On this Juneteenth, which marks the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free when the Civil War ended. We are honoring this moment in history, but we also recognize that the struggle continues. Slavery took everything from Black people––from our rights to our music, down to our art, and so forth. We’re highlighting BGV Connect member Dana Todd-Pope a self-taught multi-disciplinary artist, author, illustrator, model, and actress from the South Side of Chicago.
In addition to her fine art, she is most noted for her children’s series, recently rebranded as Fearlessly Hue. Influenced by notable bands and artists like American Girl, Annie Lee, and Paul Frank, Dana describes her work as encouraging, disruptive, and self-affirming. Her art has been featured in prominent exhibitions Essence Magazine, The DuSable Museum- A Smithsonian Affiliate, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Afropunk Paris, and Spectrum Art Fair: Art Basel and Art Miami. Her art is bold, warm, all while capturing the dopeness of Black people.
Access Isn’t For Everybody
When asked how she found the Black Girl Ventures community, she says a friend invited her to join the community. As a result of COVID, she found herself signing up for many conferences and events. The type of events that Black women would not have been privy to unless they happened to have connections to people who can introduce them to those inaccessible spaces. BGV’s mission is to eliminate the barriers to access, that includes, access to capital, access to critical connections (like investors), access to leadership development, and educational opportunities, etc.
The Co-Working Gang
Dana received an alert for the co-working event and decided to attend. The minute she arrived, she said, “My people, where have you been?” She met other creatives, and as a creative, surrounding herself with other creatives is a necessity. Despite participating in several trainings and workshops and even been awarded rewards from business competitions, she felt deprived of information that she needed to take her business to the next level. Every time she was in those spaces, it seemed that no one could provide her with the support she needed. When she would approach mentors to gain guidance or information, she was met with, “I don’t know.”
That’s when she realized, “As a Black woman artist, unless you’re a certain personality type, you might have difficulties finding the critical information to help you further your career path.” Dana had to carve a solo path for herself without much guidance from others. Finding a community in the co-working space led her to feel that she felt understood. The women understood her business struggles, and even if they weren’t in the same industry as her, she was still learning from them as Black women in the business world.
What Have You Gotten From The Community?
“I’ve been able to listen to other people’s struggles, share my own struggles, and get feedback, that’s invaluable.” The feedback cuts the learning curve. For example, while in the co-working session, Dana struggled with her website, within a few seconds, she shared her screen, and the community immediately provided her with feedback to help her website look more cohesive.
She also mentioned that being a part of this experience allows her to skip the justification process of having to share her experience as a Black woman. Dana can get right to business. One last valuable component of the BGV Connect community is connecting with women outside of her circles that she would not have been able to be connected with has been invaluable.
What Would You Like The World To Know About BGV?
Mural near Joffrey Ballet in downtown Chicago, on Randolph & State
“That there are some really powerful women in this group. And I feel like this group is the group to watch, I really do. I feel like ten years from now, when we’re all counting our millions, we’ll go back to this time, and we’ll talk about 2020 and COVID-19 and how we spent our time cultivating our businesses and refining them. And how this space was instrumental and pivotal in giving our businesses the foundation that it needs to really grow and be what they are, ten years from now. I really feel like Black Girl Ventures is a movement; it’s more than just a group. I feel very privileged to be a part of this group.”
"BGV is a movement." Dana Todd-Pope
Black Girl Ventures' mission is to change the social fabric of how capital distributed. This movement is much bigger than anything ever imagined because it’s about legacy; it’s about changing the generational narrative for Black and Brown women.