THE ARTFUL ADVOCATE MAKING HEALTHCARE ACCESSIBLE
The Womanly Magazine founder is on a mission to save lives and honor Black womanhood.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Photograph by Marion Aguas.
Attia Taylor, Womanly Magazine’s editor-in-chief, is set on honoring the generations of Black women before her by taking the luxury out of healthcare. Born in Philly and currently based in New York, the multi-hyphenate creative has a history of merging artistry and advocacy to impart change on underserved communities. Through Womanly, Attia is centering the voices, empowerment, and education of Black and Brown women as well as non-binary communities with accessible healthcare information and partnerships. Her unmatched determination and open heart is sure to restore your faith in humanity and motivate you to do your part. We recently chatted with Attia to learn more about Womanly, the necessity of accessible care, and the true beauty (and power) of Black womanhood.
YOU’RE INVOLVED IN A NUMBER OF CREATIVE PROJECTS. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I’ve always been interested working on womanist feminist art projects. In college, at Temple University, I started a blog for women in music. I was involved with a really cool organization called Girls Rock Philly that promoted women and girls in music. I was writing music reviews for Tom Tom Mag, which is all about female drummers, [before] I started working at Planned Parenthood. I fell into reproductive sexual health, but also women-focused arts.
I interned at Paper Magazine right outta college. I’ve always been interested in print, writing, music, blogs and things like that. After a while, I realized how passionate I was about making space for women’s and non-binary people’s health. Womanly just seemed like the perfect thing for me to do at the time. I wanted to gather a lot of the resources, friends, and family I had [who] were in the field. They were all really excited to help with this. Over time, it just [grew] into this really big project that I’m really proud of.
WHAT’S AT THE HEART OF THE WORK AND MISSION OF WOMANLY?
The heart of it is my family — my ancestors. A lot of Black women are underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, not diagnosed at all, and are dying of preventable illnesses. I’ve been raised by so many Black women who’ve experienced this and it was passed down to me. I’m trying to break the generational [trauma]. I’m trying to address some of the racism that causes this in the healthcare system to save lives, especially Black and Brown folks, low-income folks, and trans folks. I’m trying to save lives through teaching people about preventive health, but also challenging us to think through why there are these disparities in our culture. Why are we under-serving people who need care? What are the reasons we’re not going to the doctor, whether it’s systemic racism, economic reasons, [or] fear?
The heart of Womanly is support and community for Black and Brown women [as well as] non-binary people who are looking for solidarity in their health experience and journey. So many people write to us saying, “This came at the perfect time for me.” We placed the print magazines in waiting rooms in low-income areas and community centers, coffee shops — we wanna meet people where they are so they don’t have to go out of their way to pay $15 for a magazine. We’re changing our approach a bit to try to reach even more people through public art. We did a board last year in Baltimore with heart health information and ways to prevent heart disease and hypertension. We’re constantly trying to find new ways to meet people so that they don’t have to go out of their way to just hear something like, “We see you, we hear you,” or “Here’s what you need to know about cervical cancer or hypertension…” Things that are very preventable, but are ruining people’s lives silently.
THESE HEALTH-RELATED STRUGGLES ARE ALSO A LIVED EXPERIENCE FOR YOU, AS A BLACK WOMAN. HOW DO YOU REALLY CARE FOR YOURSELF WHILE DOING THIS WORK?
This work has taught me a lot about how to care for myself and how to make sure I’m taking care of my own health. I learned to go to the doctor when I wasn’t feeling well. A lot of times we put ourselves through pain or convince ourselves that it’s normal to feel tired all the time or to have gastrointestinal issues. Through this work and through the community, I’ve learned that I can ask questions at the doctor.
I don’t have to feel tired all the time.It’s not always just taking more naps — sometimes you need to speak to a specialist. I struggled with [an] autoimmune disease for years without knowing. I had all these symptoms for many years and I just put up with it. Finally, a doctor did the right blood work and they found that autoimmune issue, which runs in my family. I feel so much better now, but for a long time I was gaslighting myself like — I’m just tired. Maybe I’m not sleeping well enough, but I [actually] needed to get to the root of it.
WHAT CAN EXPECT FROM WOMANLY IN 2022?
We’re going to be way more intentional with our content. We have more paid positions than we’ve ever had in the past, which is such a blessing because I want to support artists. I want to support writers, photographers and illustrators more than anything. We are really hoping to support our work and also support the work of others through Womanly. The biggest thing for us this year is getting stories out there that are real, raw, and important — touching people’s lives in ways that we haven’t done, more intentionally, more directly. And I’m excited!
WOMANLY RUNS ON VOLUNTEERISM. IN WHAT WAYS CAN FOLKS SUPPORT YOUR WORK AND YOUR TEAM?
We love donations. You can buy our magazines online. We sell them and we sell merch. [Read] our work, [sign] up and [share] your story. Reach out to us with partnerships and collaborations. We love working with communities that have interesting stories to share. If you are in a corporation that aligns with our mission, we’d love to bring events, panels, or discussions — or just celebrate the community — [with you].
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE VISION FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK?
A lot of Black women, especially Black activists, carry a lot on our backs. We carry a lot of stress. We carry a lot of people’s pain with us. I’m weeping for everyone all the time, trying to help everyone, whether it’s my neighbor downstairs or someone I don’t know in another country. I’m just for everybody. So, I’m trying to live long and prioritize my own sanity and health.
In terms of the work, I want to see the numbers lowered for the deaths of Black women. I’d like to see us live longer. I’d like to see us not die in childbirth. I want us to live very rich lives with much health, wealth, love, and success. Where domestic violence numbers are down. Where we feel appreciated in society everywhere. I want trans women and non-binary people to be respected and treated with human dignity. I want everyone to be included and healthy just as humans, but we also deserve to have our experiences acknowledged, no matter what they are.
WHAT DOES BLACK WOMANHOOD MEAN TO YOU?
Black womanhood for me is moments. Moments with my grandmother. Moments [when] my mom braids my hair. Moments of when a Black woman writes about our fourth issue, which was on Black maternal health, saying that they feel seen. I can be sometimes racially ambiguous and I want to acknowledge that I do have light-skinned privilege. I have a lot of privileges that society deems privileges. I work so hard [and] I owe so much to Black womanhood. It has given me so much, it has done so much. It is where I’m from [and] who I am — and the pain is seeing us suffer. We have so much joy and life in us and [I can’t stand] seeing us suffer all the time.
WE DEFINE LIGHTWORKERS AS THOSE THAT BRING AND SPREAD LIGHT AND POSITIVITY INTO THE WORLD. WHAT MAKES YOU A LIGHTWORKER?
What makes me a lightworker is my dedication to the mission of Womanly [and] working tirelessly (a lot of times, without pay) to educate people on their health, racial bias, loving themselves, and taking care of themselves. Every day, I wake up and I want to share something that can make somebody else’s day better or their life better — whether it’s a piece of art, music that they can listen to, or even a post that will make [them] feel affirmed in [their] identity or health information that can save a life. I wake up every day and think of new ways to make people more healthy and affirmed in who they are.
How do you take care of your body and soul? Share your heart work in the comments!