Chicago native, Danielle Sanders, has created a online safe space for Black women in the form of her website, The Sum of Many Things – for the woman who does it all where she shares her favorite things to live a balanced life.
It’s also a lifestyle and personal development blog, so if you find yourself in need of uplifting, empowerment, or a place to belong and practice self care, The Sum of Many Things should be added to your favorites!
Danielle Sanders is also a writer (set to release her first book in 2018), spoken word recording artist, blogger and poet who is passionate about family, sisterhood, womanhood, and living a full life. She has been through the fire in the form of an abusive relationship and like many of us, she is not here for toxic masculinity.
In this exclusive interview with Black Girls Allowed Danielle Sanders shares her views on Tyrese, Trump, Chicago, the Black woman she’d most like to work with, a few of her favorite things for Christmas, and so much more.
Has sharing your favorite things through The Sum of Many Things, started a change in your life?
This website has had an enormous impact on my life. It’s made me more conscious. It’s made me accountable not only for myself but to my readers. It has made me more intentional in the things I want in life.
The things I write about aren’t just for my readers; some of the things or subjects I write about are for me as well. This isn’t a coaching kind of thing, I’m right there with my readers, working this thing called life out with each and every one of them. It’s a safe space where Black women share with one another. How we get thru these ebbs and flows life tosses our way. How we take time to take care of ourselves better. How do we continue to fight misogyny, patriarchy and toxic masculinity? How do we heal in a healthy way from loss and heartache? It’s about us…Black Women. We are the sum of many things and in all things we remain…She.
My strength and resilience as a Black woman doesn’t alleviate the fact that I don’t always have it together, or that I don’t feel pain or insecurities. I’m no different than many other Black women in that, I take care of so many people and wear so many hats; I rarely have time to take care of me.
This site is where I attempt to share ways that have helped me in my growth and evolution but I wanted this site to be a safe space for women to share their stories, frustration, emotions and hearts without all of the labels that people love to place on us.
Why are Safe Spaces for Black women so important to you?
Black women are rarely afforded the freedom to just exist. We catch it on both sides (race and gender). We are known for handling so much and being the backbones of our families and communities but rarely get the opportunity to just take care of ourselves in every way and when we do, we are criticized for it and mocked or over analyzed.
Safe Spaces allow Black women to replenish those cups that they pour into so many people and things daily. Spaces free of judgement, stereotypes, criticisms etc. The standards and expectations placed on our shoulders can be heavy and burdensome at times. We need places where we can just “break” and take the load off.
Spaces where we can say this is hard and I’m struggling. Spaces where we can say this hurts so bad and I don’t know how to process it. Spaces where it’s okay to say, I’m so tired and need to rest. Spaces where we are allowed to be pissed off without being called “angry Black women” or “bitter”. Spaces where we don’t have to be anything to anyone else but can focus on ourselves; our growth, our healing, our rest, etc.
Safe Spaces for black women are imperative because we need to be supported , uplifted, encouraged like anyone else and quite honestly, we have to be the ones to do it for one another. We are all we got.
How easy or difficult has it been to live a life that is full, well rounded and centered?
As a creative, I’m always thinking of something to do, a new project to initiate or an idea I have. I feel like my mind is constantly filled with so much. I literally have to schedule time to decompress. I work full time, record music, run two websites and raise 3 children. My life is heavily scheduled.
I’m learning how to practice different ways of self-care to help me live more balanced. So if I take long detox baths after 11pm, make time for drinks with friends or set our weekly family TV time with the kids where we just watch the Flash and Blackish or even those rare days when I decide to do absolutely nothing but lay down and binge watch my favorite shows, I try to do something every day that has nothing to do with music, recording, blogging, working or social media.
Sometimes I only have an hour, other days I have more. As long as I do at least one thing just for my personal enjoyment, it helps keep me sane. It’s not easy…you really have to make it a priority
Which life events have had the most negative effect on you?
I was in a relationship that temporarily changed me for the worst. He was a narcissist and habitual liar. I’m definitely an empath at my core so I give a lot in relationship; sometimes to my detriment. This man was like a leech. I let him drain the life and heart out of me. The betrayal I suffered cut so deep I felt myself harden. I literally lost myself. I felt colder, angrier, and more distrusting and that’s not who I am.
Healing from that trauma has really forced me to fight for the woman I wanted to be. Releasing that level of anger and hurt has been an ongoing process. It revealed some ugly truths and forced me to perform much needed soul surgery on myself and cut some stuff out at the root. I know who I want to be. I know who I’m destined to be. I just had to do the work to get there. Healing is a process and it’s hard and it’s not easy but the end result is glorious.
I’m in such a better space emotionally and mentally and my heart is open and unburdened by anger. He intended to break me and change me into someone coldhearted and untrusting but instead I choose to thrive. I fell down and slipped up a couple of times but I got back up and kept it moving. The initial effect was negative but the great thing about life is that you can always find positive in negative space.
In this darkness and negative space in my life, I grew. I drew closer to the woman I’m trying to be. There’s freedom in allowing time and space to heal.
Which life events have had the most positive effect on you?
During my marriage, I lost my voice. In an effort to avoid conflicts, I ceased speaking my mind and sharing my opinion. I began to write because it was the only place I felt I had a voice but I was still scared to share that with anyone. Years after my marriage ended, I decided to share my work at a poetry show…not any poetry show but an erotic poetry show.
It was an opportunity to break free of that fear, break free of every single box I felt confined by as a woman and just put myself out there. I performed at that show and was successful. I thought that was the end of it. Little did I know my greatest lesson was on the way. That poem became a spoken word house music recording that was released worldwide and went to #1 on the charts.
That song turned me into a recording artist who now had an opportunity to share her voice with the world through music. Becoming a recording artist opened me up, introduced me to a new audience and gave birth to my two websites. The moment I released the fear that I had held onto throughout my marriage, was the moment, I began to walk in my purpose.
I knew I loved writing. I knew I had a story to tell but for years I allowed fear to keep me from sharing. The girl who felt like she didn’t have a voice is now a girl whose voice reaches people on blogs, poems, books and dance floors!
Again, the negative ending of a toxic marriage gave birth to me rediscovering my strength, my power and my voice and I became Fearless.
Danielle’s artistry can currently be heard on two house music singles, “Rough” and “Gruv Me” released by Grammy nominated producer, Terry Hunter. Both reached #1 on Traxsource’s Afro house. Her newest single, “Fenix”, was released 11.20.17. with DJ Emmaculate and is currently rising the Soulful House charts.
Is there one particular Black woman you’d love to work with? Why?
There are so many I’d love to work with. Black Women are killin’ it right now! I would love to meet the poet Ursula Rucker. I’m a huge fan of her writing, poetry and albums. She’s one of my favorite modern day poets. Her work has been so impactful in my life and her writing is so colorful and three dimensional.
I’d love to pick her brain and talk to her about her creative process and have her read my work and talk to me about her journey. She has such a beautiful voice. It’s feminine yet strong and powerful. She is proof that you don’t have to always shout your words to be impactful. She’s amazing and such an inspiration to me.
Thoughts on Tyrese?
He’s the epitome of what I call a Fuckboy. He’s forever disrespectful to Black women, constantly telling us what makes us worthy in “his eyes”.
His recent antics are further proof that he is exactly who I thought he was. He’s the type of man who loves attention and loves to make themselves appear sympathetic when in reality he’s just an ass. He continually says dumb, grammatically incorrect stuff, and then attempts to reshape a narrative with fake emotional videos and other nonsense.
He goes online and talks trash about former band mates, actors and others then turns around and asks for sympathy and such. I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid when it comes to him. I don’t believe him to be mentally ill. I simply think he’s a trash individual.
He’s a liar, a misogynist; he can’t spell or put words together correctly. He’s toxic masculinity personified. Can’t stand him or his attention whoring ways.
Thoughts on Vincent Herbert?
I don’t know much about him or his wife (Tamar). I’m not a fan of his wife but it what I’ve heard is true and he was abusive…fuck him! I can never respect any man that abuses or disrespects Black women.
Black men feel as if Black male masculinity has been under attack recently. I feel like its being called out for how toxic it can be. What are your thoughts?
I definitely agree. Black women are really calling men out on it right now and I’m living for it. We are exhausted from it. It’s literally everywhere, completely embedded in our culture. Toxic masculinity is an epidemic right now. From the “fake hoteps” claiming to love Black people while hating Black women; bashing feminism as the “death to the Black family”, blaming Black women for absent fathers in their households.
The constant attacks on single mothers, the ridiculous policing and fetishizing of Black women and our bodies and our looks by Black men who want to define what makes us acceptable or respectable is at epic levels. The homophobia and attacks on the LGBT community are rising. The truth is toxic masculinity kills. Women are being shot for not speaking to a man at a club! You see it in the rise in domestic violence, the rise in sexual assaults, the passes we give to Black men who routinely abuse and assault women (R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, Floyd Mayweather, etc.) It’s crazy.
It celebrates having a lack of self-control when it comes to women and sex. It gives birth to rape culture and victim shaming. It gives birth to homophobia. It gives birth to misogyny. It’s a false narrative of what it means to be “strong”.
Strong becomes violent, dominant and narcissistic in nature by attacking anything that they perceive to be “weaker” or “feminine”. Men view emotion, compassion and empathy as “feminine” instead of what it really is “a human trait”.
It creates unrealistic gender roles based on stereotypes and we are all affected by it. The notion that men are “tough”, “strong”, “emotionless” etc. is killing Black men and sending them into therapy with a range of mental illnesses and Black women, as usual, are bearing the brunt of that in our relationships, families and communities.
Does “No” need to be a response from Black women more often?
Absolutely. We say yes to people way too much and find ourselves overwhelmed, depleted, used and/or drained. Saying No can be empowering. We have to be discerning of who and what we say yes to.
What about “Yes”?
Absolutely. We have to start saying yes more to ourselves. Saying yes to our dreams. Saying yes to our goals. Saying yes to taking time for ourselves. We have to learn that saying yes to ourselves first is the most loving thing you can do for yourself.
What do women who do it all need the most from people in their life?
Safe Spaces that are supportive, loving, encouraging and replenishing. Any woman who is trying to do it all needs people in their lives who genuinely support and encourage them because there will be moments when she feels the weight of everything she’s trying to accomplish. We need our sisters. There such power in strong sister circles and friendships. There’s no way I would be able to do what I do, without my safe spaces. NO WAY.
Tell me what Chicago means to you.
Chicago is home. Obama-Land. It’s the birthplace of house music which is my life’s soundtrack. Chicago is an incredible skyline and beautiful lakefront.
I hate Chicago winters, the public school system, transit system, politics and the violence created by poverty and lack of economic development in our communities but I love so much more. I love our summers, our festivals, our block parties and BBQ’s. I love the art that is created here. There’s so much music, poetry, theatre, museums, the food…the level of creativity in this city is unmatched.
I love my community, my people…we are straight shooters, go-getters who work hard and play harder and in spite of every obstacle, we find ways to enjoy life in spite of the struggle.
Like Chicago Winters, I’m built to withstand harsh temperatures so I don’t break easily. My skin is tough, my hustle is hard, my mind is strong but my heart is pure and unfiltered. I’m the best of both worlds because Chicago made me that way, Southside Sass and Downtown Class.
Trump is the POTUS, how does that make you feel?
I’m from Chicago. The only POTUS I acknowledge is Barack Obama. This person in the White House is the anti-Christ and I’m committed to doing whatever I can to resist him and his minions antics.
I’ll say this however; his election ripped the veil off of America and showed its true colors. We weren’t surprised by it tho…it’s the America we always knew existed. His election put me in full “resist” mode. My art and my voice become louder with every ignorant tweet he posts or speech he does.
The only positive that comes from his election is that creative voices are getting louder and louder and through our various art forms, you will see a rise in the Resistance Art Movement. The amount of creativity and the quality of it is going to skyrocket during his time in office.
Resistance and turmoil always gives way to an enormous spike in important creative works and social commentaries.
Danielle Sanders shares a few of her favorite things for Black women this Christmas:
I’m big on self-care. I can’t tell you how much Black women neglect themselves and their emotional and mental health.
I love things that allow me to decompress, de-stress and regroup.
- I’m a natural girl so I’m completely in love with Mielle Organics hair care products. I use them on my hair and my daughter’s hair. It smells amazing and keeps my curls moisturized, thriving and poppin! LOL
- I always love journals. Particularly journals that are unique or have empowering messages. Sooti Journals makes beautiful journals with different messages on them. I recently received one for my birthday and I love it. It says, “Nevertheless, she persisted. I use it for my personal day to day journal writing.
- I’m a girly girl so I love playing in makeup and Rhianna’s makeup line; Fenty Beauty is one of my favorites. The colors are gorgeous and look amazing on our skin! Right now, my favorite item is the Galaxy Eye shadow palate and her lip glitter! I love anything that sparkles!