Remember (RED)—or rather, Product (RED)—the philanthropic retail campaign co-founded by U2 frontman Bono that was wildly popular in the early aughts for its cleverly branded product lines? While its once-splashy profile may have become less so in the intervening years, the charity’s reach and impact have only expanded, as its website reports:
To date, (RED) partners have generated more than $650 million for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to support HIV/AIDS grants in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, eSwatini, Tanzania, and Zambia. 100% of that money goes to work on the ground—no overhead is taken.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, (RED) has a new crusade—and new contributors to its still-stylish product lines. For 2020, Black lifestyle brand AphroChic has added red-hued remixes of its coveted, culturally specific original prints to the mix, offering a home decor assortment just right for the holidays.
“We are so thrilled to be asked to be part of this incredible event,” said AphroChic co-founder Jeanine Hays in a statement. “The mission of (RED) hits home for us in so many ways—to support the fight against HIV/AIDS and COVID in Africa, to give back in a major way, and to showcase African American brands. We are honored to turn our products (RED) this holiday season.”
Helmed by Hays and husband Bryan Mason, AphroChic has been redefining, elevating and celebrating Black lifestyles, aesthetics and homes since launching in 2007, growing from a popular blog into a full-fledged lifestyle brand and respected interior design firm and garnering partnerships with household names like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ikea, and a web series with HGTV. In 2013, the duo published a book with Penguin Random House, REMIX: Decorating with Culture, Objects and Soul; and in 2019, began publishing their own self-branded quarterly magazine. In addition to its current collaboration with (RED), AphroChic also recently launched its products—which include wallpaper, pillows, fabrics, sheets, lighting, home accents, and more—on luxury retail website Perigold.
It’s an interesting time to reconsider what house and home mean to us, as the concept has taken on new meaning in the era of COVID—a virus disproportionately disrupting the lives of Black and Brown Americans. As the holidays now approach, too many of us are not only facing the prospect of not celebrating with loved ones but facing permanently empty seats at our tables and in our homes due to those lost this year. Adding to that mourning is a season of uprisings for racial justice followed by a contentious and still racially charged national election, all of which have escalated ongoing discussions and concerns for Black wealth, (mental and physical) health, safety, freedom and opportunity.
It is in this context that Hays and Mason remind us the Black family home has always held special yet largely unacknowledged significance in American culture. While our homesteads have often been minimized and flattened in media and the popular imagination, they’ve traditionally been hard-won, fastidiously preserved and uniquely imbued with deep cultural relevance; all aspects the couple are exploring in their second book, The Black Family Home.
“The time is right to dive deep into what home means to African Americans, those who live here and abroad,” said Hays in a statement. “We want to celebrate what’s important to us in the home, and how design supports what we love and need.”
Inspired by an ongoing series in AphroChic Magazine, the book, which will reunite the duo with Penguin Random House via its Clarkson Potter imprint, will be divided into five sections: “Heirloom Homes, Curatorial Homes, Off-the-Beaten-Path Homes, Boss Homes, and Creative Homes,” says the release, which adds:
No other decor book will look as deeply or speak as meaningfully to the African American experience of home—from the history and heritage to the style and design. AphroChic will tell the stories of Black families, including celebrities, designers, and artists, and their beloved homes—including the past, the present, and the future.
“The new book is focused on the story of the Black family home, and really looking at the Black family home as like a missing character in American history; it’s just not really talked about at all,” she further explained to The Glow Up. “And yet it has always been a space that’s helped our community survive and grow and thrive. And so we really wanted to start to tell the story of the Black family home...what we’re really exploring is that the Black home is not necessarily just like everyone else’s spaces.”
“It’s not that Black spaces are different, it’s that our spaces are ours,” Mason adds. “That’s all. Our spaces are ours—and that extends not only to the design but to their intent and their purpose. They’re meant to be safe spaces for us.”
Understandably, there’s been an uptick in interest in home decor as many of us have become primarily housebound in recent months. But given the profound social and economic crises we are concurrently experiencing, one might also understandably question whether aesthetics are a worthy consideration right now. Mason counters that perhaps there’s never been a better time to consider the concept of sanctuary and the intersectionality of our interior lives.
“Now, I think in light of everything that’s happened, particularly in this past year, it gives us more of an opportunity to kind of have the conversation that we’ve always been trying to have with AphroChic,” he says. “Because home is not only your safe space; it is a reflection of you. It is where you surround yourself with things to tell you about your history, your culture and heritage. But it’s also where you encounter all of the other things that go on in your culture. So, it’s a place of great intersection.”
“I think the absence of the Black family home really kind of shows like, the absence in this country and what it thinks of our humanity,” Hays offers. “And for us, like everything we do—as much as we love to create beautiful things and this will be a beautiful book—there is an activism to it.”
“So what we’re finding is, you know, home is like every other space in African-American life,” Mason adds. “It’s something you have to fight for; it’s something you have to carve out for yourself and defend. It’s something that we rely on, but it’s not always something that we focus on—or that we focus on in the broader conversations that we have about what it is to be Black in America and beyond...What we’ve seen is a constant battle back and forth—you know, progress and problems of just Black people trying to find space to be able to call home and all the struggles that that’s entailed.”
Is a book—or a brand—centering Black lives supposed to offer a comprehensive solution to this very American experience? While it’s been well-argued that representation matters, as Mason tells us, AphroChic’s mission remains an inside job.
“For the most part, our focus is internal. We want to be able to demonstrate the strength and the beauty and diversity of Black culture to Black people for our own benefit so that we understand it; so that we gain strength from it,” he says. “If it helps to inform [or] to edify outside of the community, that’s great, too. But I think first and foremost, the focus is always to present us to us, so that we understand who we are and what we’re doing and why who we are and what we’re doing is important. Because we need to understand why we matter, even as we’re trying to argue it to something else.”