We had the good fortune of connecting with Jocelyn Rice and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jocelyn, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
Books are everything to me. They are my teachers, confidants, hopes and dreams, my loves…they have taught me how to overcome, laugh, be strong, forgive, climb the highest mountain, and survive a deadly fall. I love books…like a lot!

Do you remember that movie, Italian Job with Mos Def and Mark Walberg? In the film, Mos Def’s character asks his colleagues what’s on their shopping list after they jack all this money from back in Italy…most of the guys say they want cars, speakers, a big house, But Mos says he’s going to the south of Spain. He’s gonna have a library full of 1st editions and a room just for his shoes…I want that. A room just for my books, I don’t care what edition, just a space where I can close the door, look out my windows, see nothing but the ocean and read.

Trying to pick a book I’ve read, just 1, is difficult. But there is one book I have turned to repeatedly in my life. I have multiple copies, and there is always someone I meet who could use it, so I have at least 3 on hand. I have it on audiobook too, in two languages!

This book is written by one of the greatest storytellers. Her writing is influenced by her family, farmers, shepherds, weavers, orchardists, tailors, cabinet makers, lacemakers, knitters, and horsemen and horsewomen from the Old Countries. Her name is Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, and the book is called Women Who Run With The Wolves.

The book entered my life when I was asking the universe for help, for guidance. I was just one step away from reaching my goal, which was actually a crossroad. And I needed to make a big decision. I totally know there isn’t a wrong answer, but all the same, I felt, at the time, I needed an oracle of some sort to guide me. I can’t recall how I found out about the book, but I’m so grateful it entered my life. I knew Clarissa and her stories would help me from the minute I opened it. The below quote is one of my favorites! In my life and work, those 3 things remain at the center. Being curious, sharing stories, and making things with my hands to give to my community.

“”The craft of questions, the craft of stories, the craft of the hands – all these are the making of something, and that something is soul. Anytime we feed soul, it guarantees increase.”
– from Women Who Run With the Wolves

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I come from a family of powerful women. My mother has raised five women on her own. She nurtured us, elevated us, empowered us, and protected us. She did this independently, working multiple jobs and going to school to be a pediatric oncology nurse. She is a beast. I also come from one of Eugene’s founding Black families. Who’s story is a testament to the grit and ingenuity many Black American families demonstrated during some of our state’s most despicable times. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles paved the way when there weren’t many people who looked like them. They came here to live, build community, and, most importantly, thrive in that community. I am proud of where I come from. Hella proud. We did not have it easy at all, but we here.

My interest in design and fusing it with Black history and Black excellence started in community college during a lesson on the Harlem Renaissance; the collective certainty powered by art and design was so dope that I dropped out of PCC and went to apparel design school.

Once I graduated, I worked retail for quite a while before landing an internship with True Collaborative Fashion, a Portland-based showroom that represented independent fashion designers and brands. I then went on to work with Emily Baker of Sword and Fern, where I learned how to run a boutique/art space with a focus on art, landscape, and jewelry design. Eventually, I landed a job at Nike ES, then Columbia Sportwear as a design intern. I worked as an Associate Designer for Backcountry Ski. I moved into Tech design, then fit engineering at Columbia before going over to Eddie Bauer as the technical Women’s Outerwear Designer. I eventually went back to Columbia, where I designed Men’s and Women’s Outerwear for Outlets, the global line for Men’s and Women’s Hunting and Fishing. Also, I contributed to the Global Design of the Women’s Sportswear line.

After being in the Outdoor industry for about a decade, and seeing every step we take as Black and Brown Women up that ladder in the industry has a broken rung, I knew it was time to start my own brand; the steps for us are not parallel or level in that industry, they aren’t so much as uniformly spaced. Our ladder has mad structural defects, such as but not limited to broken or missing rungs, broken or split rails, and corroded components. So how do you find a way? How do you empower yourself, protect yourself and trust yourself to climb in an industry hell-bent on keeping you out? For me, It was starting Black Earth United. A brand Inspired by Black Excellence in the outdoors.

Black Earth United is an Outddor Apparel Company that tells stories of the Black American Experience outdoors through art, community design, and history. I am inspired by the ingenuity we had to have to move around in the outdoors. Two of my favorite stories are the story of Joseph K. Bowler and Harriet Tubman., Our two signature products, Our coveralls, and our Durags, are rooted in these two stories.

Our Durags are designed drawing inspiration from our enslaved African brothers, sisters, and 2-spirit ancestors who were brought to this part of the world during the Middle Passage. The durag is a symbol of the power and ingenuity of the diaspora—a marker of our identity and existence and a tribute to a Black tradition that should be honored. Our Durags are cut from premium Bamboo and Nylon fabrics and have anti-microbial properties, unlike the traditional silky we are used to. Black Earth United durags are made with love and care and are handcrafted to last and stand up to all kinds of weather while protecting our hair so we can look bomb and protect our crown while enjoying mother nature and all her glory.

Our coveralls are inspired by Joseph K. Bowler, a minister who lived in Massachusetts that never ventured to the South without a “Jim Crow traveling kit.” They were designed to allow Bowler to travel through segregated states in hopes to be as comfortable as possible the kit included “a pair of soiled overalls purchased from an auto mechanic, along with other survival components. He wore the overalls, he explained, to avoid the expense of “soiling” good clothes in the “dirty Jim Crow coaches.” They protected him from the to­bacco juice that white conductors and news vendors often spat on the seats, and were useful in “parts of the Mississippi [where] the white farmers use the Jim Crow coaches as luggage cars in which to transport chickens and hogs.”

Just imagine what we can accomplish when we share and control the narrative around pieces of Black culture in the outdoors. By doing this, it allows us to dismantle the misconceptions behind them. We hope to normalize these pieces, this new style, into essential aspects of our culture.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, i guess we best get up, go on a Trail run through George Himes natural area, and since it ends at Jola Cafe, we might as well grab coffee and breakfast then walk down to the waterfront and rent a Kyack on the Wilamette. Them we dock down on the west side and pop on the train to Enso for a float then over to Plant-Based Papi for some lunch. Gotta Re-energize and kiki at Concourse coffee then grab some E-bikes bikes and roll to Third-Eye Books for a whole vibe. Call over to Radio Cab so we can go to Frances May for some shopping, cuz we are going to need some new digs before we head over to The Numberz Bodga at the Portland Art Museum. Then head over to the NE side of town to catch open mic at The Center. Phew! Thats a sick day!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I cannot in any way fit all the floks who have made an impact on my life, I know ya’ll didnt ask for a list but…Ive had so much support in this journey, I cant just say a person, or. group or a organization…so if you have to cut, Id say my son, Oliver Rice. He chaged the course of my life. But also, My mum, Cathy Dechaine, My sisters Jackie Winter, Jessica Wither, Jordan Summer, Janelle Farity, My aunite, Julieanne DeChaine, My grandmom’s, Matty Renyolds, Virgina DeChaine, My neice, Zoe Minor-Winter-West, My cuz, my uncle, Christine Lyon, Rick Lyon, My homies, mentors and guides, Barbie Minor, Amanda Curtis, Kamen Minor, Abibat Durosimi, Janene Larson, CeCe Fraticelli, Nilu Amali, Jordan Hayles, Khela Singer, Lisa Collins, Mitch Daughter, Roseland Hupp, Reyburn Brown, Curtis Rice, Angela Medlin, Anya Gorsyon, Dave Mertes, Kendra Roberts, Erica Rife, ZaDora Williams, Jasmine Sanchez, Bobbie Parish, Rashad Floyd, Raphaelle LeBlanc, Leslie Copland, BJ Frogozo, Bimma Williams, Lisa Slagle, Katie Augsburger, Myra Avenue, and like 10000000 more folks.

Website: https://blackearthunitedpresents.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blackearthunited/ and https://www.instagram.com/jocelynr.rice/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jocelyn-r-0825b2b/

Other: LinkTree: https://linktr.ee/Jocelynrice Expressions in Black :https://www.expressionsinblack.org/season2/episode-03-jocelyn-rice

Image Credits
Jess Vanterpool (only for studio images with white backgrounds)

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