Shop Black Week is an annual event that invites people to support Black-owned businesses. This year’s event runs from Nov. 20-27, and serves as a lead -in to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day or the year.
IndyStar sat down with seven Black business owners to discuss why they got into business, what shopping Black means to them and how this challenging year has been.
Questions and interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Charlie Redd, 31, who owns Indianapolis’ Haven Yoga, holds onto a bolster, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. Shop Black Week, which starts on November 20, and lasts until Friday, Nov. 27, invites people to spend holiday shopping dollars at Black-owned businesses of all varieties. (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)
Charlie Redd, 31, owner of Haven Yoga Studio
Why did you start your own studio?
I started Haven, because as a teacher and a space holder, I felt like people, especially Black and brown people that I would practice with or work with, and LGBTQ people were not bringing their full selves to the mat. And I could be a container for that in the classes that are taught.
But if their schedule ever changed, and they couldn’t come to my class, and they’re going to another class where they maybe can’t take full deep breaths, because maybe they’re a non-binary person that binds, or maybe they’re a trans person and they signed up initially with their dead name, but the studio keeps trying to refer to them with that name, that kind of stuff.
So I started Haven to be like a soft landing spot for us to do wellness together, being community without extra judgment or pretense, and then also in a way that’s relatively affordable and accessible.
Any particular challenges you’ve faced this year, especially after the reckoning about the death of George Floyd?
So much harm has been caused and people need to heal and regroup in a way that’s communal. It’s almost impossible to skillfully do that in mixed race spaces. I’m thinking about maybe a Black nurse who has a labor to experience definitely right now in America, as an essential worker.
If we were doing in-person classes, maybe this person comes in, and is so labored because they’re in the medical profession, they’re seeing more Black and brown people dying from COVID, and they’re really kind of laying it out. And then we’re in a mixed race space — this almost never fails — there’s one or two white women that then begin to cry, and kind of become a little hysterical. And then all of the attention and all of the concern tends to veer towards the white woman in the room.
And this is especially amplified I find in spaces with Black women. Because if the white woman in the room feels unsafe or feels harmed, then we’re all at risk.
In an affinity space, you can be in community with people who may have not that exact same experience, but similar experiences. And we can hold space for each of us to have and be supportive of each other without the way that we’ve been indoctrinated to center whiteness in every single space, you know, so that’s just an idea of an affinity space, why we have them on occasion.
I don’t know of people more in need of connection with their mind, body, present moment and breath than people of color, especially Black people, especially in this moment. The rallying cry for Black Lives Matter is literally I can’t breathe. What does it look like to invite people to come in and be able to just rest to be in a container that they feel comfortable enough to be able to just at least set a little bit of baggage down for just a little bit of time?
Lamont Hatcher, 47, chief executive officer of technology firm AIS, holds onto his laptop, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. Shop Black Week, which starts on November 20, and lasts until Friday, Nov. 27, invites people to spend holiday shopping dollars at Black-owned businesses of all varieties. (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)
Lamont Hatcher, 47, chief executive officer, AIS
How did it all start?
I was in the fourth grade, they taught us how to create those kaleidoscopes that could show 1000 colors on the screen. So, I was so amazed at the different things you can do coding to make this computer screen show all these different colors, I was just infatuated by that. From that moment on, I just fell in love with computers.
What are the responsibilities that someone like you has in the grand scheme of things with Black entrepreneurs, Black tech people, Black coders, which there are so few of?
Educate other minorities that it’s possible to do it and continue to educate non-minorities on the fact that we just need the opportunities, that’s really ultimately what it comes down to, opportunities. Being given the same access to the same opportunities, means everybody wins.
The great thing is, in this current climate, you’re seeing more companies begin to look at things in that light. So that’s a really good thing, and that’s encouraging. And just hoping that, you know, it sticks around.
I have a daughter that just graduated from Notre Dame, and she’s got a degree in data analytics. So now, we’re talking last night about her starting her company, and what it looks like, and you know, all of that different stuff. So maybe it catches on, and it really benefits that generation, which would be really cool for me to see. That’s really the hope and prayer.
The thing in tech is glaring, that we just need more participation. And not just Black, right? Women, I mean, you need diversity in everything, for it to flourish. Because you have to give everybody the opportunity to be exposed to different things. You know, if you don’t, how can you create leaders if you never give them the opportunity to not only watch you lead, but to lead themselves, right?
Aaron Vaughn, 28, owner of Minus Skate Shop
When a Black boy or girl comes through the door of your shop, what goes through your head?
When like a young black kid or family comes in, it reminds me of me, you know? It reminds me of me when I when I was a kid and the first time coming into a skate shop. I want to make sure that like I take care of them and kind of meet their needs, whatever they need, you know, it is indescribable, almost.
They usually feel relieved when they walk in, especially being in Carmel. They’re like, ‘Oh, this is awesome. He will be able to help me and be very thorough.’
Hopefully, I can introduce them to skateboard and show them that this is a whole ‘nother world. You can do it on your own and still be in the streets.
Why did you choose this board to pose with?
That’s my board and it’s super sentimental to me. Boards come and go, you know, but that’s, that’s your baby at that time, you know boards last you a month or two but that’s everything to you at that time.
That’s how you produce footage, that’s how you skate, that’s how you practice. I still keep my board inside. I used to sleep in my board when I was a kid. I usually put it in the bed, and I would tuck it in, I would literally sleep with it.
Growing up, that was all I ever had really was skateboarding, so I still hold that sentimental value to my board. If all else fails, I got that.
David Mayes II, 51, a second-generation owner of 3D Trophy and Engraving Company, holds onto a trophy with his company logo, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. Shop Black Week, which starts on November 20, and lasts until Friday, Nov. 27, invites people to spend holiday shopping dollars at Black-owned businesses of all varieties. (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)
David Mayes II, 51, owner of 3D Trophy and Engraving Company
How did this start?
My father found a niche, a need for awards for Black businesses and the Black community through trying to purchase trophies for my brother and myself for football.
He noticed that there wasn’t a Black-owned business that was making awards and engraving. So he had the idea of trying to start that for himself, and he started in the basement of his house.
The neighborhood has been very good to us. We service anywhere from deaconesses from the church coming to get badges all the way to corporate awards where we have to ship across several states.
A lot of our business is also online. As time has grown, the need for coming into a showroom and placing an order has kind of diminished, because you can pretty much determine what you want online.
How has this year been as a Black business owner?
If it makes you feel better to do business with me, because I’m Black, by all means do so. But my competitors don’t do anything that I don’t do. There’s nothing that they have over me that I can’t measure up to.
And we’ve proven that by being in business over 40 years, dealing with Bureau of Motor Vehicles, dealing with the Indiana State Troopers Association, IU, Notre Dame; huge clients that need and like our services. We’re glad to say we got it.
But they gave it to us because we deserved it. You know, they gave it to us because they knew we could produce. So it’s not an issue that I want you to do business with me because I’m Black. I want you to do business with me because I’m good.
Codi Banks, 29, is an Indianapolis fashion designer, and holds onto her tape measure, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. Shop Black Week, which starts on November 20, and lasts until Friday, Nov. 27, invites people to spend holiday shopping dollars at Black-owned businesses of all varieties. (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)
Codi Banks, 29, fashion designer and owner of Witty by Codi
How do you refer to yourself?
I just call myself a fashion designer. In other ways that I do see the difference of being a Black fashion designer. When I first started looking for a space to have my studio, I was getting denied left and right.
And I just felt like if I was white, I think I would have gotten space much sooner. It took me like six months to find a space. People were not getting back to me.
That’s the only thing I’ve ever really felt that has made a difference in terms of my skin color. And, sometimes I’m not sure if white customers want to come to a Black designer sometimes either.
Anything you didn’t foresee in the months after George Floyd?
That probably a lot of my orders (came from) people wanting to order from a Black person, and give back. I know with one big order of 100 (masks), they were saying ‘we really want to order from a Black designer right now.’ In a business sense, it’s the bomb to be Black. That spotlight is on us, and it is an opportunity for us to do better for ourselves and reach our dreams right now.
Faith Blackwell, an Indianapolis photographer and artist, holds onto her main piece of gear, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. Shop Black Week, which starts on November 20, and lasts until Friday, Nov. 27, invites people to spend holiday shopping dollars at Black-owned businesses of all varieties. (Photo: Robert Scheer/IndyStar)
Faith Blackwell, 44, photographer and artist
How did you begin as a photographer?
I grew up being creative, but I didn’t grow up knowing I wanted to be a photographer or had any kind of expectations on photography. When I started picking up a camera in my late 20s, that’s when I knew that it was something that I wanted to do or something I wanted to pursue. I took a few classes here and there, and once I decided I wanted to make it my business, I put in my two week notice for my job. So, when it’s time to make that leap, I just made it.
Anything tougher or easier this year as a Black business owner?
I think people are more pursuing Black businesses, now more than ever. I don’t know what it was with the George Floyd that made everyone wake up and realize things that were going on. It’s not just in one aspect of being Black, it’s awareness in everything that we face.
Mark Nicholson, 51, lawyer
Why did you choose to hold a figurine of Batman?
They’re fighting against what they believe to be injustice, by any means necessary. And I like that idea of now that I’m an adult, translating over to my clients. One of the phrases I use is travesty of justice. I try to fight against this travesty of justice for my clients.
Any responsibilities you have as a Black business owner?
A case a year is my passion case. I’ll take that case, you know, and reduce the fee or on a pro bono basis, because I’m passionate about that.
I had one a year ago where an African-American was walking out of a Chili’s restaurant on the north side, and IMPD, because he was a Black male, thought he was a criminal. And they said they had a warrant for his arrest. And ultimately, he did not.
The person they were looking for was a darker skinned black male that was 10 years younger, was about six inches taller, had dreadlocks. My client was 10 years older, very light-skinned, bald head, looked absolutely nothing like the person they were looking for. Except they were black men.
And I took that case, because I felt like that could have been me walking out of Chili’s restaurant as a black male.
Any thoughts about events like Shop Black Week?
By celebrating Black businesses, nothing wrong with that because it helps break down those walls of racism and lack of understanding, because you could say, ‘oh, I never knew that I like Polish sausage, or I never knew I would like okra’ or whatever it is, or, ‘I didn’t know, there’s a Black attorney who is on the north side of town and that he’s actually a good attorney who’s won cases.’
I always look at America not as a melting pot, but as a salad bowl. You know, you have your lettuce, you have your croutons, you have your tomatoes, or if you want some fruit in there, everything remains the same, it’s not all blended into one, every piece of fruit, or vegetable maintains its own identity. And it makes this wonderful taste.
Contact IndyStar visual journalist Robert Scheer at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @bobscheer.
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