inspiration

Soapy Sunday: Standing for Something through Soaping

Tanissa Williams

"To be young, gifted and black, open your heart to what I mean..." -Nina Simone

Have you ever noticed that most of the products at lotusbtr. always have.....weird names? Well, I've got news for ya', those 'weird' names aren't weird, they're quite meaningful. 

    A little background: I grew up in Detroit, MI in a neighborhood where nothing ever really happened and no one ever really went anywhere. It was one of those places where you could easily be blinded by love and true, genuine friendships, sometimes to the point of having tunnel vision when it came to the crime, poverty, and addiction surrounding you. Thankfully, I was able to spend most of my time at a local youth center that kept me out of trouble (thanks, dad!) Alkebu-Lan Village (Al-KEE-bew-lahn) is an African-centered youth center tucked away in a decaying part of Detroit, seemingly left out by the current gentrification of the city... a hidden gem, if you will. 

  In this gem were children like me: rough cut rocks looking for an escape from the dangers of the hood, and the instructors dedicated to uplifting, enhancing, engaging, and striving to better us on a daily basis. You see, they knew what happens to rocks when you apply enough pressure: they become precious jewels. Through programs such as African martial arts (Alkebu-Do), African dance and drum, tennis, hip-hop and modern dance, and Enrichment (Black history, math, reading, writing, science), the Village taught neighborhood kids that it was cool to be smart and confident. Though, most importantly, we learned who we were and where we came from through mandatory Swahili lessons and usage, along with mandatory black history trivia competitions. 

Can you imagine being 10 years old and already knowing how great and rich black history was? I was lucky. 

A white belt at Alkebu-Lan Village; 9 years old

Me (front, center) at 9 years old, a white belt in the Alkebu-Do Martial Arts System.

    As an adult, I spend a great amount of time at Alkebu-Lan Village. Before I moved to Atlanta, GA (another story for another time), I was an instructor with 7-8 year old watotos (children), and later 9-13 kati (middle) year old girls. Every day, I was both inspiring and inspired by the strength and resilience of the kids around me. I had seen most of them grow over a span of 5 years and had been amazed at their growth, as I had known the Village was for them what it was for me: a safe haven. As such, the impact this institution has had on me will be nothing short of a lifetime, and I vow to make my instructors, both past and present, alive and transitioned, proud. 

    Bestowing African names onto my products is my way of thanking my predecessors for their courage and bloodshed while trying to establish places where we, their legacies, could feel safe. I am, in a way, vowing to continue their work toward liberation. I am being revolutionary through my art, which happens to be soap. 

So, the next time you see a 'weird' name attached to a lotusbtr. product, think ,"I wonder what this means?" and read the description, as they will ALWAYS tell stories and show you exactly what we stand for.

 

Xoxo, Nissa 


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