In the days following the Black Lives Matter demonstrations sparked by George Floyd's murder, citizens around the world have re-examined their roles in perpetuating systemic racism and injustice. It's clearly not an easy pill to swallow, and many are taking action by participating in protests, signing petitions, amplifying melanated voices, and committing to a "see something, say something" mantra if they witness discrimination and acts of hate.
Buying from local Black-owned brands has also become a form of activism. And so far, the many shopping guides and restaurant directories published far and wide are working. From Los Angeles to Philly to Boston and beyond, many Black entrepreneurs across the U.S. have reported a surge in sales and new customers. The next question: How to sustain that support for those business owners who are disproportionally affected by the pandemic and other hurdles?
Enter: L.A.-based online market Post 21, a new platform that showcases Black-owned brands encompassing fashion, beauty, home decor, and more. The marketplace was launched June 1 by Hilltop Coffee co-owner Blair Paysinger and her mother, Juana Williams. While the e-shop's arrival is certainly timely, the concept had been brewing long before the recent protests, Paysinger tells WhatRivaWore.
"Thanksgiving weekend of 2018, we were talking about the annual Black Friday lists of Black-owned businesses, and we said, 'Why does it have to be this difficult to shop Black?'," Paysinger explains. "That's when we decided, It is time, we have to make this better for everyone."
"We immediately began searching online, and we didn't stop looking until we found brands that were aligned with the marketplace we wanted to deliver," she adds.
It's a topic that Run the Jewels rapper Killer Mike also explored in his 2019 Netflix series, Trigger Warning with Killer Mike. In the debut episode, "Living Black," Mike (né Michael Render) challenges himself to buy only from Black-owned businesses and enlists WeBuyBlack.com founder Shareef Abdul-Malik and other local entrepreneurs to help him succeed; he goes so far as to only eat food made with ingredients grown by Black farmers.
Post 21 is here to simplify that shopping experience, especially for those seeking stylish, mindful goods. Expect to shop jewelry by 84 Gem, scarves by designer Dimitra Williams, handmade ceramics by Black Pepper Paperie Co., candles by Frolic + Sage, original prints by Atlanta-based artist Sasha Martoni, and educational flashcards and books by B Is for Black Girl.
There are also snacks, sips, and more, such as natural dog treats by Richmond-based Cool Canines, detox and hangover drinks by Unlit, vino by La Fête du Rosé, and even Taste vitamins for improving your "down there" flavor.
We recently sat down with Paysinger to find out more about the inspiration behind Post 21, some of the challenges that Black entrepreneurs face, the feedback she's gotten from sellers so far, and how she plans to grow the platform beyond offering retail therapy for conscious shoppers. Read on below, then shop online here.
Based on your experiences or conversations, what are the hurdles that Black business owners disproportionately face? How did that inspired the idea for P21?
Black business owners lack funding! One of the problems is that this causes difficulty in growing and scaling. When we talked about the idea of P21, we figured pooling marketing resources in a marketplace model would help small business owners.
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Every name has a story. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ On May 31, 1921 "Black Wall Street" was burned down in Tulsa, Oklahoma's Greenwood District. It was one of the United States' most prosperous Black communities. They thrived by each person helping the next. Owners worked together and helped their neighbor open the next business. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Today, is POST 1921. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We are ready to redefine what we have traditionally done — in a new and exciting way! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Does your name have an interesting story or meaning?"
Post 21 comes from a horrifyingly racist and violent event in American history — the Black Wall Street murders and burning in Tulsa on May 31, 1921. How was this discussed in your own household, and what moved you to name the online shop after the tragedy?
Once we decided we were moving forward with idea, the name was decided at the same time. It was so right, in that we were continuing the concept of together we could be stronger and help each other. However this time it couldn't be burned down.
Being an entrepreneur is embedded in my family, so my mother talked about Black Wall Street and I will continue that tradition of teaching our history to my children.
What are some uplifting stories that you've heard from both P21's designers and shoppers so far?
The first week, one of our sellers said she had been doing this for 10 years, and had never sold that much product in one week. Another seller who had just launched her business wasn't sure about pricing. We were able to consult with her, and she said she was so grateful to have this type of guidance and support to start her business.
My favorite though was one seller who reached out after our launch and said that she had my wedding photo on her inspiration board for a while. After connecting, she realized the photo was of me and explained that her wedding was one of the ones that had now been canceled due to the pandemic, and how it was amazing that she thought she found that photo for one thing and we had been drawn together for something bigger.
Lastly, where do you see P21 in the future?
We see P21 expanding the products offered, and it becoming a household name for the place to find the things you want in your life. We definitely see P21 as an incubator for new businesses with a wealth of resources to assist new Black-owned brands.