On paper Ebinehita Iyere wouldn’t look like your typical success story, instead she is what many would call the underdog …
Iyere did not allow the hardship she went through in her youth to navigate where her life would take her, instead she made a path for herself to guide and help young girls (much like herself) who have not been given the best start in life – supporting and giving them something to look forward to.
After being inspired by Rupi Kaur’s book Milk and Honey, Iyere founded Milk Honey Bees a creative and expressive safe space for Black girls to flourish and put H.E.R (Healing, Empowerment and Resilience) first forming the central pillars of Girlhood Unfiltered.
We spoke to Iyere about the organisation and Girlhood Unfiltered …
Please introduce yourself …
I grew up in South London and I’m of Nigerian heritage. I founded Milk Honey Bees in 2017 as a creative and expressive safe space for young Black women and girls in South London. I’m a speaker, mentor and advocate for young people across London, and am currently completing a PhD on the complexities and flaws in the education system as per the experiences of Black teenagers.
Describe your life right now in one sentence …
Right now I am in the stage of appreciating the present and exploring the future.
Tell us about Girlhood Unfiltered.
Girlhood Unfiltered is an anthology of essays, letters and creative work authentically reflecting on the multifaceted experience of Black girlhood by a group of real teenage girls from Milk Honey Bees.
Organised into three sections entitled Healing, Empowerment and Resilience (H.E.R), which form the foundation of Milk Honey Bees’ ethos, the collection features first-person narratives and creative work exploring a wide range of topics; from adultification and the perception of Black girls, to friendship, school and home life, to the joy found in dance and drama. And the importance of self-acceptance, love, trust and support. Girlhood Unfiltered makes space for the authentic voices and stories of real young Black girls to be heard.
How did it all come about?
The erasure of Black girls’ voices during covid really stood out to me which is why I felt that the girls at Milk Honey Bees deserved to be at the forefront. The book was curated by myself, the girls who wrote their essays and our publisher Knights Of. Some used half-terms as workshop points to develop their essays for Girlhood Unfiltered whilst others used their free time to further strengthen their writing skills which was lovely to see. My inspiration for this book, funnily enough, were the girls at Milk Honey Bees. The extract from myself in the book was to also show the girls that there are similarities between how I grew up and what they are going through in their adolescent life.
Highs & Lows …
Every part was high due to excitement. Learning about the world of book publishing and everything else was intense but fun, especially when you’re working with teenage girls. I would say I contributed to having lows as I tended to doubt myself a lot during the writing phase of Girlhood Unfiltered and even when the book was released I still had family and friends reassuring me. I wouldn’t even necessarily say that my doubt was an obstacle for the book because I was able to turn it into a learning path that I reflected on quite often. Also, having many different characters and personas in one room enabled growth and support for not only the girls but also myself – even if it was through constructive criticism at times.
What’s been the most validating moment working on this book?
Every girl had an individual process of writing. Some used their spare time in half terms to construct their essays while others used Snapchat to write as that’s what they were most comfortable with. It was those moments for me that validated not just the book, but also what Milk Honey Bees stands for as a family. It also gave me no excuses as these girls would be so determined and driven with their essays that it made me take a seat and focus on Girlhood Unfiltered.
What’s your current Plan B?
If I’m honest I don’t have a Plan B and I know it’s cliche to say but I really don’t. Not because I don’t want or can’t be bothered but because this wasn’t my Plan A in the first place. However, I cannot imagine doing anything other than what I do now. I know that no matter what happens or what is destined, my entire work is dedicated to helping children and young people in whatever capacity it is.
What are you watching right now?
So right now I am currently watching The Oval which is written and produced by Tyler Perry (don’t judge me) I needed some fictional messy drama that still had political connotations.
What are you currently reading?
I have just finished a memoir called Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from A Trap Feminist by Sesali Brown. It’s a great read, I was hooked.
What are you currently listening to?
Absolutely obsessed with Sza’s new album, my favourite song is Gone Girl. I’m also loving Sonder right now, they’re on repeat.
What’s the last thing you saw on stage?
Get Up Stand Up!
What’s on your Bucket List?
To get an Australian visa.
I’m going to celebrate my good sis Elsie Cullen at Guap. Seeing her be free inspires me to just let loose. Her work ethic is unmatched and the continued support she gives to not just me but the girls at Milk Honey Bees is truly appreciated.
Celebrate yourself …
I’m taking it easy, literally just in planning mode but I also know that things don’t always go to plan so I’ve come to terms with being okay with the unknown and letting things happen naturally and as they should.
Where can we find you?
@MilkHoneyBees on all social media platforms
@EbinehitaIyere on Instagram and @Ebinehita_ on Twitter
Girlhood Unfiltered by Ebinehita Iyere and Milk Honey Bees is out now, published by Knights Of.
It is shortlisted for the British Book Awards Book of the Year – Children’s Non-Fiction.