Black Lives Matter // A note about covid-19 \\ Let's make masks // Free us and canada shipping for orders $95+

Weekly Newsletter June 23, 2020

Textile Spotlight: Kanga

The first time I visited Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city in the heart of the Swahili coast, I remember seeing women all over the Old Town wearing a textile that I'd never seen before with a decorated border and Kiswahili phrase underlying a large central design. Some wore them as skirts, others headwraps, and still others had cut and sewn them into shirts and dresses. I soon learned that this textile is deeply ingrained in Swahili culture, and quickly took delight in the sayings that are central anchors to each fabric. 

The origin of the kanga, sometimes called leso, is contested, but most likely the fabric derived from kerchief squares, called lencos, brought by Portuguese traders from India and the Middle East as early as the 16th century. They are always printed and sold in pairs, two identical 1 1/2 meter rectangles generally divided and worn around as a head covering or shawl and around the waist. The motifs take inspiration from the wide ranging cultural influences that have converged over a millennium along the Swahili coast, from the Persian boteh to Rajasthani bandhani to the Bantu cashew nut.

Today, kangas are produced across East Africa, including by Thika Cloth Mills in Nairobi. While the sayings were only added in the early 20th century, they are now are central to the textile. It's always fun to see who is wearing what, and why they chose it (or received it!). Sometimes the messages are political or commemorative, printed specifically for an event or organization, but often they're reflective of everyday life. Some of us can probably relate to "I won’t eat in the darkness for fear of my neighbor (I do what I want!)" and all of us can relate to, "There is no one like mom."

Do you have a favorite kanga saying? Let us know!

GIVING UPDATE // Equal Justice Initiative

We are so proud to share that thanks to your support, we've raised $6,500 so far that we have donated to the Equal Justice Initiative. We believe deeply in the work that EJI is doing to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenge racial and economic injustice, and protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society and we are grateful that together, we can make a difference!

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // 1619 by Nikole Hannah-Jones

I rarely listen to a whole podcast from start to finish in one go, but once I started 1619, I couldn't stop listening. Hosted by reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, this podcast examines the impact of slavery on every aspect of American society from the very roots of the economy and American capitalism, to the development of the healthcare system, to land ownership and agriculture. Informative, illuminating and engaging, this podcast is essential listening.

 

WHAT WE'RE READING // The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This essay doesn't need much introduction, other than that it is essential reading by one of America's leading thinkers today. "To ignore the fact that one of the oldest republics in the world was erected on a foundation of white supremacy, to pretend that the problems of a dual society are the same as the problems of unregulated capitalism, is to cover the sin of national plunder with the sin of national lying...

What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history."

WHAT WE'RE READING // for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange

I've been missing the experience of theater and live performance, and this masterpiece while truly all-encompassing performed, takes on a whole different power and resonance when read. Glorious in its beauty of language and deeply felt in experience, reading this choreopoem will feel vital in this moment.

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Weekly Newsletter June 16, 2020

As someone who has worn a Zuri dress every day for the last three years, I'll be the first to say that it's hard to imagine getting dressed in something that does not have carrots, mushrooms or birds on it!  That being said, we do love a good solid, and we know that many of you have been clamoring for them to be brought into the mix, as well. So we thought: what better way to add beauty and character to a solid fabric, than with texture!

NOW without further ado: we're extremely proud to introduce to you our newest collection of ethically produced linens! Woven by India's oldest certified fair-trade artisanal weaving cooperative, these textiles turned out so beautifully, we couldn't be any more excited to share them! Each fabric is a hand-loomed blend of cotton and linen. We chose this blend for two reasons: 1) to create subtle texture and movement within the weave; and (more practically) 2) so that your shirts and dresses will be super easy to wash and wear, as they'll be more wrinkle resistant, more durable, and drape a bit heavier when worn. (While the fabric was produced in India, the dresses were all proudly stitched in Kenya by our team. 💖)

Why India, you ask? Some of you may remember that I spent some time in Calcutta a few years ago with the incredible team at Sasha (India's first self-managing artisanal fair-trade collective, founded in 1978). We were blown away by their mission as well as their work. Given their heritage and location, it made sense to work with linen, which is grown in the region. With Sasha, we were able to source ethically grown linen and work with their experienced weavers in West Bengal to make these textiles.  

What's next? Great question! We're always in search of textiles that are both beautiful and ethically produced, particularly when they involve artisanal techniques that can and should be carried on. So many of the textiles we see these days are mechanized reproductions of what would have been originally hand-made, and it's extremely important to us to keep these groups and these traditions engaged. We'd love to hear from you if you have any thoughts or suggestions, and as always, we'll keep traveling, learning, and appreciating the places and people who create the beauty in our world, wherever it may be.

In the meantime, we're thrilled to share these luminous textiles with you, and we promise that they will be your absolute go-to's this summer!

PS Shoutout to mother-daughter duo Inja and Nia for modeling our new fabrics!

Meet Rebati! From Tulshabari in East Medinipur, she has been weaving now for the past five years and has become an extremely accomplished weaver. Rebati is proud of the fact that her income and talent allow her family to lead a better life and set an example for her children.

 

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Truth Be Told with Tonya Mosley

We love this podcast. Host Tonya Mosley takes listener questions and dispenses advice and so much truth! We especially recommend listening to last week's episode where she discusses the recent protests and systemic racism with Dr. Eddie Glaude from Princeton's African American Studies Department.

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE READING // Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis

This collection of essays by activist and scholar Angela Davis is indispensable, especially in this moment when we are confronting injustice and creating change. Her analysis of past liberation struggles and discussions of intersectionality provide both inspiration and actionable grounds for how we can take on state violence and dismantle systemic racism and injustice individually and collectively.

 

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE READING // What I Pledge Allegiance To by Kiese Laymon

We're big fans of Keise Laymon, and this essay on American-ness will stay with you long after you finish reading. 

"I am a black Mississippian. I am a black American. I pledge to never be passive, patriotic, or grateful in the face of American abuse. I pledge to always thoughtfully bite the self-righteous American hand that thinks it’s feeding us. I pledge to perpetually reckon with the possibility that there will never be any liberty, peace, and justice for all unless we accept that America, like Mississippi, is not clean. Nor is it great. Nor is it innocent."

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Weekly newsletter June 9, 2020

Zuri Connection

We could not be more proud to be in the company of truly inspiring women who are working to make our world more equal and just. In a moment where we all must take action, we want to highlight some of the women in the Zuri community whose scholarship, creativity, and activism are enacting real, lasting change in dismantling structural racism in this country and around the world.

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING AND READING // How to Be Less Stupid About Race by Dr. Crystal Fleming

Dr. Crystal Fleming is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at SUNY Stony Brook and author of How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and the Racial Divide. We encourage you to watch this interview and to read her book. "To see all that we are still seeing in 2020, it should devastate you. It should make you question everything that you have been taught. It should make you question what it means to be a human being."

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Race, Power and Inequity in San Francisco with Shakirah Simley

Shakirah Simley is the Director of the Office of Racial Equity for the City and County of San Francisco. In this podcast she discusses the current state of equity and inequity in SF and the steps that the city is taking with consideration for SF's racial history towards meaningful change. We also encourage you to watch The Politics of Food presented by @AfroPunk and
@BlackFoodFolks in which Ms. Simley discusses the difference between being an ally and an accomplice and her own activism.

"Who are you showing up for? Are you showing up for you, or for the movement itself, or for the community? Decenter yourself in a way that connects the collaborative and the community versus the self... Our online activism has to be met with our offline action."

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING // Racism in Our Streets and Structures featuring Dr. Marcia Chatelain

We encourage you to watch this conversation featuring Dr. Marcia Chatelain, a provost's distinguished associate professor of history and African-American studies at Georgetown University. She is the author of South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration (2015) and an organizer of the #FergusonSyllabus

"I want everyone to sit down with their local budget and look at how much money is going into policing, policing in schools, as well as how much money is being spent bringing in arms from the Department of Defense's program into their local policing and ask themselves if they want state violence to be done in their name."

WHAT WE'RE READING // Black Enough edited by Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi was a National Book Award finalist for her novel, American Street, and in her most recent work, Black Enough, she edits an anthology of stories about what it’s like to be young and Black in America. This young adult novel is ideal for 7th to 8th graders, and we encourage you to share it with the young readers in your life.

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Weekly Newsletter June 2, 2020

We've been struggling the last week with overwhelming rage, frustration and grief but just recognizing these feelings and the injustices that cause them is not enough -- we must take action. We are actively educating ourselves, reading, listening, engaging, speaking out and standing up against the white supremacy and systemic racism that this country has perpetuated since its founding, and we hope that you will join us. We've been sharing resources on social media that we have found helpful or have been recommended by others, we have more below (both new and from past newsletters), and we will continue to share.

Thanks to your support over the last two weeks, we have donated $10,000 to GiveDirectly's Kenya Covid-19 Fund, and starting this week, we will be donating all profits from the sales of our masks to the Equal Justice Initiative which is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in our society.

We really want to highlight the power of this community, OUR community -- thanks to your support, we have donated a total of 18,000 masks to vulnerable Kenyans, and now $10,000 that will support 334 people and help them through this pandemic in Nairobi, not to mention the jobs you've enabled us to continue to support through the production of these masks. We are strong and we are powerful when we come together.

Black Lives Matter. We cannot be silent, we must act. Join us.

WHAT WE'RE READING // The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs

From legendary activist Grace Lee Boggs, this manifesto lays out her vision for a more compassionate, humanistic future and what we can do to bring it into our present. The world she envisions feels particularly prescient today as are reminded of the fragility and inequality in our social, political and economic systems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING // Black Feminism & the Movement for Black Lives: Barbara Smith, Reina Gossett, Charlene Carruthers

This conversation between feminist scholar Barbara Smith, activist Reina Gossett and activist and organizer Charlene Carruthers is an inspiring primer about Black Feminism and how it has been and continues to be foundational to social justice movements today.

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Code Switch

This podcast doesn't hesitate to talk about race. The hosts, journalists of color, take on all parts of modern life, from pop culture, to politics, to the economy and history, diving into how race plays a role in every aspect of all of our lives.

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Weekly Newsletter May 26, 2020

A Perfect Nairobi Day

Like many of you, we're dreaming of our visiting favorite haunts, so let's take a little journey through our imagination :)

Our first stop would be at Wasp and Sprout for a lazy brunch starting with their yummy masala chai. We'd run upstairs after ordering to browse Angela's latest home goods and shop local brands like Provisions Kenya. With a green apple juice to-go, we'd hit the road for our next stop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mombasa House is where it all began for us! This fabric market tucked away on the second floor of an unassuming building on River Road in downtown Nairobi is where we bought fabric for the first Zuris, and continues to feel like a home base. We'd pop in to chat with Justine, Josephine, and the rest of the ladies, and see what's new!

 

 

 

 

After a quick bite at Ranalo's for some fried fish fresh from Lake Victoria, we'd head to the Kuona Collective to visit Dennis (above), Shak (left) and the other artists. The space is green and peaceful, and it's easy to while away the hours here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We'd finish the day with sundowners and dinner at the Alchemist. The Alchemist is a hub for music, art and food; and by far one of our favorite spots on "campus" is the savory and very craveable Mama Rocks!  Started by sisters Samantha and Natalie, Mama Rocks makes irresistible burgers (we'd personally recommend the Mango Masai Mama or Fela Supa Fly, but really you can't go wrong). There isn't a better way to end the day than to kick back with a hot Dawa cocktail and Nairobi's newest hits!

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Africa Express Presents Terry Riley's In C Mali

In 1964, Terry Riley composed this minimalist composition with no prescribed instruments and 53 phrases, each of which may be played an arbitrary number of times and if the musicians like, at the same time. Because the phrase lengths are also at the discretion of the musicians, the piece can last between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. This recording by the experimental collective, Africa Express, is one of my favorite ever performances of this composition.  Enjoy!!

 

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING // Africa Express Presents: Terry Riley's In C Mali, A Documentary

Africa Express has been one of the most groundbreaking musical forces for the last 15 years. Bringing together musicians of different ages, cultures, and genres, this performance of Terry Riley's minimalist composition "In C" is a truly unique, on-the-spot musical moment, which will never be done the same twice.  This video, set to the piece, offers a behind the scenes tour of the people and places that inspired the performance, and is extremely peaceful to watch.  Take 40 minutes, put on your headphones, and let yourself be transported. To Mali. In C.

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