CRYSTA BLOOM / FOUNDER OF THE BLOOM SISTERHOOD SOCIETY
Meeting Crysta was such a rejuvenating, uplifting, and inspiring experience. She has a radiant stage presence and calm confidence, and I knew immediately that I was in for a wonderful and impactful interview. In addition to working on nutrition education and sustainability initiatives for children, she runs the Bloom Sisterhood Society, an artist collective comprised of primarily women of color that is complete with a mentorship component for teen girls. So meet Crysta, she's incredible and absolutely blooming.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Crysta Bloom: My dad was in the military, so because of that we moved around a lot. I was born in Germany and moved to a new state, sometimes a new country altogether, every two years until I was in middle school. And that has completely shaped who I am because I get wanderlust, you know? When I’m in one place for a while I get the itch to move. I’ve lived many lives and had great adventures but I’ve also picked many things up and put them down before finishing them. Like relationships, friendships, school, jobs, hobbies, hairstyles... I don’t have any regrets but I want to be someone who finishes things. So right now, I'm trying to really commit to things and really focus even when it’s not new and exciting anymore.
Where were you before you moved to New York?
CB: Atlanta. Really Atlanta raised me. I learned a lot of difficult lessons about life and about myself in Atlanta. I also had a lot of fun. I was at my most liberated and didn’t put many boundaries on myself back then. For better or worse. Whatever I wanted to do, whether it was good for my well being or not, I did it. And sometimes indulged in it. Luckily, I’ve always seen my body as a temple and was mindful about what I put into it. So I wasn’t ever attracted to drugs or alcohol much. That was my saving grace because I was really flying by the seat of my pants back that. If I was attracted to drugs or alcohol I would have easily become an addict. But no, my drug of choice was love and unhealthy relationships. And I was an addict. I loved Atlanta but I would think to myself, I'm going to move to New York one day. After a break up with a lover of many tumultuous years, I decided to move to New York.Two weeks later, I sold my stuff and I moved to New York. I had never been here before but I really feel like I had a calling to come. Something indescribable drew me here. And it was the best decision I've ever made in my life.
Great. So tell me what you're up to now?
CB: I have manifested The Bloom Sisterhood Society and it is my greatest labor of love. It’s something that's been living in my mind for a while. I've recently put it out into the world, which is a scary thing. When it's in my mind, I can make it be whatever I want it to be and there's no judgment, no questions, no risk of failure…it's all just beautiful and works out. Then when I put it out into the world, it's up for scrutiny so it's a scary thing, but again, I have this feeling. This indescribable, undoubtable feeling that is drawing me towards this decision. So I’m being courageous, following my heart, and following through on this calling to put The Bloom Sisterhood Society into the world.
Tell me a little bit about what you do with the Bloom Sisterhood Society?
CB: The Bloom Sisterhood Society is an interdisciplinary artist collective comprised solely of women of color. We have painters, conductors, DJ’s, herbalists, Fashion stylists. All leaders and influencers in their field. We are a sisterhood, a tribe, a coven, an ancient sorority. This collective of women supports one another and creates meaningful works of art together which seeks to tell our story. I like to say we are alchemists, cooking in a kitchen together and serving the dish we create for the people to partake and be nourished.
We also have a mentorship program that nurtures the artistic expression of girls of color age 13-15 yrs. old. This program creates safe, inspiring spaces for our girls to explore their point of view and turn it into art. Turn it into a medium for healing themselves and their community. The artist collective of women are the mentor for our girls. It is a self empowering collaboration where are girls are encouraged to lead. I believe everyone is an artist, everyone is creative. And art is healing. The women who mentor serve on our board because it was important to me that the people making decisions about the organization know the girls and care about their well being.
How did you come up with this idea?
CB: I came up with it actually through my childhood and my life. I was a really soft spoken kid and a little shy outwardly but inwardly, I really had a lot to say. I felt a lot and I wanted to express it and didn't know how. My mom really saw that—my mom and I are very close—and urged me to go into performing arts in high school.
I was in theater and it changed my entire life, being able to be on the stage and be this character that wasn't myself. I could be silly. I could be angry. I could be sad. I could be whatever I needed to be and there was so much freedom in that. It taught me to not only be brave, but also to be in touch with how I felt, how I wanted to express those feelings, how I connected with the other characters—really listening to them and reacting. I learned so much that I applied it to my life and still do.
These [learnings from theatre and expression] were life changing for me and things that I wanted to give back. So you know that's where The Bloom Sisterhood Society came from. In the life that I've lived, I've continued to be an artist in different ways and always stay connected to artists, especially women artists. I can’t imagine my life without art, you know?
You’ve talked about how the Bloom Sisterhood Society provides a mentorship component, who are your mentors?
CB: That’s a good question. Definitely my mom. She's so loving. She has this gorgeous heart and no bottom when it comes to love and support. I aspire to be like that and to be just as open, as loving, and as comforting as she is. I can really go to her at any moment, with anything that I'm feeling and she's there. She always has something really profound to say and just flicks a light on for me.
Tell me about your other passions of food, sustainability, and nutrition?
CB: I was a teacher in Atlanta. I went to Howard University and Clark Atlanta University. I began teaching at a private school and the abundance of resources that this private school had really blew my mind. They wanted for nothing. The children were learning sign language and nutrition and while it was a really beautiful thing, it was also kind of disheartening for me to know that not all children had access to this.
When I moved to New York, I got into the non-profit sector and wanted to do something different. I wanted to be in communities where I felt I was needed. I was teaching for a little while and also started to get into farming, gardening, and community gardens. Being in a community of young, black, female farmers was inspiring and healing for me. I had never been in a community like that before. Their passion for food and how it relates to race was a kind of turning point for me. I had never viewed food in that way. I had never really considered why access to fresh, healthy food was so limited in communities of color. I felt angry and it fueled my fire to create change.
Now I'm teaching nutrition and wellness. In the classroom we grow classroom gardens but it's really about exposing kids and parents to different foods or sharing how to adjust what they eat to make it healthy.
What's the biggest challenge with teaching sustainability to children that don't necessarily have access and are not included in discussions surrounding food?
That is very difficult because it's almost as if you're coming in and saying, “What you're eating is bad and what you're doing is wrong.” With no kind of connection, you go into someone's community and say how they’re living is wrong. So I do struggle with that very much and I'm not sure what the solution is. I think that the resistance is that food is tied to tradition, it's tied to family, it's tied to culture—so you're not just changing the way someone eats, your challenging culture, you're challenging tradition, you're challenging this recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation. So I think that there is a balance between wanting people to be healthy and to be well but also nurturing and celebrating culture and tradition that is tied to food.
So I really try to take a recipe or look at a recipe that I know is really significant to someone and to a family and make adaptations to it…maybe it doesn't need to be fried, it can be baked, maybe it doesn't need to be pork, it can be chicken.
You’ve covered so much already but I’m curious what would you say is the biggest obstacle that you’ve overcome?
CB: I think in general, the umbrella that all my obstacles fall under is self-love and self acceptance. I'm at a place now where I can look at myself and recognize something that I want to change or grow into, but also I'm still really bad ass and really love who I am and where I am right in this moment. That's taken some time because I'm ambitious. I always want to grow and I always am looking at the next thing that I want to do and improve. An obstacle that I've overcome is being happy in the present moment with where I am and who I am without wanting to change things. Being gentle, patient, and kind to myself. Talking to myself as I would my best girlfriend or my daughter.
You mentioned that you are in an interracial relationship before we started the interview. Can you tell me about the hurdles you’ve had, the positives you’ve had?
CB: I think that the biggest hurdle would be that I am super about black women. I love us. I think we are magic. I just think we're magnificent and the sisterhood in that…that's something that I want to make my life's work. I think there are some people who don't see how I can be pro black and have a white husband, honestly.
The goal for me is liberation for my people, especially black women, which means we can marry whoever we want, wear whatever we want, listen to whatever music we want, wear your hair natural, wear your hair straight…We are not bound by anything that says, “This is what it is to be black. This is what it is to be a black woman and if you step outside of these lines, then you need to explain yourself.” My whole goal is for us to be completely liberated from any of that, so you know that is an obstacle and I recognize that.
Some people don't accept that that’s my man but I love him and he sees me and he accepts every nook and cranny, every flaw, he just thinks I'm perfect and you know it's just how he loves me.
Can you talk about what feminism means to you, what it looks like for you?
CB: Yeah, although such a loaded word…It's funny I just watched a documentary on men's rights.
LM: All of them? [laughing] They just have so many rights!
CB: [laughs] All of them! It was really mind blowing to me to see the other side and although I have very many feelings about it, it was just interesting how everybody has a different perspective when looking at the same thing but from a different angle, you know?
So feminism for me personally? I think I would probably be more of a womanist than a feminist. I don't think that feminism, how most people frame it, is always inclusive. I think it's getting better but I don't always feel as though when people are talking about feminism that they're thinking of me. I do hope that changes and I would love for women, all women, to see each other and recognize the struggles that we have separately, as well as, the struggle that we have together. I would like all women to come together, and I do think that will happen, but I don't think it's quite happened yet, so I would consider myself more of a womanist than a feminist.
Like I said, for me, feminism is not having any limits on what I can do and who I can be—no limitations. I think being married to a white man, it's really astounding how he just doesn’t have any limitations. He really can do whatever he wants and say whatever he wants and feel whatever he wants and and he doesn't even think twice about it. When he’s getting dressed to go out, he doesn't think about what he's putting on, you know, he just like puts on whatever he wanted to and goes out! Whereas I'm like, “Okay. I don't want to be sexualized. I'm also a black woman and I want to be respected.“ I'm thinking about all these things just getting dressed in the morning and he doesn't have to do that…I don't want to be limited. I don't want people to decide how they're going to treat me based on my being black and a woman. Women are so powerful and so brilliant! There's no reason for us to be limited in any way.
How will you Bloom in the next year?
CB: Yes, Bloom Journal, how will I bloom? I am actually doing this experiment that I've been doing for the past four years since I moved to New York where I follow my intuition no matter what it says. In my earlier 20's, I didn't always follow my intuition. I would need to make a decision and my intuition would be pulling me one way and I would go a different way because I over thought it and perhaps I just wanted to rebel. I didn't always follow my intuition and usually I paid for that. So, for the past few years I've been following my intuition no matter what it says. And it really is life changing. It has been steering me in the right direction in every single way possible. I feel like I'm exactly like where I'm supposed to be and I really feel like that's due to following my gut and my heart. So I'll bloom by continuing to doing to do that and also to be really fearless about it and put all my faith in my intuition because that’s my truth. Your intuition is like a muscle that needs to be stretched and strengthened. And at the same time, it is a new lover. Trust, loyalty, and connection must be cultivated.
Lastly, what do you want to be remembered for?
CB: I want to be remembered for the Bloom Sisterhood Society. I want it to grow, I want it to change lives. [The Society] is something that I would have wanted when I was a child. I want it to be a gift for whoever finds it and whoever needs it. I want to be remembered as someone who brought women together, who loved people, liberated people, and liberated myself.