Shaynna Cooper aka Modern Day Esther is a Richmond born, Bay Area resident that’s a palette of many different occupations. She was the Richmond Public Schools Valedictorian back in 2014 as a graduate from Huguenot High School and alumna from the Art Institute of Hollywood back in 2018. Through her ventures, she has gained partnerships from the likes of Arizona Tea, the unisex body care brand Flaunt Body, and was even recognized by the Camp Flognaw page for her looks influenced by Tyler, The Creator. She uses her large platforms on Twitter and Instagram to speak out on social matters and it’s always taken in a robust and elegant manner.
Jay: For those who are new to you, how would you describe yourself?
Esther: I’m what people would classify as a multi-hyphenate, I operate in many career fields simultaneously using various skill sets. I’m a content creator for various brands, a social media manager, designer/small business owner and model. I do various other things as well but these are the fields I’m actively working in right now.
Jay: Please tell me more about the transition from the East Coast to the West Coast, especially going out to California at a young age.
Esther: Growing up, I always knew I wanted to live/experience life outside of Virginia at some point. I’ve always enjoyed traveling, I did a lot of that growing up so I’ve always been open to new places/new experiences. My freshman year of high school I started looking at colleges all over that had good fashion design programs. It was between Los Angeles or New York and after doing my research I just felt LA was a better fit for me. I moved to LA straight out of high school and was instantly thrust into the real world. I’d say I acclimated well, I didn’t know anyone on the West Coast at all so I had to fully start from scratch. LA is so full of opportunities and experiences but I was always very prayerful and mindful of situations I put myself in. All in all, I know I made the right decisions.
Jay: You wanted to raise awareness on how school systems barely scratch the surface on Black History outside of Black History Month. In an Instagram post of yours, you’ve stated that you learned Black History through films, documentaries and books. You included pictures using the #YahooAllyshipPledge discussing how school systems can go about these changes. Some of these changes include:
• The time currently devoted to Black education.
• How schools can expand celebrations of black icons to include experiences that led to the community calling for advocacy within economic, social, and legislative change.
• Focus on schools accurately representing the impact of white supremacy the country was built upon, and to celebrate the contributions of Black Americans in US History courses.
What made you want to have people tag the superintendent of Richmond Public Schools Jason Karmas specifically? For those who are unfamiliar with Richmond Public Schools, it’s a predominately black school system.
Esther: While the RPS student body is made up of predominantly black students and has black faculty members, you wouldn’t necessarily believe that based on the curriculum taught, at least that was the case when I was a student from 2001-2014. As a student that did very well and graduated as Valedictorian from the RPS school system, I’ve had people ask me why do I complain and speak on the school system this way. Yes, I did well in school and I do have certain teachers to thank for that but I’ve always been the type of person to look beyond the textbooks and learn beyond the classroom setting. My grandmother has been a teacher in RPS Schools my whole life and she always stressed the importance of a quality education to me. A majority of the history teachers I had were Caucasian and when it came to the topic of Black History, it seemed as though they just wanted to breeze through that lesson plan. During all my years as a student, history lessons basically looked the same. The Civil Rights Movement, talk of a handful of Black inventors, watching a movie about MLK or Rosa Parks during black history month, a black history month assembly and brief talks on slavery.
I remember a specific instance when I was given an assignment to write a letter from the perspective of a slave. I did thorough research to ensure I did the assignment justice. I was told I did too much and went into too much detail by a white teacher. This is why I took it upon myself to study deeper because after a certain point, I wasn’t really learning anything new. Why aren’t student taught about Black Wall Street or that during WW2, HBCUs would offer refuge to Jews seeking asylum from Nazi Germany? So much focus is put on topics like the Holocaust, the various wars and even full lessons about 9/11. Why is it that Black history is skimmed over but other historical events are covered at length? It’s something that needs to change. Sure, the faculty and staff may be black at quite a few schools but they aren’t the ones writing or creating all the curriculum, it’s provided to them. There are people in much higher places that determine what’s taught and what isn’t.
“Why is it that Black history is skimmed over but other historical events are covered at length? It’s something that needs to change. Sure, the faculty and staff may be black at quite a few schools but they aren’t the ones writing or creating all the curriculum, it’s provided to them. There are people in much higher places that determine what’s taught and what isn’t.”- Modern Day Esther
Jay: What do you see being discussed in the next ten years in regards to black innovation, social justice, and cultural influence? Would you see anything new be discussed or old topics being revisited in relation to the topics discussed earlier in the article relating to #YahooAllyshipPledge?
Esther: Within the last two decades, the Black Lives Matter Movement has been a topic that constantly surfaces in the media, almost always when tragedy strikes. There always seems to be a major shift during these times, it would only make sense that it’s something that should be covered in future history lessons. More black joy and positive black experiences should also be included, black people aren’t just victims and it seems like that’s all history lessons want to show. We innovate, we create and set trends. Trends that are often stolen and capitalized on by non-black people. Until Black History gets the same attention as general American history in the classroom, we still have a long way to go. Hopefully we’ll see changes made soon.
Jay: What can we expect of the OfManyColours Brand when it relaunches April 1st? Describe what led to the creation of the brand and what it stands for.
Esther: I’ve been designing since I was five and sewing since I was ten. I always knew I wanted a career in fashion. I got my business license when I was thirteen and did alterations and custom orders from family and friends to make money for myself under the brand name “Holy Galour”. In 2018, God gave me a new name for my brand. “Of Many Colours” based on the scripture, Genesis 37:3. This is the story of Joseph and the coat of many colours. I’ve always loved the story and thought about how beautiful that coat must have been. The thought of it always inspires me. A beautiful and one of a kind item made just for him. With my designs and creations I put out, I want people to feel as if it was made just for them. I also want to inspire others to create as well through the work I do. It’s a brand for dreamers and creators alike. This drop coming April 1st is going to be very Pastel and super Spring!! I’ll be releasing more of my face bouquets along with a few apparel items. The masks have been very popular but I’m excited to begin releasing more clothing, manufactured and handmade.