to start a blog. I felt that even though I had spoken, and told these stories, I still wasn’t feeling heard. I still felt like I needed to release things.
I’m not very verbal; I don’t confide in a lot of people. A lot of the time, people don’t know what’s going on because I keep things inside and they keep building. The blog was a way for me to release those things.
“The same place that shaped me into who I am today also broke me,” Jade states within her popular blog post, “How working in higher education left me traumatized”. Jade Abston/ jade(d)af
Having a blog made it real. Journaling feels like a release, but not as much as putting it online. I know I’m not alone. I know other people may be feeling the same way, but don’t know how to verbalize what happened to them. I’m putting my truth out there. I spend a lot of time alone, so people don’t know what’s going on with me.
My biggest success has been people reaching out saying they had that experience too. Whether they worked in higher education, or something I posted they thought was great, and helped them. When people reach out, and give me that kind of feedback, that’s my greatest success. My experience in higher education is my most viewed blog post.
My biggest challenge in the beginning was trying to write about things that I thought other people would care about, versus what I cared about. Or writing too much on what was trending to get more clicks. My challenge was to find the balance between focusing on things important to me verse everyone else.
I write mostly for millennials. I don’t have experience with people younger, or older than me, we get treated very differently. The way that I write, and the things that I write about, are for my age group. I write about things that people my age care and think about.
I think it’s important to learn about other people’s experiences. No matter what someone is writing about, just trying to understand, learn, and embrace empathy. Everyone’s voice is important. We can be pigeon-holed into certain boxes, it’s important to learn about other people’s experiences. My hope is people will step out of their comfort zone and learn.
Yes, that’s true. When it comes to those topics, I don’t have to think as much on what I’m writing. Books have always been a big part of my life; I enjoy them, and I enjoy writing about them. A lot of the things I write about can be heavy. When things are in an entertainment form, I think people receive them better. Although, some of my book recommendations are heavy as well.
I like putting information out by recommending things to people. It feels like a loving thing to do. Recommending things to others goes back to informing people about things that may not be on their radar.
In September, Instagram saw (jadedaf_) inviting followers to join in on their book of the month, “The Vanishing Half,” by Brit Bennett, in support of black female authors. “The Vanishing Half” explores themes of identity, gender, race, and racism. Jade Abston/ jade(d)af
Starting out it was very difficult, I had to manage things by being on top of my own self-care. These past five years, I’ve been very strict on how much news I consume, and how I consume it. I don’t have any news or social media notifications turned on, if I want to see something, I have to seek it out on my own.
Right now, my blog has shifted to lighter things, such as: art, books, and music. With everything going on around the pandemic, I don’t feel I have anything productive to add. I only write when I have something to say, this helps me keep boundaries on my blog. I’ve not been in the mood to write anything; I don’t know when I will be back in the space to write something.
My creative core has shifted to my podcast, where the focus has been on self-care, mental health, healing, and growth. I do what I feel is necessary in the moment. Right now, I don’t have much to say, that’s why the podcast focuses on self-care.
“The hardest part of being an empath is learning to care for myself. We have big hearts and want to ease other’s pain,” Jade states within her blog post, “The girl who feels everything”. —Jade Abston/ jade(d)af
Reading is number one for me; I’ve loved reading ever since I was a child.
Lately, I do meditation while listening to healing frequencies. Meditation has been the most beneficial. I do unguided meditation, I let whatever’s in my head flow.
I had to learn how to act frank and honest with people. I tell people, ‘I’m sorry but I can’t deal with this right now’. I let people know when I don’t have the capacity to deal with them or their issues at that moment, but that we could come back to it. It’s the only way. I’m learning how to say that without coming off mean; I tend not to mince my words.
I feel at peace. This ties into not feeling pressure to consistently put something out there each week. There’s posts already on my blog that people can read. I’m not worried anymore about if this is helping anyone. I no longer have a nagging feeling, on whether this even matters to anyone else. I try not to make it about myself.
I’d like to get more voices on my blog. Getting other people to write would be nice. Also sharing more positive things, obviously jade(d) is not the nicest word. As well as starting to show the positive, the duality more; not everything on the blog are these terrible things that have happened, that’s just reality.
I don’t think there’s any need to put on a facade. There’s a lot of superficial things on the internet that are not layered. You reach the people you need to when you show up on the internet as yourself.
Jessica Sears is a freelance writer, and holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and communications from UMass Boston. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org