The Art Of War with Julia Mallory

"There are two ways of meeting difficulties: You alter the difficulties, or you alter yourself meeting them." Phyllis Bottome

I've always had a white-hot temper with a bit of a Napoleon complex. It may have served me well growing up, I guess. I developed a reputation that I was not one to be fucked with, and that kept all but the vicious of bullies out of my hair.

That was it.

Being a little firecracker only saved me from a moderate amount of ass whoopings.

That attitude was of no service to me beyond high school. The chip on my shoulder was detrimental to my adult relationships, and professional career. I didn't have the skills to handle conflict outside of my hood, I lost friendships that were worth saving and good jobs that had real growth opportunities.

My mouth was writing checks that my ass couldn't cash, and it took me a couple of decades to get a handle on it.  I started to recognize that I was a big part of the problem in my thirties and began avoiding conflicts altogether.

That did not help at all.

The following are the steps I've learned over the years. I hope they help you avoid some of the pitfalls that come from an inability to handle disputes in a mature way.

First things first


I was a little drama Queen growing up. I wore my heart on my sleeves, and let every little thing affect me deeply. My mom would always tell me to get my feelings out of the way. “You can’t spend your energy on everyone and everything, Julia. People will continue to play you if you constantly let them see how much they can get under your skin.”
I was about 35 when this lesson took root. I was working for the VA hospital taking care of one of my patients when a co-worker came into the room and told me that the charge nurse added three more patients to my assignment. I saw red. I hastily finished up with my patient, grabbed my assignment sheet and stormed up to the front desk fully prepared to rip the charge nurse a new one. As I walked to the front desk, I noticed all the extra staff in the hall and the impatient look on the head nurse’s face. Everyone was expecting a show, but they were out of luck this time. I got my feelings out of the way. I took a deep breath and asked for my new assignment.
The charge nurse looked relieved. He explained that one of my co-worker's had a family emergency and he let her go home early.
I remained calm and did my job. My day went by quickly with the extra work, and I never let anyone get a rise out of me for their entertainment again.

The second tool I developed was


Before I learned how to control my emotions, I would get angry the instant I got into a disagreement and the anger would hinder my ability to listen. If you’re in an argument and you are so angry that you can’t hear the other person’s point of view, you can’t get to the root of the problem, and you damn sure can’t get to a solution. Learning to listen has definitely helped with how I communicate with my family. I no longer feel attacked and defensive when I am confronted by a loved one which allows an honest dialogue.

Staying calm and listening effectively will lead you to this next tool


Once I learned to consistently stay out of my feelings and pay attention, I found that the grievances being brought to me had very little to do with me. I stopped rising to every call to battle. I didn’t engage in gossip, and I started to be very selective about the problems that I would give my energy to. I learned that I was responsible for my actions and reactions and if the situation didn’t apply to me, I let it fly over me.

Now if the point of contention has something to do with me, and is worthy of my energy I make sure that I


This is the most valuable lesson I have learned, and it has helped me to not only resolve conflicts effectively, but it has also improved my overall communication skills, and healed valuable relationships. I’ve come a long way from the tiny girl from the hood with a lot of fight inside. I can now bring up an issue I have with a person and keep it on the issue at hand. I don’t deal with anger, so I no longer have disagreements that devolve into name calling, stone throwing, and general disrespect.

If I have a disagreement with my son about the amount of gas in my car when he returns it, that is all that we are discussing. No more, and no less. I will approach him with respect and listen to his reason and offer a solution. It’s a small example, but it was one that I didn’t have the tools to handle a few years ago, and molehills often turned into gigantic fucking mountains.

And finally, I’ve learned to actively


Every conflict I face has the potential to help me grow in some way. Even though I am selective with what I spend my energy on, I don’t avoid conflicts for the hell of it. I see them as a chance to improve, and I actively look for the lesson the universe is trying to convey.


 A few years ago I met a phenomenal poet who has overcome great personal loss and deals with conflict in a beautifully creative way. Meet the fabulous Julia Mallory, and find out about her brand "Black Mermaids, and the origin of Breathe"

Let's talk about your intriguing brand "Black Mermaids". What is the concept and how was it conceived?

Black Mermaids as a brand was not my original intention - I simply was a poet that wanted to publish my first collection of poetry by the same title. Black Mermaids as a concept came to me while I was on vacation in Puerto Rico about five years ago. In Puerto Rico you can visit these structures where our ancestors where held captive - standing in those spaces and feeling that energy did something to me. I had this vision of our enslaved ancestors becoming mermaids upon jumping from slave ships or being thrown overboard. I initially thought I was going to write a travel essay. I still don't quite remember the exact moment when I realized there was something significant in this vision.

I often have these moments when I receive a message about some creative thing I'm supposed to do. I don't question it, I just remain open to being a vessel and respond with the necessary work. I call these moments "divine downloads". There is a poem in my first book that details this reimagining of the myth surrounding mermaids. When my first books arrived a day before Thanksgiving in 2016, it didn't take long for me to realize how enchanted people were with the concept - a response that I hadn't fully anticipated. I also didn't quite understand how much Black people and people of color were interested in mermaids - there simply aren't a lot of mainstream opportunities that provide this type of representation. The first book has an illustration of two Black mermaids which also prompted people to inquire if the book was a children's book - again, a response I hadn't anticipated.

A month after the book was released, I knew I needed a follow-up project. I thought I would do a teen empowerment workbook, however, in speaking with my friend she suggested I write a children's book. A lightbulb went off - I love children's books and couldn't believe I had never considered that path. I sat down in one sitting and had most of the text for what would become my first children's book, Kareemah and the Black Mermaids. Little Kareemah's story is told in a dream sequence where she has a life-changing encounter with a trio of Black mermaids.

Ultimately seeing the response to Black Mermaids, I realized there was something necessary that I needed to share with others. In January of 2017, I designed my first t-shirt and hosted my first pop-up shop in April 2017. In July 2017, I designed four more t-shirts and the following month built a true e-commerce site. I looked for key themes in my creative work and life - in particular, the ones that seemed to resonate the most with my supporters and decided that "Bold. Brave. Resilient." would become the tagline.

As of late, I've been working on cultivating my "Nah, this lifetime" line of products. My Lifetime t-shirt is one of my bestsellers.
"Nah, this lifetime" came to me in November 2017 out of nowhere. It is a play on the Erykah Badu song, "Next Lifetime" where she is expressing to someone where there are mutual feelings that she already has someone and that maybe they can connect in the next lifetime. I hadn't even been listening to the song, but I heard a voice saying "Nah, THIS lifetime. We're not waiting for some other time to do what we can do NOW." Of course, minus infidelity! (LOL!)

All of my original designed tees can be purchased here:  (

What if any obstacles did you encounter while making Black Mermaids a reality?

I often see roadblocks as being part of the journey, especially entrepreneurship, so it's very hard for me to internalize that struggle as a sign that I am not supposed to press on. Yet nothing had prepared me for the murder of my 17-year-old son Julian in June 2017. I had my first children's book in production, I had just built some good momentum with my collection of poetry and first t-shirt and I was ready to give it all up. Then Black Mermaids became the very thing that saved my life - I realized you don't experience that level of devastation and rise without a tremendous amount of light in your life. Black Mermaids is one of those key sources of light for me. It gives me an opportunity to spread love and also in a way honor my son, who always had a bold and entrepreneurial spirit about him. He also was a real people-person, so I often envision him alongside me interacting with folks, especially the little ones that love my children's books because he also had this nurturing side to him when it came to children.

Tell me about Breathe.

I was attending a children's literature conference in New York in April 2018 for creators and industry folks in diverse books. While I was there, the spirit of three books visited me, BREATHE was one of them. I saw a Black father meditating with their child - I saw my significant other in the role of this father. I sat there in that very moment and wrote what would become the first four pages. BREATHE is such a special book. My collaborator and illustrator, Taqiyya Muhammad did her thing on the illustrations. BREATHE is so rich in representation - the father has free locks and deep brown skin. He is patient. There are very few children's books on the subject of meditation and mindfulness and even fewer that feature diverse characters. Our narrator in the story, Josiah, also has a fro or what some of us call a "broccoli top". Josiah is also wearing a hearing aid, which is not central to the story but necessary to show more representations of Black children.

All of my books, including BREATHE can be purchased here:

What's next for you?

I always start out with goals in mind but do not ignore when new opportunities present themselves. In 2019, I plan to release a collection of poetry and at least two children's books.

In February, I will launch a Kickstarter campaign to turn BREATHE into a board book. There are very few board books that feature children of color, even fewer if you count books published in the last five or ten years. Even in this day and time, it is still revolutionary to put a Black child on the cover of a children's book, especially in the traditional publishing industry where only 7% of all children's books were written by people of color and roughly a third of the children's books that did feature a person of color were actually written by people of that racial and/or ethnic background. I invite folks that want to see this change to pledge their support via this two question survey (

As a creative, poetry is my first love and writing children's books is the love I didn't know that I needed. Black Mermaids is where all of that love manifests. I'm looking forward to going across the country and continuing to share that love with others.

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