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Couples Inc. : Brian and Autumn Own One of Chi-Town’s Dopest Boutiques

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Sir & Madame is a men’s & women’s clothing brand and luxury lifestyle boutique, based in Chicago. The brand is the lovechild of the creative husband and wife team, Brian and Autumn Merritt. We reached out to find out more about their journey as partners in life and in business.

SB: How did you both meet?

Autumn: We met in Grammar School, or as non-chicagoans say: Elementary School. I was in the 7th grade and Brian was in the 8th grade, but we didn’t get together until my senior year of college.

Sir & Madame

SB: What inspired the creation of Sir and Madam?

Autumn & Brian: Sir and Madame was birthed from our previous business, Solemates, but with Sir & Madame we wanted to create our own lifestyle collection.

We both wanted something timeless so we came up with Sir & Madame, which has really been a perfect fit considering we’re husband and wife.

SB: You have been in business for about a decade. What would you attribute your longevity to?

Brian: Probably authenticity to the brand and the store by not following trends or not doing anything that we wouldn’t wear ourselves. I think people respect authenticity.

SB: Describe your individual personalities and explain how they come together to make the business work.

Autumn: I’m definitely the more outgoing person in the relationship, which works because sometimes I just need Brian’s energy because it helps me to slow down.  

My personality fits with my role since I’m the Director of Retail And Marketing. I have to engage with a lot of different people everyday.  Brian is the one managing our manufacturers and dealing with product development, so he’s more behind the scenes.

Brian: Yeah, I’m definitely more of a low-key, quiet thinker kind of guy. I’m not really excited about running a retail operation, but rather the behind the scenes aspect of it like meeting with manufacturers and doing the dirty work many people don’t really get to see.

I think it works well because it’s a totally different contrast between our two personalities. I actually call Autumn my Pit Bull because she’s sweet, but she’s very smart and knows how to protect her own.

SB: What has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey so far? What is the most gratifying?

Autumn: I think the most challenging thing is just finding the means to make your dreams come true at the end of the day.  

We are still a small business so there are times where funding is an issue, but we push through it, and our business comes out stronger because of that.

The most gratifying is being able to see something come to fruition that we’ve worked so hard on building together as a family, with very limited resources, that our kids could ultimately take over as adults.

SB: What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?

Autumn: I think to be fully present because it’s easy to lean on your spouse at times, which is great, but you still need to be able to give 100% in order to really be successful. Rather than you both just giving 50/50, you need to give 100/100.

Brian: She taught me communication is key with the business, and in life as well, making sure we’re both on the same page at all times. It’s easy to forget that when you’re used to doing behind the scene stuff, but it’s always the bigger picture you have to remember.

For us the bigger picture is our business and our family, and a key part in the success of that bigger picture is communication.”

SB: What advice do you have for couples that are also business partners?

Autumn & Brian: “The more quickly you can identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the easier it is to orchestrate specific roles, and the better off you’ll be when it comes to operating a business with your spouse.  It really does make your at home relationship so much better too because it makes the communication more streamline.”

 

Find out more about Sir & Madame at their website.

– Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

Black Owned Businesses in The Boston Area

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Boston, aka Beantown, is home to some amazing Black owned businesses. Check these out and let us know which ones we missed!

Black Owned Businesses in The Boston Area

Frugal Bookstore (Roxbury) is a community bookstore with a passion for promoting literacy within our children, teens, and adults.

black owned

Bred Gourmet (Boston) is a small burger bar that serves gourmet patties & toppings, plus kale drinks, smoothies, salads & more.

Black owned boston

The F.I.T.T. PIT (Hyde Park) is  training facility that focuses on functional interval training that helps clients transform their bodies and reach their fitness goals.

The Urban Grape (Boston) is the first wine, craft beer, and spirits store to organize wines by their body, rather than varietal or region.

Black owned boston

Simply Erin’s (Cambridge) is a unisex hair salon that caters to a clientele with all hair textures.

Liz’s Hair Care (Roxbury Crossing) is a full service hair salon located in a historic neighborhood of Boston.

Addis Red Sea (Boston) is an Ethiopian Restaurant offers authentic Ethiopian cuisine coupled in a warm and friendly environment.

Black owned boston

The Beehive (Boston) is a hip spot for creative New American fare, cocktails, daily live music, jazz brunch & patio dining.

The Coast Cafe (Cambridge) offers counter-serve fried chicken & other soul-food classics.

M&M Ribs’s (Boston) is a food truck that offers  the “Best BBQ in Town.”

Savvor Restaurant and Lounge (Boston) is a contemporary space with Caribbean & Southern cuisine & craft cocktails, plus live music on weekends.

Slades Bar & Grill (Roxbury), once owned by Celtic great Bill Russell, serves soul food to an R&B & soul soundtrack.

Shearer Cottage (Martha’s Vineyard) is a family-owned and operated with pride since 1903. Shearer Cottage is nestled in a quiet, woodsy area in the Highlands of East Chop in Oak Bluffs on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Cousen Rose Gallery (Martha’s Vineyard) offers paintings, prints, photography, pottery, books, wearable art and unique jewelry.

Oak Bluffs Inn (Martha’s Vineyard) is a highly rated 9-bedroom B&B located minutes away from the beach and features scenic gardens on the grounds. This inn is located just a 2-minute drive from Martha’s Vineyard Ferry in Oak Bluffs.

Black owned boston

Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen (Boston) serves up great southern comfort food and signature cocktails with a side of some of the best jazz.

Black owned boston

 

 

 

Couples Inc. : Natural Beauty Products Made in NY, Courtesy of Talima and Allison

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Limegreen is a Multi-Use Skincare company that produces natural products using vegan ingredients. Since Dove is cancelled and we’re here for non GMO everything, we had a chat with Talima Davis, one half of the dynamic duo behind the brand. This is what she had to say:

natural
Limegreen Co-founders Allison Lamb (left) and Talima Davis (right)

 

SB:What inspired the creation of Limegreen?

TD: My best friend Tamara was diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 27. It was extremely aggressive, and her doctor told her it was due to environmental conditions.

I could have just gone to the store and bought products for her, but I decided to try making them so that I knew the ingredients.

Making products turned into something I was passionate about. The same friend inspired the name for Limegreen,  I combined the nickname given to me by her and the theme of natural products – Lima + Green.

SB:How did you both meet?

TD: Allison and I met through mutual artist friends. We grew up literally five minutes away from each other, in the same neighborhood, our entire lives.

SB: Describe your individual personalities and explain how they come together to make the business work.

TD: Our personalities contribute to the success of the business in so many ways. I have such a social media and project manager brain (I was a production manager for 11 years before Limegreen) and Allison has the business and design brain (She was a creative director before Limegreen).

SB: What has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey so far? What is the most gratifying?

TD: The most challenging part is the constantly second guessing of our decisions. Figuring out what to focus on is also a big challenge.

The most gratifying part is meeting with customers who sincerely love our products and hearing from them how our values motivate them to look at their choices more closely with regard to sustainability, natural ingredients, etc.

SB: What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?

TD: The most important things that Allison has taught me are to hustle and take chances – she literally would eat through a wall.

SB: Where do you see your business in 5 years?

TD: I see Limegreen in your favorites boutiques, the hotel bathrooms your stay in and big box stores like Target and Wholefoods.

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

TD: My advice is not to plan every little detail of starting a business, the best thing to do is just to do it. See if people like your concept, because numbers on a paper cannot tell you if people really want what you’re trying to sell.

To learn more about Brooklyn Limegreen visit www.brooklynlimegreen.com.

IG: @thebusyafrican

10 Of Our Favorite Fela Kuti Quotes

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Music legend and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti would have been 79 years also today. In honor of his life and his mission to use his music to liberate his people, we have compiled a few of our favorite Fela quotes. Happy Birthday Fela!

Fela Kuti at the Senator Hotel, London, UK on 11 November 1983

To be spiritual is not by praying and going to church. Spiritualism is the understanding of the universe so that it can be a better place to live in.

My people are scared of the air around them, they always have an excuse not to fight for freedom.

I don’t treat women as objects to be used. I just don’t agree to possess a woman.

The music of Africa is big sound: it’s the sound of a community.

To think how many Africans suffer in oblivion. That makes me sad… Despite my sadness, I create joyful rhythms… I am an artist… I want people to be happy and I can do it by playing happy music. And through happy music I tell them about the sadness of others… So really I am using my music as a weapon.

I want peace. Happiness. Not only for myself. For everybody.

99.9% of the information you get about Africa is wrong.

Music is a weapon of the future / music is the weapon of the progressives / music is the weapon of the givers of life.

I don’t mind criticism, I can handle it, but most people can’t.

Yellow Fever, you dey bleach o, you dey bleach, ugly thing. Who say you fine? Na lie.

My people dey ‘shuffering’ and ‘smiling’, everyday na the same thing. Suffer, suffer for world, enjoy for heaven.

 

RIP FELA!

Amy Sherald to paint Michelle Obama’s Official Portrait

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Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, who graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2004 and just joined the faculty there, has been commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to paint the official portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama.

New York-based Kehinde Wiley will paint the official portrait of President Barack Obama.

Kehinde Wiley

The paintings are scheduled to be unveiled next year and added to the National Portrait Gallery’s popular collection of presidential and first lady portraits.

Sherald’s portraits of African-American models are known for her use of gray skin tones.

Last year, she became the first African-American and first woman to win the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition; she was chosen for the $25,000 award from among 2,500 entrants.

Work by the Baltimore-based Sherald, 44, is in collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

She will give a free talk at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in Room 101 of the F. Ross Jones Building, Mattin Center, on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University.

 

Source: The Baltimore Sun

Expedition Subsahara: Empowering Girls To Rise From Poverty

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Expedition Subsahara is on a mission to translate beautiful home décor and jewelry into education for girls in poverty. They are doing this by working with artisans in Senegal and Uganda to produce amazing handcrafted goods. We spoke with Rosebell Komugisha, one of the two founders. This is what she had to say:

SB: What inspired the creation of your Expedition Subsahara?

ES: We know some of the obstacles to development in the rural areas in Sub-saharan Africa, having always been action oriented, we wanted to take responsibility by doing something for the women in the underdeveloped communities back home.

Expedition Subsahara
Founders: Safietou Seck and Rosebell Komugisha

We focused on women specifically because United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) studies have shown that women will invest their income in the development of their families and communities, but men tend to use their income to indulge in selfish vices. Literally, when you educate a girl, you educate a village.

On the U.S. side, we were sensing a need for people to connect, embrace, and understand cultures beyond their own. By introducing African goods into the American market, we would be able to share our rich Sub-Saharan culture with people in the United States while elevating women back home.


SB: What makes Expedition Subsahara a “conscious” business?

ES: Our goal is to add value to our societies and not to exploit the environment or consumers and producers for the sake of profit. The intention is to foster social change through education, to provide economic emancipation to women with few opportunities in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the U.S., our purpose is to expose Americans to unique forms of home decor and link African and American cultures.

All of our goods are handmade by local Sub-saharan artisans. We have noticed that handmade African baskets and clothing are now being mass-produced in China and have been solicited by those wholesalers.

Our response is always no, we are not here to maximize profit, but to elevate each stakeholder, the producer, consumer, environment, and the communities where we intend to build the trade schools.

SB: Why is conscious economics or conscious consumerism important to you?

ES: It is important that we move away from the market model that pushes profit for the sake of profit without trying to build people or the environment. It dehumanizes producers and consumers, keeps people trapped in cycles of poverty and encourages the over consumption.

But it doesn’t just end there for us, we are very much aware that African markets are saturated with western goods that are mass-produced in China.

Through conscious consumerism, we have an avenue to hand some selling power back to African artisans by creating a space in the western market.


SB: What have been the most interesting and challenging parts of running your business?

ES: The most interesting part about running our business is witnessing African products being wholeheartedly embraced in the western world.

The challenge is remembering to keep the vision of our company woven in all of work even with the demand of the smaller daily task.

SB: What are some pros and some cons of using artisans to produce your products?

ES: Sub-sahran artisans are very dedicated, patient, and take great pride in their work. They also want to maintain business partnership, so they make sure to always deliver well made products. The only disadvantage is the very high cost of shipping from Africa to the united States.

SB: Where do you see your company in 5 years?

ES: We’ll be running or first trade school in Senegal and equipping women with the skills necessary for them to be economically independent and build their communities.

We will also have systems in place to track the impact of our graduates on their local communities. Lastly, in addition to our online store, we have a brick and mortar location.

SB: What advice do you have for those who want to work with artisans that reside abroad?

ES: Be fair to the artists that you are purchasing your products from and keep in mind that for many of them, this is their main source of income.

Find a great shipping company, international shipping costs can be obnoxious. Partner with local organizations whose goal is to develop the community. Any time they are already working with local artisans, this give you a reliable and fair source for your goods.

Find out more about Expedition Subsahara by visiting their website here.

-Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Candle Companies You Should Get Into

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Do you appreciate a good candle? We do. We’ve personally tried products from a few of these Black owned candle companies and literally have some of them scattered around the house right now. Needless to say, our place smells great. Treat yo self.

Black Owned Candle Companies

Bright Black

UNLAX Candles

black owned candle

One Eleven Candles

AfterGlow Candle Company

black owned candle

Sacred Space

black owned candle

Scent & Fire Candle Company

Southern Elegance Candle Company

Lit Moments Candle Co

Wick N Wink

Korai Candle

Blk Sunflower

Three IV Seven

Pontie Wax

black owned Candle

Candlessentials

black owned Candle

J & L Candles

Choose Your Bliss Candle Company

Gavin Luxe & Company

Harlem Candle Company

Posh Candle Co.

black owned candle

Simple Scents Candle Company

LIT Brooklyn

 

-Tony O. Lawson

If you would like to add your business to this list (or another) SUBMIT HERE.


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14 Black History Month Events in The UK (2017)

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This year marks the 30th anniversary of Black History Month in the UK. As usual, there are several amazing events going on through October and beyond. Here are just a few:

Black History Month Events:

 

LEICESTER

Black Skin White Mask

New Walk Jazz – celebrating Jazz Music and Black History Month, New Walk Museum & Art Gallery hosts its inaugural Jazz Music Concert Season – New Walk Jazz in their renowned fine art and music venue the Victorian Art Gallery. (Thursday 12, 19 and 26 October 7:00pm – 10:00pm)

Lost Legends is an exhibition that celebrates the contributions of Leicester’s African and African Caribbean community to the cultural heritage of the UK over the last three decades. (Ends Tuesday 31 October)

Black Skin White Mask – Exploring the life and work of the psychoanalytic theorist and activist Frantz Fanon, the Martinican-born, Paris-educated author, intellectual and activist. With his interest in violence, Black identity and psychiatry, tracing Fanon’s involvement in the anti-colonial struggle in Algeria and throughout the world. (October 18th)

 Greater London

Hank Willis Thomas: The Beautiful Game

Hank Willis Thomas: The Beautiful Game – In his first solo exhibition in the UK at Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hank Willis Thomas presents The Beautiful Game comprising new floor and wall based sculptures and quilts. The Beautiful Game will explore the intersection of art, sports and geopolitics.  (until 24 NOV 2017)

Join Dr. Boyce Watkins as he visits London in his mission to empower black people through the method of teaching financial literacy. Dr. Boyce will be at the historical venue “The Rock Tower” (from October 13th to the 14th)

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power – The show opens in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights movement and its dreams of integration. Artists responded to these times by provoking, confronting, and confounding expectations. Their momentum makes for an electrifying visual journey.  (Until October 22nd)

Basquiat: Boom for Real is the first large-scale exhibition in the UK of the work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960—1988). Basquiat: Boom for Real brings together an outstanding selection of more than 100 works, many never before seen in the UK. (Until January 28th 2018)

Basquiat: Boom for Real

Black Sound – Black Sound tells the story of 100 years of musical creativity and DIY ingenuity. Black British music has migrated from the margins to re-master the mainstream. This exhibition celebrates the pioneers that made it happen – the players, the promoters, the producers and the punters that changed Britain’s cultural history. (Until November 4th)

Africa on the Square – This popular event continues to grow with over 25,000 attending last year as it celebrates African arts and culture. You can expect another fantastic line-up of entertainment including live music, dancing and a talent show. Plus an African market, food stalls, fashion show and lots of fun stuff for kids. (October 14th)

Africa On The Square

The UK Black Business Show – The show will highlight the achievements and contributions black businesses have made to the economy. Attendees will gain cutting-edge insight and advice in entrepreneurship, leadership, soft skills and cultural development from some of the UK’s leading black business owners.

NorthEast

Three Days… a Queen, a Prince and a ‘King’ – A display celebrating 40 years since World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali visited South Shields, featuring images and objects from his visit. (Until December 16th)

NorthWest

Black History Month
Lubaina Himid

Lubaina Himid: Meticulous Observations and Naming the Money features works selected by Lubaina from the Arts Council Collection, alongside 20 figures from her major installation Naming the Money.

The full installation Naming the Money was gifted by the artist to the International Slavery Museum. It addresses how Europe’s wealthy classes spent their money and flaunted their power in the 18th and 19th centuries, by using enslaved African men and women. (Until March 2018)

Ink and Blood –  a curator-led tour of our fascinating exhibition Ink and blood: stories of abolition, which brings together iconic documents and rare objects to explore the stories of those affected by abolition (the ending of slavery) and later freedom. (October 19th)

 SouthWest

Black Ballet – In this latest mixed bill, Artistic Director Cassa Pancho commissions bold choreography once more, blending the classical and contemporary, narrative and abstract, for her ballet company comprising British and international dancers of black and Asian descent.

 

Check out the other BHM @30 events at blackhistorymonth.org.uk

 

 

by Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

IG @thebusyafrican

 

Black Owned Skincare Brands You Should Know

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A few years ago, Dove released a skincare ad that quickly received backlash for being racist and offensive. They have since pulled the ad but not in time to stop calls for a boycott of their products. More recently, the CEO of LUSH has also stepped in it.

Since SHOPPE BLACK is all about highlighting Black businesses, we created a list of Black owned skincare brands that would love to have your business.

Black Owned Skincare Brands

ITADI

black owned skincare

Naked Bar Soap Co

black owned skincare

Pooka Pure & Simple

Temple Zen

black owned skincare

Jade & Fox Co.

black owned skincare

Cream & Coco Skincare

black owned skincare

Skinfolk

Kyra’s Shea Medleys

Butter Me Up Goods

Ayele & Co.

black owned skincare

Best Life Organics

Nyah Beauty

M by LW

Josephine’s Creme

Sixela Skincare

Sogona Sacko

ReLiv Organics

Shea Radiance

Urembo Asili

Angie Watts

black owned skincare

Emollient

black owned skincare

 

dermHa

black owned skincare

Jacq’s Organics

Chanvere Naturals

DreamStar Cosmetics

IYOBA

Brosily Bath and Body

Oyin Handmade

black owned skincare

 

 

Tony O. Lawson

If you would like to add your business to this list (or another) SUBMIT HERE.


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BLK MKT Vintage: A Repository of Black Cool

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BLK MKT Vintage is on a mission to “preserve black vintage artifacts, collectibles, curiosities, and curate them in a way that is accessible, inspiring and affirming.“

One of our favorite millennials, Syreeta Gates, spoke with founders Kiyanna Steward + Jannah Handy about all the coolish they collect and why. This is what they had to say:

BLK MKT Vintage
BLK MKT Vintage founders, Jannah Handy and Kiyanna Steward

How have you both been able to bridge Black thought, Black love, and Black business with BLK MKT Vintage?

BLK MKT Vintage is the meeting place of so many of our own personal experiences – professional and otherwise – identities, communities, and histories. We always call this our “labor of love” because it grew from our love of black people, cultural representation of black people, and curiosity about our histories.

It’s our pride, manifested. Creativity manifested. It’s our vision for how historical artifacts and products of the past can be sustainable and part of our imagined future.

We collect everything from vintage vinyl records, concert & blaxploitation posters, magazines, Afro-diasporic textiles, and vintage signs.

BLK MKT Vintage

BLK MKT Vintage allows us and our community to think about how the black experience can be codified via aesthetics to inspire, express identities, aspirations and ultimately, pay homage. It’s thoughtful and intentional curation. That’s what we’re trying to inspire.

BLK MKT Vintage

Why preserve Black culture in this manner?

Our visceral answer to this question is “why not!”. Black people are responsible for civilization as we know and understand it. Our histories are so rich and full of resilience and diversity of thought and experience. As black women, we see this work as personal responsibility and one that begs of us, integrity, and authenticity.

We also see this work as aligned with the missions of various black cultural institutions, for example, the new “Blacksonian” in Washington, D.C., and the Schomburg center right here in New York City.

Our history is worth monuments, brick and mortar, archival sanctuaries and decades of investment – you know.

Before artifacts ever make it into museum spaces, they must be collected or made.

Someone has to attribute value to an item. In our case, BLK MKT Vintage is our admiration for black culture and black people, personified. A curated love story, if you will.

What’s your vision for BLK MKT Vintage?

Our vision for BLK MKT Vintage is to thoughtfully curate the best of black vintage curiosities, cast-off’s and collectibles in order to inspire spaces and affirm pride. We see this business as a hub of blackness – where folks can come to find everything from historical artifacts to hip varsity jackets.

A repository of black cool, we suppose – but accessible and tangible for folks. In our current model, we’re operating as an e-commerce shop, but within the next year, we’re looking to open a brick and mortar shop that be a haven of black culture, personified.

An intentional shopping experience and community space that looks to the artifacts of our past to inform our present.

BLK MKT Vintage

How have you found a market for this type of business and how do you keep your audience informed on new pieces?

We believe firmly that if there are things you want and need to see in the world that don’t exist, you should create them. We see ourselves as filling a niche that hasn’t existed yet – at least in this form.

Between the two of us and our friends, there was a desire for a space to engage our nostalgia and be affirmed, not marginalized.

Word of mouth has helped us gain proof of concept at so many moments in our journey. What started out as us selling at flea markets every weekend has moved us into the e-commerce space and soon, to a brick and mortar home.

BLK MKT Vintage

Etsy and Instagram is where the bulk of our community is and with the engagement on our site, one can see the ways in which there’s a desire to invest in black history, black business owners, black creativity and black historical memory.

BLK MKT Vintage

All of our items are shared on the Instagram account daily and purchases are made via our Etsy shop. Instagram is such a dope way to build community, and it’s the platform we chose to share that BLK MKT Vintage has to offer.

 

-Syreeta Gates

Syreeta is a Creative, Collector, Archivist. Founder of The Gates Preserve, The Gates Preserve Archive & Yo Stay Hungry. She’s committed to preserving the culture. Check for Syreeta and her work at syreetagates.com

“On a mission to push the culture forward” #TheGatesPreserve
@YoStayHungry


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