Queer, Black, Muslim Instagram Creator Blair Imani Making You #SmarterInSeconds With Her Intersectional Content

Image via Kaelan Barowsky

With social media platforms flooded with so much content these days, especially now that many creators, artists and entertainers’ regular in-person platforms have taken to the digital world due to COVID-19, it can be a confusing space to navigate and find voices that you like. We’ve shared a number of articles throughout 2020 highlighting creators whose content and profiles have become even more sought out as the United States (and the world!) grapples with not only pandemic concerns, but systemic racism, politics, cultural change and more.

Instagram has become one of our go-to platforms for bite-sized content that we can easily share and learn from in the process. One woman who is dominating Instagram with her smart, intersectional and activist videos is Blair Imani – a critically-acclaimed historian, outspoken advocate and activist, and dynamic public speaker. Blair is the author of Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History (2018) and Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and The Black American Dream (2020). The TEDx speaker centers women and girls, global Black communities, and the LGBTQ community within her content.

On Instagram Reels, Blair’s videos amass hundreds of thousands of views per clip — her recent Reels on how to acknowledge guests without Using Gender has amassed 3.3 millions views. Users have really gravitated towards her content that incorporates innovation, comedy, and social activism in easily digestible 15 seconds clips. She is providing her 290k+ followers with lessons on consent, intersectionality, and pronoun/terminology usage in a series called #SmarterinSeconds.

If you aren’t already following the badass Blair (why not?!?!) you’ve definitely probably seen her videos being shared by those in your circles. As a Black, bisexual Muslim woman dominating a digital media world that needs more intersectional and minority voices front and center, we love what Blair is doing. So we jumped at the opportunity to speak with her about how she is making intersectional issues more accessible to everyone and how she pushed through fear and stereotypes to become an authoritative, breakout Instagram Reels star.

Image by Kaelan Barowsky

You have written two acclaimed books focusing on historical women, non-binary folks and African American people, with a commonality being people who are disrupting the status quo and creating positive change for future generations. Why do these ideas resonate with you personally?

I have skin in the game, I am a Black Bisexual Muslim woman and I was deprived of role models by narrow depictions of history, and I want to make sure I can be instrumental in fighting against historical erasure. Because heroes aren’t just the most visible ones.

You have made your expertise and knowledge accessible via social media, specifically Instagram reels, where your videos about gender have garnered millions of views! Why do you think there is such a hunger for content about intersectionality and gender right now?

So many people want to be part of the conversation but don’t know where to start. And what better way to learn than a place you already come to for entertainment. People visit Instagram multiple times a day. So if I can spend 15 second of their time being educational, then I’m more than happy to do it. I also think there’s a huge learning curve about what we don’t know. If you don’t even know the search terms to learn about something, you’re probably not going to learn about it. So what I try to do, is to assemble the most frequently asked questions I receive and then make it plain in an entertaining way that involves lots of hats and eyeshadow!

As a queer, Black and Muslim woman who creates content that is inclusive and educational, you are an inspiration to so many folks. But can you share any struggles you faced throughout your career?

Thank you so much for that affirmation! I have faced self-doubt, but it doesn’t come from nowhere, it’s important to note that self-doubt doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Things like imposter syndrome are exacerbated by systems of oppression that tell us we aren’t deserving. So I’ve struggled with that, along with not having as many opportunities as other more privileged people. That said, I also have my own privileges, like having lighter skin. So it’s very important to me to create pathways for other marginalized folks to be great.

Social media has its downfalls, but as creators like you have proven, it can also be a great way to talk about complex topics in short, curated ways. How has Instagram become a great tool or awareness and advocacy for the work you do?

Instagram is great because you get to see a personal snapshot into someone else’s life, the stories, my day, my journey. With a thread post, you can see a curated window into my life and as an educator, I use those things and the new feature of Reels, to bring my voice and expertise to the table. But it’s not just me, millions of people are doing the same thing! And now we also have the opportunity to learn about the people we are learning from, instead of being forced to accept the lesson from massive textbook companies.

@BeetsbyBrooke​, a friend of mine who I met on IG, uses the platform to talk about nutrition, so I learned a lot of things I wouldn’t have known without taking a nutrition class. And then you have ​Bethany Meyers​, who has helped me improve my thinking of body image. @Hood_Biologist​ helped me learn more about gender, by making phD level information understandable. But this isn’t new, my mentor Feminista Jones talks about this and more in her book, “Reclaiming Our Space”, which focuses how social media is being used for advocacy and education today.

How have you been dealing with events of 2020 (COVID, protests against police brutality, election politics) and how do you plan your content around current events like this?

At the beginning of the year, I did a 20+ city book tour, but my last normal day was in March, when I spent the day at the spa with my best friend Ren for their birthday. So it wasn’t a bad way to go out, but the sudden need for social distancing for public health, which has been 100% worth it to save lives, had me in a serious funk. I ended up playing over 500 hours of Animal Crossing and then stopping abruptly. I was trying to escape the reality that we find ourselves in. But by mid May, I was back in the groove and realizing that this pandemic wasn’t going anywhere for a while and I had to stop thinking that the world was on pause. So I started getting back into posting regularly, and by early June when the tragic murder of George Floyd renewed interest in fighting racism, I was in a position to teach on a new scale.

Image By Ryan Pfluger

What are some of your favorite historical stories or figures you love to share about with your audiences?

My fave moment in history is right now, because there are so many possibilities and it’s still unwritten. But I can find interesting tidbits in almost any timeline in history and make unsurfaced connections. For example during 1960, there was outrage and fear about three shark attacks while there were hundreds of lynchings happening at the same time, often going unreported—because of racism and violence. I like making those connections, because they may not always be beautiful to look at, but they are always necessary for a fuller picture of the past.

It seems that the influencer/digital creator space has become a way for many diverse voices to grow large audiences and have their voices heard. Why do you think the mainstream media and entertainment is still so slow to catch up to what people like you are doing? And why do institutions still balk at the thought of more diversity?

It’s not surprising. Mass media in the United states, and most of the world, was created to tell the narrow curated picture of reality. That curation process looked like erasing most people across race, culture, language, sexuality, ability, etc. So when you understand that it’s coming from that starting place, then you can better conceptualize the work that needs to be undone to move forward.

Social Media isn’t perfect either, but it’s much newer and it’s starting place is much more inclusive than something like the New York Times, that was started even before the Civil War. So it may be more prestigious, but it has a lot more complexity to address. While newsrooms consider whether or not to include people, Instagram and other platforms level the playing field a whole lot more. But there’s still room for improvement.

What are some upcoming projects you are doing that we should keep an eye on?

I might be starting a Youtube channel, and I’m also working a book proposal on the History of Puberty.

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?

Resilience.


Make sure to follow Blair Imani on Instagram and keep up to date with all the historical, intersectional and current topics to make you #SmarterInSeconds.

Image by Messina Photos