The entire black Internet, and much of Hollywood, has been stanning actress Gabrielle Union all week after it was revealed that she spoke up about the “toxic” and “racially insensitive” workplace culture at America’s Got Talent, leading to a five-hour meeting with NBC and an official investigation.
Unfortunately, there are black women all across the country who are experiencing the same kinds of inappropriate and offensive behavior that Union has. Most of those women don’t have the same kind of platform to get their voice heard, or the public show of support that came with it. But there are things every woman can do:
Know that you’re not alone.
Research from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org shows that 69% of black women experience microaggressions at work and that women who are the “only” on their teams are far more likely to be subject to these everyday discriminations. In general black women have it worse: Women of color, lesbian and bisexual women, and women with disabilities are having distinct—and by and large worse—experiences than women overall. Black women in the workplace and women with disabilities face more barriers to advancement and often receive less support than other groups of women and men.
Understand that it’s natural to be afraid.
One of the reasons Union is getting so much praise is that she had the courage to speak up. It’s valid for women to be concerned about the consequences of coming forward. “Women are afraid to speak up because they do not think they’ll be believed, and they do not trust action will be taken to stop the issue and/or to protect them from retaliation after the issue is reported,” says Sarah Morgan, the senior human resources director for SafeStreetsUSA and founder of BuzzARooney L.L.C., a human resources management and leadership consulting company. “As much as HR tries to protect confidentiality, it is not uncommon for word to get out and become office gossip when a claim is filed.”
Validate your own experience.
Sometimes we know that we’ve been treated wrong but we let others convince us that it’s no big deal. You don’t need someone else to recognize that what you’ve experienced is inappropriate. “Microaggressions are often likened to paper cuts,” said Morgan. “You’re not necessarily openly wounded but it still hurts. People who do not fit into the power groups (e.g., white, Christian, male, heterosexual, young, able-bodied) may experience microaggressions several times during their workday. Imagine going through life getting multiple paper cuts every single day for the 40+ years of your career. That’s the reality for many black people, women, and other people of color in the workplace.”
According to BlackBusiness.com, Shaun “Lucky” Corbett, an ex-felon, has opened a barbershop inside of a Walmart.
With Corbett doing so, his barbershop becomes Walmart‘s first black-owned and operated barbershop. The 40-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, businessman turned his life around and became a barber and entrepreneur who runs his very own barbershop called Da Lucky Spot Barbershop. On Sept. 26, Corbett opened the doors of Da Lucky Spot Barbershop at the Walmart on 3240 Wilkinson Boulevard.
“I want to open a Lucky Spot in every inner-city in America,” he tells Charlotte Agenda. “I want it to be the standard of what community barbering is.”
Corbett was 18 when he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and caught a charge at 19 when he was caught breaking and entering, and an additional one at 21 when he was arrested on DWI charges. In 2001, he caught a break when the police stopped a car he was in and saw him stuffing a bag of cocaine in between the seats but the charges were dropped because it was declared an illegal search.
That was all he needed to head back to the right road to an honest life. He faced barriers since no one wanted to hire a former felon and when he applied for a job at Value City, he left the criminal history box blank and, landed an interview. At the interview, he confessed that he was once in jail to the hiring manager, and his honesty paid off with getting the job. After working there for more than two years, he worked at Family Dollar, then enrolled in No Grease barber school.
By 2006, he was a full-time barber with his own chair and was able to buy his own barbershop where he worked on North Tryon Street. And now, he has a barbershop at his local Walmart.
“You’re going to be somewhere in Toledo, Ohio, and you’re gonna walk by and be like, ‘Man I was at the ribbon-cutting for the first one,’” he says. “But when you see that Lucky Spot Barbershop inside of Walmart, you’re going to know it’s going to have free tutoring, we’re gonna do bookbag drives, we’re gonna do Thanksgiving feedings, we’re gonna do turkey drives. We’re gonna do free haircuts, countless free haircuts.
“Every time that you see that name and that logo inside of Walmart you’re going to know what it stands for.”
Imagine walking into a 20,000-square-foot building with floor to ceiling inspirational quotes; Nike and Jordan sneakers designs mounted on the wall; 480 miniature shoeboxes with the names of leading fashion companies inscribed on them; and learning that it is the manifestation of a black man.
What was described to you is PENSOLE Design Academy founded by D’Wayne Edwards, who is a former Nike executive with over 30 years’ experience designing shoes. The footwear design academy was launched in 2011 to educate and teach designers how to take their ideas from a sketch to a product that can go to market.
In August, Footaction made an open call to over 85 HBCUs to participate in a six-week digital and in-person design intensive. Hundreds of students applied to be a part of the program by sending in their designs but only 10 students were selected to participate in the FAAS at PENSOLE online program to refine their designs. From there, the competition was cut in half and the top five finalists (who so happen to be five young women) relocated to Portland for a 3-week hands-on design academy at the FAAS Studio at PENSOLE.
The academy consists of a footwear studio where PENSOLE instructors teach footwear design; brand design; functional apparel and accessories, and color material design. PENSOLE also offers hands-on experience in prototyping where they teach people how to make shoes from scratch. They also house a personal design studio where they produce custom projects for different brands.
It was all a dream
At 12-years-old, Edwards envisioned becoming a footwear designer and at the age of 19, he became the youngest footwear designer within the industry. And while the rest would become history, his journey ultimately led him to open the doors of PENSOLE in 2012.
“I’m a black man from Inglewood, California. Getting to 18 was a win. I’m winning. And 32 years later, I’m still winning,” Edwards exclaims.
By the time he turned 19, Edwards lost his two older brothers within three years. Both young men taught him different design elements and encouraged him to take his gifts and dreams seriously.
“For me, it ended up becoming more so a need to have the career they didn’t get a chance to have. So, that’s that focus.”
Beating the odds is something that he does not take lightly. And that very grit and ambition are what got his foot in the door. After graduating from high school, Edwards landed a temp job at a footwear company as a file clerk where he was determined to work his way up. As destiny would have it, a unique opportunity presented itself.
“They [management] created this little suggestion box in every department; it was a wooden box. And it was presented to every department as a way to give the company suggestions on what they should do to improve the company’s business. And so my suggestion was to hire me as a footwear designer. So I would put my three by five sketches in the box every day. And for six months, I did that and the owner called me into his office and offered me a job after I turned 19.”
Edwards’ persistence and hard work led him on a successful path. At 23, he became a head footwear designer for L.A. Gear. A year later, he was appointed brand manager/head designer for Karl Kani Footwear. At 28, he launched his own brand SITY which was recognized by Sporting Goods Business as the No. 2 brand to watch in the industry behind Brand Jordan in 2000. He was one of six designers ever to design an Air Jordan (21 and 22) in its 1st 23-year history. And, he has designed shoes at the highest level for today’s premier athletes and teams, such as Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, Derek Jeter, and Roy Jones Jr.
Over the course of Edwards’ career, he has designed 500 styles in a variety of categories—athletic, dress, casual, outdoor, golf, lifestyle, kids, and skate. And his designs have sold over $1.5 billion in revenues globally.
Walking into his destiny
With all of his accomplishments, being able to teach what he learned as a professional led him to the next phase in his life, PENSOLE.
“At a certain point, it was no longer about me. When I got into the industry in 89, I was only the second African American in the industry to design footwear. I didn’t meet the first one until I got to Nike 10 years later. Wilson Smith. We both got in through an extension of mentorship. So, that became kind of who I am,” says Edwards.
Fast forward nine years, Edwards assumed the position of the footwear design director at Nike. And as he approached his 10th year with the company, he decided to retire to pursue his passion to teach others how to construct their dreams of making footwear.
“I taught the very first class at the University of Oregon on Jan. 14, 2010. The first class [was for] two weeks. I flew 40 kids in on my own dime to test this idea of what a footwear school would look like. And, it was all based on the way I worked at Jordan,” says Edwards.
After the good news of the students’ experience spread through the press, other colleges and universities wanted in. And the rest is history.
Edwards never attended a design school, but he has launched and established six PENSOLE Designs Academies since 2010 at the ArtCenter College for Design; PARSONS School for Design; MIT; and the Kolding Design School in Denmark.
And more exciting announcements are on the horizon.
The ICON Ramen Noodles will include flavors like Hot n’ Spicy Cajun Shrimp, Creamy Chicken Gumbo, Spicy Picante Chicken, and Sirloin Steak Beefy. Miller proclaims in the Instagram clip, “If you ain’t eating Rap Noodles, then you shouldn’t be eating noodles ’cause this is the best of the best noodles.”
Miller began his career as a rapper in the hip-hop group Tru before “Make ‘Em Say Uhh” established his legendary career as a solo rapper in 1997. He also started the No Limit Records label, which was named after a record store he opened in Richmond, California, after receiving $10,000 as part of a malpractice settlement.
“When I was [lying] on that floor in the projects, I would say, ‘This floor is going to turn into [a] marble floor,’” Miller told BLACK ENTERPRISE back in July about his rags-to-riches story. He added that his entrepreneurial journey began at age 6 when he would help the elderly carry their groceries and cut grass in exchange for a few dollars.
Miller’s business partner, James Lindsay, spoke to BE last month and says his next goal is to turn Rap Snacks into an international brand and continue to inspire people of color to become entrepreneurs. “My goal for Rap Snacks is to make it one of the biggest brands in the world. Hip-hop is one of the biggest streaming genres in the world today and our potential in that space cannot be limited. I want our community to believe that you can create momentum and brand recognition outside of just the music and expand globally.”
Black people and black culture shape popular culture and fashion. Yet and still, leadership within the fashion industry does not often reflect the people from the communities in which they draw their inspiration from.
Some may argue that the lack of representation at the top is due to a skills or knowledge gap–while others may claim that there are many barriers to entry. In this case, both sentiments are true. That is why Footaction created the No 1 Way Design Academy in partnership with two Portland, Oregon based black-owned design academies PENSOLE and FAAS Studio to build a pipeline to get designers from historically black colleges and universities into the industry.
Footaction is committed to amplifying and celebrating the next wave of creative visionaries who continue to push the culture forward. As a part of that commitment, the design academy offers No 1 Way competition which aims to foster diversity of talent and champion the idea of creative individuality.
In August, Footaction made an open call to over 85 HBCUs to participate in a six-week digital and in-person design intensive. Hundreds of students applied to be a part of the program by sending in their designs, but, only 10 students were selected to participate in the FAAS at PENSOLE online program to refine their designs. From there, the competition was cut in half and the top five finalist (which so happen to be five young women) relocated to Portland for a 3-week hands-on design academy at the FAAS Studio.
The total program value is $15k per student. That includes the 3 week online workshop & mentorship, the 3 week in studio FAAS masterclass, travel, and room and board.
The challenge was to design functional apparel for the chance to win cash prizes, the opportunity to have their designs showcased at New York Fashion Week in February 2020, and the opportunity to their designs sold at Footaction stores nationwide and online.
For Footaction, the No 1 Way Design Program is a way to position students who might not typically have access into the fashion and design for success.Richard McLeod, Vice President of Marketing at Footaction has worked closely on the program from its inception down to the selection process of the students and says that there is no one way into the industry or to success.
In his first year with Footaction, McLeod has been able to shift the culture with the No 1 Way Design Academy.
“In partnership with PENSOLE we wanted to ensure that we are building upon the brand’s purpose–which is really about how we amplify and celebrate the new creative visionaries that are moving the culture forward,” says McLeod.
To get a behind the scenes look at the competition; we joined Footaction, the founders of PENSOLE, FAAS Studio, and the finalists in Portland to learn more about their design journeys before the winners are announced.
For the first part of this series, we would like to introduce you to this year’s No 1 Way Design Program students. In parts two and three, you’ll meet the founders and leaders of PENSOLE Design Academy and FAAS, D’Wayne Edwards and Angela Medlin.
Meet the Students
This year, the competition dwindled down to five incredible young women representing Clark Atlanta University, Dillard University, and Tuskegee University.
Brianna Thomas, Dillard University
Briana Thomas (Image: Footaction)
What led you on a path to design?
My passion led me in this direction. Right now I’m in school getting my bachelor’s in marketing. I always knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer. But as I got older, I didn’t know how I would arrive to that point. So I just tried to keep my options open and it took all opportunities that came my way when it came to me enjoying myself doing fashion or doing design or creating and sewing.
What is it like being among your peers of fellow HBCU students/grads who are working towards that goal of being the best in the industry?
This is something that I’m glad to be a part of, and especially with other young women and young designers that are from other HBCUs and have a similar goal. I’m just really glad to share this experience with them. Because I’m even learning from them. Just being around them listening to how they talk about different things to the how they look at different perspectives. We’ve all had a different experience in our design journey, but now coming here and also learning at face under the tutelage of Ms. Angela it’s really just bringing it all together and making it like wow 100% like I’m so glad I got this opportunity.
What would winning mean to you?
Winning this would be amazing! I realized the opportunity to even be showing a piece at New York Fashion Week is a huge opportunity. Some people in the industry work their entire career and they don’t get here. But me as a 21 year old, not designed student, just someone with a passion and someone willing to learn is going to be there in February so it’s just beyond a blessing.
Chakierrah Stinson, Tuskegee University
Chakierrah Stinson (Image: Footaction)
You are a self-taught designer with over 45,000 followers on Instagram who stan for your designs! What inspired you to create and where do you draw your inspiration from?
A lot of my influence comes from stuff that I see online, movies, and the world around me. I take what I’ve seen and try to make it sportier and street-wear inspired. I always try to give people something that they haven’t seen. I don’t want my designs to look like anyone else’s. I want you to see you know that Chakierrah made it because I have my own style.
What are some of the things that you’ve learned that you didn’t know before that you’re going to take away from the program as you continue to design?
When you’re designing for a consumer, your designs have to be tailored to them. I didn’t think of the consumer at all at first since I am the only person who wears everything I make. Now, since I want to start my own brand it definitely have like tremendously and just like my way of thinking, what would
Why was is important for you to participate in the No 1 Way Design Program?
I went to the FAAS Studio Instagram page and saw the designs Ms. Angela and her students were making. And I was like, Oh my goodness, like, this is like the stuff that I want to be making. I wanted to take her class ever since I learned about her work. The opportunity to create at FAAS and the amount of things that I’ve learned, has changed my way of thinking when it comes to design.
Lenora Gray, Clark Atlanta University
Lenora Gray (Image: Footaction)
Why design and this design academy?!
I believe I was born with the gift with the talent to be a creative. So I’ve always known that creating was something that I wanted to do. And I think my life has really been a journey and a testament to where I am and who I am now. Coming to Portland and being exposed to different cultures and a different way of living is a form of design. It’s pushed me it’s opened my eyes and broaden my perspective on life; the way that I design; who I design for; and where I want to go in life.
What are you learning about the fundamentals that you may not have been equipped with before this opportunity?
For me, it has been about learning how to design with a purpose. Also, understanding color, marketing, and finance as a designer. What I’ve learned in the three weeks that we did online and in the two weeks that we’ve been here, I’ve not learned in school. And, this is no dig to my institution, but, we just didn’t get it. You can truly see that there’s a difference in working in the industry and teaching how to work in the industry.
Nache Davis, Clark Atlanta University
Nache Davis Image: Footaction)
Tell us more about your passion for fashion!
I went to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York. I’ve always been into the arts, but I’ve always had a love for fashion. Ironically, my mother worked at the Fashion Institute of Technology–so I got to take their Saturday live classes while I was in high school. And that really gave me the basic skills I needed to know how to sew how to fashion illustrate.
You’ve traveled the world pursuing design and when this opportunity came about with Footaction and PENSOLE, you were willing to leave your full-time job to take a leap of faith. How were you able to decide on which direction to go in?
Angela has been an amazing mentor. When this opportunity came about, there was a lot of fear that came along with it. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to keep my job and also pursue this opportunity. I consulted with Angela because I felt like this opportunity can really catapult my career. She advised me to talk my manager. I had a conversation with my director, and she is truly supportive. We figured out a plan for me to b in Portland and still be able to work but also be fully immersed in this opportunity.
Sharonda Richardson, Clark Atlanta University
Sharonda Richardshon (Image: Footaction)
You’ve traveled across the world from Scotland while studying abroad for this opportunity. What has you’re experience been like thus far?
I’m a bridal information designer and I want to be able to implement the functional attributes that we have learned here. Attributes like how to make your attire functional and versatile in bridal products are in formal wear products so that they’re not just pretty; but they also have a reason to be. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I’m very sensitive about my design process. I’m not opposed to critiques but it’s often hard for me to receive them. So, I’ve learned a lot about how the industry works and how you’re going to have to get over yourself.
What would winning this competition mean for you?
There’s really no way to explain the opportunities that come out of something like that. And I just want to be, I just want to prove like my family, right? I started out going to school for biology, something more practical. In taking a leap of faith by going into design I just want to show them that I made the right choice.
There’s no fashion show like the ones that happen every day on the quads of historically black colleges and universities. They styles are unique to the culture of the campus, and they typically will inspire you to step up your game and try something new.
Interesting enough, only 8 out of the 101 HBCUs have fashion design schools. Yet there are many students who have a passion for fashion. To that point, Footaction understands that there is no one way into the industry. Hence, the significance of the academy.
“There’s a ton of talent out there. We want to bring some of those talents to the forefront. They’re the consumer and they continue to push the culture forward. HBCUs are a sharp point in terms of a consumer base or a student base. I think it makes complete sense in terms of what it is we’re trying to do from a shared purpose and vision standpoint; whether it be from Footaction or PENSOLE,” McLeod adds.
He went on to say, “What they’re (PENSOLE x FAAS) is trying to instill in the students is what the real world looks like when it comes to design. And with that comes a number of things that they may not necessarily have ever learned within the current structure of their school. So it’s about preparing them for corporate opportunities; opportunities for them to go on as an entrepreneur; and give them the life skills, as well as the design skills to help them succeed later on in their careers whether they choose to do this or not.”
Stay tuned to learn more about the founder of PENSOLE as FAAS Studio.
The Senate on Thursday approved a bipartisan amendment to restore millions of dollars in federal funding to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). Known as the FUTURE Act, the bill proposes a 10-year mandatory extension of $255 million in annual funding to HBCUs. It continues Title III funding for HBCUs and MSIs under the Higher Education Act of 1965, which previously expired at the end of September.
To offset costs for the bill, lawmakers would simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) financial aid application and loan repayment processes. In turn, this would save an estimated $2.8 billion. If passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed by President Trump, the bill would also allow for direct data sharing between the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education.
The bill amends both the Internal Revenue Code and the Higher Education Act to keep applicant information more secure by allowing for the direct importing of IRS tax data to the FAFSA. Direct data sharing would also streamline enrollment in and renewal of income-driven repayment (IDR) plans for borrowers by removing the need for students to self-certify their income to prove eligibility for federal IDR plans. This safeguards the integrity of the federal student aid programs without creating overly burdensome bureaucratic barriers for students who rely on these programs. The bill also takes meaningful steps to reduce verification burden, a process that remains overly complex, disproportionately affects low-income students, and is burdensome for students and aid administrators.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) president & CEO Harry L. Williams praised elected officials for approving the bill and encouraged the House of Representatives to pass it as well without delay. “TMCF is appreciative of all of the Senators who came together, in a bipartisan way, to reaffirm the importance of and work to renew this material investment in our Nation’s post-secondary students,” he said in a press release.
Likewise, Dr. Austin A. Lane, president of Texas Southern University said, “The bipartisan support of this bill is clear validation of the value that HBCUs like Texas Southern University brings to so many first-generation college students. Thanks to the lawmakers involved, as well as the tireless support from Dr. Harry Williams and the TMCF, the passage of this bill, will help thousands of more students reach their goals – and without the financial barriers that so often get in the way.”