The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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Local modest fashion designer Ayana Ife promotes Black joy in Griot Spring Series events

The Griot Institute’s recent spring series has centered around the theme of joy as a necessary component of academic curiosity. Modest fashion designer Ayana Ife was invited to continue the conversation through sharing her experiences and life story.

On Tuesday, Feb. 20th, Ife held a workshop on creating vision boards. As the name might suggest, a large sheet of posterboard acts as the surface for visual inspiration, where its creator uses images and text to display their “vision.” 

As a fashion designer, Ife can attest to the benefits of using vision boards for outfit inspiration and the like, but they also serve a much greater purpose for her. She shared what she considered to be her vision board for 2024, where she used images and plenty of text to outline her hopes for the year. This acts as a visual reminder for her goals, and encouraged workshop participants to put their board in a place where they would see it often—she keeps hers as the lockscreen on her phone.

In case her own anecdotes weren’t enough to convince you of a vision board’s value, she also mentioned that celebrities like Beyoncé, Steve Harvey and Oprah Winfrey have publicly spoken on their utilization of them.

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Participants were able to utilize magazines that Ife had brought, as well as have access to other visual media and various art supplies through Art professor and Ekard Artist-in-Residence coordinator Anna Kell. Using magazine texts and images, old photographs, wallpaper, art prints, maps and more, individuals were able to express their vision for their 2024 goals in a variety of ways. As the workshop came to a close, attendees were encouraged to share if they felt comfortable, allowing everyone to see some of the different directions that others went.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, Ife held a lunch session where students could talk to her on a more personal level, as a lead up to her talk that night. At 7 p.m. in the ELC Forum, Ife was introduced by Griot Institute Director Cymone Fourshey before she began her talk entitled “Ayana Active: The Joy in Being Your Own Hero.”

Ife started by discussing the frustrations she encountered as a child, in being forced to buy clothes that did not reflect her identity. This inspired her to create an inclusive non-profit organization called Ayana Active that aims to “empower women to be their own heroes” through clothing. 

She then explained how she became inspired to work in the fashion sector. Originally pursuing a degree in nursing, Ife realized that as a talented sewer, there were other ways that she could benefit women and women’s health. Ife remarked how change is the only constant in life, and can assist us in our efforts to self-discovery. She also suggested how change can lead to practicing acceptance, which makes us better humans.

Ife grappled with maintaining joy as the Covid-19 pandemic affected her work and personal life, and caused her to face adversity. But instead of succumbing to adversity, she adapted to it.

“It is not what happens to us, but how we react to it that determines who we are,” Ife said.

She cultivated a mindset that was based on gratitude and productivity, which served her in the worst of her times. She advocates for others to live authentically and express who they truly are. In order to develop one’s authentic self, one must look inwards, which requires deep introspection and leading a stress free life.

Ife explained how growing up in a big family allowed her to become the person she is today– an empathic person who fosters open dialogue and acknowledges another person’s feelings. She brought up an anecdote about presenting an idea of hers in front of entrepreneurs. It was a moment she said allowed her to pursue her dreams and grow as an individual by learning lessons and valuable insight. 

She elaborated on a life challenge she had to navigate, in which she was working with an organization that falsely provided her information about an event that she was supposed to conduct. This made Ife do one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do: saying “No” in a dignified manner.

“Success is not about avoiding failure, it is about looking at opportunities as a way to grow,” Ife said.

She later discussed the trauma and pain surrounding the death of her father, which made her appreciate life so much more. She stressed that people should always aim to find their peace in life, so it doesn’t have to be when they die. Peace, according to Ife, can be found through self-discovery. 

She closed out her talk advocating for appreciation of life in the present, and setting and completing one’s goals, such as when she auditioned for her first Project Runway. She share a concluding sentiment that she wanted everyone to take with them: one should never give up on their dreams, even if their path ahead is not clear.

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About the Contributors
Kelsey Werkheiser
Kelsey Werkheiser, Print Managing Editor
Major: Creative Writing and Sociology '25 Hometown: Easton, PA
Michael Taromina
Michael Taromina, News Editor

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