Keri and Yara Shahidi are a mother-daughter duo inspiring intergenerational change. Their justice-based values and joyful personas are wonders to witness across social media, television, and now through the purpose-driven work of their new entertainment company, 7th Sun Productions. In a special Women’s History Month Episode of “Every Skin Has a Story: Creatives of Color Take on Beauty,” we talk about building family legacy, digging where you stand as women, and using your influence to create companies and communities committed to service.
Learn more about our conversation below, and tune in for the full episode streaming online beginning Tuesday, March 30th on Instagram at @officalretrouve.
My name is A-lan Holt and I am an artist, director of Stanford’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts, and host of Every Skin Has A Story: Creatives of Color Take on Beauty — a conversation series on beauty and racial justice that inspires our community to lead with love as we create inclusive change. It was a joyful morning sitting down with Keri and Yara Shahidi, two creative forces who generously share the beautiful human details that frame the “why” behind their work. Yara is known for her breakout role as Zoe Johnson in ABC’s Black-ish and spinoff series, Grown-ish. Her mother Keri, is an actress, executive producer and strategist whose social justice upbringing sets the stage for her family’s work. There are so many take-aways from our 45-minute conversation. Here are three gems that I am still thinking about today:
Self care is about connections.
Keri spoke proudly about being a connector. Self-care for her was just as much about staying connected as it was about connecting people to each other and to new opportunities. “I like to share books that people have written. I like to quietly connect to other people. Those things have made this time and space matter.” Keri notes. As I listened to Keri speak I was reminded of the social justice perspective of networking cultivated by The Peoples in Institute for Survival and Beyond a racial justice organization based in New Orleans. They say networking for social transformation requires “building a net that works.” It’s about cultivating relationships that will hold you when needed. Keri’s practices of self care and community care really highlight the essence of this principle. I was very moved as she highlighted this particular aspect of her healing practice.
Family creates culture.
One of the most special things about our conversation with Keri and Yara was how much they shared about their family history and upbringing. Keri comes from a family of educators and social justice advocates who moved from the south to the midwest in search of greater opportunities. Yara’s passion for justice is one that is rooted in and has been cultivated by the legacy of her family. We see this in her outspoken advocacy, her commitment to education even as she continues to build her career, and through her profound empathy and kindness. The Shahidis remind us that these values: kindness, justice, and a commitment to service are something that can be passed down generation by generation through the shared vision of family. Indeed, justice-rooted families, create justice-rooted individuals, who go on to lead and create in justice-rooted ways. Family sets the stage for this scale of vision and work.
We don’t imitate, we recreate.
7th Sun Productions is a women-led production company co-founded by Yara and Keri that share stories of joy rooted in communities of color. We talked about the reference embedded in the company’s name which comes from one of America’s earliest Black philosophers W.E.B Dubois, he writes in Soul of Black Folk: “the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world.” The Shahidi’s goal is always to pull back the veil, to demystify the process of creating for television and film, and to uplift new stories rooted in the Black experience. Yara says one of the things she keeps coming back to is the idea that we don’t imitate, we recreate. She underscores for us, the power of both acknowledging the elements of the systems that we’ve walked into, while also aiming to dismantle the oppressive elements of them. Yara shares, “there’s something beautiful about the imagery of the sun as we talk about piercing the veil, as we talk about this idea of bringing light to the images that we see of ourselves.”
We are so moved and inspired by this conversation and by the visionary work of Yara and Keri Shahidi. Their insight is invaluable as we consider the work of justice in our daily lives. We invite you to bring your children, friends, co-workers and yourself to this incredible online conversation with Keri and Yara Shahidi airing beginning Tuesday, March 30th on @officialretrouve.
Every Skin Has a Story: Creatives of Color Take on Beauty is a conversation series on beauty and racial justice lovingly created, casted, and produced by Jennifer and Maya McHenry in honor of their daughter and sister, Lyric McHenry. The show is presented in partnership with Retrouvé.