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5 fabulous looks from ROOTS, a fashion collection inspired by black womanhood.

Rachel Powell's stunning fashion collection is a celebration of black womanhood.

Powell grew up in rural New Jersey. When she couldn't find clothes that fit right on her body, her grandmother taught her to sew.

"That's what started my interest in fashion," Powell says, "just designing clothes that I could personally wear."

Today, Powell is a senior at Cornell University, majoring in apparel design with a minor in business. She uses her art to tell stories inspired by women often ignored. In her latest collection, Powell's personal narrative and the rarely told history of a nation built by black women are stitched into each look.

Designer Rachel Powell. Photo via Rachel Powell, used with permission.

Powell's collection, ROOTS, at the student-run Cornell Fashion Collective, is striking, beautiful, and political in equal measure.

Powell had the opportunity to share eight to 10 looks in her last show and wanted to make them count. With ROOTS, Powell designed looks that celebrate black womanhood, past and present.

"I wanted to explore the intersectionality of black women in America ... the double discrimination that they face," Powell says.

Throughout history, the voices of black women were too often ignored, omitted, or silenced. It continues today. Even Powell admitted having reservations about tackling such a taboo topic for her collection.

"I was worried about how this would be received and talked to my professors about how to do this right," she says.

Powell drew inspiration from the African diaspora, the American civil rights movement, and the women who shaped it, like Kathleen Cleaver, Assata Shakur and even a young Ruby Bridges. Her history education — and, in some cases, miseducation — also played a role.

"I'm kind of reflecting on my K-12 history ... and how we were taught the same thing over and over again without a lot of variation," Powell says. "I feel like American history is filled with a bunch of gray areas that, in a sense, our history books were able to make things very black and white."

Through thoughtful design, Powell figuratively passed the mic to powerful black women and showcased their strength, beauty, and persistence.

These are five of her remarkable designs.

1. The white dress

Photos by Nadia May.

On the surface, it's a stark white dress with a fit-and-flare silhouette, a classic look reminiscent on housewives in the 1950s. But this brand of purity and innocence is in direct contrast with the Norman Rockwell portrait of Ruby Bridges that Powell emblazoned on the back of the dress and the small numbers she placed on the front, which represent the night she was raped in high school.

"It's this idea of a loss of innocence," she says.

The period was a turning point in America, and that day was a turning point in her life.

2. Make America _____ Again

Inspired by a photo of Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver and other members of the Black Panther Party in big leather coats, Powell made a coat of her own. On the back, an imposing red cross with the words "Make America _____ Again," a play on the president's campaign slogan.

"I kind of like giving the power to the audience to fill that in," Powell says, "... having people reflect specifically on the election and the state of ... America."

3. AmeriKKKa

Photos by Nadia May.

With the previous look, Powell let the audience fill in their own thoughts about the state of the nation. With this look, Powell gives her take.

"You have this president who ran on this platform of hate and bigotry. He was specifically endorsed by the KKK, so I was specifically addressing that," she says.

4. 13th

Photo by Nadia May.

Sparked by "13th," Ava DuVernay's Oscar-nominated documentary on mass incarceration, Powell designed a jumpsuit complete with stripes to mimic a prison uniform. While the film and the book that inspired it ("The New Jim Crow") discussed how mass incarceration affects black men, black women are hurt in the struggle as well, behind bars and afterward.

"The sleeves are extended past the hands to obstruct the wearer’s ability to move and operate, so as to represent the struggle of trying to reenter society and the workforce after serving time," Powell said in an interview with Jopwell.

5. Move over, Betsy Ross

Photos by Nadia May.

For the last piece in her collection, Powell composed a textile sample that was a loose rendition of the American flag.

"I had so many of my friends help me to hand-embroider the red detailing on the dress," she says. "My grandma, my aunt, my mom, one of my models, another one of my friends — so many people helped me on that, and I think it was ... maybe symbolic of the support system that black women need in order to overcome ... discrimination in our society."

The response to ROOTS has been overwhelmingly positive, a victory for Powell and intersectionality.

After graduation, Powell knows she'll need to balance passion projects like ROOTS and her professional goals, at least for now. Ultimately, she hopes to start her own company where she can combine the two and make a living doing what she loves.

"The attention I've been receiving from the collection has pushed me to be, like, 'This is definitely realistic. I can do this now,'" Powell says.

Indeed, she can. She has generations of persistent, capable, talented black women beside her — lifting her up, pushing her, and encouraging her.

It's in telling their stories that Powell crafts her own.


4 simple hacks to help you meet your healthy eating goals

Trying to eat healthier? Try these 4 totally doable tricks.

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Most of us want to eat healthier but need some help to make it happen.


When it comes to choosing what to eat, we live in a uniquely challenging era. Never before have humans known more about nutrition and how to eat for optimal health, and yet we’ve never been more surrounded by distractions and temptations that derail us from making healthy choices.

Some people might be able to decide “I’m going to eat healthier!” and do so without any problem, but those folks are unicorns. Most of us know what we should do, but need a little help making it happen—like some simple hacks, tips and tricks for avoiding pitfalls on the road to healthier eating.

While recognizing that what works for one person may not work for another, here are some helpful habits and approaches that might help you move closer to your healthy eating goals.

man pulling chip out of a chip bagOur mouths loves chips. Our bodies not so much.Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Goal: Snack on less junk food

Tip: Focus your willpower on the grocery store, not your home

Willpower is a limited commodity for most of us, and it is no match for a bag of potato chips sitting on top of the fridge. It’s just a fact. Channeling your willpower at the grocery store can save you from having to fight that battle at home. If you don’t bring chips into your house in the first place, you’ll find it a lot easier to reach for something healthier.

The key to successful shopping trips is to always go to the store with a specific list and a full stomach—you’ll feel much less tempted to buy the junky snack foods if you’re already satiated. Also, finding healthier alternatives that will still satisfy your cravings for salty or crunchy, or fatty foods helps. Sugar snap peas have a surprisingly satisfying crunch, apples and nut butter hit that sweet-and-salty craving, etc.

slice of cakeYou can eat well without giving up sweets completely.Photo by Caitlyn de Wild on Unsplash

Goal: Eat less sugar

Tip: Instead of “deprive,” think “delay” or “decrease and delight”

Sugar is a tricky one. Some people find it easier to cut out added sugars altogether, but that can create an all-or-nothing mindset that all too often results in “all.” Eating more whole foods and less processed foods can help us cut out a lot of ancillary sugar, but we still live in a world with birthday cakes and dessert courses.

One approach to dessert temptation is to delay instead of deprive. Tell yourself you can have any sweet you want…tomorrow. This mental trick flips the “I’ll just indulge today and start eating healthier tomorrow” idea on its head. It’s a lot easier to resist something you know you can have tomorrow than to say no to something you think you’ll never get to have again.

Another approach when you really want to enjoy a dessert at that moment is to decrease the amount and really truly savor it. Eat each bite slowly, delighting in the full taste and satisfaction of it. As soon as that delight starts to diminish, even a little, stop eating. You’ve gotten what you wanted out of it. You don’t have to finish it. (After all, you can always have more tomorrow!)

colorful fresh food on a plateA naturally colorful meal is a healthy meal.Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Goal: Eat healthier meals

Tip: Focus on fresh foods and plan meals ahead of time

Meal planning is easier than ever before. The internet is filled with countless tools—everything from recipes to shopping lists to meal planning apps—and it’s as awesome as it is overwhelming.

Planning ahead takes the guesswork and decision fatigue out of cooking, preventing the inevitable “Let’s just order a pizza.” You can have a repeating 3-week or 4-week menu of your favorite meals so you never have to think about what you’re going to eat, or you can meal plan once a week to try new recipes and keep things fresh.

It might help to designate one day a week to “shop and chop”—getting and prepping the ingredients for the week’s meals so they’re ready to go in your fridge or freezer.

woman holding blueberries in her handsOrganic foods are better for the Earth and for us.Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

Goal: Eat more organic/humanely raised food

Tip: Utilize the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15” lists to prioritize

Many people choose organic because they want to avoid pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals. Organic food is also better for the planet, and according to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that organic produce is higher in certain nutrients.

Most people don’t buy everything organic, but there are some foods that should take priority over others. Each year, researchers from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyze thousands of samples of dozens of fruits and vegetables. From this data, they create a list of the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” fruits and vegetables, indicating what produce has the most and least pesticide residue. These lists give people a good place to start focusing their transition to more organic foods.

To make organic eating even simpler, you can shop O Organics® at your local Albertsons or Safeway stores. The O Organics brand offers a wide range of affordable USDA-certified organic products in every aisle. If you’re focusing on fresh foods, O Organics produce is always grown without synthetic pesticides, is farmed to conserve biodiversity, and is always non-GMO. All animal-based O Organics products are certified humane as well. Even switching part of your grocery list to organic can make a positive impact on the planet and the people you feed.

Healthy eating habits don’t have to be all or nothing, and they don’t have to be complicated. A few simple mindset changes at home and habit changes at the grocery store can make a big difference.

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