Black Women Creators: Commenna and Marrista
The Cocoa Chronicles is a podcast with Commenna and Marrista, two magical Black girls who talk about pretty much everything. They want to inspire, motivate, and inform people of what’s going on in the world. They do weekly movie reviews and discuss a plethora of topics such as their murder mystery segment and monthly interviews with special guests. You can find them on Twitter at @Chroniclescocoa. We spoke to them about podcasting and collaborating as creators.
Black Girls Create: What do you create?
Marrista: We create a lot of things. We do our best to create conversations about different things -- we’ve talked a lot about mental health awareness, women’s history, and Black history. So I guess we would like to create more conversations about things people normally don’t talk about and help people learn something new without them having to put too much effort in. This month we’re doing National Food Month, so we’re creating different foods from different cultures, to try for ourselves and help people broaden their personal horizons because some people I know are picky eaters and this is a good way to try something they’ve never tried before. We try to create new experiences for people.
BGC: Why did you decide to come together to start the Cocoa Chronicles?
Commenna: I made a YouTube video about my traveling experiences in Japan, when me and Marrista went for two weeks. I was contacted by a producer for a radio show called The Culture Radio. He was just starting this radio station and was looking for more Black talent and asked if I would be interested in doing a podcast. And I was like “Yeah I’d love to do it, but is it okay if I invite my best friend because I don’t want to do a podcast alone.” So through him, we started the podcast.
BGC: How did you come up with the concept?
Marrista: I didn’t want to focus on one set thing, because I feel like talking about one thing can be kind of boring. There’s a lot of things we want to do and a lot of things we want to see and a lot of things people want to hear about so whatever we feel is the most interesting we will talk about and cover. We have movie reviews and a murder mystery segment that we do every week, but we also talk about other things. We have special guests once a month. So it’s whatever we think people want to hear and whatever we think is interesting enough to talk about is what we will talk about.
BGC: Is there a topic in particular that has been your favorite so far?
Marrista: I love talking about traveling and the things I want to do when I travel.
Commenna: I enjoy doing our fact of the week segments. That’s what we did for Black History Month, we would feature an influential African American figure, same with Women’s History Month and in April for foods. I like doing that a lot because I like doing the research and a few times I’ve learned some things that I didn’t know. I try to research things that are less popular, because I’ve always liked educating myself and I like that I get to expand on my knowledge.
BGC: What advice do you have for people who want to collaborate on their projects?
Marrista: To not be afraid to take the risk. I’m a very cautious person and I like to have everything planned out as much as I can in advance and a lot of times that stops me from actually doing things because I’m worried that the risk outweighs the benefit, but with this it was unexpected and I’m really glad we did it because I feel like we’ve learned a lot about ourselves in this process and how we work together. But yeah, just go for it. If an opportunity presents itself or you see a chance to make an opportunity, go for it. You never know where it will lead and if it doesn’t lead anywhere you don’t really lose anything.
Commenna: I second everything she just said. Me and Marrista are both introverted so I could’ve easily been like “I really don’t like meeting with strangers and talking to strangers.” We’re not talking face to face with strangers but we have people that we don’t know listening to our voice and our stories, so I could’ve been like “you can find someone else who’s a little more extraverted and maybe a little more social than I am.” But this has made me open up a little more and both made us a little more interactive. And you never know what opportunities may come our way. There are some people who have podcasts who end up getting TV shows out of it. Not saying that’s going to happen to us but you never know what could happen. Like she said, if nothing comes out of it we didn’t lose anything, we still gained.
BGC: Who is your audience? What do you hope your audience gets out of your podcast?
Marrista: Right now our audience is a little mixed. It’s mostly people between the ages of 20 to mid-30s -- and then there are a few seniors who listen in because they’re our parents. I’m hoping that people gain several things: hopefully, people are entertained, we try and make our commentary funny and engaging, we don’t want people to get bored when they’re listening to us. And I hope people get some inspiration to go after their goals. As humans, we tend to settle and I want people, when they hear us talk about traveling or things that we’ve done, to know that it’s not impossible for someone who does not come from great means or wealth or anything to do something. Everyone is capable of living their best life if they put in the effort and hopefully inspiring people to say “what I want to do this, it would make me happy, let me do it.” That would be great if we could do that.
BGC: Who or what inspired you to do what you do? Who or what continues to inspire you?
Commenna: Oprah inspired me. Because when I was younger I had this weird obsession with wanting to be a talk show host, even though again, I’m kind of antisocial and introverted. I just love the way she does her thing, she’s very inspiring, a very successful Black woman. So when I thought about the podcast, I thought of Oprah. I’m channeling Oprah, I’m feeling it. Who inspires me to keep going is Marrista because we work so well together and know each other so well, so she is just there to keep me grounded and motivated.
Marrista: I’ve always known from a young age that I really wanted to do entertainment. I really enjoyed making people happy and smile and that sort of thing and one of my biggest supporters of that was my 1st grade teacher. She was the first one who I expressed my interest to and she really encouraged me, she’s the one who taught me that “never give up” attitude. It might seem really hard and it might take a while to get what you want but you should try to do it, especially if it really makes you happy. As for continued inspiration, I’d say my parents, who want the best for me. Sometimes they’re like “you could be doing this instead” but at the end of the day they know what I really want to do and when I have an opportunity and I feel like maybe I shouldn’t do this, they’re always the first ones to tell me “this is what you want, if you’re having trouble with it, try doing this, just don’t give up on it right away.” And Commenna also does help keep me focused because whenever I get distracted by little short term things she’s always there to say “don’t you want to do this? Shouldn’t you be saving for this or moving forward to this because that’s what you want at the end of the day.”
BGC: Why is it important as a Black person to create?
Marrista: It’s extremely important because while we are represented in several industries, we still have our hardships and I feel we still aren’t as represented as I would like to see. Black Panther is great and is a super positive example of representation of our communities, but still the majority of examples that are shown to us on TV and in movies are thugs or single-parent homes or no parents, or we’re poor, or ignorant, we’re educated but we’re ruthless, we’re mean, we’re bitches. And I don’t like that. I feel like it’s important for more people of color to create because we know ourselves best and we can paint the best image of not just who we are, get it from my point of view, this is my experience, and this is how we live our lives. We need people of color telling our stories, not white people telling our stories because they’re not going to get the details right.
Commenna: I also think that there are so many other creative African Americans who are afraid to get out there and share their creativity. Because they think that because they are African American and there’s not a lot of us in the entertainment business - or any business really - they think they don’t stand a chance. So I think that the more African Americans that are getting out there and saying we are important, we do matter, we can make some bomb shit, go out and do their thing. So hopefully - not just me and Marrista - but any other podcaster, YouTubers, athletes, dancers, models, whoever can keep inspiring the next generation, because they are the most important because they are the ones who are going to be here when we’re not.
BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
Commenna: I feel like I never shut off the creative part of my mind. I’ll be in the middle of work or on my way home and think of something and write it down. It has been a little interesting balancing the podcast schedule with daily life because we have changing work schedules and then things come up. It’s hard, but what I make time to do is structure everything. At the beginning of the podcast week, I try to plan as far in advance so that everything fits together. If I have Tuesday or Friday off I know those are the research days for the topic of the month, or the days that I need to ask people if they’re free to do the interview for the show, get it all worked out so that when it comes time to record it’s already squared away and we can just do it without stressing the day before about it.
BGC: Any advice for young creators or ones just starting?
Commenna: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to reach out and contact people. What I did, I contacted a bunch of other Black owned websites and influencers and things like that to do collaborations and interviews to get our name out there. So don’t be afraid to seek help, take the plunge. You can’t wait for stuff to happen to you, you have to get out there and seek it for yourself. Put yourself out there.
Marrista: And the other side of that is make sure that you’re not too dependent on other people. Yes, you need other people, but you have to be the one who puts in that grassroots effort. One of our friends is like “how are you guys doing this, I feel so alone” but what she doesn’t realize is that if Commenna hadn’t put out that first YouTube video and put herself out there on her own by herself, then we wouldn’t be doing any of what we’re doing right now. Folks have to understand that yes, you need to make relationships and connections and have people in your corner, but just in case someone falls through, you need to be able to rely on yourself and have a backup plan.
BGC: Do you have any future projects or future goals for this project?
We are going to be collaborating with another Black owned website to create YouTube videos as well as the podcasts. We plan to do a lot more because it’s visual. We want to do filming on location at different events, conventions, and theme parks. And we’re trying to get more people involved outside of the pair of us so that there’s more interest. It’s one thing to have a podcast, but it’s another if people know you’re a real person and someone that you can connect to. It makes people more invested, so we definitely want to try and get more support for people at events and let people now that we’re not just talking at you, we would like to get to know and interact with our audience and collaborate with the people around us, because someone out there listening might have a really great idea but if no one ever meets us or messages us, then how are we going to know to involve them?