Tastemakers Africa: Giving You a “Taste” of an Africa You’ve Never Seen


When you think of travel to Africa, what is the first image that pops into your mind? Probably something to do with wildlife and so-called jungles.

If you are like a growing number of people, you now imagine the breathtaking views, delicious food and cool places to hangout. One person responsible for this change in perception is Cherae Robinson, NY – native and founder of Tastemakers Africa. We had a chat with her and this is what she had to say:

Tastemakers AfricaI’m Cherae Robinson, founder of Tastemakers Africa and a graduate of Morgan State University. Prior to starting my business, I worked in international development focused on partnerships and fundraising in the agriculture and women’s empowerment sectors. I currently split my time between Brooklyn, NY and the African continent.

Tastemakers Africa

SB: What ignited your passion for travel in Africa?

CR: I’ve always been a Pan-Africanist at heart, I believe in the power of connecting Black people from different perspectives all around the world and I believe in reversing the effects of colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade through economic, social, and artistic exchange between people of African descent.

Tastemakers Africa

On my first trip to the continent, I was enveloped with love. Music, food, and an energy that was both fascinating and familiar made me feel at once a welcomed visitor and a long lost member of the family.


Tastemakers Africa

This was my experience in every place I went, whether it was the beaches outside of Freetown, Sierra Leone or the trendy vibes of Maboneng and the Johannesburg CBD in South Africa.

While this notion was a common thread, the vibes and experiences themselves were unique. There was so much uncelebrated diversity across Africa that I was tapping into with each country I touched down in.

Tastemakers Africa
With an often times unappealing narrative on Africa so prevalent on a global scale, I realized that travel to the continent offered a huge unlock, especially for people of African descent.

Tastemakers Africa

My goal is accelerate this on a global scale and in an experiential way. People are shaped most by their own lived experiences and travel to and within the continent has the opportunity to inform and transform us all.

Tastemakers Africa


SB: When most people think of vacation activities in Africa, they think of going on a Safari. What kind of experiences do you provide?

CR: Tastemakers Africa focuses on premium, authentic experiences. This can be anything from a pop-up dinner with a local chef to a road trip to a jaw-dropping landscape photography lesson from a local creative.

We seek to transform and carefully blend opportunities to learn about cultures (think batik fabrik making with one of Ghana’s hottest fashion designers in Accra) to more active experiences like joining the dhow boat race in Lamu, Kenya with a champagne finish on a private island or VIP access to the most exclusive party in town.

For us it’s about charting your own experience, with our carefully curated suggestions, on demand.

Tastemakers Africa

SB: Those all sound amazing! How are you able to find all these cool places and activities in multiple countries?

CR: We have local creatives and experience scouts who serve as our local curation network. Their job is to not only find the experiences and things to do but to put them through our screening process.

Getting the rubber stamp from our insiders means a lot to us, they are the funnel that brings things onto our radar and strengthen our relationships with business owners and experience providers in each city we operate in.

Finally – our instagram followers and TSTMKRS app users are a constant source of new ideas and happenings.

Tastemakers Africa

SB: Many African governments are depending on their tourism sector to help reduce the reliance on commodities like oil for revenue. Have you introduced your business to any government officials? What was the reception like?

CR: Government has not been a primary focus though in some cases tourism boards have been our allies.

We’ve got a great relationship with South Africa Tourism and Kenyan Tourism yet others don’t see the promise of the millennial market or really aren’t ready to commit as much budget towards their tourism budgets as they might say in the news.

Tastemakers Africa

SB: What are your growth plans for your brand?

CR: This year we’re focused on actually getting to market and making the TSTMKRS app public, we’re adding new curators and suppliers to really get the threshold of experiences available matching the appetite for our existing users.

Tastemakers Africa

In the product itself, we’ve got some exciting new features that will make it the app you “can’t put down” whether you are actively planning a trip or just dreaming about one – unfortunately I can’t release all of the details around that just yet, but soon come!

Tastemakers Africa

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

CR: Spend a crap ton of time understanding your customer segments and their behaviors. I wish I would’ve done 10 skillshares or General Assembly courses on what this means from day 1.

It’ll save you time and resources to really be unreasonably solid about what your customer actually wants.

Tastemakers Africa

Entrepreneurship is a journey. The silicon valley startups you read about have often been at it longer than you would’ve imagined and nothing will go exactly as you’ve planned. Be flexible and have endurance.

Tastemakers Africa

Also, compete with yourself. Once you start your business, everyone else will want to start the same one, existing businesses will start pivoting into your “territory,” and people will be lazy and compare you to businesses doing “better” than you even if said businesses are only marginally related.

Don’t get caught up. Your inability to know what your customers want and innovate beyond that are your biggest enemies.

Tastemakers Africa


Gift Ideas for Bae on Valentine’s Day


Before you hit up the usual suspects for your Valentine’s day gifts, check out these Black owned businesses that offer “romantical” products and services.


Black owned Valentine’s day


p is for pussy book cover -1

P is for Pussy is a raunchy alphabet picture book of double entendres. The creation of artist and curator, Elissa Blount-Moorhead and illustrator Meltem Sahin, it’s a hilarious tongue-in-cheek illustrations that are fun for parents…and for unsuspecting kids.

In The Spirit of Intimacy, Sobonfu Somé shares ancient ways to make our intimate lives more fulfilling and secure. Need we say more?

All About Love is a Bell Hooks classic. She examines her own search for emotional connection and society’s failure to provide a model for learning to love.


Jewelry & Watches

Lorraine West is a trained Illustrator turned Jewelry Designer and Jeweler. Her mission is to empower and make her clients look and feel extraordinary. Her nipple bangles above are sought after. We know firsthand how dope her work is.

Sheryl Jones started out working for a diamond manufacturer in New York City. Now she is currently the only woman of color operating her own jewelry business in NYC’s ‘Diamond District.’

Banneker Watches was founded by Derrick Holmes. This brand was created to “Pay homage to Benjamin Banneker by Integrating luxury woods into every watch and clock design.” History and fashion. Great combo.


Moijéy is the creation of Daniel Moijueh, a Sierra Leone native and Iraq war veteran. His company adhere’s to a strict zero-tolerance policy for conflict diamonds.

Randy D. Williams named Talley & Twine Watches after a neighborhood in Virginia that had a dark past but now revitalized, has a great future. “Talley & Twine represents that future.”

Pleasure Products


Nenna Joiner, owner of Feelmore Adult Gallery, is a sex educator and adult film director. Her business is “more than just traditional adult sex store, its a place that allows you to love on yourself not just with products but with an awareness of your needs.” Feelmore is located in Oakland, CA.

Nerissa Irving created NatuRotica Wellness to promote women empowerment and educate the community on healthier alternatives as well as sexual liberation. Her website offers products and unique insights related to this topic.

V for Vadge is the brain child of Kimi LeVadge. She created this web platform in order to educate men and women of all ages on sex, sexual health and sexuality. Her website also offers products and product reviews.





Suzy Black founder, Diondra Julian, has created “a sexy collection of boudoir apparel that is rooted in fundamental Christian values — specifically, the importance of keeping marriages and families together.” The brands self-appointed mission is to promote and celebrate the Christian paradigm of marriage.

Bijte was founded by Diana St. Louis for the busty girl. She designs halters, flouncy babydolls, plunging neckline camisoles and more. “All designed to fit a full bust and a generous bottom.”

After giving birth to her children, Psyche Torry notice a change in her cup size – It doubled! After a fruitless search for quality lingerie, she and her husband decided to create Urban Intimates, “a line of alluring lingerie designs that are reasonably priced for those hard-to-find bra sizes, and lingerie fitting sizes 8-3x.”


I Am Scarletta  (UK) was created by Ije Nwandu. Her mission is to create a brand that “works for women blessed with a little more in the boob department!” She has created a curve loving and curve enhancing lingerie brand for 30D-40H cup.

Blue Reign (UK) is founded by Alley Clark. After she realized that she didn’t like her day job, she was faced with a decision “Either reign over your territory or subdue to someone else’s….” She decided on the former. All products are proudly designed and ethically produced in a London workroom.The brand is dedicated to the celebration of all body types and preaches the mantra #IWearThisForMe.

Tracey Durrant created Edwards Millers (UK) to provide petite women who have larger cup sizes with beautiful underwear that is hard to find in generic high street chains. This brand was inspired by her grandmothers who moved to Bristol from Jamaica in the 60’s and worked as seamstresses.

Candles and Smell Goods



A Proud Mother Candle Co. is a Detroit, MI based business owned by Bernetta Waller. Their products are hand poured with 100% soy wax. Their factory is located in an impoverished neighborhood and provides jobs as well as entrepreneurship mentoring.

Spa Creations by Christal is an artisan candle and soap company located in Medina, TN. As a retired Cosmetologist of over 21 years, Christal truly has a passion for creating beautiful things. “Our goal is to provide high quality products with respect for our environment and a healthy lifestyle.”

Mallang Candles is based in Hammond, IN and is founded by Katrina and David Jasper. In 2003, Katrina received a gel candle as a gift from her Mother. She was so impressed by it that she told David that she had found a new hobby. “My husband suggested I that I buy the material and make a couple. Those first few candles ended up being beautiful Mother’s Day gifts for my mother and mother-in-law that year. Those gifts were so well received, from that point a business was born.”

Wax Candle Co. was created by Howard University grad, Jennifer Bryant. This is a Washington, DC based boutique candle company that pairs all-natural soy candles with DJ curated mixtapes to create a unique aromatherapy listening experience.


No.9 Candle Co. is the passion project of best friends and business partners, Yasmine Parrish and Alicia “ChaCha” Rodrigo. All No.9 soy blend candles are custom made and hand poured with love in sunny Los Angeles, CA.

Nikki Makes Scents candles are all hand-crafted along with most of their Bath & Body products. They offer over 600 candle scents to choose from. They are described as a “small American company has the big candle factory feel.” Nikki started this business in 1998 in her native New York.

Houston-native, Shanquita Greggs started Simply Scents Candle Co. by making her candles in her grandmother’s kitchen and selling them out of the trunk of her car. Simply Scents Candle Company has several different products that consist of triple scented candles, room fragrant sprays, electric burners, bath and body products, accessories, and more. 


February 5, 2015 - Philip Ashley Rix creates designer chocolate candy made in a wide variety of shapes, colors and flavors with names such as Lotus Flower Bomb, What's Up Doc, Naughty Red Dress, and Bleuboi. (Brandon Dill/Special to The Commercial Appeal)

Phillip Ashley Chocolates is located in the Historic Cooper Young District in the heart of Memphis, TN. Founder, Chef Phillip Ashley Rix left a corporate job to become an entrepreneur and owner of one of the most popular chocolate brands in the country. His one of a kind combinations will have you scratching your head and reaching for more.

CamiCakes is named after Camille, daughter of founder, Andra Hall. Andra was inspired to bake at a young age by her grandmother and her Easy Bake Oven. “CamiCakes specializes in yummy gourmet cupcakes to enjoy daily or for birthdays, weddings, showers, and many other special celebrations.” They have several locations in Florida as well as Georgia. You can also order online for pick up or delivery.

Vivere Chocolates was created by Robert Bowden. Robert works with seasoned chocolatiers to produce handcrafted fine chocolates for luxury gifts and catered events. Their chocolates are made using a premium blend of all natural 70% chocolate and fresh cream ganaches made from cacao beans form Africa, Central America and South America.


Kristina Maury created LuxeLollies to prove that candy can be as elegant and beautiful as it is delicious. Bored with the traditional candy flavors, she decided to create a line of gourmet hard candies in more sophisticated flavors like Pear Rosemary Champagne Spritzer (best-seller), Lavender Vanilla Mint and Pistachio Rose Cardamom. 

Chicago native Maya-Camille Broussard (and Shantrelle’s linesister 38-A-00) picked up the art of baking from her late father, criminal justice attorney Stephen J. Broussard. Inspired by his love of both justice and sweets, she launched Justice of the Pies. Her pies, made from scratch are absolutely delicious.(First hand knowledge)


Bed and Breakfast


Akwaaba Inns is the upscale lodging collection owned by husband and wife team Glenn Pogue and Monique Greenwood. This couple owns a mini bed-and-breakfast empire! 

Don and the late Rose Hubbard built The Hubbard Mansion over 15 years ago. The mansion is an elegant Greek revival home located in New Orleans.

Black owned Valentine's day

The Welcome Inn Manor is one of Chicago’s highest-rated B&B’s. Built in 1893, this Queen Anne historic home is 12 minutes away from the center of Chicago’s Downtown Loop. 


Pure Nuphoria is a one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast that integrates charm with modern conveniences. Their open architectural design includes vaulted ceilings, stone pillars that adorn the meeting and gathering room, slate floors and skylights that allow for natural sunlight to awaken your spirit. Amenities include complimentary breakfast, massage & spa, a personal Chef and Wellness/Business Services.

TheLRoom aka The Ladies Room is located in Durham, NC. It is  “the first bed and breakfast solely for women to come relax, feel safe and de-stress.”  Guests are welcome to stay for a few hours, a day, or the entire week. Guests will enjoy amenities such as clean and beautifully decorated rooms, a library with women centered books, meeting spaces and a gift shop. Healthy snacks, desserts, tea and coffee are provided by local women-owned businesses in the Triangle area.




New York-based illustrator, Instagrandmaw is the creator of some of the most hilarious and creative cards in the “creative card” game. Her hip hop/ pop culture inspired cards will definitely help you convey your message and give “bae” a good chuckle.

Ally Elle Cards is comprised of “A creative duo made up of two girls who cuss like sailors and create awesomeness in their individual fields.” Owner, Elle Lewis says “Ally Elle Cards started when yet another holiday passed and I felt I didn’t have the right card.” These works of art will have you clutching your pearls, LYAO, and applauding the ingenuity and wit behind them.

Black owned Valentine's day

Otis Richardson formed LavenderPop to offer a range of cards to celebrate relationships, friendships, love and pride. “Lavenderpop is inspired by pop culture, Black aesthetic, critical thinkers, revolutionaries, and a celebration of diversity.” Otis studied painting and illustration and obtained a Masters of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University.



Black owned Valentine's day

Tres Lindas Cubanas is named after a Cuban song and celebrates the beauty of the Cuban woman. Founded by two Afro-Cuban, twin sisters, and two African-American cigar enthusiasts.

Started purely as a passion project by Founder and President Sean Williams, El Primer Mundo (EPM) Cigars has become one of the premium cigar market’s classic small-batch boutique brands. 


Don Abram Harris Cigars are the creation of Abram Harris. The brands corporate office in Lexington Park, MD and its plantation and manufacturing crew are all located in Puerto Rico.




Mouton Noir Wines, founded by iconoclastic sommelier André Hueston Mack in 2007, which incorporate his trademark attitude and personal perspective on wine subculture. 

Esterlina Vineyards is a family-owned, California winery. As California farmers with over 30 years of experience, the Sterling family has carefully selected each of their vineyards. 

Theopolis Vineyards is a small lot vineyard and hand-crafted winery located in California’s prestigious Yorkville Highlands of the Anderson Valley. 


Charles Wine Company is based in Inglewood, CS. The founding members are Cherise, Paul, and De’Ondre Charles. Before starting the company, Charles and his wife Cherise did their research driving back from Florida to California and stopping at wineries across the country.

-Tony O. Lawson

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Why Nate Parker’s “The Birth of A Nation” is the Biggest Clapback Hollywood Has Ever Seen


Is Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” just another “slave” movie? Or is this a film about Black folks stopping at nothing to acquire their freedom, even if it meant murdering white master enslavers?

Roots pic

When Roots premiered in 1977, I was a mere fetus growing inside of my mama’s womb. So my memory of actually watching it on television wouldn’t be for another several years. But prior to watching Roots, I had already read about Toussaint L’Ouverture and Denmark Vesey. The information with which I was equipped, afforded me a luxury not given to the average Black child – my self narrative was informed by a well-rounded discourse about  the people from whom I came. My heritage was not synonymous with inferiority but with courage and strategic resistance.

W.E.B. du Boi's 1938 production "Haiti"

For many years, what narratives and images have our parents, ourselves and our children had of history?  Especially any history involving people of African descent? Cotton fields, whips, and chains, lynchings, segregated buses, water hoses, police dogs and burning crosses only to be replaced by the minstrel shows that are contemporary reality television and viral contemporary videos of police sanctioned murders of Black people on social media.

I do suffer from a specific kind of slavery movie fatigue: visual images of us being brutalized, raped, subjugated, because they often lack the full spectrum of the sheer horror as well as resistance that occurred during one of the darkest moments in human history. I don’t need to see more visual images of our physical oppression, none of us do.  I will NEVER grow tired, however, of movies that depict our courage, tenacity, and audacious gall to kick master’s ass!


There’s so much that we don’t know about our history, which has often been skewed. Abraham Lincoln gave us our freedom or nah? How about nah. How about our freedom came as a result of the tireless socio-political and guerrilla movements and campaigns led by people of African descent throughout the Caribbean, South America and the U.S. American South, the first of which, was the 1791-1804 Insurrection of Saint Domingue.

Haitian Heroes by Ulrich Jean-Pierre
Haitian Heroes by Ulrich Jean-Pierre

If it weren’t for the success of Boukman, Toussaint, Dessalines, Henri Christophe and countless Africans whose names we may never know, we may still be enslaved. That single victory, against the world’s most powerful nation, was unparalleled. At the time of Napoleon’s defeat, his military was the greatest superpower in the world (the equivalent of the U.S. military circa 2000). Yet, he was defeated by enslaved Africans who took up machetes and beat that ass (a historical narrative from which my father finds much pleasure), so much so that the French Empire was forced to sell Louisiana to the U.S. in attempts to save the nation which went bankrupt thanks to the war of Saint Domingue. And despite many painful and unsuccessful attempts by Danny Glover to tell this story or the recent French production of Toussaint, there has yet to be a film truly depicting that great moment in history. The closest thing we’ve seen of realistic Black insurrection was the opening scene of Feasts of All Saints. And that was only for a mere few minutes. Until that is, until Nate Parker put his acting career on hold to make his unprecedented film.

Beyond what the creation of this film signifies, Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation is a brilliant clap back to the horrific impact of the original The Birth of a Nation, a 100 years later. D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film is still heralded as the greatest contribution to modern cinema. A fictitious film about what would happen to the country if Black people were allowed to retain power during Reconstruction, it was the impetus for the Summer of 1919, also known as the Red Summer, in which entire all-Black towns were burned down, dozens of African Americans were lynched, shot to death and burned at the stake by mobs of All-American white citizens. Despite its extremely damaging and white supremacist ideology, the film is still taught in contemporary film programs and broadcast on public television. Jacking that title and thus rewriting its history is clever, cunning and appropriation at its finest!

D.W. Griffith's 'A Birth of A Nation'
D.W. Griffith’s ‘A Birth of A Nation’
Black men in Chicago in 1919, stood in resistance against white mobs.
Black men in Chicago in 1919, stood in resistance against white mobs.

I wasn’t able to attend Sundance this year but from what I’ve heard from my friends who were there and after watching Nate Parker’s compelling Q&A, it seems to me that people who were clapping the loudest were in fact, US. And not passive us. The very radical, very progressive, very Black us.

"River Queen" from Queen Nanny of the Maroons, Renee Cox, 2004
“River Queen” from Queen Nanny of the Maroons, Renee Cox, 2004

So sorry naysayers, give me Nat Turner. Give me Toussaint. Give me Dessalines. Give me Nanny. Give me Zumbi. Give me Boukman. Give me Tula. Give me 1811. Give me the Saamaka. Give me Sojourner. Give me Denmark. Give me Harriet on the big screen…any day, any year from now until forever.

– Shantrelle P. Lewis

A list of several other heroic rebellion independent films that precede Nate Parker’s Birth of A Nation:

Haile Gerima’s Sankofa (1993)

Besouro (2009)

Touissant Louverture (2011)

Tula (2013)

Quilombo (1984)

Njinga – Queen of Angola (2013)


NOTES: Bka Other Thoughts That Didn’t Fit in the Above Text

  1. And since we’re on the topic of slavery, can we please stop using the term “slave” in reference to our ancestors. They were Africans, who were enslaved, transported during the Middle Passage and forced into free labor, worked in work camps, owned by master enslavers, our fine nation’s first capitalists. Using the word “slave” reinforces the misconception that for some unimaginable reason, Black people are somehow more equipped for pain and brutality. That is not the case. We bleed. We agonize. We experience post traumatic stress. We suffer from depression and sometimes we are driven mad when white supremacy and its legacy breaks the thin threshold that keeps sanity in tact. So please, for the sake of our children, and for the millions of people who experienced enslavement and its aftermath, and the millions of people left behind on the continent, please stop calling all of those men, women and children slaves. Our ancestors were enslaved Africans who built this country and many others in the Caribbean and Latin America, off of whose labor wealthy western nations are still prospering. I credit my graduate education at Temple for shifting this use of language (TUMF!) and my further introduction to some of this terminology to Dr. Stephen Small
  2. I was five years old the first time I read about the Haitian Revolution. It was one of several epic tales of Black heroism published in a children’s book titled Shining Legacy: A Treasury of Storypoems and Tales for the Young So Black Heroes Forever Will Be Sung written by Nkechi Taifa. I remember how intrigued I was by the characters that greeted me in those pages. Touissant L’Ouverture. Cinque. Marcus Garvey. Rosa Parks. Malcolm X.
  3. It wouldn’t be until the 2nd grade that my classmates and I were introduced to excerpts about Black history during February; most of which involved cotton fields and slave ships, whips and chains – dark, ugly and sobering details about a past that many of us would have rather forgotten or not learned about all. I didn’t shrink from this history, however, because I had already been equipped with perpendicular information about the people who survived this hell and the tactics they used to resist. My understanding of history didn’t begin with tales of subjugation, but tales of rebellion. No wonder I was introducing my 9th grade classmates to the autobiography of Assata Shakur on our first day of school. Unlike many of my peers, my knowledge of self had been informed many years prior thanks to the books laden with accounts of self-determination and valor. My groundedness and healthy self esteem not only came from the pride my parents instilled in me but the books that they placed in my hands.
  4. I’m not so sure that Nate Parker had white audiences in mind when he made this film. Especially considering risk he took by turning down other roles until he made his own film. This film. He was very intentional about his audience. A Birth of a Nation was without a doubt made for us.
  5. I have hated watching slavery movies, but that hasn’t stopped me from going to see them. Whether 12 Years a Slave or Django. Speaking of which, one of the reasons why my Tistah, Dr. Yaba Blay and I were hooping and hollering behind Tarantino’s suped up Black superman story not because the movie was another visual representation of us being brutalized but because it was a story of revenge as much as it was a story of love. I’ve never seen a Black man go as hard for his woman on any silver screen like Django galloping on that horse, bareback, into the pits of hell, to rescue the love of his life, a Black woman. But I digress.

Shout out to Junot Diaz for giving me the space to be great in this footnote section! 

That blue suit!!
That blue suit!!

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche is helping thousands Live Richer, one penny at a time.


Knowing how interested I am in most things personal finance, Shantrelle suggested that I connect with her girl, Tiffany ” The Budgetnista ” Aliche, a fellow Nigerian, whose mission is to help individuals achieve their financial goals. I was impressed by the fact that she has created a successful business that helps so many people.

I was also impressed by all of the positive press she’s been receiving recently (shout out to her publicist Dreena Whitfield). I spoke to Tiffany in depth and got an inside perspective on her backstory, road to success and a few tips that will help our readers improve their financial situation.

SHOPPE BLACK: Congratulations on all of your recent success! We wanted to introduce you to all the people in the ShoppeBlack community that want to get their financial situations in order, build successful businesses, and teach their children about the tools that create generational wealth. Please tell us a little bit about your background and how your journey started.

THE BUDGETNISTAMy father was an accountant and CFO for a non-profit organization in New Jersey.  In African households, you rely on the men to look after women in certain ways. Even though my mother made more money, my father was the organizer who took care of the family finances. Honestly, it was a blessing that we did not have any brothers because I would not have learned a lot of the lessons that he would have traditionally saved for a son, if he had one.


SHOPPE BLACK: What money lessons did you learn from your parents?

THE BUDGETNISTA: My parents had different teaching styles. My dad was more strategic about our financial education while my mom was more hands-on. She would take my siblings and I shopping, and like a true Nigerian, she haggled and negotiated prices at department stores.

We would be at a grocery store and my mother would be negotiating like it was a marketplace! I did not know that people didn’t do that. I just figured, okay this is how you buy groceries; this is how you get the best price. This was everyday life and how I began to learn about personal finances.

Igbo wedding

SHOPPE BLACK: I heard you mention in past interviews that people used to consider you cheap. Would you say that about yourself?

THE BUDGETNISTAIn the past, some may have thought I was cheap, but really I was just always mindful of my spending. I may have been cheap when I was younger because I did not have a balance. I saved everything, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. When I was younger, I was a person of extremes.

I saved everything and by time I was twenty-three or twenty-four, I had about $40,000 saved in cash on top of $10,000 to $15,000 in my retirement account.  I bought my car in cash, I never bought clothes, never went out and never traveled because I didn’t know how to manage outside of saving. I was too frugal.

It really wasn’t until my early twenties that my parents sat me down and said that they were glad that I had learned how to save, but it’s ok to spend also.  Being a person of extremes, I then began to enjoy my money too much and got into over $30,000 of credit card debt. I spent everything and then lost everything. Now, at 36, I have a nice balance – setting money aside and spending.


SHOPPE BLACK: Children often learn their money habits from their parents. What are some good tips for parents to pass on early to their children?

THE BUDGETNISTA: From the beginning you have to let children know that there are three main categories when it comes to money. Money for spending, saving and giving. I tell parents to start kids off at three or four.  At that age, language for a child changes from “can you give me…?” to “can you buy me…?”

That means a child has already made the connection between money and things.  So, now that they understand there’s an exchange, you have to teach them the best way to make that exchange possible. For example, when I go to Staples, my boyfriend’s daughter who loves Staples would ask me to buy her stuff and I would say no.

We eventually created a chore list on a free website called Choremonster where she can earn money. So now when we go and I ask her what her budget is, she knows that she has to pull from her spending bucket, not the savings or giving bucket. She can also decide how much. Now, she feels in control because she decides what she’s gonna do. It teaches them so many lessons including self control and math.

SHOPPE BLACK: That’s awesome. My fifteen-year old son is really good when it comes to managing money. Your last anecdote reminds me of the story about when you went to Target with your boyfriend’s daughter and she walked in and grabbed a toy and you were like “Ummm, what did I miss? Did she get a great report card or something? Why is she getting a toy?” That is so Nigerian, by the way.

THE BUDGETNISTA: Right! I couldn’t understand it and I wasn’t even trying to be funny. First, it was like “Oh, Tiffany is so strict!” At nine-years old, it’s easy to feed her appetite for “stuff.”  But what happens when she’s sixteen and the things she wants are three to four hundred dollars? And you going to tell her no and then she’s upset? Her being upset won’t be her fault because you have trained her to expect something for nothing.

We were at the store earlier today and she wanted a snack and she didn’t have any money. So, I said okay, I will front you some money and she was looking like “Hmmm this snack is $2 this is other one is $4”. She would never have had those conversations before. Funny enough, kids don’t mind. What’s normal in your house is normal to them. So the sooner you make it the new normal, the better.


SHOPPE BLACK: Clearly your expertise is highly valued. Your books have a lot to do with that. Tell us about them.

THE BUDGETNISTAI have three books. The One Week Budget, my first book, is an Amazon #1 bestseller. It really just teaches people how to create and automate their own money management system. I literally say, take a pen and pencil to write things down to having an automated financial system for yourself.

I wrote it because I knew so many people had no idea. And because I used to be a preschool teacher, I can break it down so that a three or four-year old can understand it. That’s what I did and that’s why the book has done so well.


I also have two Live Richer Challenge books. The first one started in January 2015. My goal was to have 10,000 women master their money collectively. I thought, what if I take what I do and make it a virtual challenge where women sign up and once they sign up, the same day, we all get the same email telling us what to do? Open up a bank account. The next day, put some money in it… just a step by step guide?

We did so well that we got 20,000 women, in 50 states, 65 countries. We saved $4 million dollars and paid off a half million dollars worth of debt. Then I said I want to do it again, so here we are, at the end of the second Live Richer Challenge.

This one is the savings edition and we have 60,000 women in 80 different countries in all 50 states and we are collectively saving together. I cannot wait to see how much we end up saving in comparison to last year! It’s just a movement of women, especially women of color.

The Budgetnista

SHOPPE BLACK: Is your Live Richer Challenge only for women?

THE BUDGETNISTA: Men can definitely join. I always tell people, I don’t turn anyone away but my intention was to specifically speak to women of color because we are at least likely to be approached by financial professionals. Even now with this huge movement that I have, I reached out to a large financial institution for sponsorship.

If this was any other group they would jump on it, but once they realized it was women of color, they were skeptical. 60,000 women and you’re not interested in sponsoring??? It’s only because I’m talking about money, instead of giving away weaves and shoes or talking about hair and nails.

They think women of color aren’t interested or don’t have the wealth to support their products or services. And they are wrong. It’s unfortunate but they will learn.

Live Richer Challenge

SHOPPE BLACK: That says a lot about these brands too. Anyone who is aware of consumer trends knows that Black women are among the most educated and savvy consumers out there and that’s the demographic you want to target if you want to make money.

THE BUDGETNISTA: Exactly, it’s like when people didn’t believe that digital music would be a thing. Now Apple, a computer company, is the biggest music seller in the world. You can be foolish and be Sam Goody or Tower Records and think “Oh no, no one’s going to want digital music” but now kids are like “Tower records? What’s that?”  You can either be ahead of the trend or you can be left behind. Some of these companies will be obsolete and I’m okay with that.

SHOPPE BLACK: What impressed me about the 2015 challenge was how many lives you impacted. I heard that one lady thanked you because for the first time in her adult life, she is now paying her bills on time. What are some examples of how your work has impacted others?

THE BUDGETNISTA: One story that was touching was a homeless woman who took the challenge. After a year she was able to purchase her first home.  That was incredible! I’ve had women who are in abusive relationships who told me that they were able to save money and finally leave.

Financial abuse is one of the ways that women suffer in relationships.  By [their partners] withholding money, they have no choice to stay because they have kids and they feel trapped. Money is just a medium that I’m using to make the world better.

SHOPPE BLACK: Even though I’m not a woman, I’m going to be doing the challenge along with Shantrelle.

THE BUDGETNISTA: (laughs) Yes! Of course do it!  I always tell people to do it along with their partner, their man, their husband etc.


SHOPPE BLACK: Teamwork makes the dream work, right?

THE BUDGETNISTA: For sure, especially if you are going to grow a lot together you both have to be on the same page financially. That is critical. Money is the number one cause of divorce. Everybody is different.  Some people are spenders, some people savers. You should have clear spending and savings goals.

My boyfriend and I have different styles. You don’t have to have the same spending style or financial style. We write down the goals we want to achieve. So, sometimes we try one way and it may not be my style but if the end goal is something that we both are looking to accomplish, there are many ways to get it done.

Live Richer Challenge

SHOPPE BLACK: It’s obvious you are passionate about healthy finances and it’s obviously your calling. I think it’s beautiful when you can find something you really like to do, change the world and make money at the same time. To me, that’s the definition of social entrepreneurship. Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?

THE BUDGETNISTA: I definitely do consider myself a social entrepreneur. I remember when I first started “The Budgetnista”, I wanted to make it a non-profit but I’ve worked for nonprofits and I don’t want that. I want a business that maneuvers like a non-profit but pays like a profit (laughs).

SHOPPE BLACK: It makes a lot of sense, helping people and making money. Why would you want to do one or the other when you can do both? Where do you personally invest your money?

THE BUDGETNISTA: I believe that you should invest in what you understand, so I’m going back to real estate investment. But, I also invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. That is something that I work with my financial advisor on to decide what is best for me, but my biggest investment is something that I understand more than anyone else — my business.

People don’t realize that having a business is also an investment. People have come to me to invest. You know, put money in to get money. So yeah, that’s my biggest investment, my own business.


SHOPPE BLACK: Speaking of investing in your own business, everyone has a business card that says they’re a CEO. What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?

THE BUDGETNISTA: You can either look like a business or you can be a business. That’s a problem with a lot of up-and-coming entrepreneurs, they focus so much on looking like a business that they never get a chance to be a business and they run out of money.

I always tell people that there is a little girl down the block who is getting paid for braiding hair. She has a business. You my friend, do not. That’s what a business is: a product or service that somebody wants to purchase and does purchase.

SHOPPE BLACK: So where do you see your business and brand ten years from now?

THE BUDGETNISTA:  Honestly, I see my brand becoming something like a Nike or another brand that is widely known. One thing I want to do is certify brands.

For example, if you go to a store and are trying to decide between two hairdryers and one has my logo on it saying it is “Budgetnista Certified”, you know you are getting a product of value. I am also writing a children’s book now.

SHOPPE BLACK: Lastly, what does money mean to you?

THE BUDGETNISTA: You know Africans always speak in metaphors (laughs). My father would say that money is like a hammer. You can use it to build a house but you can also use that same hammer to destroy the house. Money is the same.

It’s a tool that you can use to build up your life or you can use money to destroy your life. If you use money correctly, it makes life better, but if you use it incorrectly, it can make life miserable.  It’s merely one of the tools you can use to build a better life.


If you’re just learning about the Live Richer Challenge, no worries! You can sign up now and start getting emails immediately to start your own journey to financial freedom. Just go to

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson 

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse: Philly’s Black Woman Owned Haven for Geeks


The world of comic books has become big business. Comics that used to cost less than a dollar are now million dollar collector items.

Comic book character-based movies are grossing millions of dollars world wide. Even events like Comic-Con have become huge international conventions, while gatherings like the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention are growing in popularity.SynergyConart2One lady who has taken her love for comic books and turned it into a business is Ariell Johnson, founder of Philadelphia-based, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse. We recently chatted with her and this is what she had to say:


How did your love for comic books begin and what is it about them that interests you till this day?

I have always loved fantasy.  He-Man, She-Ra and Thundercats were mainstays for me growing up.  And it was a cartoon that would launch me into the world of comic books. 

The 90’s X-men cartoon that aired on Fox introduced me to Storm, the first Black woman superhero I ever saw, and it was an experience that stayed with me. 


She was such a powerful and interesting character and I wanted to learn more about her.  I knew she originated in comic books so I figured if I really wanted to know more about her I would need to start reading them. 

A friend in high school was also a huge X-men fan and a comic book collector, so my comic reading started there with his collection.  I started buying my own comics a little later when I was in college.

I still enjoy comics because I love the endless possibilities that they offer.  They can introduce you to entirely new worlds, new universes, and they help you think outside of the box.
You have described yourself as a “geek”. What does being a geek mean to you and what is “geek culture”?
To me a geek is anyone who gets excited about comics, books, movies, television, games, and pop culture.  You can “geek” about anything really. 
You can be a Sci-Fi geek, but not really care about superhero stuff.  You can love table top gaming but hate console gaming.  There are no hard and fast rules that dictate who is a geek, but you know them when you meet them. LOL.
Geek culture is the realm in which geeks live.  Much like any culture, it is made up of different things from language and style of dress to how you treat another geek when you meet them in passing. 
It is also very broad but the common thread that links all aspects of geek culture is the excitement that those who identify as geeks have for their fandoms.  
 You have stated that there needs to be more diversity in comic books. Why do you feel it is important for all types of people to see themselves in these publications? 
As I mentioned, Storm was the first Black woman superhero that I ever saw.  I think that if I had never been introduced to Storm as a child I would have probably grown out of my love for geeky things. 
Seeing a black woman as a superhero was life changing for me.  Before, it always felt like I was watching everyone else be the hero, but seeing Storm made me feel like I could be a hero too. 
I didn’t have to be on the sidelines, I could take part in the action.  That’s what representation does, it helps people see themselves in the stories they are reading. 
When you are represented, it’s like someone is saying to you “your story is worth being told…you are worth learning about”.  And that just feels plain old good, everyone wants to be valued.
 Obviously, you did research before starting your business. What data and statistics let you know that opening Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse would be a great idea?
I spoke to a few different comic professionals and coffee professionals when I was working on my business plan.  My biggest concern was about the comics.  Coffee shops are mainstays in our current way of life. 
The biggest challenges on the coffee side have to do with location and making sure you have a solid customer base that can afford your product.
Comics are a little different because in addition to being luxury items they are also a niche item.  Not everyone is
interested in comics, so you need to make sure you are in a good location where you will have access to your target market.
I used demographic research as well as plotting out the location of other coffee shops and comic book stores to choose Amalgam’s location and I used comic industry resources and articles to gauge the current climate of the comic book industry.  
Where do you get your comic books from and how do you choose which ones to buy?
Most comics come from Diamond Comic Distributors.  They are the exclusive distributors for mainstays such as Marvel and DC.  The independent stuff is a little harder to come by. 
We have to reach out to individual publishers to get those books.  It’s a little more time consuming, but definitely worth it.  We have also had a fair share of creators reaching out to us, asking us to carry their books in our store.  
How did you finance the business?
Funds from the business came from a few different sources.  My own personal savings, a crowdfunding campaign, support from friends and family, a special loan program through the City of Philadelphia, and traditional loans.  
 What are your future plans for Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse?
We will start holding events in our space starting in February, and we are all really excited about that, but other than that we are just focused on getting settled. 
We’ve only been open for a month, and getting to this point was a really long road.  I just want to take a minute to enjoy the accomplishment before we start thinking about what comes next.  
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I think anything worth doing is going to be hard.  You are going to hit bumps and obstacles along the road to whatever you are trying to build. 
Those things are to be expected, but they are still tough to deal with when you have to go through them.  So, the best advice I can give is to surround yourself with people who love and support you and your dream. 
Having my family and friends around me, people who could speak an encouraging word when I had a tough day, was the thing that kept me going even when I didn’t feel like it.  It’s such a small thing, but it makes such a huge difference.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson aka @thebusyafrican

Oo-oop! Why I’m So Glad I Pledged Alpha Chapter, DST


Before enrolling at Howard, I knew the Greek alphabet by heart, because one of my childhood besties Susanne Brown Robinson’s sister was two years older than us and had already crossed the burning sands into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. I had already begun reading ‘In Search of Sisterhood’ by renowned feminist Paula Giddings, a Delta. My guidance counselor who called me into her office one day and sat me down, to tell me that I needed to go Howard University, and not Xavier, because it would expose me to the entire world, and change my life, was a Delta.


As a Freshman student at Howard, there was no doubt in my mind about what I wanted to pledge and which women I wanted to align myself on campus…because there were young women, some not even 20 years old, who were RUNNING the yard. Whether Miss Howard, the Hilltop, Arts & Sciences Student Council, National Council of Negro Women, they were doing it.

My prophytes, Assiduous 40, at the annual Woman to Woman Conference in 1996, a semester before I landed on campus.

My road to Delta was no easy one. ESPECIALLY not the road to ALPHA CHAPTER. There were many stressful moments – accusations against me by some envious girls who were not chosen for our sisterhood, tough decisions that I made, some regretfully, where I chose my involvement over school work.  We we’re not expected to just know sorors who are on campus with us, relationships with sorors cross generational lines, going back, though a long lineage of women who crossed before us and women pledging many years after. Pledging, especially pledging Alpha Chapter, was a privilege, an honor that comes with much weight and responsibility. All in all, however, drama/no drama, becoming a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated was one of the most beneficial decisions I made in my young adult life.

My best friend, Dr. Nikia Andrea Scott and I, moments after our coming out show on the yard ca. May 2000.
My best friend, Dr. Nikia Andrea Scott and I, moments after our coming out show on the yard ca. May 2000.
Road Trip with the Bruhs…The Mother Pearl.

I can’t begin to count the times and ways that sorors have stood by me, during the most challenging moments of my life and the highest. My international travels began by visiting sorors who were living overseas. During the aftermath of Katrina, my family and my city were held down by Sorors. Whether at opening packed exhibitions at museums or premiering the sneak preview of my forthcoming documentary in Italy, sorors have been there. And when I say “I do” to my life partner, sorors will be there.

Sorors, scholars and artists, celebrating our girl Joan Morgan’s bday in Florence, Italy ca. May 2015.

While I may not wear crimson and creme every day, or tout any of my 15 year old nalia, I do recognize the sisterhood I made a life long pledge to. I do strive for excellence in my life. I do embrace strong bonds with other Black women. I am constantly learning and teaching through my work as a curator. And I try my best to serve, whether by serving on boards of organizations I believe in, working with young people in public schools in Philadelphia, or going to great lengths to get training on how to promote our human rights as people of African descent. Internationally, I’m entrenched in an extended circle of bad assssss women, who are doing their thing in every professional, political, cultural, social, business arena.


Shout out to those young women, who chose me out of the hundreds of girls who attend rush, to enter their sacred sisterhood, founded on the campus of Howard University, 103 years ago. Shout out to my linesisters, the dope women – physicians, attorneys, scholars, entrepreneurs, political mavens, Hollywood execs, moms, and wives, who crossed with me. Shout out to my neos, the young women who were humble enough to carry on traditions that were passed down from our Founders, those 22 courageous women who left another social group to establish an organization dedicated to sisterhood scholarship and service. Those brave 22 women whose first act of engagement was two participate in the women’s suffrage march of 1913, despite not being treated well by their white comrades nor the patriarchal, sexist and violent men who lined the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue that day to express their disdain at the idea of women’s rights. Shout out to my sorors EVERYwhere who whether you are rocking crimson or creme or not, are showing up and showing out every day in everything you do.

Happy Founders Day!

30-A-00 bka N2DEEP bka The Dirty Thirty

Photo Credit: Jati Lindsay
Photo Credit: Jati Lindsay
Photo Credit: Kim Wilson, 22-A-00
Photo Credit: Kim Wilson, 22-A-00 during our 10th Year Anniversary at Homecoming. Howard University ca. 2010.

Introducing INNERACT PROJECT: Educating the Next Generation of Design Gurus


Everyone knows there is a huge diversity gap in design and tech fields. What is important to note is that there is very little work being done with underserved youth at a young age to help prepare them and to combat this disparity.

Therefore, exposure at a young age is essential. My goal with Inneract Project is to provide minority parents from underserved communities with valuable opportunities for their kids to enter design fields.

10314548_10152135114198262_8797767453158308380_nI am dedicated to making sure kids (particularly underserved minority youth) get the best chance in life to be successful. This is REALLY important to me.

ip_ads_collectionI was raised in Richmond, California, where, like most young people in urban communities across the nation, I was primarily exposed to sports and music. I ran into design via a scholarship to play college ball but not every kid in the community will get this opportunity.

While I was in college, I randomly picked design as a major. This was because I liked to draw when I was a kid. Through this random act, I was exposed to a new world. I think every kid in the community deserves to know about design.

There are a TON of career options for youth in these fields. I work in the Bay Area where design is an important skill in the tech industry. Design careers are in demand, and as a result, pay well.


Creative fields are projected to be one of the most promising new opportunities for employees over the next 7 years. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Design in Context

In today’s world, design is all around us – logos, architecture, furniture, packaging, websites, technology, fashion, and endless other places. Even so, few people really understand what design is.

Design “process” encourages creativity and innovation, which drives our global marketplace. It takes into account; function, human values, social conditions and aesthetics. It makes our lives efficient, informed, sustainable, and more productive.

It is deeply embedded into our culture and is used to move our nation forward. Yet, it is a missing piece in K-12 education and most underserved communities have little knowledge of its existence.


Inneract Project is trying to change this. We know from studies that academic achievement by 8th grade is one of the largest predictors of college readiness.

We want to start working with young minority students at an early age, to give them the proper exposure, education and preparation to enter fields in design.photoIn 2015, only 6% of African American graduates received Art/Design bachelor’s degrees from U.S. degree granting institutions. (Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS)

As our nation focuses more on innovation, we must educate our youth on what design can offer and develop their problem-solving skills to prepare them for jobs that meet the needs of our changing world.

We must also educate parents and the broader community so they can support this new generation of design thinkers. We believe parents are the key and invite them to not only sign their kids up for our classes and workshops but pass the word around, be involved, and help us build a network of parents dedicated to improving the quality of life and future for our young people.

1098153_10152118967653262_4630090921166282862_nWe are working on an expansion model, testing Inneract Project programs in other cities as well as entrepreneurship for youth. We are empowering them through design and providing opportunities for them to create products that they believe the world needs.



About Maurice Woods:


Maurice Woods is the Executive Director/Founder of the Inneract Project (IP). Maurice graduated from the University of Washington with a BFA and MFA in Visual Communication Design. He played basketball as an undergraduate and professionally worldwide for 7 years. Since graduating, he has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses at multiple colleges, lectured nationally and internationally and contributed to various media outlets including the Wall Street Journal.


Maurice served as Co-Chair of Education for the AIGA San Francisco and nationally as a Board of Advisor for the Diversity Archive Collection Exhibition. Currently he sits on the board for Design Ignites Change. Professionally, Maurice worked as a designer at the world’s largest independent design consultancy, Pentagram Design. He designed extensive identity, retail, exhibit and interactive programs for clients such as Nike, Greyhound, Symantec,, and Google. He has won multiple design awards, featured in publications and is also a Jefferson Award winner. He currently works as a Experience Design lead at Yahoo.

If you’re looking for a Retail Design Agency to help you with the launch of a product or with a company campaign, consider checking out Mynt.


For specific questions or to get involved to help our mission, email us at We are currently looking for fundraising board members.


Contact Inneract Project on Social media:


facebook: inneractproject

twitter: @InneractProject

– By Guest Contributor: Maurice Woods

Black Owned Ethical Fashion Brands from Across the Globe


A growing number of consumers worldwide are becoming more conscious of which businesses they spend their money with.

Whether it’s with a Black owned business, an eco-friendly business or a business that creates jobs in developing countries, consumers want to create positive change by supporting brands that know how to “act right”.

This practice is commonly referred to as conscious consumerism, social consumerism or ethical consumerism.


Ninety percent of U.S. consumers say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality.

Forty-two percent of North American consumers reported they would pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.

One third of U.K. consumers claim to be very concerned about issues regarding the origin of products.


One organization that is committed to the creation of jobs, ethical products, and profits is The Ethical Fashion Initiative. Through their network, fashion brands can manufacture ethical fashion items produced by some of the most talented artisans in the world.

According to the EEFI, “Artisans are the key to a fashion industry that has ethics and aesthetics. Sweatshops and workers trapped in an endless cycle of creating cheap fast-fashion is not true fashion.”



“If you’re looking for innovative ways to help developing countries flourish, artisans are a terrific place to begin,” stated U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.


Although the artisan industry is not recognized as a major influencer on economic growth, artisan activity is the second largest employer in the developing world, only behind agriculture.

Globally, artisan production is a $34 billion industry. Even during the 2008 economic crisis, when most markets fell, the demand for artisan crafts continued to grow.


Supporting these craftsmen and craftswomen is a proven way to create employment opportunities and pull families out of poverty.

Our support also provides them with the means to educate and feed their children. It can revive entire communities by stabilizing local economies.


There are several Black owned businesses that use artisans to create dope products. Here are a few that are based across East Africa, West Africa, the U.S. and the U.K.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Brother Vellies is based in Brooklyn. Aurora James created the brand with the goal of creating artisanal jobs within Africa while introducing the rest of the world to her favorite traditional African footwear.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Sole rebels was created by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu. This is a sustainable footwear company that offers ethical, eco-friendly & vegan shoes handcrafted by Ethiopian artisans.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

FOMI was created by Afomia Tesfayeo. They offer handbags and shoes that are handcrafted in Ethiopia.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

A A K S is a Ghana and U.K. based brand created by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi. The pieces incorporate the use of raffia and leather to create bags hand crafted by the best artisanal local weavers in Ghana.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Coins were used as jewelry in ancient times. They were passed from generation to generation as a special memory from loved ones. The Coins Shop is a family owned business in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Sindiso Khumalo founded her fashion label with a  focus on creating modern sustainable textiles.  Sustainability, craft and empowerment lie at the heart of the label.

Black owned ethical fashion brands


Alaffia’s goal is to alleviate poverty and encourage gender equality. Their Empowerment Projects include several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, Eyeglasses and Reforestation.

Black owned ethical fashion brands

Lemlem offers hand-woven cotton scarves, women’s clothing and children’s dresses made by traditional artisans in Ethiopia.

ethical fashion

Kenya-based Adèle Dejak creates handmade luxury fashion accessories for the modern woman.

Adèle’s collection expresses her appreciation for African-made fabrics and a dedication to using recycled materials including rice and cement sacks, brass, and glass.

ethical fashion

There you have it. 10 Black Owned Ethical Fashion Brands. Get your Shoppe on!


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

The #1 Essential Thing to Do Before 2016


As you prepare for the New Year. I wanted to offer you a tip on one essential thing you could do that would change the game for you in 2016.

….drum roll please….

PURGE. I cannot stress the power of letting go through some good ole purging. Chillllllld….let go so you can let the blessings flow boo boo! Here are some examples of quick things you could do to let the blessings flow before the clock strikes 2016:

+ Bring your email inbox to “zero” (even if that means marking everything “read” and trusting that the communication that needs to come back to you will return)

+ Throw away all papers, clothing, and items that you haven’t rocked with over the past 6 months.

+ Delete messages or contacts from your phone that carry negative energy or remind you of any sense of “lack or loss”.

+ Clean out your refrigerator, freezer and cabinets and throw out old and expired food. You don’t have to hold on to mediocre anymore.




Happy New Year!

From your Resident Action Coach.

Akua Soadwa

Akua Soadwa is an Action Coach that supports individuals and entrepreneurs with reconnecting back to their spirits to determine the next course of actions for their personal lives or their businesses. She believes that when people listen to, nurture and honor their spirits, they are inevitably “just one conversation and one action away from having everything they want.”
Akua pic - how do you want to feel

GIVING BLACK: The Many Reasons Why We Should Financially Support our Favorite Causes.


“Black people are the most generous people on this Earth.” That’s a paraphrase of one of my father’s many bits of socio-philosophical brilliance.

He usually uses it in reference to Black folks’ collective emotional generosity – how forgiving we can be in welcoming some Black celebrity back into our loving fold after some public transgression, even if amends haven’t been fully made. But we are also a people who are quite generous with our material and financial resources.

Black folks’ survival and progress have always been rooted in how well we cultivate Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) and Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics).  Many of us have never even considered adopting the title of “philanthropist.”

All the same, generations of church folks, sorority sisters/fraternity brothers, coaches, educators, mentors, activists, etc. have reliably identified our communties’ needs and valiantly employed ever-more creative fundraising to get those needs met. This, indeed, is precisely what philanthropy looks like.

Young Docs DC
Young Docs DC

While altruism can inspire us to be more strategic and impactful with our charitable dollars, mainstream non-profit organizations aren’t always the most accessible or welcoming to Black people as change agents or to our self-determined issues and concerns as philanthropic priorities.

A great way to navigate this murky space is to commit to learning more about smaller, local non-profit organizations or about local chapters of larger national groups like NAACP (   These groups often afford increased access to staff and decision-makers, giving donors greater opportunity to learn about and influence organizational philosophy and greater confidence in the stewardship of funds raised. 

Donors will also feel more rewarded – and encouraged to give more generously – when the impact of an organization’s work can be readily seen and felt in the donors’ communities. 


Black folks can also consider joining a giving circle like The Black Benefactors (, pooling resources with like-minded Black donors to increase the giving impact as well as gaining valuable insights about giving mechanisms and strategies for individuals and groups alike.


Black people have a broad and deep tradition of giving, from car washes that support a young neighbor’s college costs to multi-million dollar capital campaigns for sustaining our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We must continue to build on that tradition. 

Guided by the generations-strong spirit of black charity, let’s combine insight from analyzing structures and systems that affect our well-being at every level with the power of organizing and collective action.

Let’s pledge to talk more frequently and intentionally with loved ones about organizations known for their dedication Black people’s advancement and about how we can pool resources to sustain and influence that good work.

Howard University students perform community service nationally and internationally

With eyes on the prize of Black freedom, here are some organizations to learn about:

Young Docs DC

The Algebra Project

Black Benefactors 

Black Youth Project 100 

The Dream Defenders 

Any of the 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (refer to United Negro College Fund for a list)

Kings Against Violence Initiative 

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 

National Society of Black Engineers 

Teaching for Change 

Young Peoples’ Project 

Teaching for Change Bookstore in Washington, DC

–  By Guest Contributor: Nzinga Tull