Roberto Germán [00:00:01]:
Welcome to our classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of, but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host, Rovelto Herman, and our classroom is official. Welcome back to our classroom. We have with us today St. Clair Dietrich Jules, an award winning filmmaker, photographer, author, activist, and public speaker, she captures personal stories and intimate moments. Centering black liberation, immigrant justice and women's rights.
Roberto Germán [00:00:49]:
An Afro Caribbean artist who remains rooted in her community, st. Clair grounds her work in radical love, joy, and the knowledge that a more just world is possible. Welcome, St. Clair. Thanks for being here with us today. And St. Clair is the author of My Hair Is Like the sun. Boom.
Roberto Germán [00:01:20]:
There it is. Beautiful. Beautiful.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:01:22]:
Roberto Germán [00:01:24]:
Welcome to our classroom. Glad you could be here with us. How you feeling?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:01:28]:
I'm doing great. Thank you for having me.
Roberto Germán [00:01:30]:
Oh, it's our pleasure. It's our pleasure. Have my co host for today, An Alice, my daughter. This is her first time co hosting, and I'm glad that you could join me. Thanks for being here. An Alice, how are you feeling today?
Analiz Germán [00:01:44]:
Roberto Germán [00:01:45]:
Excellent. Are you nervous?
Analiz Germán [00:01:46]:
Roberto Germán [00:01:47]:
All right. Wonderful. Well, you recently published this book. My hair is like the sun. Beautiful book. And we want to learn a little bit more. We've read it a few times. We've read your bio.
Roberto Germán [00:02:02]:
We have some context, but our audience may not be familiar. So why don't we go ahead and start with the title of this book? Where did the title come from?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:02:13]:
So the title came from this idea that our hair really does resemble nature. Right. I think that black hair is so versatile and it's reflected in the beauty that we see in the natural world all around us. And I guess a little bit of background for this comparison was that one of the women who I interviewed for a previous book, a black woman with an Afro, had said that when she was a kid, she was bullied for wearing her Afro. And they said that her classmates said that her hair looked like a tree, and they called her Tree Girl. And so that sort of made me think about how our hair does resemble nature, but not in some sort of negative way that her classmates were trying to imply, but actually in this really positive and beautiful way.
Roberto Germán [00:02:57]:
Yeah, there's beauty in going the natural route. So I appreciate that you have an Afro Caribbean background. Can you talk to me a little bit about your background?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:03:08]:
Yeah. So my dad is from St. Bart's, which is a little island in the Caribbean in the French West Indies, and so he was born and raised there. And I have a lot of family still on the island, and I do go back to visit fairly frequently. So it's a really small island. But I have a lot of pride having roots there.
Roberto Germán [00:03:28]:
Awesome. And while your book doesn't get into some of the work you do in terms of immigrant justice, black liberation, I am curious to hear a little bit about that. And being that my family's from Dominican Republic, my parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic, my wife was born in the Dominican Republic, immigrated to the United States. And so that's near and dear to my heart also, besides the fact that we lived in Texas for seven years. And so we were along the border, and there was a lot happening there, and we were in proximity to people that have some serious stories and hardships they experienced in their home countries and were looking for refuge in the United States. So can you talk to me about your work in terms of immigrant?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:04:16]:
Absolutely. So, you know, with my father being an immigrant in the US. He doesn't live here anymore. He lives in France now, but with my dad being an immigrant, and then I grew up in Washington, DC, which also has a large population of immigrants from all know, Central America, Dominican Republic, as well as Africa, really, everywhere. And a lot of immigrants here in D. C. Have had really difficult stories, sort of like what you were saying with folks whose stories you heard along the border. I think in DC.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:04:48]:
Too, a lot of the migrants who make their way here have also had traumatic journeys arriving. And so I really got interested in sort of social justice when I got to college. And I did a documentary film project called DACA Mented in 2017, right around the time when then President Trump was trying to rescind the DACA program. So for people who don't know, DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And so it was a program put in place by Obama that gave temporary legal protection to undocumented immigrants who had come to the US. At a young age. And of course, there were all these specific qualifications that you needed to meet to qualify for the program, but Trump was trying to rescind that program, and so there were several hundreds of thousands of young folks who would be affected if the program was rescinded. And so I did a documentary following the lives of nine DACA recipients, because for me, I feel like storytelling is a way to humanize groups who have been dehumanized in so many different ways.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:06:06]:
And so I think that when we hear each other's stories, we remember our shared humanity. And so that's sort of my preferred route of activism. And then more recently, I've been working on another project about immigrants, but that's sort of still in the works and will take a while to come together.
Roberto Germán [00:06:25]:
Thanks for sharing. So this book was illustrated by Tabitha Brown. Is that the actress?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:06:33]:
No, not the actress. It's an illustrator. Yeah, but her name is Tabitha Brown as well.
Roberto Germán [00:06:38]:
Okay, it's beautiful. I'm curious to know, do you know these children and how were they selected to be part of this book?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:06:48]:
Yeah, so I actually photographed all the kids in this book, and so about maybe about half the kids in this book, I actually got to photograph in the Caribbean. Not in the island where my dad is from, but in the island right next to it, St Martin, which more people might know than St Bart's because St Martin is a bit bigger, but it's also part of the French West Indies. French and Dutch West Indies. Two sides of the island. So some of the kids I got to photograph in St Martin, and that was really cool because I felt like I got to keep a part of my Caribbean roots and showcase that through this book. Like here, for example, the two kids on either end, both of these girls are from St Martin, and then the rest of the kids in the know. So several kids from St Martin, and then the kids who weren't from St Martin were here in the US. And so I had know use a variety of ways to find all these kids.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:07:49]:
But, yes, I did meet them all to photograph them.
Roberto Germán [00:07:52]:
And Elise, you have a question?
Analiz Germán [00:07:54]:
I actually have three.
Roberto Germán [00:07:56]:
Well, why don't you ask one first?
Analiz Germán [00:08:00]:
So what do you like about your book?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:08:03]:
What do I think about my book?
Roberto Germán [00:08:05]:
What do you like about your book?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:08:07]:
Oh, what do I like about my book? I like that it's joyful, or hopefully it comes across as joyful, because I think that everybody, including black children, deserve to feel joy around all aspects of their life, but especially when it comes to our hair, because oftentimes when we're kids, we're taught that our hair isn't good enough right. If it's a certain texture. And so I like that it hopefully can help kids can help black kids see the beauty in their own hair.
Roberto Germán [00:08:41]:
Do you feel like it helps you see the beauty in your hair? Sometimes you feel frustrated with your hair, right. You want to talk about that a little bit? No. All right, go ahead. Ask yourself a question.
Analiz Germán [00:08:55]:
Where did you get the photos from?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:08:58]:
So, the photos I took all the photos with oh, I thought my camera might be next to me, but it's not right now. But I took all the photos with my Canon camera, and then I put them all onto my computer, edit them a little bit, and sent them to my publisher.
Roberto Germán [00:09:17]:
Are you finding a huge difference between the photo quality with the Canon versus the newest models of these phones? I'm interested. I'm not a photographer, but that's something that's been on my mind when I'm seeing, you know, Google Pixel or the iPhones. They're really coming up. And so what are you seeing from your lens as a photographer in terms of quality difference?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:09:47]:
Yeah, I actually have a really old Canon camera, and I have a newer camera, but for some reason, I just really like my Canon. And I like that with Canon, you can always get new lenses and it'll fit on the camera, so that's really nice. But the body is the same, and I'm really used to it at this point. I like it a lot. I know that a lot of phones have really good quality now, not mine, because mine is still an iPhone eight, and so the quality definitely isn't as good as my Canon. I haven't done too much cell phone photography. One thing that I've noticed, and I could be wrong about this, but I feel like a lot of iPhones or even Androids, the quality of the camera goes down over time. And you know what I mean? I feel like I have friends who will get a new iPhone and the camera quality will be great for a few months or for a year, but then after that, it sort of starts to go down a bit.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:10:41]:
And I feel like with my camera, the quality is always the same.
Roberto Germán [00:10:44]:
Yeah, I think there might be some truth to that. And at least you asked, what does St. Clair like most about her book? What do you like most about her?
Analiz Germán [00:10:56]:
Um, I like the photos of the.
Roberto Germán [00:11:01]:
Too. I do too. I love how you centered black children, black joy, black hair. And I think it's important that we're affirming our children. And so I really appreciate the affirmation the different hairstyles. Right. The diversity of our hair is beauty.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:11:32]:
I wanted to showcase that, too. So one of the little kids has locks, and some of them have tighter curl patterns, looser curl patterns, different hairstyles. One girl has twists. But, yeah, I'm glad that you noted that and that you like that about the book.
Roberto Germán [00:11:47]:
Yeah, I used to have locks, and so I feel like when I'm looking at this kid and I had him as an adult, but when I'm looking at his hair, it's reminded me of me. And then when I'm seeing some of the other children in here and their hairstyles, it reminds me of an Alice and my daughter Soil, also. So, excellent photos that you took and the way you've placed them. You have another question there. Why don't you go ahead and ask your third question?
Analiz Germán [00:12:22]:
So my third question and last is how did you get the photo of the stars?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:12:29]:
The illustration or the photo?
Analiz Germán [00:12:32]:
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:12:34]:
The photo of this kid.
Analiz Germán [00:12:39]:
Stars. How'd you get to the stars?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:12:43]:
So the stars is actually an illustration. So the illustrator actually was able to illustrate all these stars. And so for the little boy, I photographed him on a really sunny day where the sun was shining a lot in his hair, so sort of looked like stars. And then I gave my publisher and the illustrator all of my photos, and then she's the one who was able to make illustrations sort of similar to the photos. Yeah, I agree. It looks really realistic, right? It looks almost like a picture.
Roberto Germán [00:13:16]:
Can you talk to us a little bit about your process as an author, marketing your book and keeping it in the presence of the public? Annalise, she illustrates, she writes. I could see her publishing something in the future if that's what she desires to do, but I also want her to understand some of the processes that we experience as authors.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:13:45]:
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's important to maybe this sounds cheesy, but I do think it's important to believe in yourself if you do want to be an author or an illustrator and to surround yourself with people who also believe in you and who believe in your dream. Right. Because it is sort of a more nontraditional career path or hobby if you choose to go that route. And so for me, it was really important to have people around me who believed in what I was doing. And so my first step was to get an agent. And that took a while, but once I got an agent, she was able to find an editor at a publishing house for me. And then once the you know this so this was my first book, my Beautiful Black Hair 101 Natural Hair Stories from the Sisterhood.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:14:35]:
And so when this book was released and several months before it was released, I was reaching out to a bunch of journalists. I was reaching out to influencers. I also photographed a bunch of people for this book. So I was reaching out to all of the women who I had interviewed and photographed for this book. So I was going lots of different avenues to try to promote using social media also. And same for this book as well. And so I feel like with something like writing or illustrating, it is, again, non traditional. And so I feel like you're always looking for ways to make know.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:15:14]:
Just recently, my uncle and his wife who live in Mississippi, told me that one of their friends daughters is a natural hair guru. And so I'm going to be put in contact with her, like that kind of thing. So it's a lot about, you know, finding connections in all different ways in all different places and just always being open to meet new people who are interested in the same things in field.
Roberto Germán [00:15:40]:
Wonderful. Now, if you had an opportunity to have lunch with any author, dead or alive, who would it be? And.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:15:54]:
OOH, that's a great think. I would love to meet Belle Hooks. I think that she just had so much clarity around love and what love is. And I think that that's something. One of her most famous books is called All About Love. And she talks a lot about love in her works. And not just romantic love, but also familial love, platonic love, friendship, sisterhood all of that. And I think that in a lot of my work, I'm focused on love, right? In particular, self love, and then also sort of communal love, like showing love to our communities, whether that's the black community, the immigrant community, the women community of women, whatever it is, whoever that community is.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:16:47]:
And so I would have loved to be able to sit down with her one day and just listen to her talk more.
Roberto Germán [00:16:55]:
Yeah, I'm sure that would be insightful. So what's the message of encouragement that you want to offer the audience?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:17:08]:
I think I would encourage everybody to feel empowered to live in accordance with your values, if that makes sense. Right. And so whatever that may be in terms of how we're treating ourselves, making sure that we are treating ourselves with love and respect. And for kids especially. I mean for kids, but for adults, too. I think that oftentimes this is something I've been talking about with my friends a lot recently, is oftentimes we'll have a lot of negative self talk, right. And the way we talk to ourselves is often in a way that we wouldn't talk to our friends or anybody else. But it's easy to be so down on ourselves, right? And so I think that I would encourage everybody to, as much as possible, work on self love, work on being able to encourage ourselves to follow whatever career we want, to follow whatever hobby we want.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:18:13]:
Right. Because it's not like anything we're interested in. It doesn't have to be our career, right? Like, if you, Annalise, just wanted to illustrate for fun. Right. Not everything has to be about making money. I think it's also really important to do things just for the joy and the love of it, too. And so I think that's what I would encourage everybody to do, right. And then surround yourselves with people who have similar ideals and who also are working on living the most happy and full lives as possible.
Roberto Germán [00:18:45]:
Beautiful. Lastly, where can folks purchase your book? And also where can people follow you?
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:18:53]:
Yeah, so people can purchase my book wherever books are sold. So it's on Amazon. It's on Bookshop.org. It's on the Chronicle Books website, which is my publisher. Barnes and Noble. If you go to your local bookstore, if they don't have it in stock, you can ask them to stock it for you and they should be able to get a copy if you want to shop local and support independent bookstores. And then people can follow me. Let's see.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:19:20]:
On Instagram. It's just at St. Clair. Dietrich jewels. So it's my whole name. I'm not sure if you're able to put that in the notes of this episode, but it's just S-T-C-L-A-I-R-D-E-T-R-I-C-K-J-U-L-E-S. Just at St. Clairditrich jewels.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:19:35]:
And then if people want to connect with me, you can contact me through my website, which is also just WW dot St. Clairdrichjewels.com, and everybody should feel free to connect with me for anything at all.
Roberto Germán [00:19:50]:
Well, thanks for your time. It's great to read your book, learn a little bit more about your story, encouraged by the characterization of the children in this book and just the way the story flows. Again, very affirming, and I think our children need more affirming stories. So, Annalise, any final words before we wrap up? All right, well, St. Clair, it's been a pleasure. Looking forward to continuing to connect and build with you and wish you the best with your book. My hair is like the sun.
St Clair Jules-Detrick [00:20:26]:
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And, Annalise, I'm so honored that I got to be here for your first episode appearance.
Analiz Germán [00:20:37]:
Roberto Germán [00:20:41]:
As always, your engagement in our classroom is greatly appreciated. Be sure to subscribe rate the show and write a review. Finally, for resources to help you understand the intersection of race, bias, education and society, go to multiculturalclassroom.com peace and love from your host, Rovelto Herman.