Welcome to "Stories from the Culture" (#SFTC), a blog series where we profile everyday people from around the globe to tell us how their culture enriches their human experience. These stories follow an interview format and except for spelling and some grammatical adjustments, none of their responses are edited in any way.
Today's Feature: Mary-Helen
What's your cultural background and which country are you currently based
I was born in Nouakchott, Mauritania, but my parents are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I'm currently based in the United States.
You chose writing and music as means of expressing yourself in the world. What is it about that writing and music specifically that appeals to you as a mode of expressing yourself?
As cheesy as it may sound, in writing and music there's so much liberty in how you're able to deliver your emotions. In writing, I am able to use metaphors or symbolism to bridge the gap between my experiences and others' ability to relate to them. In music production, I can shift the dynamic of an entire song simply by the chords or drums I select, allowing others to get a more real sense of how I felt during a certain season of my life. For me, writing and music lay down the foundation by which I can connect to others and they to me.
Your IG Bio says "God above all ❤️". Can you elaborate on that? What do you mean when you say that?
Naturally I'm a people pleaser. I want to make sure everyone likes me and that I'm not the odd one out. Growing up, this tendency allowed for a lot of internal turmoil when I felt who God was calling me to be didn't align with external opinions. As a result I spent way too much time trying to juggle numerous identities, which actually caused me to not have one at all. As God blessed me with a mentor that helped me sort through my mental mess, God allowed me to realize that His opinion really does triumph above all, because He always has my best interests in mind. Pressing into that has brought more peace than I ever would've expected.
You wrote a book, "Victory". What inspired it? What are you hoping to accomplish with it? What inspired it?
Me being an emotional wreck haha. My mentor saw how much I enjoyed writing (and also saw how broken I was) and suggested it as a therapeutic measure. I didn't believe it would actually get done, but after about 5 years it did! The main thing I was hoping to accomplish was freedom from the past. It was as if completing the book was me completing that chapter of my life (pun slightly intended). Similarly, I hoped my honesty/story would somehow encourage someone else!
How connected would you say you are to your African heritage?
The biggest way I feel connected to my African heritage is through the morals that were instilled in me. The way Africans value respect, (often brutal) honesty, hard work, gratitude, and service is something I will cherish forever.
How much (if at all) does your cultural background impact how you express yourself in the world?
With the morals of respect, honesty, hard work, gratitude, and service that I was raised with, I've found myself approaching life with those same values in my back pocket. For example, where in some situations others would lie to make a friend feel better, I'd be honest out of a desire to see the best in them. I'm not saying these morals are only found in African culture, but I am saying the way they're magnified was unique and enticing enough to push me to want to live through a similar lens.
How would you describe your personal fashion style?
I definitely like to pop a heel every now and then, but I've been seeing my style (and my music) shift to more of a hip hop, indie vibe. I like the simplicity indie offers, but similarly the bit of fashion hip hop comes with.
What's your favourite clothing item that you own?
There's this sweater I recently bought from Goodwill that I really like. It was from the men's section so it has slight dad vibes, but it also has all the neutral grays and browns that I enjoy! Slight plug, I'm wearing it on the cover of my new single "You Found Me," which is available on all streaming platforms :)
What does it mean to you, to be culture rich?
For me, being culturally rich means to be aware and appreciative of cultures outside of your own. Understanding there's a whole world around you is essential to having the most fulfilling life. Why? Because people come from different places and have different stories. If we can learn to understand each other, it'll help us grow not only individually but collectively as well!
Thanks to Mary-Helen for providing these transparent responses.
We really encourage you to check out Mary-Helen's page as he has a very unique artistic style.
At Culture Rich World (CRW), we aim to be more than just a luxury clothing company. We are committed to telling human stories, amplifying the voices of those in the diaspora and ultimately, promoting the sharing of culture across people groups.
To be featured in our "Stories from the Culture" #SFTC series, click here!