Rachel Summers is one of the powerful women in my circle from Hamline University. Our paths crossed in a variety of ways throughout college and Rachel has been sharing art, beauty, and inspiration with me since we connected. She is creative, talented, supportive, deep, and a social justice hustler.
In Rachel’s words, she’s “a 90’s baby, a poet, an avid Daria watcher, a one-time skydiver, black grrrl, who hails from the land of 10,000 lakes”. We spent several years at Hamline together. My favorite college memories with Rachel include our NCORE team moments, photoshoots and lots of talks about things that matter.
NCORE is the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education. Both Rachel and I, along with a few other dedicated students, staff, and faculty, were part of the 2009 team that attended the conference and then put on racial justice focused programming for the academic year to follow. (I still remain close to many of the folks in that crew – especially Susun, Michael, and Jozie!) Our work with NCORE, along with the discussion and conversations that followed the conference, stayed with us throughout our time at Hamline and continue to be part of my life and work today.
Rachel is a skilled photographer and indulged me in several photo shoots throughout our time together in school. Her photos still are some of my favorite images of myself. (I show them off for #ThrowBackThursday sometimes on Instagram. You’ll have to look out for them!) Rachel’s artistic nature and eye extend far beyond photography. She is talented in a variety of art forms including writing, music, theatre, and film. Not to mention her personal style – which is always eclectic perfection.
Committed to social justice, Rachel’s work has led her to pursue her MFA at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in the Film and Television Production program. As a black woman filmmaker, Rachel seeks to re-center the narratives of people who are too often overlooked, and transform the culture of consumption and distribution. She aims to curate celluloid & digital experiences bound in worlds featuring dynamic, complex, and diverse narratives while spotlighting characters with multifaceted identities. This is powerful work and exactly what we need to alter the monolithic stories that fill our TV screens.
This woman is going places! I really feel like in years to come I’m going to be reposting articles about Rachel like “I know this woman!! Look at her gooooooo!” She is brilliant, passionate, capable, and talented – a fierce combination. And, Rachel has a spirit I admire.
Another reason I value Rachel is that she has been so supportive of my hustles and Cat Inspired projects! You’d be surprised how many folks and friends simply aren’t really interested in your personal projects - or don’t let on that they are. (Y’all, I am probably just as guilty of overlooking the awesome moves of my peers as the next woman. This is something I’m working on.) It is really flattering and wonderful when friends look up to notice your hustle and support your mission. I am thankful to Rachel and others who have done this for me. I was able to see Rachel this past fall in LA and hope that our paths cross again soon.
Below, read about Rachel’s inspiration, advice, and wisdom. . .
What inspired you? And, what do you care about deeply?
“I find myself seeking inspiration constantly. Whether it's the new Drake mixtape or Broods album, escaping everyday chatter to explore new sonic landscapes is essential. Singing is the most therapeutic thing I can do within a day, so I sing in the car, and the shower, and in my apartment. I'm attracted to people who are spontaneous and creative and have a deep knowledge of history. Poetry in the middle of night is a ritual. I live for style: bold colors, artfully mix-matched patterns, simplicity, and chaos. People that are crazy enough to do the thing they love, and smart enough to know when it's time to move on.”
“I care deeply about connectedness. I care about equality, inclusivity, and empowerment. It is more lucrative to me to begin demolishing oppressive systems and paradigms by enabling people with marginalized identities to use their voices to begin delivering alternative and innovative narratives. My family's livelihood is something that always weighs heavily on my heart and mind and whether they are simply just surviving or thriving in doing what they want to be doing.”
Who are women that inspire you?
“The homegrrrlz that are in my life are ride or die. I am lucky to have so many women in my life that lead, teach, create, love, collaborate, and challenge and support me that I'm forever spilling with gratitude for them. bell hooks is my cultural studies mama, Maya Angelou is the matriarch of the written word, Angela Davis' radical activism inspires me, and Ava DuVernay’s groundbreaking films and distribution company, AFFRM, really instill an ideology of no excuses, and a practice of making the things you want to see on screen and unapologetically carving out the spaces for them to be seen.”
If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be and why?
“In between being an emo screamo, free movie kid, and basketball player at the age of 15, I would remind myself that although the general teeny boppers won't necessarily understand you, ultimately it's still okay to like and be all kinds of things at the same time. Your worldview can be extensive; you can listen to Dashboard Confessional and Ja Rule and Ashanti on the same playlist and give no fucks. I would remind myself that although suburban whiteness tells you aren't beautiful or worthy, you have more inside of you than you'll ever know and you'll go places they'll never go. I would tell myself to stand up for what I believe in even if it doesn't fit with normative hegemonic bullshit.”
More wisdom from Rachel:
“Women should love themselves, love their bodies, support each other, don't expect others to participate in self-hating practices, they should be loud, and be listeners, and be unapologetic, and be thoughtful, and do whatever the fuck they want to do if it makes them feel good and doesn't hurt anyone else. Women should visualize, create testimony, and manifest anything and everything that helps them grow.” [Yes, yes, yes!]
This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!