working girl: christina coleman, writer

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– As told to Tamara Pridgett

From  journalism studies at Howard University, to covering Earth and Science for NASA, to a ballsy move to NYC, Christina Coleman has carved out a space for her work in the news industry. Writing from sun up to sun down everyday, she’s more than dedicated to her craft. As is that’s not enough, she’s not too shabby in the kitchen and is a fierce advocate for black women. Perhaps, that’s why we’re woman crushing Christina. Check out her story and her awesome nuggets of wisdom.

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Name: Christina “Tina” or “Chrissy” Coleman

Age:  26

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Profession: Writer, Activist, Wannabe Chef

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How did you get started?

I’ve been a writer my entire life. From writing stories as a child, to joining the newspaper as a teenager and studying journalism and African studies at Howard University, I made sure I was either reporting, creating and journaling. I fell into working at NASA because I thought that business would be lucrative. I had an internship in the Office of Procurement before realizing I was extremely unhappy dealing with spreadsheets all day. I literally stalked the Public Affairs office and eventually became an Earth Science writer. What a rewarding experience. The task of taking science jargon and disseminating it to the masses was challenging – it was my small contribution to making STEM careers accessible to girls like me (and the satellite launches weren’t too shabby either). But I needed more. I quit my government job in DC, moved to NYC on a whim and became a freelancer for a while. I taught creative writing at a Brooklyn charter school before convincing GlobalGrind’s Editor-in-Chief that I was the only one candidate fit to be his News & Politics Editor. It was ballsy but it worked. I knew I could mold the news channel into something more substantial and important for the demographic. Through my writing and freelancing, I met some wonderful like-minded girls and was contacted by Solange to work on her creative project, Saint Heron. I’d say the mix of hard work, making sure my writing was visible and just carving out a space for my own voice has afforded me these opportunities so far.

What’s an average day like?

Struggle to wake, walk my terrier, Huey P. Newton, and throw myself into the news cycle. It’s hard to separate yourself from news when you’re home – the cycle changes so frequently. Then work — tea or coffee, emails, fighting the omnipresent misogyny, mansplaining or racism that usually occurs on my timeline and a full day of writing. Every single day. I’m writing most days from sun up to sun down – that includes daily news stories for GlobalGrind, pursuing freelance projects on my own and journaling. The latter is imperative for balance and spiritual edification. If you dedicate your career to working on projects that aren’t your own, you’ll burn yourself out and forget what drew you to writing, reporting or creating in the first place.

Why do you do it?

It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And for me, as a black woman, it’s how I’m able to advocate for women just like us. It’s a way to combat injustices and systematic racism. It’s a way to stand up for black feminism and let our voices be heard. And in that way I can bend the rules of journalism a bit, writing about issues that are important to my community while being objective. Or mostly objective – I’m blessed to work for individuals who are dedicated to social justice and in that way I can stay true to my writing and myself.

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Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job?

Writing in itself is difficult. It’s a challenge I’m always ready to face. It’s not enough to know how to string words together – it’s often about how you’re going to make the reader feel. If you’ll affect change with that writing. But the less obvious challenge of being a writer, activist and black woman in media is the lack of advocacy for us in the world, period. I’m often called demeaning names. I was once called the new John C. Calhoun when Rush Limbaugh discussed an article I wrote in defense of Rachel Jeantel in the George Zimmerman trial. My life is often threatened. Your mental health can really take a blow with the negativity that comes with intolerance of your existence but somehow I find a silver lining. What I’m doing is not in vain. And I’m not the only sister dealing. We all are. That’s what keeps me going.

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Your greatest achievement so far?

That’s yet to come. I’ve had so many great things happen to me in the past few years. I’ve had so many opportunities to ride for my people. I’ve been on numerous television programs to talk about injustices. I’ve met a lot of wonderful sisters… people, period. But right now, in this moment, I’d have to say my recent trip to Ferguson, Missouri. I didn’t win any awards, didn’t receive any accolades for my coverage but it was such an amazing experience to ride that line between writer and activist and be in it with those fighting for a real change. That was exhilarating, disheartening, frustrating, spiritual – a gamut of emotions. And for me, I can’t believe I jumped on a plane and just went with it. I’m so very thankful for the people of Ferguson, for how at home they made indie-media feel, for sharing their stories, for their bravery. It wasn’t much of a “great achievement” for me, but for a community gearing up for the good fight. The achievement is the unity, the strength, the dedication to stand tall in the face of racism.

I see you’re a chef! When did you start cooking? What is your signature dish?

Cooking is my hobby. My girls tease me because while they’re out kicking it, I’m at home baking and waiting for the light right to take a picture of my masterpiece. It’s something my sister and I picked up as children. If I’m going to be brutally honest, I’m not sure where we got skills from because my dear mother could use a few lessons. I’m still searching for that signature dish, I’m trying to develop in the cooking world. So I’ll let you know and send you some samples when I find my culinary voice.

What might be next for you?

The universe said she’d get back to me on that one. But right now, just making sure I’m the best advocate for black women that I can be. I love us so much.

What advice do you have for young women who want to become freelance writers?

Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep pitching. And whatever it is you are looking for will come.

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What is your favorite thing about your hair/Black hair?

I love the versatility of black hair. It’s so representative of us in so many ways. I wonder if God knew what he was doing. He made it strong, he made it delicate, he made it stand tall on our heads. He made it in all different shades and textures. You ever think about that? That’s something else.

What are your top go-to hair tips?

  • Co-wash for moisture.
  • Twist-outs for the girl who doesn’t have time for a wash and go.
  • Braid it when you need a break.
  • Don’t sleep on a cotton pillowcase.
  • And go with it. Natural hair is going to do what it wants to do, anyway.

Fun Fact: I couldn’t run a half-mile in January 2014. In May 2014, I ran across the Brooklyn Half Marathon finish line in 2 hours and 40 minutes. That’s 13.1 miles. It was one of those cliché moments that showed me that with hard work, dedication, practice (and good running shoes) you can really do anything. And yes, I still wear my medal when I’m in the house alone.

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