We had the good fortune of connecting with Aisha Cort and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aisha, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
One thing about candle-making that many are unaware of is the sheer amount of time and precision that goes into creating a candle that is suitable for you to bring into your home. The combination of curating fragrances, wick testing, curing the candles, finding the perfect ratio of wax to fragrance oil per fragrance, and then starting from scratch if after all that it’s simply not right— the process to get everything right for just on fragrance can take weeks.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Professionally, I’m an entrepreneur, scholar, maker, author, and podcast host.
As an entrepreneur, I’m the founder and maker at VELA NEGRA, a line of black, wax, vegan, coconut soy candles, inspired by my Cuban and Guyanese background. I’m also the founder of Hey Dr. Cort!, a company focused on bringing language to life via the VIVA LA LENGUA™ online Spanish courses and cultural immersion language tours to Havana, Cuba, Oaxaca, Mexico, Barcelona, Spain, and Tulum, Mexico.
As a scholar/researcher, I am a full-time lecturer of Spanish at Howard University. I earned my BA in Spanish from Yale University, and an MA and PhD in Spanish Literature from Emory University. My research focuses on Afro-Latinx and Latinx film, literature, and cultural production, with a specialization in Afro-Cuban cultural production.
In 2019, I established Howard University’s Afro Cuba Lecture Series and I’m the author of the forthcoming monograph, Representing Race in Revolutionary Cuba: Afrocubanía, Negrometraje, and Cultural Production, 1961-1996 (SUNY Press). Other recent publications include,’The Lost Girl of Havana: A Tale of Afro-Cuban Diasporic Memory’ and “Rethinking Caliban: Shakespeare and Césaire in the Negrometraje of Sergio Giral” (Afro-Hispanic Review). Additionally, I’m the guest editor of Black Camera’s “Close-up: Contemporary Cuban Cinema” issue (Fall 2021).
The roads to and through all of the hyphens has not been easy. There was a lot of rule following, and then rule-breaking and major risk-taking that has led me to this iteration of life where I’m able to successfully balance and engage with all of my interests. I’ve thankfully had amazing support and great mentors. Despite the many different interests and pursuits, the lesson for me has been that it all connects and it does matter — even when it doesn’t make sense and you’re unsure of your next step. All of my work and projects are different ways to explore, express and share my identity and experiences as an Afro-Cuban and Guyanese woman.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in Washington, DC, so there is always plenty to do. That being said, I’m a sucker for a bottomless brunch. here is my ideal itinerary:
Hirshorn Museum (when it reopens)
Culture House DC
Brunch at Cava Mezze (Capitol Hill)
Cookiewich from Insomnia Cookies (H St. )
The Salt Line
A Rake’s Progress
Hill Prince on H st.
Hank’s Oyster Bar
The Salt Line
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
S/O to my partner, family, and friends who have graciously sampled fragrances in all their iterations and offered valuable feedback! S/O to our loyal customers who have made this all possible!
Instagram: @thevelanegra, @heydrcort, @vivalalenguatravel
Jonathan Pitts-Wiley Amberly Alene Anne Kim Negrometraje Podcast LaToya Tavernier VELA NEGRA Hey Dr. Cort!/VIVA LA LENGUA