Kimberly N. Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet, an online “community dedicated to celebrating the fullness of Black womanhood.” We talked to her about the site she created while she was a student at Harvard, as well as the future of diversity in media. Take a look!
Image via For Harriet
Daily Ellement: Tell us a little bit about yourself and why “blogging saved your life.”
Kimberly N. Foster: I am the founder and publisher of For Harriet. I started it back in 2010 to create a space for black women and I found in creating that space, it allowed me a place to explore and provide opportunities to talk about my own personal experiences. There’s something about the anonymity of the Internet and approaching your story with no preconceived notions; that’s how blogging saved my life.
DE: For Harriet is targeted at women of “African ancestry.” What was your reasoning behind that phrasing?
KNF: Sometimes the way we talk about black or African American people has a very narrow idea about who is black or African American. I wanted to make sure that it was very clear this space was for all women of the African diaspora.
DE: For Harriet aims to have honest conversations about the “beauty and complexity of Black womanhood.” How has the mainstream media traditionally covered black women’s lived experiences?
KNF: The mainstream media reflects the history of how black women have always been seen in society. The media reflects the racism, sexism, and classism that continue to keep black women as marginalized. Our stories are told through stereotypes and one-sided, which impacts how we are presented in positional outlets.
DE: I love that you’re an admitted “Internet addicted pop culture fanatic.” (Believe me, I understand.) What is it about pop culture that hooks you the most?
KNF: I grew up consuming a lot of media, watching a lot of TV, read magazines, listened to music. You become invested in celebrity culture and invested in the musicians you listen to. I really liked clothes and following what they wore. I think if you’re interested, it becomes easy to become invested in that story of culture. I’m not ashamed of it!
DE: Along the lines of pop culture, do you think the arrival of diverse programming like How to Get Away with Murder and Empire is doing enough to create representation?
KNF: It’s a step in the right direction. I don’t think we’re ever going to get a point, because of the nature of mainstream media and Hollywood, where the black experience is fully represented or in big budget films. I think we should continue to push and question and cajole, but it’s important as consumers to recognize that it’s not probably where we’re going to get the fullest representation of ourselves.
DE: What are some of your favorite sources of black entertainment?
KNF: Black and Sexy TV, Issa Rae, and lots of smaller web series that pop up. Quarter Century is written and directed by a black woman. I love podcasts and to read smaller blogs. Black Girl Dangerous is doing really great work with pushing alternative images [of black women]. I like for them to know their work is appreciated.
DE: You were a keynote speaker at Cornell for a conference on Gender, Race, and Representation in Magazines and New Media. Tell us about what that experience meant to you.
KNF: It was really crazy. That was my first time being invited to speak anywhere for a real amount of money. It was the first time they were like, “we’ll fly you out!” I really appreciated that the older, well-established women respected my work. They let me know they understood what I wanted to do and reassured me that the work I was doing was important.
Sometimes we think if it’s on the Internet, it’s frivolous or that it’s not impactful. Getting the opportunity to speak at that conference about what I want for the work to eventually be with this platform really confirmed for me that I’m on the right path.
DE: Where do you hope to see yourself and For Harriet in ten years?
KNF: I want to be able to create more opportunities for black women to produce content and provide more ways for them to tell their stories. I want more ways for them to do different types of things like long investigative journalism, video, and podcasts. I want For Harriet to be multimedia and multiplatform.
DE: What is your personal philosophy?
KNF: “Don’t ask for permission. Just do it.” You have everything that you need to get it done, so just do it!