Each February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history. In the midst of COVID 19, this year’s theme for Black History Month, Black Health and Wellness, pays homage to medical scholars and health care providers. It is especially timely as we enter the third year of the pandemic, which has disproportionately affected minority communities and placed unique burdens on Black health care professionals.
In addition to health and wellness, I’d like to recognize Black authors and Black-owned businesses, both nationally and locally.
Black Authors to Enjoy
Dawnie Walton’s amazing debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, was published in 2021. The novel was also the first selection for the McBride Sisters Book Club. A poignant oral history of a beloved rock and roll duo who found fame in the 1970s and are planning a reunion, it chronicles the music industry and challenges for Black artists. Walton’s works as a fiction writer and journalist explore identity, place and the influence of pop culture. A MacDowell Colony fellow (2015), a Tin House Scholar (2017), and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (2018), she has worked as an executive-level editor for magazine and multimedia brands including Essence, Entertainment Weekly, Getty Images and LIFE. http://dawniewalton.com
Attica Locke is an American fiction author and writer/producer for television and film. I read Black Water Rising, the first novel in her Jay Porter series, because I was interested in reading mystery novels by authors of color. I also have on my list Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home. In reading Attica Locke’s works I have learned much that I didn’t know about African American history and culture. Locke was also a writer and producer for Netflix’s limited series, When They See Us. atticalocke.com
Planting People Growing Justice Bookstore and Press
An award winning author, Dr. Artika Tyner, Ed.D., M.P.P., J.D. set out to promote literacy and diversity in children’s books. From that, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute has grown into a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, which has distributed over 8,000 books and counting. Another component of the organization’s mission is to inspire young people to become leaders of the future. The PPGJLI motto, Leaders Are Readers, speaks to all of these areas. The core mission of PPGJLI is to plant seeds of social change through education, training and community outreach. One of many key ways Dr. Tyner is accomplishing this mission is through a bookstore and press. The bookstore offers works for both children and adults, many of which discuss the many aspects of Black history and culture. (PPGJ Books) publishes, promotes, and distributes books that encourage and empower Black children to find joy in reading. Of her many award-winning books three are: Justice Makes A Difference, Amazing Africa: A to Z and The Lawyer As Leader: How To Plant People and Grow Justice. These books will open your mind and change your life. https://planting-people-growing-justice-leadership-institute.square.site/
Black Businesses to Support
The McBride Sisters
Sisters Robyn and Andrea McBride, who had no idea of the other’s existence until it was the wish of their dying father for them to meet, have gone on to craft award-winning wines. As the sisters themselves note: “Our wines are an intimate reflection of who we are, and where we come from. During Black History Month, we are reminded of the journeys, people and cultures that have made the McBride Sisters Collection possible. In celebration of our history, journey with us through the African Diaspora as we pair our wines with custom recipes from four incredible chefs.” For Christmas last year, I gifted many friends with Black Girl Magic Rose or Sparkling Brut. I love the McBride Sisters wines and have recently joined the SHE CAN Wine Club, which offers an opportunity to try their many different wines in 12-ounce cans.
A portion of the proceeds of McBride Sisters SHE CAN Wines sales will go toward the related McBride Sisters SHE CAN Fund inspired by the endless pursuit of all women who are making their dreams a reality and breaking barriers daily. At its inception, The McBride Sisters SHE CAN Fund was created to promote the professional advancement of women in the wine industry in a concerted effort to help close the gender and race gap. https://www.mcbridesisters.com/
Gwen Beloti is a Brooklyn native who started her jewelry brand because of her love for fashion. At a young age, her style was heavily influenced by accessorizing. Shopping for clothing on the other hand wasn’t always easy or fun. Gwen found it difficult to find stylish apparel that fit well as my weight often fluctuated. As a result of her struggles with clothing, she fell madly in love with jewelry and used accessories to make statements. I love the Gwen Beloti Collection jewelry of timeless, well-made pieces that simply shine. The gold jewelry are always beautiful and have opened my horizons to trying new jewelry I might not have otherwise. I am also a member of the Golden Stories Club, where each quarter I receive a box of personally selected jewelry. It’s like having Christmas four times a year!
Says Gwen, “It’s my experience with fashion that led me to create my own line. I taught myself the art of design in both apparel and jewelry before being formally trained. In 2019 we launched our first complete Gwen Beloti jewelry collection. It was my mission to offer our clients styles that were accessible and luxe. Today we carry an assortment of golden jewels perfect for everyday wear. Our styles are offered in a range of sizes and lengths. Taking into account my personal issues with fit, it’s important for us to be size inclusive and to celebrate all golden beauties.” https://gwenbeloti.com/
2 Scoops Ice Cream Eatery
Who doesn’t love ice cream? Or homemade pizza? Eighteen plus flavors of ice cream like Butter Pecan, Mint Chip, Espresso Oreo, Salted Caramel, Turtle, Strawberry, Zanzibar Chocolate and more, served in homemade waffle cones. Can I have one of each? Yum! What makes 2 Scoops different is their commitment to the St. Paul community. 2 Scoops Ice Cream Eatery collects donations from customers in order to assist underprivileged children in the area. To date, it has donated over 1,000 ice cream cones. Local, family- and minority-owned, 2 Scoops is a treat for everyone. 2 Scoops is closed on Sunday and Mondays during winter hours, but spring is just around the bend! https://2scoopseatery.com/
Each of these areas comprise an important in the area of the African American experience. Four of these businesses also take seriously their commitment to their community by giving back. The McBride Sisters, Gwen Beloti Jewelry, Planting People Growing Justice and 2 Scoops are all committed to ending systemic racism and inequality, and making our world a better place for us all.