Essence Communications purchased by founder of Shea Moisture

CEO of SheaMoisture Richelieu Dennis on Feb. 15, 2015, in New York City (Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for SheaMoisture)

A black business owner purchasing a large company from a white business owner is something that you don’t see often in this day and age. This is what happened when the founder of Shea Moisture and owner of Essence Ventures LLC, Richelieu Dennis, purchased ESSENCE Communications (ESSENCE Magazine and ESSENCE Music Festival) from Time Inc. ESSENCE announced the transaction on Twitter on January 3, 2018.

You’ll see plenty of articles with details about this very significant business acquisition. I won’t rewrite those articles here. Instead, I would like to thank Bennett Raglin of Getty Images for SheaMoisture for the blackest photo I have seen since the one of Bree Newsome snatching down the Stars and Bars from a flag pole in South Carolina. Determined and cool (but not grinning), Mr. Dennis looks straight into the camera wearing a black leather jacket over what appears to be an even darker black scarf, standing in front of a sign for a (essentially) black women’s hair and skincare product line. I would also like to thank the media outlets who have opted to use this photo. Unsmiling black men don’t seem to be very popular or “clickable” now days.

On the other hand, there is the past advertising controversy, where a SheaMoisture ad placed vignettes about disappointment with straight and loosely curled hair on the same platform as the deep psychological trauma of women with tightly coiled, kinky hair trying to deal with tyrannical eurocentric beauty standards. On the other-other hand I am willing to bet that SheaMoisture will not attempt a cross-over with ESSENCE. They apologized for the controversial ad and pulled it. Furthermore, Micelle Ebanks will remain the President of ESSENCE Communications.

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Djembe

/ˈjembə,-bā/

Word origin: Mande

A cup-shaped percussion instrument originating from West Africa. The djembe is often played during West African dance performances or at outdoor impromptu drumming sessions. The djembe (pronounced in the USA as “jim-bay”) is often the lead percussion in a group of drums. The skin is typically struck with the hands. Expert players can produce patterns of  sharp, multi-tonal, complex sounds in a slow or rapid cadence.

Dashiki

/dəˈSHēkē/

Word origin: Yoruba

A colorful, loose-fitting shirt with short sleeves, an ornately embroidered v-shaped neckline, and embroidered hems. Dashikis are commonly worn across West Africa as well as other parts of the continent of Africa. Dashiki is often pronounced as “dah-SHEE-kee” in America. This item was popularized in the USA by black self-awareness and pride movements around the time of the Civil Rights era (1950’s). It’s popularity continued with the emergence of Kwanzaa in 1966 and “conscious” soul music and hip-hop in the 1990’s.

Top five products BAF shoppers wait all year for

Summer time will be here soon. Many Black and African Arts Festivals (BAFs) will kick-off in cities across America. If you are a regular shopper at these types of festivals, you probably have one, two, or a few go-to items that you wait all year to buy. There are certain products that are staples of black arts and crafts festivals. Sure, you might be able to find them online somewhere, but what’s the fun in that? Nothing beats the joy of strolling from booth to booth, looking for your go-to item while occasionally discovering a new favorite that you did not expect to see. Here are our top five:

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Welcome to Siagi Road

When I was a graduate student in St. Louis, Missouri, I excitedly anticipated the African Arts Festival each summer. Up on a hill under a large, beautiful pavilion in Forest Park dozens of vendors set up their wares: bolts of kente cloth, stacks of beautifully printed mud cloth, framed paintings including prints from world-renowned black artists, and jewelry hand-fashioned from colorful beads and cowrie shells as far as the eye could see.

Best of all you could buy pure shea butter by the pound. To a young African-American woman who was just beginning to understand the depth of the denial of humanity and history to black people, shea butter was like a reunion in a jar, mother Africa distilled down into a nutty-scented, dreamy, creamy magical potion.

“Siagi” translated from Kiswahili into English is “butter.” The name of this site, Siagi Road, is inspired by the The Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West from China to the Mediterranean Sea. The Silk Road represented not only physical routes, but also the development and support of civilization through economic activity.

Black arts and crafts festivals in America are a cultural phenomenon that provide a unique space where African and African-American cultural celebrations and economic growth coincide. For many aspiring business owners, these festivals are more accessible and lucrative than other physical and digital marketplaces. The combination of ambience, music, and self-empowered black vendors create a space that makes the shopping experience more authentic and fun than other venues for shoppers who are interested in black and African arts and crafts. Our mission is to provide information and resources to help this marketplace, The Siagi Road, to continue to flourish.