Community//

From Carolina Roots To Big Apple Fruits! Black American Her/History 360

An Interview With Miss Black North Carolina USA (2008), Audrey Cox-Sustaining Peace, Contributing to Cultural Herstory, and Practicing Well-Being and Care In New York City!

(Photograph Credit: Sandrine Ottin; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)
(Photograph Credit: Sandrine Ottin; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)

One of the enchantments of New York City is that it forces the unfamiliar to adapt to its domains. No matter where one comes. No matter one’s purpose for venturing to the Big Apple, you are forced to color yourself in that rhythm. In that design. In that scent. South, Midwest, East, and North. When you decide to plant this city as your home, the aura blankets you in your style and demeanor. You adapt to it’s own fashionable beat.

For Black Americans, the city of New York is a marker point for the continued birth of new culture. A destination of planting one’s Southern roots into the city, in order to birth anew. Attuning oneself to the scent of the city in order to bury one’s presence as authentic and natural to the spacing. Of course that would mean the alchemy of experimenting with movement. Testing to see how culture, tongue, mannerisms, and previous her/historical journey can saturate the spacing; while experimenting with new possibilities and creations to birth from prior domains. Consistently testing, pouring, mixing, and seeing if a new vibe, a new fruit can be added to the basket of apples. Seclusion and segregation, plus a previous journey of Southern scent contributed to a new blossoming of Black America’s gardens.

The contribution of Black American communities and people to the culture of New York City, and it’s authentic sound is one for exploration. It’s one for journeying into the apple orchards; observing the blackened fruits-supposedly out of place.

(Photograph By Audrey Cox; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)

Let’s talk about your early career and accomplishments. Your work as a teacher, pageant queen and university administrator.  What are other highlights of your career

I’m grateful to have served children in North Carolina as a music teacher and as Miss Black North Carolina USA 2008. My platform TEMPO (Together Education and Music Produce Opportunity) exposed children from under-served communities to arts experiences outside of their comfort zone.  Seeing the impact music education made on the lives of my students, affirmed that I would continue to advocate for rich arts experiences for children throughout my life. That intention led me to New York City where I designed and implemented high-quality enrichment programming for children in West Harlem. My current work allows me to increase my impact in arts education among the 1.1 million students enrolled in New York City schools. I am forever grateful to advocate for arts educational experiences for all children.

You have done an amazing job in highlighting your presence, fashion sense, and social vibe in New York City. A Country Girl coming to the Big City. As a Black American woman, how would you say that this elegance contributes to the social and cultural her/history of Black American women in New York City?

Black women ooze style that stems from an internal sense of self. I was fortunate enough to have been raised in a community of strong black women, whose internal compass emanated individual style and class. I see that level of internal pride in the stride of black women in New York City every single day. It makes me walk with my head held higher. 

In having worked with children, how have they exposed you to the naturalness and ease of life?

Kids are care-free and full of energy. The spark in their eye says so much about the endless possibilities for our communities and world. They remind me to take life as it comes, and to always find time to have fun in the playground of life! 

(Photograph By Paul St. Clair; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)

What have been some of your main challenges in navigating the high-energy and fast-paced vibe of New York City? What do you do to maintain mental and emotional comfort? 

New York City is an incredible place with something for everyone. It has transformed me in unimaginable ways. I would not be the woman I am today if not for the incessant grind of this vast and dynamic landscape. To that end, I take advantage of New York state’s parks, mountains, and beaches to find reprieve when I need to re-coup and re-center. Nature, peace, and quiet are my zen.

If you could craft a mythical art piece, that details your reality in NYC, what would it be?

It would be a slightly worn, yet beautiful, multi-colored broach with a hell of a story to tell. When up close, you would see small jewels and trinkets that represent the insurmountable joy and inevitable pain I have experienced here. At further distance, you would see a bright, glaring light; representative of the triumph I experience as a result of not giving up. That is my superpower. I can delay temporary pleasures at the expense of greater fulfillment in due time.

Harlem is a significant city and presence for Black American people, our her/history, and our culture. The Jazz scene. Spoken word poetry. Neo-Soul. Hip-Hop and others.  During the times when you go out for coffee,  breakfast, lunch, dinner, and to enjoy the social vibe, how do you feel yourself experiencing that Harlem Renaissance and unique, Black American culture, that can only be found in NYC?

I feel blessed to live in Harlem, and be a part of it’s rich legacy. I support black owned businesses in the community, like Watkins Health Foods and Melba’s. You feel the magnetic pulse of Harlem starting at W.110th street and it carries itself through the live music, restaurants, and cultural centers sprinkled throughout the neighborhood. Anyone that leaves is instantly drawn back.

(Photograph By Audrey Cox; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)

In this big city, where is your quiet place, and how do you center yourself within it?

Central Park is my favorite place to meditate and re-group. I enjoy going in the morning when few people are there. I workout. People watch meditate and pray.

You have a very elegant fashion sense, as you are decorating the natural element of the city.  When we reflect on the legacy of Ann Cole Lowe, and what she left behind, how would you articulate your social and fashion presence, as a contribution to her memory? And the contribution of Black American people to the New York City fashion scene? 

I don’t consider myself a fashionista, but I do put my best foot forward when it comes to how I present myself. I like to look like I made an effort. I take what’s in my closet and give it all I’ve got! Black American fashion in New York is lively and dynamic. We are an expressive people, and that is reflected in the way we carry ourselves, our hair, and ever-evolving style and flair.

(Photograph By Audrey Cox; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)
(Photograph By Paul St. Clair; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)

On a busy afternoon in New York City, how does the therapy of coffee bring on a different vibe, than if it were on a quiet, calm day in NYC’s urban side?

I’m more of a tea drinker. Tea gives me peace and tranquility. Lately, I’ve been making my own herbal blends- which strengthen immunity, fight inflammation, and have numerous beauty benefits. Making a cup of tea every night forces me to prioritize my own self-reflection and self-care. 

(Photograph By Paul St. Clair; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)

How have you stayed connected to your country girl roots?  How often do you remain centered in your Southern background, while living and working up North?

I am a Southern Belle by birth, and proudly let people know that I’m from North Carolina. My family still lives there. I stay connected with them by visiting for holidays and weekly phone conversations with relatives. My southern hospitality is in my DNA and is, by default, with me wherever I go.

Describe some of your most memorable, meditative moments.  How do you feel? What were the favorable smells? Take us on a journey of that euphoric state.

I love sunsets on the beach, where I can zone out and feel sand between my toes, and the sound of waves in my ears. Look up and see the stars. These are all reminders that I am alive and fortunate to smell the essence of earth and take in this thing called life. 

How would you describe your own, personal flair of Black Girl Magic in New York City?

I am full of core values like Faith, Love, and Kindness mixed with Grit, Perseverance and Drive. My wanderlust for the city’s musings let me sprinkle a little bit of BGM everywhere I go.

If you could design your own private island, luxury hotel, fantasy condo, or upscale restaurant, right in New York City, what would it look like?  Where would it be? How would you involve your own, personal style? And, how would it contribute to the wellness movement of holistic living?

If I can create a private island in New York City it would be minimalist. My private island would be a small beach with clear blue water surrounded by tall palm trees. It would include a tiki bar, beach chair, and close friends and family. My style would be pervasive throughout the island because the vibes would be all love and zeal for life!

(Photograph By Sandrine Ottin; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)

And so, as we briefly say goodbye to the New York harbors, we reflect on the blackened flowers, who did not even grow in fertile soiling. Something, that was at least given to those blowing in Southern winds. Nevertheless, we are given insight into a blackened rhythm in New York City. A rhythm which blew from the Southern fields of cotton wields. A unique eye for the urban vegetation, which decorates the skyscrapers and vast infrastructures-only known within apple orchards. Hoping that for one day, those Southern pastures will be more recognizable and vigilant to see.

(Photograph By Paul St. Clair; Edits By Lauren Kaye Clark)
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