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Elena Crusoe Aiken
Andrew Kwasi Asare
Bennett Career Institute
Malaika Tamu Cooper
Dusan and Rachelle Grante
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Dr. Monte O. Harris
Elena Crusoe creates couture-quality custom jewelry, transforming an array of gemstones, such as amethyst, carnelian, lapis, citrine, jade, amber, and other natural materials, into works of wearable art. She has designed jewelry for fashion shows, weddings, and celebrity clients. Her shop, Elena Design Studio, is based in downtown Silver Spring, but her pieces are available in boutiques around the country. In addition to her jewelry design workshops, she also offers accessory and styling workshops.
Andrew Kwasi Asare is a master weaver of Kente cloth, one of the great cultural traditions of Ghana. His family has a long history of involvement with kente. His late father A.E. Asare owned Dento Mills, a kente weaving center in Nsawam, Ghana, during the 1950s and '60s. And by the age of twelve, he himself was conversant with the traditional style of weaving. In 1960, when Ghana joined the United Nations, the elder Asare was enlisted by the late President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to present an example of kente cloth to adorn the UN headquarters building in New York. In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, the Government of Ghana turned to the younger Asare to replace what his father presented over thirty years ago. This new design, which is called Adwene Asa—meaning 'a consensus has been reached'—consists of almost all the designs one can find in the Ashanti weaving tradition. Mr. Asare presently has his workshop at Accra airport with ten full time weavers and a few apprentices.
Akousa Bandele is a stylist, interior decorator, sculptor, jewelry designer, and “master of personal adornment.” Born and raised in Chicago, she was influenced by the politics and Black cultural movements of the 1960s. After receiving her B.A. in Fine Arts, she travelled to Ghana to study with master craftsmen at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. A designer in the “New Afrikan Style” tradition, she makes original jewelry incorporating her sensibilities as a sculptor and nurtured by both traditional and contemporary cultural aesthetics. She says, “My designs empower the wearer with beauty, energy, and the grand spirit of the Ancestors.”
Ninety-four-year-old Vanilla Beane is a milliner who knows that a hat can be so much more than mere headgear. Beane created hats for civil rights pioneer Dorothy Height, whose hats were known far and wide as a statement of her dignity and grace. Beane began her hat business after retiring from the federal government, and thirty years later her creations remain very much in demand. Beane still works full time at Beane Millinery, her boutique in the Manor Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington.
Originally founded in 1996 as the Bennett Beauty Institute, the Bennett Career Institute, Inc. provides training in cosmetology, salon management, make up artistry, and barber-styling. The family-run business is owned by Chet A. Bennett, Joyce A. Bennett, Roberta A. Bennett, and Robert L. Bennett, Jr. Chet A. Bennett, the founder, vice president and CEO of Bennett Career Institute, Inc., has been working in the cosmetology and barbering industry since the late 1990s. He holds a B.A. in religion from Morehouse College and an MA in educational administration and supervision.
Andrea Bray is the owner of Andrea’s Fine Hats. A former news broadcaster, and the host of a Saturday music show on WPFW-FM, her career path into the hat world began in the mid 1980s, when she talked herself into the New York showroom of designer Eric Javits: "I came home with a dozen hats and almost $1,000 on my credit card, and I told my husband I would sell the hats to the ladies at Metropolitan Baptist, which, of course, I did not. But I was the best-dressed lady for a year," she says. A few years later, she quit her job, took her severance pay and indulged her lifelong love of hats. Her shop on Eastern Avenue, wedged between a beauty shop and an Ethiopian bakery, is "a destination location," in her words, for ladies looking for the perfect church hat.
Sharon Bullock is a wardrobe consultant, make-up artist, and color analyst. Born in Gainesville, Georgia, she has always loved the beauty and fashion industry, and she dreamed of becoming a model. In the fall of 2007, she launched her first store, called Metamorphosis Wardrobe & Accessories Boutique, in the heart of downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. She has been recognized with many honors, including as co-recipient of the 2008 African American Empowerment Weekend (AAEW) Legacy Female Entrepreneurs of the Year award; 2009 Gamma Phi Delta, Delta Phi chapter’s Economic Development Entrepreneur of the Year Award; 2010 winner of the Top 100 MBEs (Minority Business Enterprises) Award; and most recently as winner of the Black Capitol Awards II in Washington, D.C.
Surrounded by arts his entire life, painter/portrait artist and tattooist Jay Coleman has not stopped painting since he picked up his first brush when he was two years old. It was his “aunt,” Lois Mailou Jones, who first recognized and then nurtured Coleman’s talent and adopted him as her protégé. Coleman, who has lived and worked throughout D.C., obtained a master’s degree in special education and has dedicated himself to teaching art to children with disabilities. His art work and dedication to children reflects his generosity of spirit. He emphasizes,“If we don’t grow as artists, we should at least grow as people.”
Malaika Tamu Cooper is the owner operator of Dreadz N` Headz Natural Hair Care Center. Born and raised in Baltimore, where she was a pioneer of natural hair care, she is affectionately known as the “Loc Mama.” Dedicated to the craft of natural hair care, she published the book, Hair Locking 101, in 2007. She has mentored several women to open their own salons. She is the National Golden Scissors Award winner for natural hair care stylist of the year in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Cooper is the founder of the Baltimore Natural Hair Care Holistic Beauty and Wearable Art Tradeshow and Expo as well as Baltimore Happy Nappy Day event coordinator. Her ongoing involvement in international educational sessions, as well as fashion shows, and editorial hairstyling keeps her an in-demand stylist and instructor. Cooper frequently presents workshops and seminars on “Hair Locking 101.”
Emory Douglas is a graphic artist, who served as the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967 until the 1980s. His iconic visual representations of the Black Panthers have been the subject of exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world. Artist and art professor Colette Gaiter writes, “Douglas’s images served two purposes: first, illustrating conditions that made revolution seem necessary; and second, constructing a visual mythology of power for people who felt powerless and victimized.” Now retired, Douglas continues to provide graphics for social and political issues, such as Black-on-Black crime and the prison-industrial complex. Asked what he wants to do next, Douglas replies, "To continue to inform and educate through my work. It's an ongoing adventure."
Kahil El’Zabar is an internationally renowned percussionist, composer, prolific jazz innovator. and clothing designer. Grounded in the history and music of his African American community, El’Zabar’s music is also influenced by and incorporates African music and instrumentation. During his long career, he has studied with master drummers in Ghana; performed with an array of jazz greats; played in the bands of Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Paul Simon; recorded with rock bands such as Sonia Dada and Poi Dog Pondering; and produced jazz/house group JUBA Collective. He continues to play with two music groups that he formed in the 1970s, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble and Ritual Trio. El’Zabar began designing his own clothes decades ago, and in the 1970s, he designed clothes for Nina Simone. He has amassed a priceless collection of couture originals, and he designs his own fashion line.
Dusan Grante is a hair architect, cutter/educator, and creative director with extensive experience showcasing at international hair shows and working backstage at international fashion shows. He formerly worked as the creative director for Vidal Sassoon, and he is now the creative director of his own salon, Arthur Christine, in Northern Virginia, where he maintains a client list of prominent public figures. He has worked and taught at the Chicago and Los Angeles Sassoon Academies and has been an invited guest of the Shanghai Academy in China.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a self-described “queer black troublemaker, a black feminist love evangelist, a prayer poet priestess, scholar, and artist.” She holds a Ph.D. in English, African and African American studies and women and gender studies from Duke University. She has published widely on the subject of Caribbean women’s literature, and she teaches what she calls “DIY Couture.” Gumbs is a founding member of UBUNTU, a women of color and survivor-led coalition to end sexual violence; the Earthseed Collective; and the Warrior Healers Organizing Trust. She is currently on tour with her interactive project “The Lorde Concordance,” a series of rituals mobilizing the life and work of writer and activist Audre Lorde as a dynamic sacred text.
Dr. Monte O. Harris is a medical doctor who focuses on the underlying significance of healthy skin and hair as a foundation for beauty. Harris has dedicated his professional career to expanding the cultural appreciation for the diversity of beauty. Harris graduated magna cum laude from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and received his M.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. As the founder of the Center for Aesthetic Modernism, Dr. Monte Harris has created a practice that brings together his passion for cultural heritage with his expertise as a facial plastic surgeon.
The owner of Haynes Designs, Alfred W. Haynes is an artist and designer with extensive experience. During his travels abroad after serving in the military, he learned the art of wire bending from artisans in Trinidad. He has applied this skill to the creation of festival, cultural, and historical costumes as well as to exquisite gowns for beauty pageants such as Miss Virgin Islands, Ms. Universe, and festival queen contestants. In addition to his apprenticeship training, Hayne’s formal education includes earning an associate degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Visual Merchandising, Fashion and Exhibit design, as well as a bachelor’s degree from the Parson School of Design in New York. Haynes is on the staff of the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts, and he was a presenter at the first Will to Adorn program held in the Virgin Islands in 2010.
Yemaya Jones is a pioneering artist in the field of fabric art design, particularly itajime (clamp resist) and batik. Her work has been featured in Essence, Panache, Caribbean World, and She magazines. She has exhibited in numerous galleries across the country including the Studio Museum of Harlem; her work is included in the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designer’s private collection, and it is a constant feature in fashion shows. She created an entire collection for the Annual Congressional Black Caucus fashion show, Atlanta Style (a retrospective of African American style), and the Sunstyle Show on the island of Barbados. Yemaya currently teaches a textile design course, she designed and implemented. She can be seen working at her studio on the island of St. Croix.
Paul Koko has tailored suits and designed clothes for thirty-five years. His interest in clothing began at an early age, and when he was nineteen years old, he left his native Ghana to study at a fashion institute in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He stayed there for sixteen years, working under well-established designers and tailors before he immigrated to the United States in 1989. In Hyattsville, Maryland, Koko began working out of his basement, tailoring suits for friends. He later opened a shop in Riverdale. While he mostly tailors suits for men—in particular, those big and tall men who cannot find suits in regular stores—he also makes women's suits and bridal dresses. He has worked on fashion shows with designer Travis Winky and has made clothes for notable athletes, politicians and preachers.
Crystal Little, owner and designer of CRYlittle Designs, has been creating hats professionally for six years. After studying fashion design and fine arts in college, Crystal worked as an assistant at Christine A. Moore Millinery in New York. Little traveled around the fashion and bridal circuit as a freelance milliner and has created hats for many brides, churchgoers, and other celebrants. In 2008, Little moved back to her hometown of Washington, D.C., to open her own studio and showroom in Northwest Washington. Her hats are now sold at Eastern Market on Sundays, and at boutiques, specialty, and gift stores throughout the D.C. metropolitan area.
Dennis “Denny Moe” Mitchell was born and raised in New York City. He started cutting hair at the age of fifteen: “I didn’t know what I was going to do after high school, but that all changed one spring evening. I was a member of the JROTC, and I was invited to the officer’s ball. My hair was a mess, so I picked up a pair of clippers, and they felt so natural in my hand.” His shop, Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop, opened its doors in Harlem in January of 2006. The barbershop is not just a place for people to get haircuts, it is also place where people can gather to share important information about their community. Mitchell hosts events throughout the year including poetry, spoken word, and jazz showcases.
Januwa Moja is a designer and artist who has dedicated forty years to celebrating the African diaspora through the creation of wearable art. Moja has designed performance wear for the a capella women’s group Sweet Honey in the Rock. She also creates social and celebratory dress for clients in Washington, D.C. Moja’s work is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is also the subject of a children’s book, Ms. Moja Makes Beautiul Clothes, by Jill D. Duvall. Moja refers to her designs as "regalia," and uses unique combinations of traditional African dress and jewelry to "teach lessons about the treasures of natural, organic magnificence."
Kanaiah Nicole was born and raised on 125th Street in Harlem. In 1979, she heard hip hop for the first time (Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”) and was hooked. Inspired by the free-styling b-girls and b-boys on the street, Nicole began to freestyle and write lyrics herself in 1993. She continued to hone her skills, recording and performing as an emcee while working on her bachelor’s degree in sociology at SUNY Oneonta. Since 2002, she has been performing as a spoken word poet. She is currently working on an autobiography tracing her life according to hip hop.
Born and raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn, New York, Marvin Sin is a cultural activist and a self-taught artist working in leather. His hobby became a lifelong passion during the Black Arts movement of the early 1970s. He recalls, “The artists I met in Harlem during that period were a great influence on me. The Weusi Artists of Harlem, the Africobra Artists of Chicago, the Black Theater Movement, the poetry, dance, fashion, and general spirit of celebrating African culture shaped my creative and political sensibilities powerfully and permanently.” He found leather to be a medium that involved drawing, painting, sculpting, and that enabled him to master a craft that was utilitarian. Deeply committed to serving the African American community, Sin has advocated and organized for a wide range of issues combining art/craft, culture, economics, and politics.
Andrene Taylor, Ph.D., is the founder of ZuriWorks for Women’s Health, an organization she established while she was facing her fourth cancer treatment in eight years. While she had years of experience with chemotherapy and radiation, it was not until her hair fell out during her stem cell transplant that the stark reality of cancer hit home. The concept of “It’ll Grow Back” inspired her to not be defeated by cancer. She created the nonprofit ZuriWorks™ as a means to unite health, beauty, and arts and to support other African American women battling cancer.
Brenda Windstead is a self-taught clothing designer. For the past twenty years, she has created a collection for women and men, Damali Afrikan Couture. She combines traditional hand-woven African fabrics—Ashoke, Mudclothe, Kuba, Adinkra, and Kente—with contemporary linens, silks and tapestries. Her garments are collages of complementary asymmetric sections, reminiscent of quilt making, combined with distinctive trademark embroidery. Committed to supporting the continuation of traditional art forms, she has established Fair Trade collaborations with West African artisans who hand-dye and weave fabrics exclusively for her designs.
Urban Artistry is a collective of musicians, emcees, disc jockeys, graffiti writers, and dancers who perform in a wide variety of urban dance styles, including b-boying / b-girling, popping, locking, strutting, hip hop, house dance, waacking, and vogueing. Through classes, school programs, productions, mentorships, and multimedia, Urban Artistry places education as the cornerstone of their mission. Urban Artistry performances range from appearances at special events to full theater productions and arts festivals. Recognizing the importance of competition and battling within the history of the urban dance tradition, Urban Artistry frequently participants in dance battles with other troupes.