In a tumultuous political climate, full of racial bias and threats of death reminiscent of the 1960s, it is without a doubt many are feeling the need to contribute to alleviating tension not only between the warring sides but also for the oppressed.
In an effort to contribute to these conversations about race and being Black in America, SekouWrites decided to take on a project he calls Brown Boy Bad, a series of conversations with Black fathers about how racism affects raising Black children today. Writes, an author, car blogger of SimplyRides.com, and former editor at Uptown Magazine, created this project serendipitously, but ultimately to activate his talents, skills, platforms and passion to contribute to something bigger. To raise money for this on-camera series, Writes launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money. A Huffington Post writer featured BBB but criticized the fundraising effort for not rewarding donors for their contributions.
Writes kicked into gear to create something people would love and would also generate awareness. So he partnered with a friend to create his first bracelet, Moja, which is made of onyx to represent Black men and orange jade to represent creativity and harmony. Although the bracelet was nice enough, he didn’t want to give it away. Instead, he started to sell the item to raise money for the project and generate awareness, but the bracelet didn’t take off as hoped. Time passed and the project was not building the right momentum. So he decided to learn to make the bracelets himself to lower costs and revitalize the project.
“I got the idea to make the Brown Boy Bad 2.0 bracelet,” he says. “I made one and was really proud of it and shared it on social media. From 10, the bracelets started to catch on. little by little.
Every year, Writes puts on an event around the New York Auto Show, in which his followers get the chance to have an unadulterated experience with a fly new car. During this time, he also likes to help raise money and awareness for nonprofits that speak to his brand and his goals as a media critic. This past March, he designed a bracelet to help raise awareness for the featured nonprofit, Truth in Reality. The response was tremendous and people began to ask for more. Thus, his bracelet career was born.
“After I had a Truth in Reality bracelet, I realized that it was bigger than Brown Boy Bad,” he says. “So I changed the name and the branding to Rocks by Sekou. A couple of days later, I was asked by a stranger on Instagram to make something. I was reluctant at first because I’m a writer and I was only making a bracelet to further this particular project. But I gave it a shot. Then someone else asked me to make another one. I accepted that something was happening here. So I started being open to the idea of making bracelets. It’s been growing on its own.”
Rocks by Sekou has grown rapidly over the past month, with pop-up shops and trunk shows in New York City and New Jersey. Now the brand is not only partner with one nonprofit but also has expanded reach to several organizations, including Harlem Park to Park, Image Nation and Shikuri Project, a nonprofit dedicated to raising money to bring resources and medical help to people living with sickle cell anemia in Kenya.
Because the bracelets are attractive pieces, Writes believes his new-found ministry through jewelry is a great way to initiate otherwise challenging conversations about important and polarizing topics such as racism and stereotyping in the media.
“It’s surprising how much easier it is to have a conversation about something profound when the entry point of the conversation is something cute and pretty like a bracelet,” he comments. “It makes people much more open to a deeper conversation, especially when they initiate it with, ‘Oh I like your bracelet.’ I can easily say, ‘This bracelet is associated with this nonprofit.’ It’s way different than coming up to someone with a clipboard and saying, ‘Do you want to save the whales?’”
Writes’ goal is to partner with 30 nonprofits dedicated to communities of color by the end of the year. June 23 at 6 p.m., he will be at RAW Space in Harlem for the official launch of Rocks by Sekou. He’ll be creating custom pieces and selling Image Nation bracelets. Part of the proceeds from sales will benefit Image Nation. There is no cover. To learn more about the organizations or to become a partner, visit www.SekouWrites.com.