By Hannah Connolly
Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself”. These are the words of poet, Rupi Kaur, and are found within her collected work Milk and Honey - a source of inspiration for Ebinehita Iyere in starting her journey towards creating Milk Honey Bees.
“When we talk about education, we talk about Black boys, and when we talk about girl’s rights in the UK, we talk about white girls. This means that Black, Mixed and Brown girls have this sense of invisibility.”
Milk Honey Bees is a creative and expressive safe space for Black girls to flourish. Rooted in creativity, the platform celebrates the liberation of Black Girlhood, done through amplifying the voice and visibility of Black women in all facets of life. It aims to open closed doors and ensure that these women and girls are able to put both their Blackness and girlhood at the forefront - enabling them to discover their full potential.
The Stack catches up with Ebinehita ahead of her creative workshop at The Stack HQ, as part of our Next Right Step Month and careers day workshop. Here, Ebinehita shares her thoughts on creativity as expression and why we should nurture our inner child. In her own words:
The beginnings of Milk Honey Bees
“I started Milk Honey Bees because I had gone through a lot of different things in my childhood. I left home at 16 and experienced a lot of loss. Which, when I reflected back, I had not processed. How could I want to work with people that looked like me if I wasn't fully okay - if I had not processed?
When I started MHBs I had just graduated from uni and I went straight into front line work. Four months later, a young man I was working with was killed. That death affected parts of my family who knew him but it also affected me professionally. It was like watching my life flash before my eyes because I was seeing the girls do what we used to do for the boys in their time of grief.
I read Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey, which is a collected work of poetry. I was quite angry that she wrote that because I had never read something that I could connect with. I used that book and reconnected with therapy and the things I like to do - so a lot of time in nature and also being able to trust. I had to get right with myself. There were days where I had to make sure I was doing what I needed to do for me, letting people in and letting people know that I am not okay, whilst knowing it's okay to not be okay.
I gave the Rupi Kaur book to this one girl, because I really didn’t know what to do with her. She read it and said ‘you can't give me something like this if I can’t share it with my friends and if you're not going to talk about it’. I had another sort of flashback and I thought about when I was living in a hostel and when I was still at home. I always had these younger girls around me but I had never thought about it in a working capacity. They looked up to me I guess because they thought I was cool. I look at these girls now and the women they are today and I look at Milk Honey Bees and how some of the girls are now young women and I’m like yeah, that makes sense.
The organisation has always been about working with Black girls because they were the referrals I would get, so naturally that's how it evolved. When we talk about education, we talk about Black boys, and when we talk about girl’s rights in the UK, we talk about white girls. This means that Black, Mixed and Brown girls have this sense of invisibility. I know how that felt, to not have an adolescence so I created this space where girls could thrive in their girlhood.
The biggest thing about Milk Honey Bees is we are the most inclusive Black girl-led space that I know. Everyone that supports us and we work with is so diverse. We work with everyone so far that your ethos and mission is inline with ours.”
“We are not just here to talk about trauma, we are also here to celebrate the joy that these girls possess because their creativity is limitless, absolutely limitless”
The Big Goals…
“So, the big idea is for me to finish my professional doctorate. I am currently doing a PHD in children and young persons’ services, looking at the educational experiences of Black girlhood. The reason I do that is because there is a gap in academia on research that focuses on Black girls told solely by Black girls. I think it is important for me from an organisational stance to be able to have space and presence within the youth sector, academia and in the creative industries.
One of my biggest goals is registering as a CIC (Community Interest Company) and that will be done by next year. In tandem with reaching more girls, working with more girls to support them on their journey into womanhood. It is so important for Milk Honey Bees to be a safe-haven for girls who are experiencing a range of things, both the positive and/or the negative. We are not just here to talk about trauma, we are also here to celebrate the joy that these girls possess because their creativity is limitless, absolutely limitless.
I also want to see and ensure that Black girls are visible in all industries and sectors and for these girls to be understood and for them to understand each other, that is what I am working towards.”
Where to find the inspiration
“People always ask me who I am inspired by and the answer is that women inspire me. I am inspired by women of all races, all genders, all sexual orientations. Yet, the biggest inspiration for me are the women of tomorrow and they are the girls of today.”
Creativity at the core
“Creativity as an expression at Milk Honey Bees is part of our process. All of our work is rooted in creative expression because it's not linear. We're not just talking about the arts, it could be a walk, eating together, laughing together, preparing food together it could also be crying together. We went camping together at the weekend - that was a form of creativity. It starts from within and allows the girls to have a free flow of how they both externalise and internalise their creativity.
The reason why creativity is at the core is because this is a new process and a new experience. It is the first time a lot of these girls are in a setting where somebody is asking them how they feel rather than being judged by how they present themselves.”
The Creative Process
“With creativity, it is something you can remember. You remember the conversations because of how we conducted them and you can remember that process and translate it for yourself and to others.
With Milk Honey Bees, every girl starts one-on-one with me and I build that relationship and then they get integrated into their creative expression groups. From there those groups develop into a range of things.
Sisterhood is always the overarching theme and creativity is another, but sisterhood plus creativity could equal putting H.E.R first which is our ethos. When you have that blend of one-to-one and the expression groups, the process is natural and it allows the girls to feel like they have ownership in and beyond their communities. It’s another way of giving them a voice which is free of judgement. Creativity lets us go right back to a place of vulnerability and knowing that there is strength in vulnerability and vulnerability in strength."
Nurturing our inner child
“As we become adults we are told that by a certain age we can’t play and I disagree with that. There is a lot of conversation around self-love and self-care and that is important but it is also important to take that out of the context of bath bombs and adult-fun. For me it is important we allow time to play out of the realms of adult approved fun like without alcohol.
There is nothing wrong with going on a swing. When was the last time you went on a swing? I can tell you when I did, it was last week. Through my work I get to play but as we grow up we need to connect with our child-like self.
That is why for Milk Honey Bees, when I look at these girls I think you don’t even know the woman you are going to be tomorrow because of the process you are on now. The best part of it is they are leading the way, I don't make any moves without them telling me where to go next.”
There is no set way
“I had a conversation with my friend yesterday and we were talking about when we started looking for a full-time job after we had both worked in betting shops. We were like, did we stress too much about what the future would look like without actually knowing what our futures could look like?
Society, especially if you go to uni, tells you that you have to do X,Y and Z and I don't think it is like that. I think the more experience that you can get in life doing the things you want to do means you can apply those learnings to any situation or any job.
I have to remind people I have an undergrad degree all the time, I literally have to be like oh I am graduate you know. It’s not that no one cares but that's not what people lead with, people lead with me. It's about my experience, working with people, meeting people or building relationships. No one really asks for the degree. This is not to say having a degree or an education isn't important, I am someone who loves education. It is about having a healthy balance between the two and knowing that putting your best foot forward is what is going to make the difference, not the piece of paper you come with.
So my biggest piece of advice would be, ‘don't put pressure on yourself and remember that your well being means more to you than anything else.”
To learn more about Ebinehita and Milk Honey Bees head over to the website or her socials and get ready to join her for a session tomorrow both IRL and via zoom
Ebinehita Iyere gives us the backstory on founding Milk Honey Bees, a platform for celebrating and supporting young Black women.
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