This is obviously quite a serious topic which I have been wondering about for a while now, so I thought I would write about it and hopefully hear your views too.
We often underestimate how much we damage someone else with our thoughts and actions, based on our own perspectives.
In modern times, many of us have been blessed with the ability to speak our mind.
I say blessed because we also often forget that in some places in this world, freedom is still not free.
Lately, there seems to be a movement where Black people are coming together globally as a community, to share their frustrations and I wanted to look into that. Is this another trend or a genuine Time’s up for us too?
I am Capricorn, and if you care about astrology, you know that we are known as the stubborn sign. And when we believe in something strong enough, we can fight anything.
I must be wiser now though, because for each situation, I am now able to take a step back and rethink before reacting. So let’s talk.
Recently, I saw a video of a black lady in America who was having a go at Disney and Marvel for a lack of Black Panther merchandise in their stores.
At first, I thought that must be a mistake because I assumed that when these studios invest in such a big production, surely they hope to make as much money as possible. So to my understanding, merchandise is part of that marketing budget.
Then I started reading the comments prior to writing a question I had.
After a few comments (most of them not very friendly) I decided to take “my” step back. 🙂
I wondered to myself, ” How many times have I been to a Disney store?”
Twice. The answer was twice, once to buy a toy for my friend’s new born and another time for my little cousin’s birthday. So I thought I would ask the same question to my friends and a few contacts. Most of my black friends said they visited the store 2 or 3 times or never in their lifetime.
Then I said, ” Perhaps that is the point where Disney was coming from”. No one expected Black Panther to reach a $1 billion dollar globally in such a short time or actually ever perhaps.
But anyone I know, including myself, who saw this movie, did not just see it once. They saw it twice, three, or more. Not because it is an all black cast film but simply because it is amazing.!The story line was on point, the action was well coordinated, family friendly and God, it was funny!!! So many lines to quote from my now favourite princess, Shuri. And these factors made it a recipe for global success.
Going back to that video, I liked the initiative taken by some readers. Yes, they complained but they also found a solution to their issue by making their own merchandise and selling it. And guess what? They are making money.
Big corporations seem to struggle with their communication to consumers as they fear who they could offend. And by doing that, sometimes they fail big time. We are humans and we all make mistakes but when you are a business in the public eye, things can get complicated. This is not always easy to handle.
Everyone saw H&M in panic for a week over that green monkey sweatshirt (picture below). They of course apologised and quickly hired someone to review their marketing campaigns, and made sure we knew they hired a black person. This made me laugh.
I don’t really shop at H&M simply because it is not a store that comes to mind when I think about shopping but they have nice stuff. The quality has changed over the past years but the last item I got from there still looks pretty good.
That being said, I still wonder rather it wasn’t just another publicity stunt. If you are familiar with business or corporate structures, you will agree with me that before a big campaign comes out, it goes through many departments and decision makers. So it is a little bit hard to believe that a “mistake like the green jumper” can happen out of nowhere. The company’s sale were not great before the whole story so it kind of makes sense that they would want to create a polemic where people would be talking about the brand.
I received various messages from people asking to boycott the brand, sign petitions, etc…. I refused to give that story a second of my day. Why?
I feel like like the mainstream media often feeds us what they want us to talk about when it suits them. This only takes away our focus from the bigger picture. And my bigger picture is development in Congo, education, building a brand of my own, etc… Of course, it is important for us to raise our concerns about what we see when we see it, but it needs to make sense. I was very disappointed to see videos of a black guy in South Africa going to an H&M store trashing everything.
1. He made no relevant point by doing so and probably was arrested for that behaviour. Another excuse for people to refer to “us” as savages.
2. The people working in that store were black people too and they had to clean up the mess. The company is too big for things like this to affect the decision makers.
I think what we should have done from that is ask ourselves, ‘when is the last time you bought clothing from a black owned business?” . If you can’t remember or the answer is “No” then basically have a sit and be quiet!
Range Rover, I read online did something once, where a guy left a white Range Rover near department store Harrods. On the car, there was red graffitis calling out a cheating boyfriend… This turned out to be fake for publicity and it worked.
People were taking pictures and sharing it online and with their friends. And guess what again? This brought sales to the company.
What is the big picture to you? For me, it is that we all need to buy from black owned businesses as much as we do the rest.
It seems like perhaps we simply don’t value ourselves enough and the results show. As an African designer, I see this everyday. We constantly need to explain why our prices aren’t as low as the high streets. We know deep down the customer knows the answer to that. We are not mass produced in China or else!
Most of us, work with small units and a group of seamstresses to make unique products. If you don’t see the value then there is no point of having a conversation.
Like Karl Lagerfeld once said, ” If you are cheap, nothing helps “.
Another big outrage happened early this year. The slavery in Libya.
The images which immersed, the videos, … etc… inadmissible. But not a surprise if you are keeping an eye on humans rights in the past years.
I saw a heart breaking video of a young boy telling the world to stop bombing them because they are not terrorists. I just cried. Because really, what can we do? What do we really know?
Anyone who knows me, knows that my focus at the moment lies in Congo and thats a big enough pool of worries to solve. We all have a part in this.
And deep inside somewhere, we all know that any change needs to start with ourselves. We can no longer let the media, politics or anything dictate our behaviours. We can’t afford that.
Diversity around the world is not the minority group they want us to believe in. We are too many. We have a voice and buying power. The success of Black Panther just emphasised that factor. Maybe we are afraid of going for it, I don’t know what it will take nor how long. But things are changing. TV shows like EMPIRE, are showing us the successes (even if it is fictions) of black people out there.
How about we get more brainwash sessions from Oprah, P.Diddy, Jay-Z or any successful black businesses to remind us of our worth? Forget everything we learn to start from scratch and research who our ancestors were.
Slavery is something that happened to the African community, it is NOT who we are and NEVER represents where we are from. We need to educate ourselves. Research and research again so we can be informed.
There is not much left about the history of my country, but with the story of Queen Nzinga or Kimpa Vita, I know that Kongo was a KINGDOM. And today our resources became a curse that everyone wants to get a hold of, even if it means letting the people die. But thats a whole other subject.
I wanted to write this to simply voice this to anyone reading. Choose where you put your focus because your mind and your time are your most important assets.
Photos from Google search