“Fu—it, I’ll do it:” a simple yet blunt adage adopted by Black women and displayed through their barrier-breaking actions, by laying their lives down to be represented in institutions that chose not to see them. And when you meet the ladies of Ill Vibe the Tribe, a cultural collective, you get this exact sentiment.
Within minutes of entering their force-field of magnetic energy, I quickly recognize that this covert power Sabrina, Asiah and Samira collectively possess is something bigger than themselves; it’s divine intervention. If there’s anything we know about God’s work, it’s that He uses some of the strangest tools to allow his purpose to be fulfilled, in this case, it was a screwdriver. “I met Samira on moving day [at the Art Institute of Charleston], she was my first friend in college,” Asiah explains, sharing how after Samira came to her room seeking the hand tool, her mother suggested Samira looked like someone "she could be friends with." Mama was right. Two weeks later, their trio would be complete with the addition of Sabrina.What first began as an online magazine entitled Bobby Cocaine, a name of which they've admittedly matured from, has grown into a platform that celebrates innovation and Indie Culture by showcasing South Carolina-based artists, curating a diverse plethora of events, and embodying what cumulative Black Girl Magic looks like.
Ill Vibe the Tribe has managed to create an all-girls club within the male-dominated entertainment industry and in just a year since its inception, the Tribe has managed to put an end to the “there’s nothing to do in South Carolina” and “Black women can’t work together” stigmas all at the same dang time. “They tell Black women that we can’t work together… but we all know what happens when Black women link up,” indeed we do: the systems within traditional, Southern institutions are dismantled, naysayers become believers, and culture shifts towards progression. Thanks to the trail that Ill Vibe the Tribe is blazing through the Low Country and beyond we're seeing culture celebrated in a whole new way.
How do you feel the reception has been to Ill Vibe the Tribe online and around Charleston?
Sabrina: Really well. People already see the vision.
Samira: And that’s how it’s happened so rapidly for us; people are reaching their hand out and everything’s just been flowing. It’s really a gift.
Sabrina: It’s just timed perfectly; everything has been flowing organically so far. We haven’t had to force any relationships or anything.
Aisha: That’s why I think it works for us: individually and collectively, we’re all spiritual people, so we don’t do anything that isn't in alignment with our spirit. If one of us feels weird about something, then we’re like, maybe we need to sit back and think about this because we want everybody to feel as comfortable as possible. We’re not going to be anyone but ourselves at the end of the day, and if we can’t sleep with our decisions, it’s not happening.I love that, and to your point, how has having each other to bounce ideas off of helped you all get from level to level?
Samira: We understand each other; it’s as simple as that. If you’re texting someone from the time your wake up to the moment you fall asleep, you’re going to synchronize with these people. Time of the month and all *laughs* so when it comes to us creatively, we can come to each other with one thing, then one person might have something that another one adds something else to and eventually, it all calculates.
They tell Black women that we can’t work together… but we all know what happens when Black Women link up.
One of you all’s mission is to celebrate innovation and indie culture. I feel like “culture”/“the culture” has become a sort of buzz word in recent years, so how would you all describe indie culture and why did you all decide to place your focus in this particular sub-genre?
Sabrina: Because mainstream stuff already has what it needs. Who’s looking out for the little guys? Everybody can’t get to Complex or Viceland, so who’s helping those people in the meantime? They still deserve shine even though they don’t have all these millions of followers. Why not help out the little guys?
Asiah: We’re huge Chance the Rapper fans and we’ve watched his journey and seen him do it the “indie way." I don’t care what anybody says about him having a distribution deal; he still isn’t signed to a major label. Chance has a booking agent, a manager, and a PR person… that’s it. Sure, his people have bread, but with his blueprint and watching Chicago go from the Chief Keef era to this Chance era where you have a Jamila Woods, Samba, No Name, the Social Experiment; he’s bringing people up with him. They’re getting all these opportunities and still staying indie. That’s why indie culture is so important to us, we decided that we were going to take this thing and build it the way we want to. Sponsorship money is welcome though. *laughs*
I feel like there’s this stereotype connected to Black women in certain spaces that we “tear each other down before lifting each other up.” Why do you all think Black women get a bad rap about not supporting one another?
Sabrina: So not to take it there, but to take it there: when we think back during slavery, if they could convince us that we couldn’t do something, we weren’t going to think about doing it. They told the slaves that they couldn’t learn how to read because they knew that if they did, they would be more powerful in that way. So they tell Black women that we can’t work together, so we don’t even try; but we all know what happens when Black women link up.
Samira: Sometimes it’s challenging between the 3 of us, like any relationship but we move forward and remember why we’re doing this. [Black women] have been hearing that we can’t do things forever and we’re tired of hearing that. We’re just like, look, we want everyone to see us because Black women have always been the ones to show up. Plus, everyone loves Black women anyway so how are you not going to look at us… see us.
Aisha: With us fighting the stigma, you have to realize we’re all very different types of Black girl. Our upbringings are different. Our families are different. So for us to come together not in spite of those differences but because of those differences, it’s a big deal. Even with all of the girls we support in SC, we’ve had them tell us how they’ve never had girl friends that are this genuine. Everyone’s feeling empowered. Black women together are MAGIC. Black girl magic isn’t just a hashtag, it’s real.There’s a saying that goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and I have a personal theory that creatives especially, create when there is a particular void that needs to be filled. In what way did you all feel like there was something missing in this space of WOC Collectives that you sought out to fill?
Sabrina: The space was so wide open. We can’t just have these artists because who’s going to put the shows on for them? For public relations, who’s going to help put them into the right circles? Who’s getting them showcased? Everyone can’t be the artist; you need the blogs, you need the curators and all these different things. In Charleston, we weren’t seeing this, especially for Black artists.
Samira: Right, and if we don’t raise our hand and wave it, no one’s going to look over here.
Aisha: We always say that the events we curate, they’re events that we actually want to go to. We used to say, why isn’t this stuff here, not we say, let’s do this. We’re creating a space where you don’t have to change who you are to feel welcomed. You don’t have to move to LA or New York anymore to “make it.” We’re busting down doors in this traditional place to show people that you can stay here.
When people talk about South Carolina, it never seems to be in a good light. Some say we’re behind on everything, or that there’s simply nothing to do. Do you think there’s some truth to this?
Sabrina: I feel there was truth to this, but there was always a group of people who just “know” and those are the ones that are emerging now. There’s always been that energy here, some people acted on it, and some people are still acting on it. And that’s been the result of what’s happening know.
Asiah: I do feel like there’s some truth to it. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I do a lot of rants because I know that work that people have been putting in. There are people who intentionally enjoy being on the outskirts and they’re the ones that complain and say there’s nothing to do here. Because there are things going on! We tell people all the time that there’s no excuse why you don’t have at least one move a month. There is stuff to do, there are people doing things and everybody else is just on the wayside. And to be honest, that’s their fault. There’s this idea that if there’s nothing happening in your hometown or the city your from, then you need to leave to get there. And for some, that may be true, but what are you all’s takes on this? Do you see yourself in SC for the long haul?
Sabrina: The core and the roots of Ill Vibe the Tribe is South Carolina, but it’s not meant just to stay in South Carolina. If we have all these South Carolina artists and only South Carolina people know about them, that’s not benefiting them. The more we grow, the more they grow. We’ve always had the intention of being outside of South Carolina, but our roots are here.
Asiah: As far as moving, I don’t know because every time I think about leaving, I feel like “they” are going to take it over. It’s going to be horrible. People always like to say, “Oh, I need to go out and get myself together and then come back home, but you’re going to come back home and in 10 years, the damage is already going to be done. Somebody has to fight for home. South Carolina has the resources; they’ve just been hiding then. But we’re busting down doors to get them. Atlanta wasn’t always Atlanta, LA wasn’t always LA, people had to make it that way. So why can’t we do the same thing here? When SC gets to where it’s going I want my piece of it.
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(photo credit: Issac Udogwu, Concept Rich, and Toucan Drew)
Peace, peace, peace,