Hello, friends! Today I am SO excited to present to you the first beautiful individual who will be kickstarting my Black Is Beautiful mini blog series for this month! Meet SHAINAH! Before we give her the spotlight completely, I am gonna share a bit about how we know each other.
I met Shainah back in 2018 when I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Ghana. She was actually in a completely different program than me, so I did not get to interact with her daily. We even lived on complete opposite sides of the campus, so I would only really run into her when I was hanging out in International Student Housing (ISH) visiting my other friends in my program. However, I remember my friends would always talk about this person named “Shay” who was super dope and creative. I had no idea who she was but I did not understand why I did not already cross paths with her! Then, I heard that she was a Black creative who wrote and performed such beautiful poetry. When I attended the University of Ghana’s enriching performing arts shows showcasing student talent, I finally had a face to put to the name! Though our friendship did not begin until near the conclusion of my time abroad, we remained well-connected through the power of social media. So today, I present to you, the lovely Shainah!
Irene: What are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!
Shainah: Hey, innanet! I’m Shainah M. Andrews (she/her/hers). But everybody that I met while on the African continent calls me Shay — it’s their nickname of endearment for me (which I don’t mind). I’m a 24-year-old artist and educator — these two descriptors, largely, encapsulate so much of what I love and am PURPOSED to do by way of Jesus Christ. I impact in my own special way mostly through language, food, and heritage travel. When I speak my poetry, call me ShaiYaa (homage to my roots in Ghana)!
I’m blessed to say that my self-titled brand (which aims to provide numerous types of written, audible, and visual services) allows me to express my creativity and connect with people globally from all walks of life.
Irene: Choose THREE words that come to mind when you define “Blackness”. Define each word in its relationship to Blackness. Why did you choose these three words?
#1) INCOMPARABLE — In a world that loves to classify people according to their skin color (not even mentioning other factors such as hair texture and facial features), I can’t help but often reflect on the Lord’s intentional design and Him thinking about how beautiful His creation is — not just when it comes to physical qualities. We all (human beings) were made in His image uniquely but everybody’s experience here on this earth is different. And there’s something SO incomparable embedded in the DNA of Black people — it’s in the way that we love up on a random stranger in the beauty supply store or barbershop, cook up a meal with minimal ingredients and STILL somehow manage to make it taste bomb, elevate every area of life (like sports), and SO much more. “I’m so glad I’m gang” LOL!
#2) HILARIOUS — Not to toot my own horn but I really be crackin’ myself up with jokes, freestyles in my own room, when I reflect on things I’ve said in the past, etc. Black people are HILARIOUS! And it’s not even always what we say — it’s sometimes just the FACES and SOUNDS we make; often, out in public, all you gotta do (after seeing or hearing something) is connect eyes with someone else who’s Black and y’all both will be like “mhm” or “yup”! My family and friends in particular always have me clutching my stomach because they make me laugh so much. And every social media app out here in the world also proves how comedic Black people are! We provide the world with the laughs that make you sit back and sigh with joy. I think that this is a quality among us that’s often left out when highlighting Blackness (opposed to something like our ability to endure hardships), but our humor is something that I really thoroughly love.
3) BRILLIANT — I immediately think of how colorful and vibrant we are as a people (I know most people think of intelligence when they think of brilliance and we ARE intelligent people! But I want to expand a bit on Black people’s brightness in other ways). Irene can attest to the vibrancy of Ghana, and all throughout West Africa! People glisten, glowing because their skin has been kissed by moonlight. Our colorful styles throughout the Diaspora match our lit personalities! I mean, even the fruit and vegetables in Ghana are extra vivid and juicy! Don’t even get me started on the mangos there. Whenever I picture Black people, I think of our brilliant hair colors, God-given tones, nail polish and jewelry choices, vivid food markets, and so much more! Thinking about and seeing our brilliance is honestly always SUCH a serotonin booster for me.
Irene: What is the MOST beautiful thing about being Black to you?
Shainah: I return back to how incomparable we are, really. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint a single thing that’s most beautiful about being Black from my point of view. But in a loophole kind of way, the MOST beautiful thing about being Black is that there ISN’T just one singular thing — it’s the totality of who we are which STILL isn’t fully understood by humanity. I think God was very intentional in that way!
Irene: How do you uplift your Blackness on a regular basis?
Shainah: There are a number of ways that I uplift my own Blackness every day. Some days, I remove my twists to reveal my plush, natural afro. On most others, I protect my twists with a colorful African headwrap or a stretchy, solid-patterned one right from a massive beauty supply store. And let’s talk about protective hairstyles, box braids being my absolute favorite! My faith is of utmost importance to me, so I often like to reflect on the things that the Lord has said and done. Every part of me was methodical, from my plump lips designed to proclaim His goodness to my hair which insects often mistake for home to the authority in my voice, even in my soft tone. I’ve noticed that “you were made for such a time as this” has become especially popular since the start of this COVID-19 pandemic and I’d like Black people to consider drawing strength from that Scripture (Esther 4:14). While Mordecai was referring to Esther’s ability to rescue her people, I hope that God doesn’t mind me putting this in the context of the 21st century. Violence against Black bodies, minds, and spirits — such as racism and white supremacy — are not new but amidst this pandemic, so much IS unprecedented. Even when it’s difficult to see it, I want my fellow Black brothers and sisters to know that they were not born to see 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, etc. accidentally or coincidentally. You were not born to brave these storms alone — apart from Christ! I encourage you to lean on Him, even in a world that just wants us to throw in the towel and accept the mediocrity that it offers.
Irene: What is one of your favorite songs that fit/exemplifies that Black is Beautiful?
Shainah: Choosing my favorite song, I imagine, would be like asking a loving mother to choose her favorite child; I looove music more than I can articulate! BUT I actually DO have one in particular that exemplifies Blackness’ beauty:
I HAD to include the cover art for “La Diaspora” by Nitty Scott (featuring Zap Mama) because it embodies Blackness SO well — the colors, intensity, beauty, allat! Shouts to my sis, CJ, who included this song in a playlist that she made for me in 2019! Fun fact — I met her AND Irene when we all studied abroad in Ghana in 2018! The whole song is phenomenal, but here are some lyrics to give you an idea of its fullness:
Freed all my people from here to Montego Dale morena like this Puerto Rico
We go when we make it rain like El Nino Got that sofrito, that primo, that negro
None of the hitters is f-ckin’ with me though We so cool, we ride off in El Camino
We gon’ be seen, yo — no need no Nat Geo Got so much juice, they just call me Tampico
Part of my life commitment through my work is to show the tissue that connects the African Diaspora whether we’re talkin’ Brixton in England or Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, for example.
Indulge me a second longer on the topic of art as I offer up a poem about Blackness and its beauty — it was written with dark-skinned women at the center. Though short, it’s very sweet and my FAVORITE poem by Rudy Francisco, my favorite poet!
Irene: How can we support a fellow amazing Black person like yourself? Do you have any projects, businesses, creations, etc. that you are working on that you would like to speak briefly about and/or that we can support?
Shainah: Thank you so much for asking this question!! You all can support me by engaging with my work online which includes poetry, global recipes, spiritual posts, and so much more! If you’re into spoken word or know somebody else who is, be sure to check out my two spoken word albums which can be streamed wherever you listen to your music and podcasts! I’m under the artist name “ShaiYaa” everywhere.
Also, I have two cookbooks out which contain recipes from all over the world — this includes crowd favorites, like Ghana’s quintessential kelewele, fish stew (which unites my roots in West Africa as well as the ones here in the South in the United States), and tastes inspired by places like India and Jamaica! My electronic cookbooks are currently available HERE. If you purchase during the month of February, use the code BLACKISBEAUTIFUL to save some money!
Even when I rest, the Lord gives me downloads and I always have my hand in work of some sort ^_^ I hope to put out more written projects this year, but we’ll see what He leads me to do! For the time being, please consider supporting my posts online, spoken word projects (What I Wrote but Barely Spoke and Freeman), and cookbooks (Slay in the Kitchen with Shainah: Appetizing Meals from Around the World Made Affordable and Divine Bites). AND if you ever need any of my services, please contact me; I’m blessed to say that I’m already being contacted for Black History Month programs, so make sure you go ahead and book me while you can. My commissions are currently open!
I really love it when people spread the word about what I do whether with the click of a button or by word of mouth. If you like it, somebody that you know may love it. Please tell ya people about me ^.*!
Irene: Can folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!
Shainah: Connect with me on mostly all the apps!
Instagram | @ShainahMAndrews
Twitter | @ShainahMAndrews
And if you ever want to sow into me financially |
Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below!
Shainah: You reading this — thank you for sharing this tender, intimate space with me. I believe in you and the vision down on the inside of you, even if you’re not sure what exactly that is yet. Don’t get it confused; most days, I’m taking what feel like baby steps towards my dreams. But know that steps are steps! Be gentle with yourself and breathe. I love you and Jesus loves you most! If you ever need prayer, professional advice, or other things of the sorts, know that you are now my homie. So, you know how to reach me! I’ll end this interview with my signature parting — a nod to Matthew 5 verses 13-16:
Stay salt. Stay light.
There you have it, friends! Wasn’t this interview just SO stunning? I am not gonna front yall – I honestly am emotional and at a loss for words. CLEARLY Shainah is an artist and a fellow sister in Christ, so beautifully spoken. My heart is so full knowing that you all got to read and learn more about this beautiful human! Her Black is INCREDIBLE, and it shows in all aspects of herself. Thank you so much, Shainah, for speaking life into us today and for being vulnerable with us. I am so honored to have you on Renrenspeaks today. ALSO yall better buy her cookbook!!! I bought her first edition and lemme tell YALL. The recipes are BOMB and are so beautifully put together. And the visuals? It is hands-down the coolest cookbook I have ever purchased.
I hope this blog interview warmed your heart as much as it did mine. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful Black person that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 2 of my Black Is Beautiful mini blog series!
Peace and love,