Patia Borja, the force behind the viral page @patiasfantasyworld, has always been candid. Since launching her account in 2017, she has used it to post tongue-in-cheek memes, razor-sharp observations about Black culture and identity, and an activist agenda that counters the scores of superficial platitudes on social media. In May of this year, Patia’s follower count climbed to 140,000 — a feat that likely had everything to do with her unerring pulse on both humor and humanity.
During an Instagram Live chat with the Cut’s fashion assistant Devine Blacksher, Patia opened up about the trajectory of her career, shared her thoughts about how companies are reckoning with infrastructures that have traditionally undermined their Black employees, and explained her comprehensive community database, which serves as a resource for people to understand and help dismantle systemic racism.
Devine Blacksher: How did it turn from a meme account into such a political platform?
Patia Borja: I think I never really posted political stuff because I felt my meme account was a space for people of color, and it’s kind of like a safe space on the internet when you don’t want to be bombarded with Shaun King posts — like, you come to me.
Devine: So true.
Patia: I’ve been on the internet long enough, and I’ve also been alive for long enough. I was born the year after Rodney King [was beaten by police officials]. I grew up knowing about Rodney King throughout my childhood. I grew up knowing about police brutality. I grew up knowing the civil-rights movement. I was taught all these things from the Black experience of my family, and I see how this happens. It’s always weeks of outrage and then we’re all back to our normal lives. And for Black people, that is our normal life. But for non-Black people, that is like the craziest time. Whenever there’s a protest and everyone goes back to work, people are just like, “Guys, that was so crazy,” and you’re like … that is literally normal life.
Patia: Like, I am so desensitized. I had to mute everyone that was protesting. I was like, I can’t look at this type of content right now — but that’s how normalized it is for us. And I think I wanted to do something different by making a database that had everything you needed to know, because I started getting an influx of followers who were like, “What can I do? I don’t know where to donate.” And I was just like, okay, I’m going to do the work. I’m going to do the free work that I have acquired not just through Google, but through personal experience and the people around me. And I’m just going to lay that foundation because it’s evident we’re still in this predicament because people don’t read. I think the problem is that sometimes infographics can be harmful because it gives such a bare minimum, and you see people reposting them because of the aesthetics of them. But people digest the bare minimum of that information.
Patia: And I feel like I wanted to make a database that said, “I’m not giving you digestible information. I’m giving you a lot. You will not learn that database. You will not read all that literature in two weeks.” Those are the books I had to read. Those are the essays my aunts forwarded to me in an email and were like, “You should reflect on this.” I remember growing up and being so mad that all my family did was talk about the Black experience. I was just like, “Can I watch Nickelodeon?” But it’s unfortunate that that’s how I had to learn. Because in America, a country that was built on the backs of stolen Black people, when you’re Black you don’t learn about your culture. When people don’t make the time to read about Black history, I just think that’s why we’re here: Because white supremacy is so prevalent in every single industry, you know? People see white supremacy as like this violent thing involving guns and police. They don’t remember who has the least access to health care, who is most at risk of dying — Black mothers, pregnant Black women. People don’t account that all of that is because of white supremacy. It exists in the medical field; it exists in fashion, art, everything. And it trickles down, and ultimately it does hinder Black people because at some point you just [accept] like, Okay, this is what I’m dealing with. And I was like that for so long, especially as a young adult.
To hear more from Patia Borja on how she cultivated her personal and professional identity, the inherent bond she feels within the Black community — “We lift each other up. I could talk to a random Black person on the street and feel better in 30 seconds, and that’s something I think is beautiful” — and some of her go-to resources, watch the full video now, both above and on Instagram.