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Two interesting debates took place online this week.

One was about people using services like Afterpay, which allows you to purchase everything from hotels to flights to Yeezy’s and then pay for them in installments later. Some folks have bizarrely strong feelings that you shouldn’t be able to buy overpriced ugly shoes unless you can pay for them in full up front.

Another topic that had Twitter abuzz was a Philly eatery that requires patrons to spend a minimum of $100 if you meet the dress code, which would be comical if it wasn’t high-key racist.

Dumb debates about who gets to enjoy nice things is, well, why we can’t have nice things.

As the saying goes: Don’t hate, luxuriate.

Rock that Gucci belt, player. Gone put that Dubai getaway on layaway.

Especially now that African Americans are increasingly breaking into the multibillion-dollar luxury goods industry.

Starr is off this week, hopefully doing some luxuriating of her own on a well-deserved vacation. Before she dipped, she left us a story about how the next Givenchy just might be taking shape in Jacksonville, Fla.

—R.L.

Hogoè Kpessou: A fashion empire of uno (for now)

Audriana Osborne

When Hogoè Kpessou decided to create her own line of handbags and apparel, she thought: If people like Calvin Klein and Guccio Gucci could make empires out of their names, then she could too.

“When you hear ‘Gucci’, you don’t instantly think of the price. You think of the presence that name brings. You think something luxurious or something big,” said Kpessou, who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., after her family emigrated from Togo in West Africa when she was 6.

“I wanted that same ability for my name because I felt like I was cheated out of enjoying being able to be me for so long.”

Right now, she is a team of one (sometimes two when her boyfriend helps out). Sleep is rare as she juggles going to college for psychology as she designs, orders, models and quality-checks her merchandise. Not to mention managing shipping nightmares that occurred during a pandemic and a national election.

Although sis is tired, she doesn’t plan to hire staff until she can properly take care of them, she said. She wants her people to benefit from the same success she is claiming.

“I want to be able to grow, but I want anybody who joins me to be able to grow with me. I don’t want to grow on top of people,” Kpessou said. “If I’m eating good, I want other people to eat, too.”

Kpessou seeks to empower customers through her work and some new collections are in motion. Her merchandise functions like wearable affirmations inspired by nature.

The mantra for her Bee collection is “I attract the sweetness of life.” For the Firefly collection (coming in August) it’s “I bring light to the darkness.” Her Luna moth collection, which is coming soon, is about representing rebirth and renewal.

Even though a number of milestones still lie ahead, Kpessou has already gained something priceless — a renewed sense of self worth.

“As a Black woman, the only thing I want to take away from being successful is the power to be able to let people know where my standards are,” Kpessou said. “So you’re either going to meet me here, or stay where you are because I’m not coming down.”

Also on my mind

Hogoè Kpessou

What do luxury goods have to do with academic freedom? Bear with me.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of when a white mob destroyed the Memphis offices of The Free Speech and Headlight, a newspaper founded by Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

Subsequently, Wells-Barnett’s family moved to Chicago, where she would live the rest of her life. A Holly Springs, Miss., native, Wells Barnett drew the ire of white Southerners for, as she would say, turning the light of truth on racial terror lynchings. She also inspired a generation of investigative journalists. Among them, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who grew up in Iowa and whose father was born in the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood.

Nikole is often in the news; after all, she already has a MacArthur genius grant and Pulitzer Prize under her belt, and she’s not even 50 yet. But recently, she made headlines when the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill reversed course on offering her a tenured professorship at her alma mater. Why? Because of criticism from political conservatives about The 1619 project, which she spearheaded for her employer, The New York Times Magazine.

The firestorm was immediate and intense. Nikole has mostly been mum about the controversy, but said of the outpouring of support on Twitter:  “Know I see you all and I am grateful.”

I mention all this because: 1) Nikole definitely enjoys (and deserves) fancy things, especially a good glass of whiskey.

Among the fanciest are:

While you sip, you might want to read some of Nikole’s award-winning work, a lot of which has centered on the South.

The Flowers that Grew from Concrete

It’s been a year since Curtis Flowers appeared in a widely circulated photo sporting a fresh black T-shirt and crisp black sneakers to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Last year, Flowers was released from death row at Parchman prison, where he served 23 years for a crime he didn’t commit.  His case was featured by the podcast In the Dark.

That photo (and knowing that all charges were dropped and he received a settlement from the state of Mississippi, albeit a pitiful one) still makes me happy. Read about Flowers’ case and listen to the podcast.

There’s another podcast I plan to check out soon. Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom tells the story of Eddie Lee Howard, who was convicted and also sent to death row for the murder of an 84-year-old woman in Columbus, Miss. Howard was exonerated in January 2021 when evidence, which he argued was based on junk science, was tossed out.

Heavy subjects, I know. But I hope there’s some joy to be found in knowing these men are free.

Enjoy your holiday weekend, and be safe.

—R.L.

Now go forth and find your Black joy!

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Until next time! ✨