A true born and raised New Yorker, Tafari is a biology major who enjoys graphic design and creating music. She is involved in Green Shanghai Club and studied away at the New York Campus last semester. This month, Tafari began Flowers for Our Lives, selling floral earrings and necklaces to raise funds to donate to different Black Lives Matter causes, from bailout funds to the reparations of small businesses.
IC: Have you had any prior activism projects before?
TF: In high school, I was president of He For She. It is a UN organization founded by Emma Watson which promotes the fight for gender equality. I led school-wide events and fundraising. That is where I found my passion for leading the social dialogue. I conducted similar projects as president of the Human Rights club. There, my co-president and I lead an international school conference held at the United Nations General Assembly. We discussed the issue of Human Trafficking.
IC: How did you get the concept for your business? Why flowers, and why earrings?
TF: I started making earrings in quarantine, just as a fun activity to pass time. I have always had an interest in botanical books as a child (my dream was to become a botanist or entomologist in grade school). I thought it would be nice to create natural wearables. I’ve used the online selling platform, Depop, for about 2 years now recycling clothes and shoes I stopped wearing. It’s very user friendly and great for entrepreneurs, so I decided to sell my earrings there. With the rise of protests around the US following the murder of George Floyd, I wanted to support the fight for an end to police brutality. Unfortunately, I could not attend protests because it would put my parents and younger siblings at risk of COVID-19. I decided to use social media as a tool to share resources on understanding this social issue that has tolled black and brown Americans for years. I then decided to donate all of the proceeds to small businesses of Minneapolis, the origin city of the protests this summer. My father owned a cafe during the financial crisis of 2008, this makes me very empathetic to small business owners and their families.
IC: Your promotional efforts have been incredibly unique, with pictures of African American activists such as Angela Davis. Can you elaborate on the ones you have chosen so far?
TF: These images are meant to express the iconic nature of black people, fashion, culture, and style. In essence, blackness is art. As the granddaughter of a Black Panther, I was raised on the principles of the party: to fight for social justice and peace by any means necessary. Angela Davis, Huey Newton, and Elbert Howard were integral members of the BPP. The Images of Tupac Shakur and Nas represent the cultural phenomenon of rap music. These two are poets of justice. Their lyrics are memoirs of the African American experience. I experimented with collages to produce these images to show the contrast between the delicate floral jewelry and the powerful figures depicted.
IC: Can you discuss the successes of your efforts?
TK: At the time of this interview, over $300 of jewelry sales profits have been donated to the Northside Funders Group. This organization aids small Minneapolis small businesses financially affected by the high volume of protests. Because I have received so much support in only 5 days, I’ve decided to diversify the support of customers by now donating profits to a Go Fund Me that supports Bronx small businesses who were left vulnerable due to excessive lootings in New York City. My fundraising has been extremely successful due to my online presence, however I hope to inspire others to actively support the Black Lives Matter Movement. Social media “activism” has diminished useful resources and fundraising, simplifying involvement to an Instagram story post or black screen with a hashtag. The goal of this fundraising is also to spread awareness and educate.
IC: What do you hope your customers do after purchasing your jewelry?
TK: I hope that my customers keep supporting BLM, actively by researching, and educating themselves and others. I want to see people reflecting on why they are supporting these causes, and not for a social status boost or political correctness. This movement needs true allies, not passive ones.
IC: Since beginning this platform and reaching out what have you learned?
TK: I have learned that we all need to learn more (myself included)! I’ve learned that social media has the potential to positively and negatively affect the fight for social change. I have also learned that there is no excuse in 2020 for inaction in a fight for justice. I was able to create a small business within 7 days and support a social movement. I now know anyone can do it.
IC: Anything else you wish to add?
TK: This situation in the US has sparked my desire to start an ethnic minorities dialogue group at NYUSH. My classmates have shared with me that the administration has denied their requests to start organizations such as a Black Student Union. Apparently there is a fear of dividing the student body more with the presence of these race/ethnic-based clubs. I personally think this diminishes the sense of community the school should want to foster. With this club proposal, I wish to bring attention to the ethnic minority presence and experience in Shanghai. Not only black and brown students but Asian minorities as well. We all have diverse experiences that we can learn from in a safe and neutral space.
Tafari has taken the first step to facilitate education and active participation for all students. By creating a business on an easy-to-use platform, and begin a club where diversity is valued. She is a leading example of how small actions can amount to enormous impacts in the fight against racism.
This accomplished sophomore ships her handmade jewelry worldwide.
Tafari’s Depop: depop.com/tafarifynn
This article was written by Isabella Cuellar. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Photos edited by Tafari Fynn and Isabella Cuellar