Like so many who move to New York, Tenicka Boyd was attracted to the city by the sense of what could happen here. As she discovered, after a making a career 180 from a nonprofit executive to a full-time content creator, it’s about the expansive, mind-opening perspective that makes the city unique. “New York City opened up the aperture for me of what was possible,” she says, crediting it with laying “the groundwork for my identity around possibility” since putting down roots here.
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Boyd moved to the city with her husband and daughter in the summer of 2012 after a stint working for the Obama administration on education and efforts to reduce homelessness. The young family settled into the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn and quickly found themselves immersed in its community.
“It’s just so full of people and culture and tradition,” she says of her time in the borough. She also discovered Smorgasburg, “a street foodies dream,” and the many options for African and African American food that span the boroughs, like her favorite Caribbean food at The Door in Queens, Brooklyn Suya, and seemingly endless restaurants in Harlem.
At the time she was pursuing a career in community organizing and nonprofit work with some of the most well-known organizations in the city including Color of Change, but New York had other plans for her. During the summer of 2020, now living in her current neighborhood of Harlem, Boyd was the ACLU’s National Organizing Director and found herself deeply involved in and affected by the protests against police violence that filled the streets of New York that summer.
The citywide show of solidarity brought her even closer to her community and her adopted city. “I’ve never seen so many people of diverse backgrounds come together to hold police and institutions…accountable for all the ways they failed Black people,” she said of the protests. “That summer actually allowed me to believe again that it was possible to shift the conversation from incremental change to something bigger.”
Still, while the experience was transformative in many ways, it was also a difficult time emotionally. She started creating online content around fashion, travel, and justice. “I created my first series of TikToks at a time where I was actively leading police reform in Minneapolis, immediately following George Floyd’s death,” she explains. But what started as a distraction quickly became a passion.
“Is there a mental hurdle to get over, being in your thirties and making fun of content creators for half your life and then becoming one? Sure. Is there a hurdle around also being an elder millennial raising a Gen Z child who lives on the internet and you’re creating content? Absolutely. But it’s really fun. And I just had to admit to myself that I was having an incredible time, a great time.” As difficult as it was to leave the nonprofit work that she’d spent 15 years doing, she became a full-time content creator last year.
Looking back Boyd recognizes that it was New York that “set me free.” It gave her the courage to make such a radical career change, helping her decide to follow her dreams. “[New York] opened up my eyes to all the kinds of ways that I could live and exist and be.” Today that includes stories she writes with titles like 10 Black Brands to Shop Now and an aesthetic that’s all about honoring Black women, showing Black women and families as multifaceted, inspiring people of color to explore their style and to travel, expressing joy, and dressing as an act of protest.
Most recently, Boyd added the title of fashion designer to her many talents with a collection for Amazon’s The Drop, a series of limited-edition collections created by tastemakers and in celebration of global street style. She’s excited about more upcoming partnerships and a summer of travel that includes the IMARA retreat for women where she’s looking forward to talking “about all the ways we need to lean into ourselves and lean out of the ways people are demanding our time and how we show up.”
Though she jokes about the irony of “feeling accomplished living in a tiny apartment” when friends from her time in Milwaukee are living in much larger living quarters, overall, the thing that makes New York home to Boyd is the community she’s found here. “Finding a community in New York City that matches our kinds of values and the kind of citizen that we want to raise has been really rewarding…I grew up in a deeply progressive, Black home where culture and a love of learning was at the center…New York never loses its deep cultural identity and allows me to continue to foster mine.”