Black Women Thrive: Interview with Freelance Writer Dara Tafakari

Freelance writer Dara Tafakari.
Imagine ditching the structured nature of the corporate world in order to blog and write freelance full time in the midst of supporting your husband's journey toward earning a Ph.D. and moving cross country. Sounds pretty hectic, right? Now, add being a mother of a three-year-old while expecting a second child to the mix! It's a lot to juggle at once, but freelance writer Dara Tafakari is currently handling these events rather gracefully.

"I'm somewhat unable to post publicly because [of] relocation, pregnancy [etc.]...But I can still write without posting."

Tafakari also handles the occasional confusion regarding the pronunciation (Tah-fuh-kah-ree) and origins of her last name quite well. Interestingly, Tafakari was born into a Pan African Christian community in Houston which stressed the assimilation of various African cultures into daily life. Therefore, members created and adopted African names and raised their children as a community rather than in rigid family unit structures.

"The Pan African Orthodox Christian Church was started in the 1960s by Rev. Albert B. Cleage in Detroit, very much a response to the Civil Right Movement[,] what he perceived as a wrongheaded approach to organizing the Black community...[The community] sought to live communally and share goods, services, wealth, and child rearing amongst themselves."

The church still exists in cities like Detroit, Atlanta, and Houston. Several community members changed their names and gave their children names from African tribes or languages. While her unique beginnings were harmless, Tafakari left the community at around age two after her parents split and her mother joined the army.  At the age of five, Dara’s mother changed her name from "Tafakari Tumaini" to "Dara Tafakari" as a tangible steps toward assimilating back into mainstream American culture.

Tafakari's experiences growing up give her an interesting vantage point regarding current debates about whether African Americans can appropriate African cultures. She feels African Americans have a strong desire to connect with their roots; however, they have the responsibility to learn about the different cultures across the continent.

"As an African American, I do not know much about my roots or my ancestry beyond maybe two generations. There's a very real pain from that, especially since I understand the violence underscoring this separation. Accordingly, I understand acts of reclamation from other Black Americans. I also think there is a way that the African Diaspora...can educate and share cultures, because there is so much we already do have in common that has been passed down, despite colonialist and white supremacist efforts to prevent that."

Nonetheless, no matter their background, relationships, hair, and childrearing are all concerns for Black women. In regards to Black love and media implications that relationships like Solonge Knowles' and Gabriel Union's mark a "revival" of Black couples, Tafakari expresses this mindset downplays the existence—and stability—of the Black nuclear family.

"Black love...never left. The hard data shows that Black men and women overwhelmingly marry each other...I think because I have grown up with many nuclear Black families in my community, it never occurred to me to believe that Black couples were endangered...I think we see celebrities as a marker for the entire community and I like to shy away from that."

Tafakari and her daughter Samira.
While her husband is Black, Tarakari also believes interracial relationships are not a threat to the Black community, yet they should not be used as an invalidation of Black men or women.

"I support people who find love without using [it] to disparage others...Marry because you found a good partner....Use your relationship to heal, to spread love, not to wound people who look like you [and] no one needs to encourage Black people to only marry each other because 'dating outside the race' is traitorous and self-hating."

In order to combat the stereotypes concerning Black families, particularly the negative image of Black fatherhood, Tafakari wrote a series on her blog called "Black Fathers Week" in order to "shine a spotlight" on devoted Black fathers and hear their voices as she believes "No one needs to encourage Black women to marry White men because Black men ain't worth a dime." Funnily, the idea came to mind for Tafakari as she followed Ciara and Future's relationship in the media, and the negativity concerning Future's fatherhood. Nevertheless, the project was successful in sparking a conversation about the positivity of Black fatherhood.

"I know far more dedicated and devoted and doting Black fathers than I do deadbeats. That includes my own. I really wanted...to give [Black men] the opportunity to talk about fatherhood amongst themselves. I wanted to hear their voices."

Naturally, Tafakari also follows the developments regarding the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackWomensLivesMatter movements and believes they are necessary and eye-opening for all, although police and vigilante violence has existed in America for some time.

"Social media and the ongoing movement has helped to make us more aware of the frequency with which police brutality occurs. In that sense, I stand with [#BlackLivesMatter] and its mission to enact reform that will protect everyone living within America's borders from racial profiling, unnecessary force, [and] inhumane treatment, by those presumably sworn to protect us."

She has also written pieces in regards to the movement. Tafakari admits she initially felt concerned about "just" writing, but now believes it is her own unique way of giving back.

As styling hair doesn't always agree with the hectic nature of
motherhood, Tafakari has recently adopted this cute tapered look.
"Everyone in a movement will not have the same function. Some are organizers and participants in direct actions. Others are writers, voices. Still others are the legal arms and even others give financially. I am okay with doing what I can to bring awareness and to educate."

Appearance has also been a hot topic in the Black community recently. Tafakari has had natural or unprocessed (non-chemically straightened) hair for nearly a decade. She doesn't regret her decision to go natural, is thankful for not having to contend with chemical burns, and believes the natural hair movement is positively encouraging Black women to define their own beauty. Still, she acknowledges that there is unnecessary tension within the community.

"[There are] people who are intent on prescrib[ing] what it means to be [or] not be natural or those who project on women who choose not to be [natural]. I'm for happy Black women with beautiful hair, period. Overall, I'm just over people shaming each other for their choices."

Needless to say, Tafakari will not be relaxing her daughter's hair anytime soon. Leaving her daughter's hair unaltered by chemicals is one of the many things Tafakari and her husband do in order to reaffirm their daughter's beauty and build her confidence.

"[I] affirm her Blackness in any way I can; I affirm her femaleness; I affirm her intelligence and her ability to succeed...my husband's favorite thing to tell her when she does something right is: 'Samira, you did it! You're a genius!' And this big smile spreads across her face."

Tafakari's daughter Samira posing in Washington D.C.
Although her pregnancy and moving from Georgia to Maryland due to her husband's job have made life a bit hectic for Tafakari these days, she still finds time to do what she loves and spend quality time with her family.

"I like to read and cook with [Samira]...She likes to stir and put things in bowls. As a family, we like to have dance parties! And we take walks...play games, [and] go out to the park. We stay goofy."

Tafakari has also performed poetry readings, "My favorite...performance [was]...at Florida State in front of hundreds of my fellow students. I was so nervous and I went last, but they loved it!"

As for work, Tafakari is over the idea of becoming a corporate zombie. While she has decided to stay at home with her children for now, she wishes to work as a freelance writer on a full-time basis when she decides to join the workforce again. For those who are just starting out in the freelance writing world, Tafakari offers some sage advice:

"Remember to write for yourself as much as for an audience...practice pitching. It can be terrifying, but it's important to keep at it and pitch even when you think 'This place isn't gonna take me.'"

Dara Tafakari runs the blog Truly Tafakari. The soon-to-be mother of two holds a Master's degree in African-American Literature from Florida State University. A self-professed nerd, Tafakari enjoys storytelling, oftentimes with a touch of humor.

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