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How Brown Girl Jane Built A Brand Cultivating Balance For Black Women

"We can all be well. We can feel more whole. There can be healing. There can be support. We can be a resource."

BOSS UP

There's nothing like finding a tribe that empowers you to be your best self, especially during challenging times like these. And when you can also find ways to partner up, build legacies, and build wealth together, that's even better. Friendpreneurs Tai Beauchamp, Nia Jones, and Malaika Jones have enjoyed the fruits of all of that with their plant-based wellness brand Brown Girl Jane. The collection of products include broad-spectrum CBD, an ingredient that has been found to improve issues like anxiety, pain, stress, acne, skin dryness and much more, and can be found at Nordstrom, within Birchbox, and online via their website.


Sisters Malaika, who is CEO, and Nia, who is the Chief Impact Officer (CIO), found kinship in fellow Spelman grad Tai, who serves as the Chief Brand Officer (CBO). They decided to combine their talents, networks and experiences to offer a product line that promotes wholeness, balance, and beauty from the inside-out.

"The brand started very organically," Malaika said in an exclusive interview with xoNecole. "We come from three very different backgrounds in terms of professional career but we were confronting the same wellness challenges even though we're approaching them from different directions. In terms of creating the brand, we recognized a need to craft a beautiful wellness collection centered on women of color. We were amazed at the efficacy of the plant and all that it could do and the different ways it could be used. In terms of getting started, we created the brand we always wanted to exist."

Brown Girl Jane co-founders, Malaika Jones, Tai Beauchamp, and Nia Jones

Image courtesy of Brown Girl Jane

The founders of Brown Girl Jane have also been able to build a community that centers on inclusive luxury and transparency about what Black women are putting in and on their bodies. Working directly with the people involved in the process of making their products, the founders ensure that they interact with everyone from the farmers to the chemists to the manufacturers. "We are self-funded, and we really just broke apart all of the components of the brand," Malaika added.

"My background is in finance and on Wall Street, and so building a business and knowing the functions and operations of business is something I've done before. Tai obviously has her expertise in brand-building, marketing, and publishing. And Nia has done enormous work in mission. We've brought together those components to craft the brand that we wished existed."

The mark of any great (and lucrative) venture is filling a void in the market and providing a solution to a problem that would impact a large number of people. Each founder had their own personal connection to wanting to solve everyday problems in their own lives. "I think the other thing in terms of how it started was recognizing the needs of women like us and feeling more well," Tai added.

"Specifically, [it was] Malaika's experience with giving birth to her youngest daughter and having a spinal cord injury and not wanting to take the pharma route of medicating. CBD plant-based solutions provided a great deal of benefit to her physically. For me, travelling and being on the road constantly and feeling anxious about getting sleep and all those things, obviously also impacted [me]."

Image courtesy of Brown Girl Jane

With health and isolation issues related to the pandemic, the transitions of politics, and the issues of police brutality and racism at the forefront, many of the challenges they faced were those that other Black women around the world could relate to. "This is really about solutions not only for women as a whole, but that can support how we feel, how we look, and how we're able to show up, from anxiety from sleep deprivation, from pain and what have you," she continued.

"That's what we're doing with this collection as a whole. It's really centering what have been areas of challenge and opportunity for us to not necessarily being able to thrive to our fullest potential and providing both community, a tribe, as well as a collection that takes all of that into consideration, saying, 'Here's your toolkit sister. Here's what you need in order to live your most elevated life.'"

The women agree that it's important to not only offer products with a super-popular, trending ingredient like CBD, but provide a holistic, authentic platform for women to address the many facets of what wellness means for them. "That was intentional. And these products actually work in terms of the level of efficacy, the level of quality, and the level of intentionality in how we craft our collection even as we consider expanding beyond CBD. There is an intentionality, and we want to ensure that this [product] is highly advantageous."

There's a special sense of being the change you want to see even beyond offering a product to consumers, and this is surely evident through the founders, who are indeed real-life sister-girlfriends who aren't afraid to be the embodiment of their beliefs. Cultivating community and finding power in partnering up with fellow women is a key part of the company that tangibly manifests itself through the founders' connections with one another.

"Being founded by three Black women—two of whom are biological sisters and all of whom are Spelman sisters—there is a profound recognition of who we are individually but also who we are in the power of our collective," Tai said. "And in recognizing the power of our collective, because that is ultimately what has sustained us when we didn't have our collection, when we didn't have Brown Girl Jane as a product and brand, we had our sisters, as a community, who held us, who supported us, and who were essential to our toolkit."

"We wanted to make sure that the women we look to support have that same resource because that's foundational. In partnership with the collection, centering ourselves, and changing some of the systemic belief systems that have held us back in some ways in prioritizing health and wellness, we can all be well. We can feel more whole. There can be healing. There can be support. We can be a resource. That was intentional."

The trio's relationship sets a tone for providing a different narrative that challenges other age-old negative stereotypes about female friendships and further illustrates the power of partnering up with other Black women to build something great. "We can approach everything with a different set of eyes," said Malaika.

"I would encourage that when people are working with friends, you actually want people who think differently and have different sets of expertise, but who share the same north star, which for us is just wanting women of color to be able to live their best lives. We want to be helpful along their journey toward wholeness. That's very consistent across the founder team and that's really just the expertise which is varied, and that's amazing to be able to lean upon one another for."

Follow Brown Girl Jane on Instagram @itsbrowngirljane and find their products on Nordstrom.com or their website.

Featured image courtesy of Brown Girl Jane

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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