The notion of supporting locally-owned businesses operated by people of color is not a new conversation. For more than a century, the commitment to amplify Black-owned businesses has continued to grow, and within our current exhibition, Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, you’ll notice a section dedicated to the subject.
In Think Black, Buy Black we learn about the teachings of Harlem activist Carlos A. Cooks (1913–1966), a follower of Marcus Garvey (1887–1940), who encouraged his followers to “Think Black.” It meant not only being concerned with issues facing the Black community, but also reflecting that awareness through dress and self-presentation. Cooks’s concept of “buying Black” was rooted in Garvey’s principle of Black economic independence: to achieve empowerment, Black people needed to keep their dollars circulating within their own community. In the summer of 1963, Brathwaite photographed protests in Harlem against a white-owned shop named Wigs Parisian that sold straight-haired wigs to Black women. After mounting an initial counter-protest, the shop owners grew weary of the battle and decided to close. This campaign was a catalyst for the Black Is Beautiful movement.
While our Museum Shop is temporarily closed, we asked the Blanton’s Store Manager & Buyer, Justin O’Connor, to share some of her own favorite Black-owned businesses for you to support. We also encourage you to comment with any ATX Black-owned vendors you support so that Justin and other readers can check out their products, too.
JUSTIN: One of my favorite aspects of my job is being able to curate the shop to reflect what is on view at the museum. I was particularly looking forward to Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite because it was going to be the perfect time to debut a large selection of products from local black artists and creators that I had hoped to continue to carry long after the exhibition closed.
Since the shop will be taking a hiatus until the construction of our new grounds is complete, I want to introduce you to some of my personal favorites. Thankfully, you can still get some Black Is Beautiful-related merchandise by visiting the exhibition page, which includes links to the accompanying Aperture publication and a 50th Anniversary Edition of the 1970 Black is Beautiful poster designed by Robert A. Gumbs.
We’re planning for the shop to reopen late 2022, but until then—Shop Black, Shop Local, Shop Often!
You may recognize this face as half of the AMAZING local band and past Blanton Block Party headliners Riders Against the Storm (his beautiful wife Qi Dada makes up the other half), but did you know that Chaka is also an artist, fashion designer, and activist? All three talents combine in his apparel line Fresh2Life and the outcome is clothing that makes you stand a little bit taller and smile a little bit brighter, spreading the love like he does. Speaking of smiling, do yourself a favor and watch Hoodies n Boots right now.
My fingernails may not look like this but I NEVER leave the house without brightly painted toenails. I love Oh Tiff vegan nail polish not only because it’s made from organic plant-based ingredients, but because it also comes in loud (and I mean that in a good way) colors like Pineapple Holiday and Planet Earth.
Social Justice Jewelry
We’ve been carrying Social Justice Jewelry for years, because we stand behind its message and craftsmanship, but I can’t wait until we can carry this new necklace. which is a nod to two of my favorites –Beyoncé AND Basquiat. Their new pronoun dog tags are super cool, too.
Basic Ass Tea
Love the name, but this tea is FAR from basic! I mean, look at the beautiful color of their Lay Low Tea. Yes, it’s a simple combination of lavender, lemongrass, and green pea flower, but it melts away stress and makes me feel super fancy when I drink it. Basic Ass Tea is really Kick Ass Tea, in my opinion.