As a New Orleans native, I know that the July 4th weekend is about much more than dodging your neighbor’s wayward fireworks while your uncle works the BBQ grill in his mandals. In NOLA, Independence Day has become synonymous with the Blacktastic affair we know as the Essence Music Festival – an event that brings upwards of half a million brown beauties and their beaus to The Big Easy for fun, food, and frolicking.
What some out-of-town festival goers don’t know, however, is how drastically New Orleans economy changes for Essence Festival. Of course hundreds of thousands of people bringing their summer vacation dollars to the city is an economic boost, but the majority of those dollars are typically spent with large corporations and NOT with the many smaller Black businesses who would thrive from the temporary increase in sales. Furthermore, lots of NOLA businesses – especially in the French Quarter – have been known to hike prices, enforce additional gratuities, or close down all together in response to the influx of Black patrons in the city. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s
messed up. And while I don’t think there’s any value in trying to make business who don’t want Black dollars take them, there’s a definite value to consciously spending our coins with business not only owned and operated by Black New Orleanians, but those that consistently improve and give back to their communities. Read more
Marti Dumas, the author of both Jala and the Wolves and the newly released Jaden Toussaint, The Greatest: Episode 1, became a children’s book author in direct response to the need she recognized for Black children to see themselves mirrored in literature.
“My first book, Jala and the Wolves, was literally written as a gift to my daughter when she was 6,” Marti says. “Like her mama, my daughter has always been a reader, and at 6 years old she was reading lots of fantasy chapter books, none of which featured girls like her–brown girls who love to read and love science and animals. So, I wrote a book for her and had one copy printed. We read it together and enjoyed it. Eventually the one copy got passed around and, through a long series of coincidences, ended up being published 4 years later.” Since Marti is also an accomplished voice over artist, it was only natural for her to turn Jala and the Wolves into a fabulous audiobook as well. Read more
If you’ve been a part of the online natural hair community for any length of time, chances are you’ve seen Sharee Miller‘s adorable daily sketches of women and girls with kinks and curls under the moniker Coily and Cute. This talented artist is a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands (currently residing in Brooklyn) but remembers that, despite growing up in the ethnic majority of her hometown, she never saw many kid’s books about children that looked like her. “When I was younger, black characters were few and far between,” says Sharee. “I would mostly gravitate to books about animals since they were neutral. I think it affected what I drew. In my youth I would barely draw black characters.” She’s definitely making up for lost time now, with a blog and an Instagram account that are brimming with colorful drawings celebrating natural hair and brown skin. Read more