It’s been said in recent months that Black people are in the midst of two pandemics: racism and the coronavirus outbreak. As the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless other Black Americans have sparked a summer of protests, Blk Girls Green House co-founders Kalkidan Gebreyohannes and J’Maica Roxanne realized the importance of Black folks cultivating sacred, peaceful spaces.
On Saturday, Blk Girls Green House, a West Oakland-based open-air plant nursery and home goods shop, opened for business.
“We realized that it was paramount that we prioritize how our spaces make us feel,” the co-founders told Blavity. "The way Black people have had to process trauma and stress around everything that has been happening carries such a heavy weight. Creating spaces for ourselves that fosters peace, joy, pride and beauty can literally translate into sanity during a time when things are so misaligned and unjust for our people."
The duo's sheer love of greenery — there are a combined 66 plants between their two homes — led to the creation of what very well may be Oakland's first Black-owned plant nursery.
Courtesy of Blk Girls Green House
“We came up with the idea while at Kalu’s house, talking about all the ways we both love plants and interior design,” Roxanne said. “It literally came up as 'we should open a plant shop that features Black designers and makers.'"
The two came up with the concept at the end of June. From there, they created a website and sourced products. By Saturday, the shop was up and running.
Courtesy of Blk Girls Green House
"We basically both agreed and found a space three days later. It wasn’t a long drawn out process or something we even hesitated on," Roxanne said.
Although there are Black-owned farms, food gardens and organizations that address food deserts in the California city, Blk Girls Green House may be the first Black-owned storefront to exclusively sell indoor plants and home goods. But Black folks aren't new to this greenery life.
"If we are honest, Black people have been into plants. Our people literally live off of plants both in respect to food and the medicinal properties found in plants," Gebreyohannes said. "Africa and the Caribbean and parts of South America like Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, etc. all have Black people who live off of the land, so we are not new to this."
While maintaining plants is a labor of love, Gebreyohannes says it’s a process that brings her joy.
“I love that plants represent life, each one unique. They communicate with us, they offer more than just their beautiful looks — they purify the air, they provide a sense of peace and can be super healing. In the end, plants are very much like humans, they need watering, nurturing and in different seasons they need more or less of certain things," Gebreyohannes said.
If you’re interested in becoming a plantsman yourself, the ladies suggest focusing on one area at a time. This makes it easier to determine a budget for that specific spot and move onto another section once you have some more disposable income to put toward it. Incorporating vintage finds is also a great way to offset the cost of items, and it also helps to add character to a space.
Black-owned businesses in the Oakland area interested in collaborating with Blk Girls Green House can contact the company by email at email@example.com with more information about their commerce and where they can be found online. If your website or social media presence has yet to be built, attaching strong examples of products to the email will suffice.
In the meantime, you can keep up with Blk Girls Green House here.