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April Sterling
Store Manager at Proper Food — New York, NY

It took me so long to find the right job and the right coffee home and the right place to learn from. I have failed at that a whole bunch of times, but I think everybody has, on some level. You know, those of us who haven’t been able to stay someplace for a really long time — for most baristas, it’s a couple years here, a year there, and I think the only thing you really can learn from that is not to give up, honestly.

Speak up for yourself. Speak your mind and see what happens.

Be stubborn about it. Be stubborn about the kind of place you want to work at and what you want to get from it — your coffee education, your rights as a female. I need some extra time to go to the bathroom, it’s not gonna take me two seconds—you know, that kind of stuff, within reason. Speak up for yourself, nobody can beat your brain. Speak your mind and see what happens. 

It took me so long to get my latte art together, but I’m a manager now and I’m teaching a whole bunch of people. I’m helping Cafemme Fatale with their classes. I’m supposed to be at Cafemme Fatale’s latte art throwdown on Saturday and I’m bringing my daughter, Amber, with me. It’ll be her first throwdown, so she can see what it’s like and what Mommy’s doing. This one is all about women empowerment and nonbinary empowerment. It’s all bigger than me now. Throwdowns are taking on a life of their own and they’re this great big thing and I’m everybody’s cheerleader, like ‘yay!’ So just don’t give up, be stubborn if it’s what you love. If that’s your passion then just do it. Don’t let anybody tell you ‘no.’

The happiest moment of my life is the moment I gave birth. Dude, the relief of understanding that the child is here, the child is healthy—that is literally the most relieving thing. As a mom, there is nothing that you’re more bunched up about than the arrival of the child. Everything that comes after that is important because then you gotta keep them here. You gotta take care of the kid, but almost nothing is more important than the arrival of the child.

I remember her first breath. That moment felt like ‘I can deal with whatever else.’

You spend all of this time going through thoughts like, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that, this smells, I wanna do this, I don’t wanna eat that.’ It’s all of these ups and downs and then all of a sudden your body is going to push this baby out and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. You can’t not be ready, it’s happening whether you like it or not, and eventually it will be over because eventually the kid will be out — whether you push ‘em out, or they take ‘em out.

I remember her first breath. It was probably the most relieving feeling, hearing her crying for the first time. That moment felt like ‘I can deal with whatever else.’ She’s here, and she’s breathing? Okay, what now?

I’m really into natural hair stuff. I make most of the stuff that I use in my hair with clays and oils and shea butter and coconut oil. I’m trying to teach Amber how to take care of her hair, because her hair is very different from mine in that it’s almost stereotypically thick and coarse and it stands up and her shrinkage is incredibly real. 

I’m really about trying to empower her to take care of her own hair and not to rely on weaves and wigs and things like that, because she doesn’t have to. If you want to do it for fun, then please do! But understand that you still gotta take care of what’s under there so you’re not baldheaded and so your edges are still there. Self-care is one of the things that I’m teaching Amber about right now: spray your hair down with some water before you try to rake a comb through it. You gotta chill, you gotta be careful with the kind of hair that you have. 

I just want her to be sure of herself and what she looks like already: this is enough.

I just hope Amber catches on so she’s not dependent on the hair care industry to take care of her hair. Because if you’re dependent on the industry to take care of your hair, as a Black woman, certain things can be misconstrued. I just want her to be sure of herself and what she looks like already: this is enough. You don’t have to listen to what the industry says. A part of natural beauty is about being able to do it on your own. It has nothing to do with what I look like, what you look like. It’s about what you need, what I need, because all of us have something growing out of our head, and we’d all like to keep it.