Yoga+Creativity+Internet Geek=Ananda Leeke. Michigan born. Maryland raised. Morgan State educated. Howard and Georgetown Law trained. Leeke discovered and pursued her passion as an artist, author of one novel and two memoirs (available on Amazon), creativity coach, digital communications consultant, Reiki practitioner, and yoga teacher while living in the historic U Street, NW neighborhood in Washington, DC.
Her passion is best described as a mantra: “Inspiring Creative Expression & Healthy Living.” It is rooted in the lessons her mother Theresa, a musician, choir director, and early childhood teacher, taught her about using her imagination, eating and growing fruits and vegetables, playing in nature, and appreciating world art, culture, and travel while growing up in the 1970s. Today, it guides her intention to live as a Fierce Living, Femme Chic Fiftysomething who practices self-care with healing arts tools (acupuncture, Ayurveda, mindfulness, reiki, and yoga), feeds her creative soul with artist dates and world travel experiences, and enjoys using her gifts to serve others. You can learn more about her by reading her books: Love’s Troubadours (yoga-inspired novel), That Which Awakens Me (creativity memoir), and Digital Sisterhood (technology memoir).
Her commitment to serving others is deeply influenced by her Catholic upbringing, mother’s civic and community involvement, father’s goal of doing good work, the Greater Service. Greater Progress motto she learned while becoming a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority on Morgan’s campus in the early 1980s, and the wisdom of U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
Her Blog & Social Media…
As a lover of the written word, she has used her blog and social media to share her thoughts and information on creativity, healthy living, the Internet, women in social media and technology, and yoga since 2005. In the past two years, she has organized her blogging and social media life into five hashtags that guide what she posts Monday through Friday: #YogaMonday, #InternetGeek Tuesday, #DigitalSisterhood Wednesday, #CreativityThursday, and #FierceLiving Friday. Thanks to her digital wellness practice, she unplugs and takes breaks from her weekly posts on a regular basis!
Black Enterprise named her as one of the Black Women in Tech You Should Follow on Twitter in 2011. The Hot Mommas Project, a women’s leadership research venture housed at the George Washington University School of Business, chose her as an author for its 2012-2013 case study library.
Her Current Life…
Right now, she is focused on living a fulfilling life as CEO of Ananda Leeke Media, a digital communications consulting firm. To learn more, read her LinkedIn profiles as a creative professional and digital communications consultant.
10 THINGS ABOUT ANANDA
1. Ananda is a recognized thought leader by the White House.
The White House recognized her as a #socialcivics thought leader, invited her to meet one-on-one with the first-ever Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman, and selected her to serve as a social media correspondent for the State of the Union, French Arrival Ceremony for French President Francois Hollande, Tumblr Q&A session on education and college affordability, and Spring Garden Tour Social. The U.S. Department of State invited her to participate in a similar capacity during the International Women of Courage Award Ceremony. Her White House experiences inspired her to launch the Digital Citizenship Project, Digital Citizenship Month (July), and My #DigCitizen Supports Campaign.
2. Ananda is passionate about women in social media and technology.
Her passion for women’s issues, building community, and the Internet inspired her to create the Digital Sisterhood Network (DSN), a media channel that celebrates women in social media and technology through leadership, lifestyle, and living well initiatives. Through DSN, she produces Digital Sisterhood Month, an annual event series that is held in December.
3. Ananda loves to talk and teach as a nationally recognized speaker and workshop facilitator.
She loves to speak about a variety of topics including blogging, digital citizenship, digital wellness, nonprofit digital storytelling, social media leadership, women in social media, and yoga. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and events sponsored by Automattic/WordPress, Black Bloggers Connect, BlogHer, Holy Cross Hospital, Howard University, Serve DC, Society for the Arts in Healthcare, Spelman College, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Washington National Cathedral’s Sacred Circles Conference, and YWCA USA.
4. Ananda works as an artist-in-residence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
She works as an artist-in-residence for Smith Center for Healing and the Arts with military staff, patients, and families at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Her work with Smith Center began in 2001. She spent two years undergoing training and began working as an artist-in-residence at Howard University Hospital in 2003. During her seven-year tenure at Howard, she worked primarily with cancer patients of color and their families. In addition, she worked with people of color living with HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, mental health challenges, and other long-term illnesses.
In her artist-in-residence work, she uses an inter-disciplinary approach that includes collage, office yoga, painting, poetry, Reiki, storytelling, wire sculpture, and writing as she works alongside patients, families, and hospital staff. In her commitment to programs like Smith Center, she honors her passion for serving communities of color and military staff and their families, and the memory of her grandmothers, Frederica Stanley Roberts Leeke and Dorothy Mae Johnson Gartin, who lived with breast cancer.
5. Ananda’s artwork encourages people to invite art into their lives as a gateway for self discovery and healing.
Her artwork explores the healing power and presence of ancestors, archetypes, goddesses, spiritual practices, and sacred spaces in the lives of people of color and women. It marries language in the form of poetry, six-word memoirs, prayers, and reflections.
Her mixed media collages, wire sculptures, and paintings have been exhibited in the DC metropolitan area, New York City, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Her artwork was featured in Heart and Soul in 2001 and often reflects her passion for issues affecting people of color and women. In 2002, she created and donated “Our Womanist Spirit” and “I am my sista’s keeper wire” sculpture collections to The Women’s Collective, an HIV/AIDS direct services organization.
6. Ananda is a VIDA designer of a scarf collection.
VIDA, a San Francisco-based e-commerce platform that collaborates with artists around the world to create original and inspiring apparel and accessories, invited her to become a designer. Together, they transformed four pieces of artwork from her three books into a scarf collection ($40 each). Click here to learn more and shop.
7. Ananda tapped into her creative storytelling gifts as a poet which opened the door to her becoming a novelist and memoirist.
She started writing poetry when she was in elementary school in the 1970s. Her favorite thing to do was to make greeting cards and write poems inside of them for family members. Her love of poetry blossomed while she was a student at St. Elizabeth Seton High School. Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, and ntozake shange were three of the first poets she adored.
After she completed her law studies, she began writing poetry to cope with the stress of taking the bar exam and finding employment. Since 1992, she has actively pursued her career as an author. Through her poetry chap books and participation in the DC arts movement, her poetry appeared in Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century (2002). She penned Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One, a yoga-inspired novel (2007), That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (2009), and Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online (2013). Her six-word memoir was published in It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure (2010). She is currently working on her first e-book series.
8. Ananda helps her creativity coaching clients achieve their goals.
Her client XIna Eiland, President of X+PR, wanted to increase her visibility as a PR expert and speaker. Through her coaching support, she helped Xina prepare for her participation in the White House Black History event, “Celebrating Women of the Movement” and speaking engagement at the Blogger Week Unconference.
9. Ananda practices yoga every day!
She started practicing yoga in her home in 1995 after she attended her first yoga class during an African American studies trip to Egypt. When she returned from her trip, she hired a private yoga teacher to guide her through the asanas (poses). Her name was Gloria. She was a kind, firm, loving, and knowledgeable woman Ananda met in her monthly meditation group. Gloria showed her how to embrace yoga as her own healing balm for anxiety, stress relief, and tight hips, hamstrings, and legs that needed stretching after her long runs. She taught her how to create a five-minute practice that includes seven deep breaths in a seated pose followed by child’s pose. When she has more time, Ananda adds in a few rounds of sun salutations, cat/cow, lots of standing forward folds, cobras, planks, twists, squats, pigeons, and alternative nostril breathing. Gloria pushed her to try poses she was afraid of and encouraged her to take her yoga practice outside. Ten years after she began practicing, Ananda started her yoga teacher training program at Flow Yoga Center and completed it in 2006.
She currently teaches kind and gentle yoga and encourages her clients to practice yoga every day in their every day clothing. Her home practice is a mélange of restorative, yang (vinyasa), and yin yoga. She enjoys practicing yoga outside at Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park and with a community at Tranquil Space.
10. Ananda loves selfies, usies, and photobombing.
Her favorite selfie was taken during the White House Arrival Ceremony for French President Hollande in 2014. Dave McCulloch took a picture of her taking her selfie.
Her most recent usie was taken with White House Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman after their meeting on May 6, 2015.
Her favorite photobomb moment was with President Barack Obama during the White House Tumblr Q&A on college affordability in 2014.
Photo Credits: Xina Eiland, Christine Hanolsy, Dave McCulloch, Leigh Mosley, and Teresa Dowell-Vest