UMass Interviews: Imosé Wraps by Stephnie Igahrosa

Interview with Imosé Wraps

What is Imose Wraps?

Imose wraps is a subscription service for headwraps with a platform for immigrants and refugee communities. So I kind of start off by explaining, because not everyone knows what a subscription model is — do you know about subscriptions? Netflix, Hulu? What about subscription services like Ipsy or Glamour? They are services that send you care packages in the mail monthly. Well, Imose Wraps is that. The plan is to send you packages, and it allows you to discover headwraps frequently right at your door or dorm, conveniently and easily. So that’s essentially what Imose Wraps is. Both a subscription service but also a philanthropic service.

 

Why did you start Imose Wraps?

For multiple reasons. One, I kind of saw how, over the the summer in 2017, I subscribed to a lot of subscription services like stitch fix and pop fit which were mostly clothing ones and I saw how, like some of them I liked and others I didn’t, but getting the experience of having those subscription services — I realized wait! There’s kind of a missing market for something that I would like.

I noticed how headwraps pervade my life. I use head wraps in my cultural life where I wear headwraps for, or we call it Ukionfon in my Benin Nigerian culture. Or wearing head wraps to cover my hair when I’m praying for spiritual reasons where I feel, as a Christian, closer to God when I do pray and my hair is covered. Or headwraps when I am going through a self-care day and I just don’t want to do my hair but I can cover it up and leave my door. Or even just to cover my ends so I don’t get split ends so I can protect my hair before I go to sleep. So essentially headwraps pervaded my life and I saw how useful it was but also just beautiful. So because of that reason as well, I decided to start Imose Wraps.

But I also wanted to start it because I, I never really got into this before, but last year was a trying time for me where I was forced to confront my own radical consciousness with different experiences that happened to me in the classroom, in my life, in my relationships where I learned more about my identity as an immigrant. And so that in addition to what has happened in the general US context of DACA, and the US president building borders to restrict immigrants coming into this country, I was pushed to do something about that because it was hurting me and I wanted an outlet for that. So I thought why not use this vision that I’m looking forward to with beauty, fashion, and design and bring it together with helping people like myself to create what is now Imose wraps. Essentially that name IMOSE in Benin means beautiful, I usually call my grandma that “Iye no mosé,” “Grandma that’s so beautiful,” and in Hebrew it also means Moses, and so I think those two images and words come together with the beauty of Imose but also the story of exile and exclusion coming together and re-claiming that for a common purpose

 

How do you decide what designs you want to use for the headwraps?

So far, I’ve literally just been going on social media scrolling through different images of styles that call out to me, putting it on my excel spreadsheet. Also following different blogging communities and different pages of headwrap businesses, such as Aṣọ Dára (@asodara on Instagram), which was a company started by two Yoruba immigrant sisters, or Fanm Djanm (@fanmdjanm on Instagram) started by Paola who’s Haitian-American, and the Wrap Life (@thewraplife on Instagram). Those kind of businesses, I follow them and see the styles that are being promoted and the ones that are kind of in season. But the thing is, headwraps don’t really go out of season. It’s really what you’re wearing and how you want to define yourself in that day, in that moment. So that’s kind of what I love about it too — that it’s so free flowing, and fluid that I’m not really stuck  in “oh I have to do this style or that style”. But what does inspire me for choosing a headwrap? I don’t have a certain inspiration, I just kind of go with it to find a collection of headwraps and I’m still in the process of doing that.

What are some of your biggest challenges of starting your business?

Starting. No but in all honesty… I guess believing in myself. There are moments where I’m like “Oh should I even do this? Is this the right moment for me to do this?” Because right now I am not only trying to start this business, I’m also applying for medical school, trying to keep my head above waters in class, and thinking about my honors thesis, so I have a lot of pieces moving in my life as well. So time management is something that I struggle with in working with Imose, and then that kind of feeds the anxiety of maybe I should push this for a later project, maybe this is not something I should do now.

But then weirdly, or maybe not weirdly, there are these moment that are certain reminders that tell me “Stephnie, this is something you should do. Stephnie this is a vision you have, Stephnie you should keep pushing for it.” Whether it’s, for example, when I almost gave up with my GoFundMe page I ended up getting $100 in a day from this guy I worked for two summers ago to help him run for state representative, which he didn’t, but two years down the road he donates to my cause saying “I really believe in this” Wow, if someone else can believe in me, why can’t I believe in myself? Or someone randomly coming up to me saying “oh my gosh, I’m so ready to get a headwrap” and I’m like “wow, someone’s actually excited for this, ok, maybe I should push for that too” so I think that part of believing in myself is something that I’m still learning to have.

It’s weird because I think, what I assumed might be difficult, is getting mentors in different spaces to help me, but I’ve strangely been able to do that. I’ve been able to connect with mentors from the headwrap/hair industry, to people in the subscription service industry to people in the entrepreneurship field. And I think that, again, is a manifestation or it shows me that maybe this is something I should keep pushing for. Since the things that would normally seem so hard are manifesting for me.

 

Are you ready to start taking subscription orders, what stage of the whole process are you at?

I think figuring out the company, that’s going to be an ongoing process. Every day I journal “ok this is something new I’m going to add to Imose”, this is another idea I’m getting because this person talked to me. Because I saw the way the tree was moving, and think of maybe I can connect this with this. So every day there’s something being added or removed to Imose, so that’s an ongoing process.

So to talk about where I’m at right now. Yesterday I worked on the landing page, which is a pre-launch site. Having a pre-launch site for a subscription service is a way for me to “capture leads” (that’s what it’s called). So that just means knowing how many people are interested in buying and subscribing. I did one already in February, where I collected up to 50 leads, but I want to do it again so I can have more people. So that’s where I’m at with the subscriber side of it. Marketing I’ve worked with a couple photographers, Cynthia Divina (@Cynthiadivinan on Instagram) and Laura Sway (@Luswaystudios on Instagram). Where I’ve taken some photos and used that to help me with my social media platform. Mentors I think is a key part, and so far I’ve had the backing of my mentors to help me out. Taking classes to give me more of a business background. Because I’m coming from women studies, pre-med, and biology so I felt like I came in blindsided. But in all honesty, I feel like I am bringing some skills that I’ve gained from those other classes, my major and minor into this in a weird way. So essentially that’s where I’m at with mentors, marketing, and subscribers, and taking classes.

So some classes I’ve taken so far — I’m currently taking an entrepreneurial class with Bob Lowry, in Isenberg. I’ve taken a couple small business development classes in Holyoke and Springfield. And I’m also on this online platform called Subscription school where I’m learning tips and tricks of how to start your own subscription service. Yesterday I was on an online seminar for about an hour and a half asking questions. I literally asked like 20 questions and my name kept coming up over and over and over again.

So, I’m still learning in a way, because that’s where I am – the learning phase. I would love to launch by next month (April). I definitely want to launch before school ends. And when I say launch, I mean shipping and packaging and having logos and people/subscribers obtaining the product. Because right now, they know of it but haven’t received it. So before school ends, I want people to receive my product. Because I know I’m going to have to be doing the shipping and packaging by myself if I go home or with my family, so I want to start it in my dorm with friends and people around me to help me out with that and transfer that to doing it at home.

 

Where can people find Imose Wraps?

Instagram: @Imosewraps

Facebook: IMOSÉ Wraps

Black Panther: The Album review

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The soundtrack for Black Panther, the film that broke box office records when it was released, is and diverse mixture of trap, R&B, and experimental rap that expresses the immense influence of Black culture on music in America.

Kendrick Lamar’s intro, “Black Panther” proclaims his place in the music industry as “King.” This into to the album launches the overall theme of the soundtrack, the idea of Black culture as powerful, a moving force on the entire soundtrack. Lamar ends the track by claiming his throne as T’Challa, and also as Erik Killmonger, encompassing two significant powerful figures in the film. Lamar’s voice echoes through every track, a constant reminder of his place and a proclamation of his dominion.

“All The Stars,” the lead single for the record, where SZA sings the hook, “This may be the night my dreams might let me know, All the stars are closer.” SZA and Lamar collaborate on the track perfectly. The significance in this song being the title track is the need for guidance from stars or even ancestry, especially in a society that is so quick to limit opportunity for people of color.

Trap influences on the album are also prominent on tracks like “King’s Dead” and ‘Paramedic!” and “X” which all have heavy trap beats.

“Opps” is one of the most experimental tracks on the album, with heavy electronic influences, where Vince Staples’ influence shines through. “I am” by Jorja Smith and “The Ways” Khalid bring through the R&B influences on the album and “Seasons” brings out Jazz influence – all genres encompassing and influencing modern day music within one solid, eclectic album while also encompassing strong African influence.

Statements on the record hold the overall meaning of the project as a work through the perspective of people of color.  “They ain’t wanna see me win ‘cause I’m Black, so I pulled up in an all Black Benz in the back,” exclaims Young T.O. on “Paramedic!” On The Ways, Khalid sings, “Power girl, I really wanna know your ways” which references the character Nakia, a spy and skilled fighter for Wakanda. On Seasons, Sjava raps in Zulu, “Bebathi ng’yophelel emoyeni, beba right, manje ngiy’nknayezi,” which roughly translates to, “They thought I’ll disappear into air, they are right, now I’m a star,” a proclamation of rising from oppression to stardom through African language. A verse from Mozzy on the same track proclaims, “Trapped in the system, traffickin’ drugs. Modern-day slavery, African thugs,” referencing modern day neo-slavery through the prison system.

Listening to this album is an experience that can only be had by a person of color, especially when paired with watching the film. Since many of the songs are a symbol of power, the scenes are more pronounced and resonate with you long after you leave the theater. As a woman of color, the sight of seeing powerful women fight against evil to music made for people of color, by people of color gives off so much emotion. It makes you feel as though you could conquer the world to the soundtrack.

“Opps” blaring through the theater while T’Challa and his group chase after their enemies is a triumphant scene in the movie, and could not have been well portrayed without the music that accompanied it. Hearing “All The Stars” after the movie ended, just before the final cutscenes, giave of a hopeful feeling for the future of representation of people of color in marvel movies, and film in general. SZA, an icon for women of color such as myself, has a voice of strength that could be parallel to the character Nakia, a powerful fighter, while Kendrick parallels to T’Challa as the king of Hip-Hop.

The overall theme is of this project is power and an indefinite reclamation of Black culture through music. In the age of hip-hop music being used as a tool for industry, commercial, and monetary gain by white record company owners, “Black Panther” is a humanization of the art that originates from Black people through early jazz music, the building blocks of most modern-day music genres. It is also a call for people of color in the film and in the music industry.   

In times like this, an era of revolutionizing the way we view race and people of color, Black Panther is an extremely important staple to our generation. The film shows what people of color are made of, and the soundtrack just adds to the energy of the movie. Finally, a franchise, a movement, that encompasses the image of blackness as heroic, royal and breathtaking.

 

t h e q u i e t

Alisina Saee-Nazari

 

The world my mother brought me into

Shows no resemblance

To the world that she left.

Upon her departure

She gave me a gift.

To find humanity within my own hands.

To hear the wind fill concaves in the air.

Her silence touches the earth

Like the candle in a dark room.

Her absence

The reminder of another day.

Bamboo by Oshiomah Oyageshio

Oshiomah Oyageshio
Bamboo

This bench I sit on was once a tree.

Maybe it was a forest

Can it feel nostalgia?

Does it remember how it feels

to be wild?

To be nourished by loam

while earthworms wriggle

around its roots? For its leaves

 

to relish the sun for breakfast?

I am surrounded by tall green skinny bamboos

as I watch fat koi with the tinct

of flaming persimmons swim aimlessly.

 

As I bask in the glory of this humid paradise,

I can only wonder if I deserve this blessing;

To be the only one in this cage of glass

sequestering me from the horror of winter.

 

To be surrounded by this tropical flora

of  breadfruit and starfruit,

cocoa and rubber,

shell ginger and banana.

 

Is this lush bliss aware

that I sit on their dead brother?

That was uprooted and hacked, carved,

shaped, sharpened and shaved

 

to make a bench I sit on?

They must be angry.
Their leaves are screaming. Their
roots are squirming.

Do they know

they are manipulated to grow

In a land not their own?
I can feel the koi

 

staring, they sense

the invisible tension.

The humidity here

is entrancing. Closing my

 

eyes I

lay my drowsy head

between two bamboos

and close my eyes.

 

In my reverie they wrap

around me,

and I too become a

bamboo; limbs

 

fusing to thorax, thorax

to a piston, heartbeat

and blood replaced

with water, lignin,

 

and sugar. From root to

Shoot my skin

mutates from black

to green, leaves begin to sprout.

 

These bamboos are malicious;

These vines are vicious.

 

The koi boom

from the pond.

I snap

from the trance and

 

I am now a human

cross in a sea

of bamboos with vines, tugging

my arms and

feet. Sacrifice

 

or savior? The room is

smaller, the trees

are closer. This humid

haze has made me

 

weary of reality. The Banana

look sinister, the cocoa tree

grins. Everything alive

grimaces.

 

They advance.

 

Suddenly

 

I

 

am

 

rooted

 

to the bench.

 

Then

 

I

 

am

 

Uprooted.

 

from the bamboos

 

to be skinned alive

 

and hacked,

 

carved, shaped,

sharpened and shaved

then fused to a bench

 

of bones. The bamboos

 

sit

 

on me

 

pondering

 

if my ribs
are

 

screaming.