NEWSLETTER WEEK 27 – DECEMBER 1, 2020
Before we forget, here’s our website of past newsletters, here’s a link to subscribe to our Patreon, here’s an anonymous question bank for anyone who wants to keep their questions private, here’s a fund tracker that breaks down how we spend our money, and here’s the link to sign up to receive these newsletters if someone forwarded them to you.
We hope everyone and their loved ones have managed to remain safe and healthy this past week. As we gear up for the holidays, we want to remind ourselves of our commitment to antiracism in all aspects of our lives, particularly, in this case, our purchases.
This holiday season, we’re rethinking our gift spending: instead of going with cheap, convenient, mass-produced options, we’re focusing on more generative options. We believe that our budgets are moral documents. They are direct reflections of what we value. If we value our money being reinvested back into communities and our loved ones getting quality goods when we give gifts, sometimes we have to look below the surface. This year, we hope you’ll look beyond mega corporations where our $50 purchases are just drops in the bucket in some billionaire buying his thirtieth beach house, and into more local options where our $50 will be reinvested back into the neighborhood from which we bought.
We know looking for small business, BIPOC-owned, ethically-produced alternatives can be a little trickier than just googling the product we want (and we acknowledge we sound so crunchy even typing that sentence but we *promise* that the world we all want means we shop from those options and invest our dollars back into our communities). To make it easier, we’ve made this (non-exhaustive, barely scratching the surface) guide to help you get started. Buckle in, this is our longest newsletter ever (TLDR: use “CTRL F” to search for gift ideas in the email if you want to skip through it).
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT AMAZON
Look, we’re going to keep this short and sweet because we know that most of our readers, in their hearts, know that shopping at Amazon comes at a cost to our communities as a whole. Amazon has a history of exploiting workers, fighting unions, and being a top contributor to carbon emissions. The corporation refuses to pay federal taxes and most state taxes. It creates (and has normalized) excessive amounts of plastic waste in its packaging and by creating a culture of instant gratification. It lends itself to massive privacy concerns through its hundreds of millions of Alexa products throughout the world and its partnership with Ring cameras. And any justification Amazon gives to try to hold itself out as a responsible company comes up ethically dry. The $15 wage? Amazon is still the largest employer of people on SNAP in the nation. The “place for small businesses to sell” too? The cons outweigh the pros: Amazon controls the customer relationship (not the brand itself), Amazon cuts costs to itself while upcharging sellers because of consumer expectation of free delivery, and businesses report net losses, despite a broader market available on the platform. Beyond that, Amazon’s business model is unscrupulous and unashamed of how much it undercuts the rest of the market. Jeff Bezos has amassed over $48 Billion since the beginning of the pandemic, while tens of millions of Americans expect to lose their homes this holiday season.
This all being said, we know that sometimes Amazon is just cheaper and easier and so tempting to use for the sake of convenience (Emily talks about the ~evils of Amazon~ constantly and still keeps her prime subscription to rent her textbooks each semester and Ellie still uses Amazon for more expensive items, but is making a commitment to stop shopping from them. We’re not perfect and neither are our purchases). But Amazon being so cheap costs small businesses, the American workforce, and the planet alike. Our communities deserve better than a standard based on exploitation: of the earth’s natural resources, of people’s ability to make an *actually livable wage*, of our short attention spans.
Also, this is a small peeve we realize but Amazon makes too much damn money to have such an ugly interface. Seriously. A small business would never put so little effort into its branding and its website layout. Talk about insult to injury!!
AND WITH THAT, OUR FIRST EVER UNLEARNING RACISM GIFT GUIDE!
*Disclaimer: there are TONS of amazing options and items, so we recommend bookmarking for when you’re doing your shopping!
CLOTHING, ACCESSORIES, AND SHOES
ARSENIC AND VINES
The most intricate, beautiful handmade earrings and hair clips by the illustrious Nicole Varkey, a Malayalam queen. Each pair is uniquely designed and honestly her work is impressive. AND they’re running a deal until Christmas Day – each pair of earrings is only $10. Stylish, affordable, and such an easy, perfect gift for friends and relatives alike. Check out their selection at @arsenicandvines.
Sustainably sourced, artisan made leather shoes. This Mexican-American sister-owned shoe company keeps in close contact with its 13 cobblers and their families; SOLS provides fair-trade wages for each pair of their well-made shoes. Check out their instagram @shopsols.
NINE TO FIVE CHIC
Founded this past month by one of Emily’s law school classmates, Nine to Five Chic has a beautiful selection of fun-yet-professional clothes for women. Great options for Zoom holiday parties and the office alike. Follow on instagram at @shopninetofivechic.
EL CHOLOS KID
The coolest, funkiest bags made from plastic scraps and another company Emily just drools over. Latina-owned and operated. Would be a really nice beach bag or purse alike. Scroll their instagram at @elcholoskid.
URBAN NATIVE ERA
Native-owned t-shirts, hoodies, socks, beanies, hats, etc. A brand focused on increasing the visibility of Indigenous people and comfy, quarantine-friendly clothing? We love to see it. Follow along at @urbannativeera.
Turtle Mountain Chippewa-made clothing and accessories including authentic moccasins, earrings, and t-shirts. Scroll their instagram @beyondbuckskin.
Sunglasses and blue-light glasses to protect your eyes from harsh light and macular degeneration (this is something Emily’s family talks incessantly about? Anyone else’s parents obsessed with the words “macular degeneration”?). Anyways, Bohten is Black-owned and gives away five masks with every purchase!! Scroll their styles at @bohten.
OKAY THAT’S ENOUGH CO.
A clothing company focused on social justice run by one of Ellie’s friends! Latina-owned and operated and a percentage of proceeds goes to support the Equal Justice Initiative. Scroll more options at @okaythatsenough.co.
CHUNKS HAIR CLIPS
Fun, funky hair clips from Chunks are a thoughtful gift for that very fashion-forward cousin with more eclectic taste (i.e., the roles Ellie and Emily both play in their families… kidding on the fashionable part but we do love these clips!!!). Ethically made in China and designed by Chinese American artist Tiffany Ju.
Indigenous-owned clothing company specializing in vintage, upcycled, small-batch dyed, and sustainably woven fabrics. Everything they sell is high quality and so unique. Follow along on instagram at @orendatribe.
WRAPPED BY RU
Wrapped by Ru is a passion project started by Ruth, a Black female educator turned creative. She hand makes all of her crafts, including face masks, waist beads, and more, and she’s one of Ellie’s friends! Check out her beautiful beading @wrapped.by.ru!
JAM + RICO
Established in June 2016, Jam + Rico (short for Jamaica and Puerto Rico) is a fashion jewelry company providing bold, unique and colorful designs. They travel to the Caribbean and Latin American countries finding inspiration from the people, culture, music, and terrain. Browse their beautiful pieces @jamandrico
SHADY ARIES EYEWEAR
Shady Aries Eyewear is a Black-owned, unique eyewear boutique. They offer a range of original sunglasses that are designed to spark confidence and are sure to stand out! View them here: @shopshadyaries
GIFTS FOR BOOKWORMS
Beautiful cards, stationary, and other paper goods made by @essimarpapermade. All goods are Latina-made and one of a kind.
GREER PAPER GOODS
Bridget Gamble, our ultimate Chicago insider, wrote to us to share that, “you can’t beat Chandra Greer’s curation of notebooks, pens, stationery sets and other doodads. We could all especially use Civilettes for Spontaneous Appreciation, tiny cards with pre-written messages for different occasions to carry in your bag.” Scroll photos of their antique pencils and stationary at @greerchicago.
Silver Room has the enamel pins of Sade, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Lorraine Hansberry you’ve always dreamed of. BIPOC-owned. Scroll their instagram at @thesilverroom.
SHOP FROM BLACK-OWNED BOOKSHOPS
No matter what book you’re buying, we recommend you shop Black-owned bookstores this holiday season. Here’s an unceremonious, incomprehensive list of a few our readers suggested:
- For Keeps Books – Atlanta, GA
- Mahogany Books – Chicago, IL
- Shop at MATTER – Denver, CO
- Semicolon Books – Chicago, IL
- Elizabeths – Akron, OH
- People Get Ready – New Haven, CT
- The Lit. Bar – Bronx, NYC
- Turning Page Bookshop – Goose Creek, SC
- And other options available through this list (Thanks, Oprah!)
CHILDREN’S BOOKS BY NATIVE AND INDIGENOUS AUTHORS
Thank you again to our dear friend, Bridget Gamble, for sending along this helpful list of books by native and indigenous authors to share with the kiddos in your life this holiday season.
SKINCARE + MAKEUP
Black-owned makeup company with bold palettes and bright options for any face. Scroll their styles at @juviasplace.
Indigenous owned and founded, @cheekbonebeauty is a sustainably-made lipstick line that focuses on donating money back into Indigenous-run organizations.
PEAR NOVA NAIL POLISH
Vegan, cruelty-free, Black-owned nail polish company that has beautiful colors that look good on every skin tone. Scroll their instagram at @pearnova.
Highly-reviewed skin care line where every single product is under $25. Founded by Priscilla Tsai, the company prides itself on making clean, conscious beauty accessible for all budgets. You can scroll their instagram at @cocokind.
FREDERICK BENJAMIN GROOMING
Black-owned mens’ grooming line to fight razor bumps and dandruff alike. Frederick Benjamin partners with Barbershop Books to get free books to Black families books to start home libraries. Check out their instagram at @fredbgrooming.
Skincare line owned by NBA champion, activist, father, and entrepreneur, Hue is a natural answer to “every men’s skin” needs, especially those with coarse or curly hair where petroleum and silicone-based products dominate the market. Affordable products with beautiful packaging, this would be an excellent stocking stuffer. Scroll through at @hueforeveryman.
Anyone in your life looking for ~the gift of a Christmas shave~? Look no further than Bevel’s cordless, sleek hair trimmer. Black-owned and operated. Scroll at @bevel.
Moussou is an all-natural skincare brand. Moussou means “woman,” deriving from the Malinke tribe of Guinea, West Africa. Moussou brings out the all-purpose power of shea butter. Moussou brings healing, protection, and moisture to the skin. Give them a look! @moussoubeauty
This all natural skincare and soap shop based in South Carolina is an excellent option for the smooth-skin lovers in your life! Check out their amazing products on IG @motherlandessentials!
FLOWERS AND MOONDUST
Discover wellness from the Motherland! Flowers & Moondust is an African wellness lifestyle brand dedicated to recentering African ancestral healing magic, empowering local African communities encouraging wholistic wellness journeys. 100% natural African superfoods and beauty products can be seen @flowersandmoondust
FOR THE FOODIE IN YOUR LIFE
DIASPORA CO. SPICES, ETC.
Direct trade, single-origin spice company dedicated to building a better spice trade. We put money, equity, and power into the hands of Indian farmers, to disrupt, and decolonize an outdated commodity spice trading system. QPOC-owned, @diasporaco partners with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, to source the very best spices that India has to offer.
Another of Emily’s favorite newsletters, Pineapple is a network of women and nonbinary folks in food. They host events(one of their virtual cocktail-making, pasta-making, or other cooking classes would be a great gift, too!) and now sell high quality, sustainably-sourced olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Support them on instagram at @pineapplecollaborative.
BRIGHTLAND – OLIVE OIL
Speaking of olive oils, Brightland also sells vinegars and olive oil; theirs is grown and harvested sustainably in the California soil. Founder Aishwarya Iyer credits her South Indian salt farmer heritage for her attention to detail in every step of the olive oil’s production. Plus, their marketing? Stunning. Scroll their instagram at @wearebrightland.
A South Bronx based chocolate company owned by Trinidadian and Tobagonian brothers! The company prides itself in both the quality of its product as well as environmental and ethical social responsibilities Sol Cacao is based on. This includes the sustainable organic farming practices, environmental preservations, and ethical sourcing of raw materials. Learn more @solcacao!
UNCLE NEAREST WHISKEY
Best-selling author Fawn Weaver — and now the first person of color to run a major spirit brand — raised over $20 million dollars to pay homage to the formerly enslaved person Nathan “Nearest” Green. Known as the African-American master distiller, Green is credited with teaching Jack Daniels. Scroll away at @unclenearest.
COOKBOOKS WE RECOMMEND
Emily’s been cooking her way through La Cocina through quarantine and loves it (the diversity in recipe options, the stories of the women whose businesses have been grown through the collective, and the fact that buying the book helps support their network of emerging immigrant chefs throughout the country). She’s been vying for her own copy of Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat for years now (waiting impatiently for it to get on thriftbooks so she can justify buying it). This year, we’re drooling over Hawa Hassan’s In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Eight African Grandmothers, Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, and Heid Edrich’s Original Local: Indigenous Food, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest.
LOCAL RESTAURANT GIFT CARDS
It’s takeout season (thanks covid) and your favorite local places need more support than ever. How about a gift card to a Black-owned restaurant in your town? We recommend starting with this great resource (or just googling “Black owned restaurants in [insert your town here]”).
TRULY BEAUTIFUL HOUSEWARES
ESTELLE COLORED GLASS
Hand blown glassware and cake stands that come in pastels and jewel tones. Stephanie Summerson Hall named the brand after her grandmother, Estelle, who she credits with teaching her to be a great cook, a keen vintage shopper, and a fine hostess. Black-owned and operated and absolutely stunning, Estelle’s glassware is a perfect gift for zoom weddings, holidays, or yourself (Emily contemplates buying a set of mixed and matched champagne coups every other week and then remembers she has no job so that’ll have to wait for a while). Check out their instagram at @estellecoloredglass.
Housewares including everything from living houseplants to sconces, bed linens, and wall decor. Currently eyeing up their holiday products and these ceramic cups, but really everything in the store is exquisite. Black-owned by Justina Blakeney and with each product bought, two trees are planted. Scroll through (or download their app!) at @thejungalow.
YUI BROOKLYN CANDLES
Yui moved from Japan to NYC in 2016 and says her one-of-a-kind candle business in Brooklyn was started because she was pursuing “kawaii” (Japanese for cute – needless to say, we love her). They’re cool, they’re funky (everything from busts of various people’s torsos to intricate yarn balls to blob-like shapes), they’re uniquely made to order. You can scroll Yui’s work on instagram at @yuibrooklyn.
PRETTY HONEST CANDLES
Featured in BuzzFeed, Travel Noire, Apartment Therapy, & Beyonce’s Website. Natural, clean burning, handmade candle company that’s Black/Woman owned: @prettyhonestshop
CELEBRATIONS FROM THE SOUL CANDLES
Black-owned candle business hand-poured in Virginia. They look and smell amazing. Not sure at what age the switch flips and people love candles but these would be so perfect for friends and relatives of all ages. Follow along on instagram at @celebrationsfromthesoul.
Luxury, Black-owned fragrance company hand poured in Brooklyn since 2015. These candles are amazing but you’re going to have to act fast to get one because they sell out! @litbklyn
OJIMA ABALAKA: ILLUSTRATIONS AND PUZZLES
We *love* puzzles. Both our families *love* puzzles. Ojima’s puzzles (and all her art) are so beautiful. We recommend following her at @ojima.abalaka and maybe getting a copy of her Birthday Bash puzzle for any December/January birthdays that feel overshadowed by the holidays?
COILY AND CUTE: ILLUSTRATIONS AND CALENDAR
Sharee Miller has beautiful illustrations and you can preorder her 2021 calendar! Check out her other work at @coilyandcute.
An answer to sustainable solutions that are beige and frankly, very vanilla. Goldune Co. is an online repository of sustainable alternatives to everyday products including everything from reusable gift wrap, personal care stocking stuffers, and pet care gifts. They focus on sourcing from women and BIPOC and were founded by Azora Zoe Paknad, an Iranian-American who says she needed sustainability to be “colorful, accessible, and all-inclusive.” You can check out their instagram at @goldune.co.
OUR PLACE COOKWARE
The *most beautiful* and *most functional* pans, dishes, and glassware. All ethically made and all purchases are partnered with organizations like Feeding America and Equal Justice Initiative. Emily has been ogling at this company for months now. Founded by Pakistani immigrant and cofounder of the Malala Fund, Shiza Shahid. Check out their instagram at @ourplace.
ART AND ARTISTS
POSTERS, PRINTS, AND EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS
For prints and posters, we always first look to Just Seeds (@justseeds), a BIPOC artists collective that focuses on making art related to social needs (the pandemic, racism, etc.). For classroom art, we also look to Amplifier (@amplifierart), a social justice arts collective (that sends free classroom posters to teachers).
This Black-owned business makes an excellent gift for the Historian in your life. Ellie’s friend Fatimah creates trading cards showcasing the accomplishments of people of the African diaspora that you can preview @blackcardstm and she’s generously offered a 15% discount code for our dialogue group! Using code: unlearn.
ZOEVI STICKERS AND PRINTS
Got a student in your life who’d want stocking stuffers of graphic prints or stickers? Look no further, @zoevi_ (Ellie’s friend—hi Zoe!) runs a WOC-owned graphic printing business and is taking commissions for the holidays.
SHARECE STUDIOS – ABSTRACT PRINTS
Emily has become totally entranced watching @sharecestudios make abstract scrape art from paint blobs and acrylic spreading tools. Check out her funky mirror pieces, her mini collages, and her other abstract art.
We saw Amiri Farris’s work at our local Coastal Discovery Museum in high school during a week of learning about Gullah culture (that, yes, coincidentally, we did together) and we’ve been in love ever since. Beautiful, colorful pieces with stories to tell.
EXPERIENCES AND IDEAS FOR DOING TOGETHER (VIRTUALLY)
- Events with Pineapple Collaborative (when we reached out, they said they were still solidifying January and February dates but if someone you love is into food, be on the lookout for their spring calendar!)
- Online concerts or comedy shows (Emily likes to watch her friend Natalie perform standup at The Pinhook but really any setting will do. These can even be free! Some of our favorite recommendations of gifts have been “tune into a concert together over facetime” or “spend an evening live-texting about a movie you’re watching in unison”. Doesn’t have to be fancy!)
- Art Classes with Amber Wade of Sharece Studios
- Indian Cooking Classes with Reena Katarya
- A Brewmaster’s Guide to Flavor Emulation with Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery
ABOLITION MIXTAPE: AN ONLINE SELF-GUIDED COURSE
The illustrious Mariame Kaba and Mia Mingus, amongst others leaders in the transformative justice movement, have produced this nine recorded video workshops for people who are interested in working toward police/prison abolition and transformative justice. Could be a great gift for lifelong learners and people interested in this kind of movement work.
YEAR LONG GIFTS
NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIPTIONS TO WRITERS OF COLOR
For the “I don’t need stuff this year” crew, we recommend subscribing to the Patreon pages or paid newsletters of brilliant writers of color (Hunter Harris and Samantha Irby are great places to start; the “Whose on Judge Mathis Today” email is the highlight of every single day Emily gets it in her inbox). We also love Noname Book Club as a subscription option for readers who would want to connect with a full group (or, you know, our Patreon that helps support our speakers + communities, just saying).
BLK AND BOLD: COFFEE SUBSCRIPTION
Check out a coffee or other beverage subscription to BLK & Bold, a Black-owned coffee company that pledges five percent of sales to youth programming ([Bridget Gamble] got this idea from Ann Friedman’s newsletter and we love it!)
MCBRIDE SISTERS’ WINE CLUB
Black-Women-owned wine club offering seasonal or monthly shipments for wine lovers. The recipient can adjust each shipment to meet their own taste.
KID + BABY GIFTS
HELPING KIDS RISE
More curated books for kids by BIPOC authors and/or along themes of inclusion. Check out their Bookshop page and instagram at @helpingkidsrise.
Happy Mango is an eco-friendly, Atlanta-based, Black-owned store with gifts for pregnancy/adoption and beyond. Shop for everything from strollers to diapers to baby clothes to toys and books. Scroll more options at @shophappymango.
HEALTHY ROOTS DOLLS
A Black-owned toy company specializing in dolls that really look like Black girls.
Baby clothes that are handmade or hand-dyed and so cute. Black-owned and DC-based.
Black-owned puzzle company that specializes in puzzles that feature Black protagonists and are made for younger children. Fun illustrations and hearty materials.
STINA AND MAYE – BABY SHOWER GIFTS
Okay honestly this is a quarantine genius move – baby showers gifts pre-boxed and ready to send. All products are organic and sustainably made as well as *actually cute* (which tbh, feels like a hit or miss thing? We don’t have kids but if we did this would be a company we would *love* to shop from). Black-owned, easy to order and send to friends with new pandemic babies, and not toooooo expensive.
BROWN TOY BOX
STEAM-focused toys curated to be culturally conscious, curiosity-inducing, and age-appropriate. Black-owned and focused on getting kids of all ages interested in science and art alike. Scroll their instagram at @browntoybox.
GIFT IDEAS FROM SMALL BIZ ACCOMPLICES
Finally, we want to highlight some of our white accomplice partners who do amazing things. Everyone who has spoken to Emily in 2020 knows she *loves* disco balls all of a sudden and that is pretty much all thanks to @libbylivingcolorfully. Libby sells disco balls and daisy mask chains in her etsy store.
We also love Chloe Bruderer (of the Here’s the Thing newsletter!)’s art, both prints and phone cases. You can check out her work at @chloeheartsart, @chlobrud, and on her website.
Other than that, we recommend secondhand when possible, handmade when possible, and thoughtful > expensive. Think outside the box this year and nurture someone’s quarantine hobby (Revive and Bloom for plant consultations or this DIY Beyoncé embroidery kit, perhaps?). Search through Thriftbooks, BLK MKT Vintage, or your local thrift store (like HHI’s The Church Mouse, aka the best thrift store of all time) to spark new ideas if you’re just not sure yet. Have other gift ideas or businesses you want us to share? Send them our way and we’ll share them on instagram and/or in our news roundup on Friday.
Sending everyone good health this week in the midst of what could be a hard one for health systems. This giving Tuesday, we’re focusing on *mutual aid* – directly transferring cash to people in our communities who have been hit hardest by the pandemic and/or its economic effects. Don’t know where to start? Scroll through @openyrpurse or reply to this email and we’ll send you some ideas for quick but powerful giving (or you can subscribe to our Patreon, where we’ll be donating December’s subscription money right back to those very people).
Ellie, Emily, and Hayden