In June, after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement saw an influx of support. Many people attended protests, used their platforms to amplify Black voices, and opened their pockets to support Black people and Black-owned businesses. During the month of June, I remember having this enthusiastic feeling about change to come. When the movement for social equality began to gain momentum, it seemed as though everyone wanted to be involved. We had major corporations making initiatives within their companies to enact change. Sephora created the 15% pledge that promised to have at least 15% of their products sourced from Black-owned businesses. Netflix highlighted Black films and bought the rights to many Black sitcoms that were prominent in the 90s and early 2000s. Even Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from his position within the company in order to bring on a Black person to replace him. It seemed as though people were really listening to us and pushing for change.
When the protests began in early June, I wanted to find a way to use my voice so that people could understand what Black Lives Matter is and why it is incredibly important. Writing has always been my outlet, and I feel like words have power, so I started to write essays and poetry that reflected my feelings as a Black person in this world and posted them on my Instagram. Along with those essays, I created guides to help people understand how to contribute to Black Lives Matter in a genuine fashion. My reasoning for creating the guides in the first place was because of the constant performative activism I was seeing on social media. I witnessed so many black squares with #blackouttuesday on my feed and felt a sense of emptiness. It felt like people were taking part in a trend, instead of taking the initiative to support BLM and educate themselves. But instead of bitching about it and making myself more frustrated, I created guides. I kept telling myself that some people just needed education on Black Lives Matter and that once they received the necessary knowledge, they would do better. Surprisingly, because of the power of social media, my guides have been shared by thousands of people from all walks of life. I have received messages from people in the entertainment industry, several different publications, and even people that consider themselves “reformed” racists, all thanking me for my work and telling me that they wanted to do better and educate themselves. It felt good to know that people wanted to see change, and I felt proud to be a small part of the reason why change was happening.
However, with good feedback also came criticism—or, to be honest, I don’t even know if criticism is the right word. There are times that I receive hateful messages from folks with such derogatory and passive-aggressive rhetoric that I find myself in a state of shock reading them. I’ve had people aggressively put down my work, call me racist for calling out white privilege, or continuously harass me through my direct messages on a daily or weekly basis. When I tell people about this, especially non-Black people, they seem confused. In their eyes, the “activism” that was displayed in June was enough for discrimination toward Black people to be over. That’s the problem. Racism isn’t going to magically go away because you posted a black square on your Instagram, or you wrote a long personal essay reflecting on your privilege and how you “need to do better”. Acts of racism towards Black people have been happening for hundreds of years. Racism was not going to disappear into thin air by the end of June. Racism was not going to “take a break” so that you could celebrate the Fourth of July. Racism is very much alive and seems more aggressive than ever, partly due to the impending election.
I am very aware that writing this essay and publishing it to a platform that has a majority white audience can come with backlash. I know that many of you might personally feel as though pop culture and lifestyle platforms are becoming “too political”, and that you just want to be able to “enjoy” it and not make everything about race. That right there is an issue. Human rights are not political, whatsoever. Feeling enraged because your favorite celebrities are continuously using their platforms to amplify Black Lives Matter is racist. Getting upset because your favorite Bravolebrity was fired for racist behavior? Racist. When you find yourself tweeting things like “Why does everything have to be about race?”, or “Don’t pull the Black card.”, it’s racist. To those who consider themselves allies, stop confusing ignorance with racism as a way to make excuses for those whom you admire. To be ignorant, you would have to have a lack of knowledge as it pertains to the subject at hand. The subject here is Black lives, and a majority of you reading this are educated enough to know right from wrong—so we are not talking about ignorance, but racism. Start publicly condemning your racist colleagues. I don’t care how many followers the person has, what connections they might have that might help elevate you, or whether or not you believe them to be a good person. If you genuinely give a f*ck about your Black friends and family, you will do what is right. Your voice matters now more than ever. Here are some ways that you can continue to practice allyship and contribute for equality towards Black people.
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To be quite honest with you, I know that Instagram guides on injustice are seemingly becoming repetitive. However for the past few days, I’ve noticed not only a decrease in “online support” for the #blacklivesmatter movement but also a lot of Anti-Black rhetoric. Your support for this movement shouldn’t be leverage you hold against Black people when you see an injustice committed by a Black person. This movement is also not a damn meme and isn’t something that’s gonna just go away over night. I also believe that words have power. The more we educate the more we can eradicate racist behavior/policies. However, we also need action. Corporations and people with power, hire more Black people. School Districts, hire more Black teachers. Hospitals, hire more Black health care professionals. Don’t just say something, DO SOMETHING, and don’t wait for us to be around to show support. Keep that same energy everywhere. Shoutout to @heysharonc for creating the #pulluporshutup initiative. It opened my eyes to how much companies lack diversity across the board especially as it pertains to Black people. Now I need a mental health break after all of this 😭, thanks for the support everyone and please continue to show solidarity to the #blacklivesmatter movement 💛✨💪🏾
Open Your Purse
Besides supporting your local Black businesses, there are also other ways to open your purse and support Black people. With the results of the election coming out soon, there are sure to be protests coming from all sides. Usually, at these protests, Black people are more likely to be arrested and charged. If you can, try to donate to bail funds in your local area that could help bail out Black protesters in your area.
Vote in every election that you have. I don’t care if it’s for the HOA board in your building, your student council if you attend college or your local election in your town. Every election matters, not just the presidential election. If you have the privilege to vote, utilize it.
Read The Room
Performative activism is not cute and actually does more harm than good. If you show up to a protest just to contribute to looting or to show up to take selfies, you are taking part in performative activism, which is activism for the sole purpose of personal gain. Don’t show up if you are going to do this. Also, do not take part in protesting for BLM just so that you can excuse or justify your own racist/ignorant behavior down the line. Allyship does not exempt you from being called out as well.
Lastly, please have the necessary conversations with those around you. Call out discriminatory behavior when you see it. If you see something, say something in the moment. If you continuously see this behavior in individuals around you, cut them off. Some people aren’t meant to be changed and you willingly being around them says a lot about your character. One of the most consistent ways to practice allyship is to continually call out racism when you see it in your everyday life.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; jonathanchandler_ / Instagram
Before the social justice uprising that has taken place this year, could you name three Black-owned beauty brands off the top of your head? With little accessibility to brands that represent a range of darker skin tones and different hair textures, Black people are often left with limited options to achieve their desired looks. If we have learned anything this year, it is that representation matters. It should go without saying that Black consumers deserve to be acknowledged in the beauty industry. In honor of National Black Business month, we’re turning our attention to three Black women CEOs who have taken the step to catering to Black women’s needs and are making space for more melanin in the beauty industry.
Wilma Mae of DRK Beauty
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Perfectionism is exhausting! It can manifest itself in the way you view yourself, your work, or your ability to achieve your goals. There is far more joy found in embracing what you have and going for it anyway. Tap the link in bio to read @cherylchiew’s latest piece on unlearning perfectionism and how it taught her to see herself as good enough. We hope you are inspired to do the same. What are you letting go off as we move into a new month? Let us know below! #ThisIsDRKBeauty ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #Photo @laurenloncar ⠀⠀⠀ #Model @faithjaggernauth ⠀ #Makeup @deannamelluso ⠀⠀⠀ #Hair @mark.alan.hair ⠀⠀⠀⠀ #Stylist @tarzinichols⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #flawsandall #acceptance #innerbeauty #truebeauty #positivity #affirmations #perfectionism #strongwomen
“DRK Beauty is a digital community that supports and empowers women of color in all their diversity. Through curated content, programming, and community initiatives, DRK Beauty aims to truly empower those who identify as women of color and fix the flawed relationships between brands and women of color.
DRK Beauty Healing is one of our first community initiatives in response to COVID-19 and the BLM movement. When we first launched DRK Beauty Healing on May 15th of this year—before George Floyd’s murder—we had only conceived the idea two weeks earlier as a response to the impending mental health fallout from COVID-19. Having never worked in the therapeutic space, our first step was to speak to therapists. We had back-to-back Zoom calls five days a week for the first month. We also spoke to mental health associations such as Mental Health America to learn more about the space and researched other initiatives in our community. We effectively educated ourselves as quickly as we could.
What we discovered is that there are precious few clinicians of color in the U.S. (Black/African psychologists make up only 5% of the total in the U.S.) and the free initiatives that are out there required prospective clients to fill out online forms and share their data and then wait to be approved to receive the free therapy. This added yet another barrier to entry, not to speak of the cultural stigma of therapy in the Black community. In addition, when you are depressed, traumatized, and/or paralyzed with anxiety, you don’t have the mental bandwidth to fill out forms and wait for an answer. You need the help now! We felt that the need was urgent and we wanted to make the process as seamless as possible. Also, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t breach any privacy rules. So my developers built an online directory and within two weeks we launched with a few hundred hours of therapy donated by clinicians we had spoken to. We asked them to share with their clinicians as well. So they continued to donate hours and within a month of launch, we had 1,000 hours of free therapy to give away. We’ve now raised over 2,000 hours of free therapy and we are now one of the leading platforms for free therapy for women of color in America, covering 27 states with approximately 100 clinicians.”
Brittney Ogike of BeautyBeez
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@vickyunfiltered did not come to play with us!😍 She is rocking @sensationnel_hair Rule Breaker Lace Wig sold both in-store @beautybeezstore and online BEAUTYBEEZ.com 🥰 • • • • • • • • • #melaninmagic #kinkycurlyhair #4ahair #sensationnelhair #melaninpoppin #4chair #teamsensationnel #naturalhair #sensationnel #protectivestyles #bsshair #3chair #lacefrontwig #blackgirlmagic #naturalhairjourney #naturalhairdaily #naturalhaircommunity #rulebreaker #bighair #kinkycurly #blackhair #curlyhair #naturalista #melanin
“BEAUTYBEEZ was created to fill a gap in the retail industry. What many people outside of the African-American community do not realize is that ethnic hair care and beauty products are traditionally sold in small local retailers called beauty supply stores. Every Black woman has memories—both fond and unpleasant—of going to the local beauty supply store with our mothers and shopping for those nostalgic “Black girl hair” products. It was a space specifically for us! The larger retailers didn’t (and still don’t) carry these items. Due to various laws and regulations over the past several decades, ownership in ethnic beauty largely transferred to the Korean-American community. Traditionally, they own the stores, the products, the hair manufacturing, and the distribution. And, unfortunately, people of color are oftentimes discriminated against in all areas—most notably in the beauty supply stores. We are followed, harassed, and left to fend for ourselves.
BEAUTYBEEZ is a modern beauty retailer prioritizing beauty for women of color. I founded the brand after my own dissatisfaction shopping for beauty. As an entrepreneur creating success in a field where I’m the minority, I’ve had to be resilient, resourceful, and stand out. There were several challenges that came my way, and I faced them head on. I took the time to equip myself with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in an industry that capitalizes off of me. I used my experience as a consumer and infused it in all aspects of BEAUTYBEEZ—from the products and services we offer to the customer experience. My identity and experiences as a Black consumer have single-handedly been the most effective attribute I’ve brought to the business and enabled me to thrive in an industry that is dominated by people who do not look like me.
BEAUTYBEEZ provides an inclusive beauty experience where women of color can shop, explore, and play in a world full of beauty. The brand was created because nothing like it exists and we wanted to be a complete departure from the typical beauty supply. Our mission is to celebrate Black beauty in every way possible—a curated collection of hair care, skin care, and beauty products; selling inclusive beauty brands; promoting minority owned brands; hiring diversity in our team members; tailored services for our unique needs; and most importantly, the creation of a community reflective of our brand’s values and ideals. We’ve been able to successfully create this space because we possess a passion for and knowledge of our consumers and their needs—an approach many of our predecessors have neglected.”
Jamila Powell, Owner & Founder, Maggie Rose Salon
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“When I first entered the beauty industry, I didn’t really have a clear understanding of all of the nuances and disparity that existed. I am a salon owner and do not do hair. I was primarily interested in the salon being a second stream of income. I started the salon geared towards extension work, and then transitioned into curly textured hair. As the business grew, so did my desire to become more known in the industry and be recognized as a salon of curl experts. That is when I discovered that salons and stylists of color are put in a box and not given the opportunity to shine on an international platform. Even more surprising, most salons that are recognized for specializing in curls are not Black-owned.
I initially tried to reach out to many of the well-known industry publications, but the feedback was pretty much non-existent. Typically, a handful of stylists of color are chosen to be representatives in the hair world, but new talent is not sought-after. I decided with the access we have to the internet and social media, I would create a lane for myself. I have created a global following for Maggie Rose, along with an educational platform called Texture University, and am in the process of launching a hair system for curls called Naturally Drenched. It has been a journey, but I have realized it is better to create your own platform versus depending on others.”
Images: Cottonbro / Pexels; thisisdrkbeauty, beautybeezstore, maggierosesalon / Instagram
In case you have forgotten, it’s still time to talk about Black Lives Matter. In addition to protesting, signing petitions, donating money, educating yourself, and showing your support on social media, you can also help out by supporting Black-owned businesses. There are plenty of amazing businesses that you can give your support to right now. If you’ve been itching to shop or buy some new products, check out these Black-owned retailers.
Rue107 Megan Skirt – Pink Tribe
Rue107 is an affordable, super cute clothing brand based out of NY. All their pieces are contemporary and fun, and they even have their own swim line! I love trendy fashion with unique pieces where everyone will ask where you got it from, and everything at Rue107 is like that. They also have stellar reviews and carry sizes S-3X, and they’re currently offering 50% off!
MAKTUB Studio Beautiful Single Wood Wick Candle
I am obsessed with candles and I’m so excited to try MAKTUB Studio candles. I normally have a hefty supply of Bath & Body Works candles at the ready, but I’m trying to expand my horizons. These candles are so pretty and the scents all sound amazing. This Beautiful candle (that’s the name of it) smells like grapefruit, mint, neroli, rose, and apple, and the packaging lives up to the product name.
Chic Geeks Lavender Faux Crocodile MacBook Case
Chic Geeks has super cute tech covers—everything from laptop cases, phone cases, keyboard covers, and more. Their covers look soooo luxe and fancy, it’s a great way to upgrade your old tech’s look without actually having to buy a whole new laptop. Plus, everything is vegan and cruelty-free.
Sweats by Sam
Sweats by Sam The Days Of Lavender Set
You should definitely be following @sweatsbysam on Instagram to be the first to know when new products launch, as they’re selling out super quickly. Since we’re all stuck at home for the most part, you definitely need some cute and chic loungewear, and all of Sweats by Sam’s sets are soooo comfy and cute. I mean, I know you’re just dressing up to play on your laptop on the couch, but your dog will definitely appreciate how cute your outfit is.
Humans Before Handles
Humans Before Handles Ash Earrings
Humans Before Handles has the most gorgeous jewelry, ranging from super delicate pieces to very colorful, fun statement jewelry to upgrade your outfits. The best part is that it’s all super affordable too. They also carry hair accessories like barrettes and headbands, so you’ll look put-together once we can go out again.
JBD Apparel Zenith Set
If you haven’t heard of JBD Apparel yet, you’re going to see them everywhere soon, as they are a celebrity favorite. The clothing is selling out like crazy with chic matching sets in breathable fabrics. The secret to their success is the super flattering fit of the clothes, so if you need a knock-em-dead outfit that you’ll look amazing in, you’ll want to check them out. The only thing to be aware of is their clothing has a celebrity price tag, if you know what I mean. You can follow them on Instagram to know when they restock.
Riot Swim Pico Top
If you’re in need for some to-die-for, perfect fit swimwear this summer, check out Riot Swim. I normally shop at Amazon for my bikinis, but it’s nice to have a few nicer swimsuits that will last forever and fit your body perfectly. I love how high-waisted and flattering the Pico cut is (pictured above!) and you’ll definitely get tons of use out of it. Just think of the perfect Instagram selfies.
Harlem Candle Co.
Harlem Candle Co. “Love” Luxury Candle
I know, I already featured candles, but look, I really love candles, okay?! The Harlem Candle Co. has the most beautiful luxe candles. These are definitely home decor, in addition to smelling amazing. This Love candle smells like, “an ethereal, fresh opening of crisp apple and watery green notes evolves with an unexpected nuance of aromatic elemi and spicy clove.” I mean, yes please? Plus it has an 80-hour burn time!
What Black-owned stores are your favorites that we should all check out? Please post them in the comments!
Images: LOGAN WEAVER / Unsplash; Rue107, MAKTUB Studio, Chic Geeks, Sweats by Sam, Humans Before Handles, JBD Apparel, Riot Swim, Harlem Candle Co.