Revolution, Reparations, Revelry: The Root’s Black (AF) Gift Guide 2019

Graphic: Jim Cooke ( (G/O Media)

The theme from last year’s Black AF Gift Guide was self-care; in 2017, it was about being woke. This year, we’re talking “Revolution, Reparations, and Revelry,” because we like alliteration, and because these three go together like greens, yams, and ham (turkey ham, if you don’t swill swine. If you don’t eat meat, please pass).

Revolution

First up is Revolution—which is defined as “radical change, or an upending of a usually oppressive status quo.” Revolutionaries who fought the power against tremendous odds and peril have had a long history in Black America. And so, in the tradition of Harriet Tubman and Denmark Vessey; Angela Davis and Audre Lorde; Opal Tometi and Colin Kaepernick; Muhammad Ali and Fred Hampton; Marsha P. Johnson and Paul Robeson, we set this off. We know that revolutionary things—thinking, speaking, being—come with a hefty price. Fortunately, because this is our Black (AF) Gift Guide, most of the following do not.

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Baldwin pillow in gray, $40
Photo: Don’t Sleep Interiors

We so often come back to Don’t Sleep Interiors because their offerings are oh so thorough. DSI’s wares always rep the black revolutionary canon, and you can deck your space out with the face or quotes of Baldwin, Davis, Fanon, Simone, Garvey and Baraka. This black-owned online shop boasts “comfort in consciousness,” and “freeing your mind and liberating your space.” Don’t Sleep also offers mugs with the faces of sheroes (and sorors) like Shirley Chisholm and Katherine Johnson (and this sweetness here)—yet, I remain amazed that a pillow could be so woke. ($42)

2020 Certain Days Calendar: Knitting Together The Struggles, $15
Graphic: CertainDays.org

Political prisoners—those who many deem revolutionaries and who have paid a grave price for their fight—are often forgotten for their sacrifice once locked away for decades on end. But you can keep them front and center with this 2020 Certain Days Calendar, featuring 12 pieces of writing and 12 full-color pieces of art created by political prisoners and activists and supporters on the outside. It is a joint fundraising and educational project that was founded by three political prisoners either being held or formerly held in maximum-security prisons in New York State: Robert Seth Hayes, David Gilbert, and Herman Bell, all of whom continue to organize to this day. Power to the people!

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Protect All Black Girls crewneck, $40
Photo: Legendary Rootz

It’s unfortunate that protecting black girls and women is a revolutionary idea, yet we still live in a world where the infamous and negligible still don’t get it. Legendary Rootz gets down for the black girl crown with this sensational shirt that clearly states that you don’t have look or act or think or be a certain way to be valuable and valued; it also shatters stereotypes and highlights our most vulnerable. And no, we don’t need protection in a paternalistic way, just one where our humanity is recognized, known, and exalted.

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Sexy model in Kunte Kinte t-shirt, $19.99
Photo: Kyle Helm

The fictional character of Kunta Kinte from Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots hasn’t gotten this much shine since “King Kunta” on Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 opus, To Pimp a Butterfly. Whiteballed former professional quarterback Colin Kaepernick wore a Kunta Kinte t-shirt for his debacle of a workout for the NFL and brought one of our most beloved revolutionaries back to the forefront. Kunta Kinte was enslaved but he never accepted his fate as such; Kaepernick will never accept as normal a country or league which tries to erase the ongoing brutality against black bodies in this country. Salute!

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Reparations

Our second theme on Black AF Friday is Reparations. And don’t even come at me with that ADOS shit; I am a proud African American, but dumb is dumb. The definition of reparations is redress, and to pay back a debt to those who deserve it. There is a long history of this principle and plenty of cultural references that echo its theme. Two of our faves? “Yeah, owe me back like you owe your tax/Owe me back like forty acres to blacks” or the even more succinct: “Bitch better have my money.” Yah yah.

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Wreath made from Cotton, $40
Photo: Black Cotton

We all know that black folk have a THICK history with cotton in this country, but why not flip it? Black Cotton is run by a fifth-generation African-American cotton farmer based out of North Carolina who wants black people to get back to cultivating the crop so many generations once worked for free or pennies on the bushel. I pay homage to cotton; I respect it. I love it because it reps my ancestors and the blood debt they paid here. You can decorate your home in our heirloom crop with wreaths or bouquets, or wear them on your jacket for a boutonniere with flair.

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Illustration: The Tamir Rice Foundation

Like Whitney Houston, I believe the children are our future; we owe them big time—those here, those unborn and those martyred—our love, our protection, our wisdom, and our remembrance. Tamir Rice was just 12 years old when he fell at the hands of a policeman’s bullet on a Cleveland playground five years ago, but his mother, Samaria Rice, continues his legacy with the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center, which will provide the youth of Cleveland ages 9-19 with arts, cultural, educational, and civic programs.

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Samaria Rice has already purchased the 3500-square foot building and hired an architectural firm to outfit it with classrooms, visual art and dance studios, exhibit spaces, and a state-of-the-art black box theater. By giving to the Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center, you are giving to the young people of Cleveland and lifting up Tamir’s name, the most enduring of all offerings. Donate to the Tamir Rice Legacy managed by the Cleveland Foundation—in your own name, or as a gift —to make this safe space for children a reality.

“Decolonize” sweatshirt, $40
Photo: Self Sovreignty
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There is a karmic debt owed to the native people of this land; but on the physical plane, you can cop some gear from Self Sovereignty like this “Decolonize” sweatshirt (or tote bag) to start. The folks behind Self Sovereignty are two queer indigenous womxn of color and proud intersectional feminists who put their values where their wallets are—by giving a portion of profits back to indigenous communities and organizations worldwide including Save Mauna Kea; Protect Ihumātao; the Dig Deep Navajo Water Project; InsideOUT New Zealand; the LGBT Center Los Angeles and Black Lives Matter.

Miss Major Taught Me tote; design by Querido Galdo, $20.21
Image: House of GG via Redbubble
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Miss Major, one of the first trans activists of colors, is still here, still kicking, still calling out the racism and transphobia in all communities. At a spry 79, years old Major has been a Stonewall rebel; a sex worker; a prison abolitionist; an AIDS activist; a performer and an elder. She is the founder of the Griffin-Gracy Educational Retreat & Historical Center (or the House of GG), in Little Rock, Ark., the first educational and historical site solely dedicated to transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the U.S. —and who needs a safe rest space more? By purchasing some Miss Major gear—t-shirts, wall prints, children’s gear, and more—at the House of GG web store—proceeds go to helping them providing free retreats to the trans community, those whose literal bodies have helped pave the way for larger liberation.

Revelry

And of course, with all of the tough stuff of the holidays, we need some joy, which brings us to the final R—Revelry. During the nadir, when our ancestors were enslaved, Christmas was the one day of the year they had off; many of us feel enslaved by our jobs, the demands of the fast-paced, always-connected world, and yes, the same tenets of racism that held our people in bondage. But during the holidays, they laughed, they feasted, they sang, they came together in community. And so there was revelry. Joyous things. Like...

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A reminder to take it easy, $15
Photo: The 125 Collection

Revelry includes all of the laughter, and this candle makes me smile every time I see it. Combining the sensibility of yoga culture with a dash of black English this quote candle by The 125 Collection is “created to inspire, motivate and make you laugh.” The candles are made with a soy blend wax and a lead-free, cotton wick in five delicious fragrance profiles from Metallic Rose to Tobacco & Vanilla to Spicy Blood Orange, in both a $35 or $15 (pictured) size.

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The Black Power Tarot Deck, $30
Photo: King Khan

There can be bliss in self-knowledge and for my esoteric, spiritual-but-not-religious, witchy folk, there is The Black Power Tarot by Khaneaton, a version of the Tarot de Marseille featuring black activists, public figures, comedians, musicians, and noted historic figures. These beautifully illustrated tarot cards by artist Michael Eaton and arranged and edited by musician King Khan feature black icons like Malcolm X, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and more.

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Angela Davis flask fo yo ass, $28
Photo: NiLu Harlem

Pour. Drank. Sneak in. Drank. Sip. Drank. Pass it. Drank. I mean, with club and bar prices being what they are, sometimes you have to improvise. Cop this shiny flask made by Cheetah Girls creator Deborah Gregory from Harlem-based gift store, NiLu. And there to adorn your little gust of glory is the visage of Angela Davis (pictured), Marvin Gaye, Jean-Michel Basquiat or Frida Kahlo. Indeed, revelry doesn’t HAVE to include alcohol, but it can. And if it does, make sure you’re the child that has their own.

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Honeydipped Essentials Bath Soak, $22
Photo: Honeydipped

We don’t have to rely on Calgon to take us away anymore, chile. Now we can float into wetted bliss with a fragrant, soothing, all-natural bath salts and products. Honeydipped is an all-natural body and skincare line made by a black woman, Ashli Goudelock. From candles in sumptuous scents like milk & honey; rose & wildflower and white tea and lavender; to rich body creams, whipped soaps, blissful baaawdy salts, facial masks, bomb-ass bath bombs, and essential oils to take with you, no wonder they’re comparing the 27-year-old mother of four to Lisa Price of Carol’s Daughter and Jessica Alba of The Honest Company (stay tuned for the all-natural home cleansing line). Smells like peace.

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There you have it: Revolution, Reparations & Revelry. Get into it, and remain down for the cause while you’re at it. Times are tight, people, but we here! Be radical, fight the power and seek pleasure and joy wherever/whenever you can! Happy Holidays!

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About the author

Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.