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Rememory Directory is the Community for Black Women & Nonbinary Creatives to Reclaim Narratives

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 02/13/2024 | 5 Minute Read

“I used to think it was my rememory. You know. Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it's not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it's gone, but the place—the picture of it—stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean, even if I don't think it, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.”

Toni Morrison, “Beloved”

What started as a thesis project in 2019 while studying at Parsons School of Design has turned into a vital creative community for Black women and non-binary creatives—and true to its name, Rememory Directory, it's a tool to revisit and reclaim narratives for Black women.

Once upon a time, Mia Coleman, Rememory founder and designer, had wanted to be a nurse practitioner. Mia had always been creative and enjoyed drawing, and she took the usual art and design classes in high school. Marwen’s after-school courses in Chicago allowed Mia to see creatives in a more professional setting; after landing an internship with ad agency Leo Burnett, she made the leap as the first in her family to go to college away from home in New York, New York.

While at Parsons, Mia studied both design and technology—an intersection of some of her interests and skills in art, graphic design, gaming, and robotics. She had internships with companies like Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment and Vice Media, and it was during this time that she started Rememory. During initial brainstorming during her junior year, she had envisioned it to be an app specifically for photographers, but it eventually morphed into an easy-to-access site for Black women and nonbinary creatives of all kinds.

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“In tech, we always think, ‘Who is this user?’ And I was the user of this,” Mia said. “I am a Black woman, and Parsons is relatively diverse, but I still was usually the only black person in a lot of my classes and internships. A lot of creatives feel the same way, both in school and out in the field. So I wanted Rememory to be a place where we could all feel seen amongst each other and say we're all out here doing amazing, creative things, and we're not alone. This can be a place where we see each other, reach out to each other, and connect.”

A byproduct of the community being so accessible also means that managers can search and find graphic designers, photographers, art directors, and more to hire. What Mia described as the racial reckoning of 2020, combined with select viral media coverage of the site, led to Rememory getting upwards of 10,000 views daily.

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“Tons of people were trying to figure out how to plug in and support Black women,” Mia said. “And it was amazing for me and everyone in the directory. To this day, I still get DMs from women saying, ‘This website has been keeping me afloat because the economy is not stable right now.’ And this was 2020, so we dealt with layoffs or people going freelance for the first time in their careers. It's been really helpful for everyone, me included, to get consistent freelance work."

“It started as a space for each other to see ourselves, and it became an actual tool for financial stability and community," she added. "That's something I'm really proud of.”

Rememory gives Black creatives the chance to make design and creative spaces more equitable, both in terms of the sheer opportunities, but also with regards to pay equity. Black women typically earn $0.67 for every $1.00 a white, non-Hispanic man makes, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars difference at the end of a career—and this doesn’t even take into account how underrepresented women and Black people are in many creative fields. We wouldn't need directories for women, Black people, and queer people if these industries prioritized equality, Mia explained.

“Black creatives make the creative industry unique,” she added. “Whether it be the trends we set visually, like in fashion or dialect, it always ends up in pop culture or advertising in some way. But it’s not enough for us to be represented in terms of imagery. It's important for us to be actually a part of the creative team.”

She also talked about how the enthusiasm for hiring Black creatives ebbs and flows, and something like Rememory makes space for these individuals year-round. “People need work all year, not just during Black History Month or Women’s History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month,” Mia said. “We don’t only exist within these government holidays.”

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Rememory consists of a small but mighty team of just Mia, which has been its own challenge. Last year, she hosted and moderated the first in-person Rememory event, and while it took place in collaboration with AIGA, she hadn’t yet gotten comfortable with asking for help. “I am overcoming that by reaching out to the community I built, which is kind of a no-brainer,” Mia said. “I have people with all these different practices, like producers and art directors. That's the biggest way to overcome those challenges. Calling on people who are really good at what they do.”

Last May’s event was a success and opened up a dialogue for the community to discuss pay equity, understanding contracts, and coping with the fluctuating support for Black creatives, all ending with a Q&A session where everyone in the audience could get involved. Rememory had another event on February 9th, 2024, and Mia looks forward to expanding the directory to have more in-person events like these.

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Photo: Tremeika Small

Mia has other big plans—Rememory will soon launch as a studio. And, further down the line, she hopes to collaborate with agencies or brands on creating creative boot camps, internships, and accelerator programs for members. The website will undoubtedly evolve, too, with an artist spotlight in the form of podcasts or articles, as well as annual creative reviews, tutorials, and other resources.

As Rememory grows, so does Mia. The in-person events allowed her to embrace the community in real life, and it opened up the possibility for her to dive into public speaking and panel moderation. “I’m open right now to new creative mediums,” she said. “I’m grateful for the community I’m building, and I’m excited about creating more branded work for different brands that want to collaborate with us.”

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Photo: Tremeika Small