A conversation with Carmen D. Harris and Renita Woodson
This year we had the pleasure of meeting Carmen D. Harris of Imagine Me Free and Two Inches Beyond Black and Renita Woodson of Renita Falana Designs. Our teams immediately connected based on a shared passion for people and creating spaces of well-being to help others thrive. So, after many discussions and prototypes, we are proud to release Tate, a meditation cushion designed by Carmen + Renita as a solution for fostering wellness in the workplace (and beyond).
Come behind the scenes with us to better understand their vision for the product and their perspective on fostering habits and spaces that will empower people to be their best selves. Here’s a glimpse into a conversation between Lydia Moya, our Content Strategist, and Carmen + Renita:
How did the two of you meet and what is your background?
Renita: It all started because Carmen and I were awarded the same NASA WISE scholarship. And, I mean it’s NASA and funds to assist my attendance at the institution of my choice, so, of course, I took it. During my time at Spelman College, I was a computer science major and a math minor. While in college, however, I realized I had many other interests and gifts that spoke to my creative self and it confirmed my commitment to explore those after finishing my degree.
Carmen: Yes, when we were in school, Renita was always the creative one. She was designing clothes, cutting things up, things like that.
Renita: After graduation, I worked in the Engineering/Tech space for the Boeing and Defense Intelligence Agency for a while, but eventually I decided to go back to school for interior design. Today, I'm an interior designer focusing on commercial and healthcare design.
Carmen: I was a math major at Spelman College, and later completed a master's in public health from the University of South Carolina. I really wanted to support philanthropy and help kids to become more physically active. This is where our interests intersect.
I graduated and worked for the Centers for Disease Control as an epidemiologist for 10 years. While there, I started a company named Love Over Logic which was founded around the question: How do you choose love over logic? That was almost 15 years ago. Today, I see the question as still relevant. How are you sitting with yourself and your felt sense? We are alive, and yet we live in a conditioned world where we are often taught to prioritize our thinking minds over our body’s own sensory wisdom.
So how did this lead to the creation and design of the meditation cushion? What was your vision for the project?
Carmen: It started with the practice of me sitting with one of my teachers and mentors, Dr. Crystal Jones in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. For nearly a year and a half, I sat with her once a week to be with my own body. She had the idea to do a meditation cushion because it had been passed down through her grandmother as a way to support others and foster community. That’s when I called Renita.
Renita: So when Carmen, my good friend, approached me it didn’t take a lot of convincing and our inner scientists kicked in and we both took off doing research. Okay, clearly meditation cushions exist. But what would be the impetus to make this one?
Carmen: Through my experience and research, it was clear few products spoke to the aesthetic of me- or Black people indigenously or ancestrally So when I was talking to Renita, I saw that there was a gap. There's not an aesthetically beautiful and functional meditation cushion that I would want to have as a piece of furniture in my own home.
Talk to me about the specific design details of the cushion. What elements did you integrate and why?
Renita: Well one detail I think is important is the two different materials on the different sides of the cushion to support different needs. One side sits more like a beanbag, so that you sink into it, while the other is more firm, so you sit on top of it. That way, however people want to use it they can find functionality. We acknowledged that some people may not consider themselves people who meditate, and that’s perfectly fine. With that in mind, we wanted this product to be more inclusive and accessible to those who may not have considered using a product like this before.
Carmen: I think there's no one way to use it, there are multiple ways. I’ve used it to sit on the floor in the sun. I’ve used it to prop up my computer screen. I've used it to lie down and support my back by placing it under my knees
Renita: Really it can be whatever you imagine it to be!
How does the meditation cushion support wellness?
Carmen: It depends on how they choose to use it and how they define wellness. For me, wellness is about freedom of choice. And this cushion offers choice. First, there's beauty in being close to the ground. Second, Audre Lorde says “I feel, therefore I can be free.” Pausing and sitting offer me a chance to feel which creates freedom for me. I just started reading a book called Our Body is Our Brain. It highlights how we can allow ourselves to reconnect to our felt sense awareness. My mentor taught me to ask myself: What are you experiencing and where do you feel that in your body? When we pause to listen to what our bodies are sharing with us—we can connect to the truth of our own wisdom. The more awareness we have of our entire selves, the better relationships we can ultimately build with others.
Renita: Plus, whether you want to truly meditate or just find a more comfortable position to work in, the different sizes and shapes of these cushions should be able to accommodate your needs. In an office, maybe it also just serves as a reminder to take breaks for stillness and to bring your whole self into the office rather than just presenting what people expect.
Carmen: This meditation cushion is an invitation to create—to create new relationships, with yourself and others, or even a space for healing and restoration. It’s an invitation for joy and ease in the workplace and beyond.
I’m sure you can see why we were so inspired by Carmen and Renita. They truly emulate everything that we hope to do with our products and work—empowering people to become their best selves. We are so proud to highlight their work and honored to create Tate meditation cushions together.