Today I woke up at 6:15 in the morning before the kids and before the cats. I filled my mason jar of water up and added lemon for good measure. When I devoured my water, I tended to my coffee, which is sipped in between words and early morning work. For the longest time, I’ve kept up this manner of labor. And for even longer, I’ve known that to get anything substantial done, I would have to work longer, smarter, and tougher. Smarter, doesn’t always mean intellect. For me, it has meant a careful diligence of time and framing. Especially with and around children. It doesn’t always mean that I’m satisfied and it doesn’t mean that it’s easy. I believe a lot of this can be casted upon the work of any small business owner, but I intrinsically understand that much of the day-to-day uphill climb is simply because I am Black.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day signifies something different every year…
Last year, during the height of the pandemic, I was stunned by the removal of Black women in the workforce. As a result of the pandemic and years of history, more often than not, Black women lacked sufficient childcare to continue with remote schooling and an ongoing health crisis. In New York City, the lack of brown and Black children signed up for hybrid and later, full-time learning (with frequent shutdowns) taught me that the gap in childcare and health risk aligned with whatever work-from-home situation we concocted, remained too large of a task to willingly consent to.
In an article on TIME today, Janell Ross writes, “According to a 2021 analysis by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) of recent labor data, the wage gap between Black women who are full-time, year-round workers and their white, non-Hispanic, male counterparts adds up to “a staggering loss of $964,400 over a 40-year career.” The $409,040 gap between what a Black woman and a white woman working full time will make over a lifetime seems small by comparison. But it is still enough to buy a white woman and her family nearly two pandemic-priced homes. What Black women lose out on, compared to white women, is life-changing money.” We see lack of things and opportunities as simple facets of everyday life. Especially, if you happen to be a non-hispanic white woman financially struggling as well. But the argument that Ross illustrates, and the one that I and many of my counterparts experience daily (whether we have found a way to purchase homes or not) is the active struggle in that sticky glue-trap of a gap. Something felt not only on a daily hand-to-mouth, but in lost opportunities that scale generations. Opportunities, that I (and so many others) are cognizant of each morning before the sun, whether we directly experience it or not.
“As lawmakers debate how to boost the number of women who return to the workforce, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a white woman and Democrat from New York, has reintroduced a bill known as the Federal Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. It would offer about 2.2 million domestic workers—over 90% of whom are women, more than half of them women of color—some of the nation’s most basic workplace protections, such as overtime pay, paid sick leave and protections from workplace sexual harassment. Ten states and two major cities have already implemented similar laws.The bill was first introduced in 2019 by then Senator Kamala Harris, a Black and Southeast Asian Democrat from California, and Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Southeast-Asian Democrat from Washington. Now, however, there is one Latina and not one Black or Native American woman with a Senate vote. In their absence, white women must step up, speak out about the working conditions of other women and share the spoils of increased wages and power—not just in Congress, but everywhere.” Ross continues
Despite this, and the very real struggles of lumped-up mostly brown and Black low-wage labor, I’ve spent the day diving into the contrast of these statistics with the celebration and boom of Black-owned vintage stores. It brought me back to my early days with River as a stylist and student (when this blog was a baby) and I would sell pre-loved and vintage clothes as a side hustle. Again, it was out of need for extra income during seasons where I lacked childcare and needed (and wanted) to be there for her early years. It was also because the story of Black fashion and how we’ve historically have made old things new, has fascinated me.
Recently, my mother sent a picture of my great great aunts and uncle dressed to the nines on a Brooklyn stoop. The picture was black and white, and faded with age. “They would always dress like that.” she quipped. It stunned me. I don’t presume to know how much they spent on their items so very long ago, but I am left wondering about the stories in the pieces, and the places (maybe second-hand) in which they acquired them.
I looked at my closet today and took note of all the pre-loved things and shops that bring me joy. And how ultimately, as my own collection grows, I want to support Black-owned vintage stores. “Black churches and historically Black colleges and universities hosted highly anticipated fashion shows in Black communities, giving space for dressmakers, hat makers and other designers to exhibit their talents. Though the terms “reworking” and “upcycling” have recently entered mainstream vernacular, Black women have been employing these techniques for centuries. Today’s Black-owned vintage stores are a continuation of that same spirit of creativity, and the ubiquity of social media allows all of this artistry and ingenuity to be showcased on a global stage.” wrote The New York Times
While there isn’t enough of an hour or a day to combat deep socioeconomic (and political) issues, we can broaden our vintage shopping scope to participate in spaces where their livelihood not only shapes the planet’s but also generational financial prosperity.
Are there any Black-owned vintage shops that you love?
Over on instagram this week, I’m working with Thrilling, a Black-owned vintage platform that highlights other Black-owned shops on their website. I also love Blk MKT Vintage, and many others I follow on instagram.
Photo of Aretha Franklin, 1972, Getty.