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In Honor of Black History Month: Women in the Community We Admire

by Jordan and Joelle Hernandez
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Hudson County is filled with women who inspire the community daily. This month, we are placing a special focus on Black women throughout Hudson County who are leaders in their fields as we celebrate Black History Month. From business owners to corporate leaders, mothers, and supportive friends, these ladies are making moves in the area.

black women in community we admire

Rita Sanders | Owner at Tousled Hair Salon in Jersey City

Rita Sanders tousled hair salon

How did you get started in your career?

RS: This is my second career. I was in marketing and when the 9/11 devastation occurred and changed our lives forever, my company was also forever changed. Instead of returning to corporate America, I sought to work with my hands. I always felt a void being in corporate America: it did not call to my nurturing and creative self. Once I completed my cosmetology schooling at the Aveda Institute in New York I never looked back. My family influences were my grandmother who owned her own hair shop in Harlem, and my father who owned three barbershops in Harlem and Queens.

How has your culture and background influenced your work?

RS: In my culture and in my family we (my sisters, mom, aunts, and cousins) grew up caring for each other’s scalp and hair, ‘greasing’ (a.k.a ‘oiling’) each other’s scalp or braiding and tying up each other’s hair before bed. Properly caring for my guests at my salon means taking the time to massage and nourish my guest’s scalp and hair. All of my textured and curly cuts receive a steam treatment which pulls any impurities from the scalp while opening the hair follicle for the moisture or protein conditioner to deeply penetrate. This is followed by a cool or tepid rinse to close the seal of the cuticle for strength and shine.

How do you celebrate Black History Month?

RS: I celebrate Black History Month by nurturing textured hair and showing my guests the various options of how they can wear their natural hair, and showing them how to care for it, and not give up the daily care it takes to keep their natural tresses nourished.

Who are other Black women you look up to?

RS: I look up to the late Cicely Tyson as I was inspired by her life, career, and hairstyle choices. She was unafraid to wear whatever hairstyle that suited her mood and confidence level, she was not afraid to take risks. She broke so many barriers and advocated for love, justice, and peace. She was a national treasure who exuded style and grace.

Which local Black-owned businesses do you frequent?

RS: I love Suite Tee Beauty Studio in Downtown Jersey City which specializes in natural nails and waxing. You must get the Caribbean Coconut body lotion, I promise you will kiss yourself.

Read More: A List of Black-Owned Businesses to Support in Hoboken + Jersey City

Carol Watson | Chief Inclusion Officer, BCW Global

carol Watson bcw global

How did you get started in your career? 

CW: I started my career doing media planning for an advertising agency working on a wine and beer account.

How has your culture and background influenced your work? 

CW: My identities have usually had me sitting in between cultures. A first-generation born to Jamaican parents, living in an all-white suburb in NJ, being mostly a single parent and even my left-handedness gives me a perspective of what it feels like to be ‘othered’ and having to fit into the norms of different types of sub-cultures and norms.

How do you celebrate Black History Month? 

CW: I love investing in black-owned businesses, not only as a customer, but I am also currently mentoring a black-owned business based in the UK.  The tsunami of black content and events always brings me joy, both learning and enjoying the movies, documentaries, podcasts, and events.  Even the Black History Month Peloton classes bring me joy.

Who are other Black women you look up to? 

CW: I really enjoy seeing the shine and brilliance from so many black women in my life.  My colleagues, industry friends, authors, and celebrities are equally important.  I am in a book club reading Unbound, Tarana Bourke’s story now and her brilliance and journey are amazing. I am currently holding up Michele Ghee, CEO of Ebony and Jet who is also an NJ girl. The weight and will to do what she needs to do requires so much that we can’t even imagine. If anyone can do it, she can.

Which local Black-owned businesses do you frequent? 

CW: One of my favorite humans is Courtney Sloane, of Courtney Sloane Designs in Jersey City. Every visit is a sensory and spiritual treat of sisterhood.

Jennifer Bonaparte | Actress, Producer, + Poet

Jennifer Bonaparte

(Photo credit: Omorphy Photos)

How did you get started in your career? 

JB: I’m an artist, co-founder of Words Unleashed Events, and a candle host at Rewax and Unwine. I started writing at the age of 12.

How has your culture and background influenced your work? 

JB: As a little girl of color I realized how important it was to follow my dreams and continue the journey of truth.

How do you celebrate Black History Month? 

JB: I celebrate it all year long by following my purpose and honoring those who came before me.

Who are other Black women you look up to? 

JB: Jill Scott, Maya Angelou, and Michelle Obama.

Which local Black-owned businesses do you frequent? 

JB: Rewax and Unwine + Hair Galore.

See More: 22 Hoboken + Jersey City Women to Watch in 2022

Kristin J. Hooper |Managing Director, Deloitte Consulting LLPFocused on Customer Strategy & Applied Design; Retail + CPG

Kristin hooper Deloitte consulting

How did you get started in your career? 

KH: I started my career over 20 years ago because I was good with numbers and data, interested in uncovering how truths about humanity and culture influence behavior, and interested in applying what I learned outside of academia and in a marketing and integrated communications capacity.

How has your culture and background influenced your work? 

KH: I am passionate about the intersection of cultural heritage, cultural status, and the cultural zeitgeist when it comes to purpose, values, existence, consumption, voting, advocacy, and other action areas that I help my clients navigate. I am also passionate about the intersection between social and racial justice and impact, and brands and companies. My culture and background allow me to be clear about and interrogate nuance, intersectionality, and the importance of cultural identity in the lenses through which one may view life, express who they are (or aren’t), make choices around their relationships with brands and companies, and consumer products and services.

How do you celebrate Black History Month? 

KH: I celebrate BHM by spending time in reflection and honoring those who came before me, in my family and otherwise, who worked to improve the state of equity and excellence in our community; serving the community; passing along important stories from slavery to the civil rights era, to today with my son and nephew; and generally working to share the importance of the contribution of Black people in this country and others in media and other platforms.  

Who are other Black women you look up to? 

KH: Michelle Obama, Carla Harris, Janet Jackson, My Great Aunt Theresa Hooper Marshall, Angela Basset, Bozoma Saint John, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Madame C J Walker, Shirley Chislom, Josephine Baker, and Marianne Anderson.  

Which local Black-owned businesses do you frequent? 

KH: Jerk’D, Freetown Road Project, Parish 14, Ani Ramen, Suite Tee, Ken Pilates (via Impact Hoboken), Yessenia (via Prime Cycle), and Tanysha (via SoulCycle).

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