February is Black History Month, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight figures who have built brands around their lives or who own businesses, both local and national. It is important to know that I don’t identify as Black. I identify as Asian American.
Blogger Lisa a la Mode has compiled 9 great lists of Black-owned businesses ranging from lingerie companies to ride share apps if you would like to check out lists collected by someone who does identify as Black. I compiled the list that follows from people who I follow on Instagram or YouTube, with the exception of two beauty brands (Laws of Nature and Eden Body works) being recommended on one of Lisa’s lists. I picked many of the people or companies on the list below because they are less well-known or are local.
Right in West Oakland, the Mandela Grocery Cooperative is co-owned by Adrionna Fike. According to KQED, the cooperative opened in 2009 under a similar name and offers organic products from local small farms and ranches. Fike came onto the co-op board in 2012.
Plant-based restaurant Souley Vegan serves the vegan alternatives to traditional Louisiana creole soul food dishes in between downtown Oakland and Jack London Square. Owner and chef Tamearra Dyson started selling vegan soul food at local markets and catering events, which eventually turned into Souley Vegan.
Rawcells creates healthy, plant-based desserts meant to aid digestion and personal wellness. According to Vogue, founder Natasha James uses ingredients that are said to help restore cells found in your DNA. On the Rawcells website, the eight main herbal agents are organized by how they affect the skin, brain, body’s immunity, absorption, mood and energy.
Tru Supplements stays on the plant-based theme, focusing on protein powders and supplements. The goal of the company is to produce clean and effective protein supplements. CEO Massy Arias, featured below, and her husband Stefan Williams have focused on creating vegan-friendly products that are free of soy, heavy metals, fillers and gluten.
Massiel “Massy” Indhira Arias has been a fitness force on Instagram, starting her hashtag #ma30day, a 30 day exercise challenge, and building a community not just through her motivational posts but also through the customers of her and her husband’s company, Tru Supplements, featured above. She also recently worked with Fabletics and Covergirl.
Similarly, fitness inspiration Brittne Babe offers many options and workouts for various goals through Instagram, and has also started an exercise challenge she calls the “21 day challenge.” Among other platforms, she has been featured on the Red Table Talk show hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
Hilarious as well as knowledgeable, Morgan Dawson is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified trainer. She posts workout plans, recipes, as well as comedic skits among other things.
Hailed as the first Black woman in the U.S. to own an indoor rock climbing gym by Essence Magazine, Melanin Base Camp, News One and more, Abby Dione bought Coral Cliffs Rock Climbing Center last year.
Isis Diamond offers advice on building muscle and increasing flexibility at the same time, and emphasizes how important those components are, especially for someone like her who practices pole dancing. The discipline requires both strength and flexibility, and she provides information and motivation on her Instagram account. She also recently launched a clothing line.
While Canadian Makeba Lindsay has not specifically marketed herself or her life as a fitness brand (she also posts hair tutorials and lifestyle videos as ynotkeeb), she and her husband Daniel have a few fun and helpful videos on getting into weighted movements if you are a little nervous. It’s also great to see their loving and goofy dynamic as they also demonstrate some partner exercises.
A few years ago, Ari Fitz , another YouTuber, featured Makeba and Daniel in one of her videos about couples and love. Raised in the Bay Area, Ari now lives in L.A., sharing insights about her life, particularly fashion. She co-curates with Jet Pack Sprat an account called Tomboyish mag on Instagram. She also talks about her queer identity, polyamory, and collaborates with her friends.
One of those friends is Foxy Hot Mess, a.k.a. Jade, who posts about fashion, comedic skits, her queer identity, summaries of what’s going on in U.S. celebrity culture and more. Her videos are hilariously brutal sometimes when she comments on celebrity’s lives and especially when she is making fun of Ari, and are exactly what your day needed.
A comedian in his own right, Terrell runs a channel focused around music. In the past he has posted video reactions to various singing competitions such as The Voice or The Four, but now he features artists from the shows right on his own channel. The main draw is now watching these incredible artists play “Song Association,” where Terrell gives them a word and they have to sing a song a cappella that has that word in the song or title within 10 seconds.
CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
DJ’s on the side, twins Coriana and Brianna Dotson, otherwise known as Coco and Breezy, have built their brand around eyewear. Founded in 2009, glasses from Coco & Breezy have been worn by the likes of the late Prince, Kelly Osbourne and Nicki Minaj.
Pyramid Seven is an underwear brand that sells “boxer briefs for periods, not gender,” as their website says. Founder Zipporah Jarmon started the company after she bled through period underpants and wanted another option. The sizes range from XS-XXL and the website says that additional menstrual products can fit comfortably as well, although it is fine to not use menstrual products at all.
PUBLICATIONS & PRESSES
Black Classic Press was founded in 1978 by W. Paul Coates, the father of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Since then, the publishing company has aimed to feature “obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent,” according to their website.
Right here in Oakland, the nation’s oldest African-American bookstore Marcus Book Store was founded in 1960 by Julian and Raye Richardson, as reported by the East Bay Express. The store has remained open despite financial troubles, and is about an hour away by bus ride on the edge of Oakland and Emeryville.
Afro Vegan Beauty is an online magazine run by makeup artist Kaori Nik. It centers around plant-based beauty products. At the moment it seems to be just an Instagram account, but from a recent post it sounds as though an issue will be released soon.
BEAUTY & SKINCARE
Shanillia26 is an account dedicated to showcasing and providing inspiration and tutorials on hairstyles and hair care routines for natural styles. Run by the mother of Shanillia and Janelle, she posts protective hairstyles for kids, and also gives advice and information about their break week schedules as well.
Three well-known Black women-owned beauty brands are Beauty Bakerie, Pat McGrath, and Fenty by Rihanna. Two less well known brands are Laws of Nature Cosmetics and Eden Body Works. Laws of Nature was started by Jasmine Rose in 2015 to provide a non-toxic mineral foundation in many different shades. Eden Body Works is more geared towards hair care and skincare and was started after founder Jasmine Lawrence was searching for a natural remedy for her damaged hair.
MENTAL HEALTH CARE
While taking care of the physical self is one form of self-care, taking care of the mental self is just as important. Writer, educator, and activist Rachel Cargle has been organizing, fundraising, and securing therapy funds for black women and girls and as of Feb. 2018 raised over $200,000 .
Therapy for Black Girls was founded by licensed psychologist Joy Bradford to encourage Black women and girls to address mental health and provide a more accessible space to reduce the stigma surrounding seeking assistance with mental health issues. She has created the Yellow Couch Collective, an online community, and has compiled a therapist directory of “mental health professionals across the country who provide high quality, culturally competent services to Black women and girls,” according to her website.