“I want to be known as someone who is creative, smart and about her business.” -Tasneem Nathari via @Hoodratfeminist Instagram.
Thanks to the rise of social media Black women and other marginalized groups are finding more creative ways to introduce their narrative to the world. This includes East Orange New Jersey’s very own, Tasneem Nathari. She is a writer, creative, Hip-Hop head, college graduate, actress and the creator of Hoodrat Feminist TV.
Tasneem got the idea for Hoodrat Feminist while taking a Black Feminist class at her university. Her professor was really focused on digital activism and wanted students to use Instagram and Twitter to respond to the prompts they were given.
She had taken feminist classes before but these courses focused mainly on the experiences of white women. She never felt connected because she did not see girls from neighborhoods like hers being represented in the text. She took the class assignment serious, creating a new Instagram account and named it @Hoodratfeminist.
A couple of things that Tasneem knew for sure was that she wanted to speak directly to girls in her neighborhood and speak her truth without wondering how people would interpret it (word to Cardi B). She wanted to create content that was visually pleasing and identifiable so she started #Duragdiaries.
These were videos that she uploaded to Instagram and YouTube of her in her bedroom rocking an array of colorful durags, while touching on topics that were relatable to girls like her. Topics which included sex, slut-shaming, body images and the misogyny and heart breaks that she and her friends experienced from boys in their neighborhood growing up.
After graduating from Cicely L. Tyson High School she had to make the tough decision of which college to attend. A call from Mrs. Tyson herself, an acclaimed and celebrated actress especially in the Black community, only added to the pressures of her decision.
“I was like one of the first students at the school to apply to Spelman and have the credentials to get accepted. So she called me and was like, ‘I really want you to go I have been waiting for one of the young women from my school to go to Spelman and make us proud.’ You know, that type of legacy talk.”
Tasneem’s desire of a good drama program in addition to more financial backing, led her to The New School in New York City where she graduated from in May with honors.
I interviewed Tasneem recently where we discussed her recent graduation, the inspiration behind Hoodrat Feminist TV and her goals with the project. She also shares her upcoming summer plans with the school bus that she just purchased and renovated.
Why is it important for you to share your perspective as a girl from Essex County, New Jersey and what are you trying to relay?
TN: “When I was growing I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my mother and older women around me about what I was going through with my boyfriends. All of my best friends were going through the same thing. We were having sex, pregnancy scares, STD scares–so many things were happening and all we had was each other. We didn’t want to go to our mothers because we would get in trouble. We were in danger in a lot of those situations and things could have ended way worse and for a lot of girls in my neighborhood, it does. If we could have conversations earlier where you weren’t shamed, I feel a lot of things can be different for the girls coming up behind us. There needs to be advocates for these girls and safe spaces to talk about these issues.”
“Nobody wanted to have those hard conversations. So I am here to have them. People are in my direct messages all the time–especially high-school aged girls.”
You recently graduated from a university in New York called The New School. What was your experience like and what are some of the things you learned that you will apply in your future work?
TN: “The New School is a very interesting place, it’s just a different experience to go to college in New York. I took Race and Radicalism in Art, Black Feminist Theater, Theater of the Black Vanguard, Imagination & Synthesis, Aesthetic Inquiry; all these classes that really get to the foundation of what it means to learn and what it means to engage and be creative and to have an open mind.
Growing up in the hood, we never discussed gender roles or introducing yourself and your gender pronouns. These were all new things I was learning in college and it challenged me to grow. The school is not all it is cracked up to be, you have to go there and make your own experience. The type of people I was able to meet and the type of scholarship I was able to engage in made me grow. Now I want to take the safe-space conversations that we have in university settings and take it back to my community.
Now-a-days we don’t talk to each other as much. If I knew my neighbor I would feel more connected to them. I think that could really help our community, especially our women and girls.”
How was the idea of Hoodrat Feminist TV birthed?
TN: “Hoodrat Feminist TV came about six months into it. I was like let me move this from Instagram because you never know, my Instagram could get deleted. People have been building brands and careers through YouTube, so let me move some of the stuff there so that the work doesn’t stop.”
“Your current boyfriend is a videographer and creative as well. How does he help you with your vision?”
TN: “At first he was just my boyfriend and we broke up right before I started Hoodrat Feminist. Then he was like, ‘you are on to something, this could be really good let me film Durag Diaries and lets edit it.’ I was like nah, it’s really personal, I want them to know this is real, this is me. I don’t want to make it professional, I just want to record it on my phone. Then he was like, ‘let me help you with some visuals and some photo shoots you are building a brand, you are allowed to do that.’
So we started shooting and he was documenting everything and making videos. Then we did a documentary because I was like we need to do long-form content on these conversations.
Everything that I pitch to him he is always like, ‘let’s do this. How can we make this happen?’ I’ve seen him grow so much as a man. We just balance each other out.”
Where did you get the idea to create a mix tape for your thesis project?
TN: “I knew I wanted my final thesis to be a musical of some sort. I was like yea, I’m going to do a live performance of like a female rap-concert. I had wrote a whole play and everything. I knew I wanted it to be about women in Hip-Hop and I knew I wanted to play the main character and call her Tazzy More Buck$ because everyone calls me Tazzy.
I had a meeting with my advisor and teacher and was like, I want to write remixes to classic Hip-Hop songs that are misogynistic. They were like, that’s a great idea, go ahead and do it. I was staying up all night writing these songs. I did a photo shoot and I just put it out.”
I don’t want anybody to be confused, I am not trying to be a rapper. I am a storyteller, I just tell stories however I can tell them and however I decide to.
Why did you recently purchase a school bus and what do you plan to do with it?
TN: “One day I went down the rabbit hole of watching these videos of people who live in tiny homes and school buses. I kept looking for Black-female solo travelers trying to find more representation. They were mostly white. At first I was like I’m going to go around in my bus from hood to hood and talk to women in every neighborhood I go to and have them show me around their neighborhood.
“Then I was like, I don’t know if I am ready to go out on the road yet because there is so much I could do in my own community.”
So I linked up with my friends and was like yo, I want to park the bus in different places and host events in the hood. One day we will have a debate. One day we will have music, uno tournaments, spade tournaments, listening sessions, discussions and open mics. I also want to screen documentaries for people on the bus. Real community building and community engagement. Our bus system is called New Jersey Transit, so we calling our bus New Jersey Trans-Lit. I’m going to be documenting it on Hoodrat Feminist TV on YouTube. I also want to host a workshop for girls who just graduated from high school because I know it’s hard trying to figure it out on your own.”
“The bus is at the shop right now. I am getting a pink camo exterior with the Hoodrat Feminist logo. Everywhere we go we want to draw a lot of attention. I don’t just want to be on the internet, that’s not fun to me. I want to be out here talking to people.”
“People are willing to invest in you once they see you are willing to invest in yourself and your community.”
Youtube: Hoodrat Feminist TV