This week Black Twitter and Black women all over social media were stunned to find out that Black Opal, the cosmetics brand that has been a staple in our communities for a quarter century is not Black-owned.
Apparently your mama and grandmama’s fave is a brand owned by New York-based MANA Products Inc., which was founded by Greek-American businessman Nikos P. Mouyiaris in 1975. Black Opal was launched in 1994, according to its website. To add insult to injury, not only is the business not “for us, by us” it is now being alleged that the company is going out of its way to target and undermine businesses that actually are being run by people of color.
In a piece that she wrote for Medium, Dr. Kristian Henderson, who is the founder of BLK + GRN, a digital marketplace that “curates all natural products created by all Black artisans,” explains how her efforts to bring Black brands to the Black community are being directly threatened by MANA Products Inc.
“MANA owns Black Opal, which was recently rebranded as BLK/OPL, and they are asserting that the trademark BLK + GRN filed would cause confusion, so they are opposing BLK + GRN’s trademark application,” she outlines, noting the company’s court filing.
“Their argument hinges on the fact that both brands use block letters, both spell Black with the shorthand BLK, and both brands use a symbol followed by three other letters. Despite the fact that we are in different industries (Black Opal is a color cosmetics company and BLK + GRN is a marketplace), despite the fact that several other trademarks exist with the word Black or BLK included, they are still opposing the trademark of BLK + GRN, even with a seemingly thin argument.”
In laymen’s terms, a company that has made a significant portion of its millions over the years selling products to and for the Black community, is now compromising the efforts of an African-American woman who created a platform for her people to find products created by their own. And MANA is doing this based on the inference that spelling Black as BLK is something only they should be able to do in this arena.
Y’all, the devil has been busy cause this is several shades of foolish.
If you thought Black Opal, Black Radiance or black|Up [were Black-owned], the gag is they’re not actually black-owned. And though they do make products designed for black skin, many black-owned beauty brands have suffered from a lack of visibility
— Jasley Monia, The Fader
— Ifé Love (@ifelovespeaks) May 23, 2019
Now to be fair, most marginalized communities wax poetic about how “visibility matters” and slam major brands and companies for not acknowledging their existence. But in this case that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, we all assumed Black Opal was run by Black people because of how heavily they’re branded to our community. Which is further evidenced by their blackety-black Instagram page that is drenched in “Black girl magic” imagery.
Isn’t this what we said we wanted? Haven’t we been asking for this sort of recognition?
Which begs the question, “Which is more important: Supporting major companies who serve the black community or those who are the black community?” Which is exactly what I asked Dr. Henderson earlier today, after she found out we were covering this story about her battle against MANA and their legal team.
READ MORE: The changing face of the beauty business
Although she personally prefers to support brands that are owned by Black people, she maintains that it’s totally possible to strike a balance when dealing with companies run by our white counterparts.
“The problem isn’t that a major player is creating products geared towards Black women. The problem is the lack of transparency,” she clarifies. “Brands need to be honest about ownership. Using tags such as #BlackOwnedBusiness is misleading consumers who want to make a conscious effort to invest money in Black-owned brands. And perhaps more egregious, the problem is when non-Black mainstream companies use their power and money to push Black owned companies out of the Black beauty space.”
#BlackOpal is trying to shutdown @BLKandGRN — however, only one is black owned + truly supporting the black people they feature & sell to. Help support @BLKandGRN in their trademark battle: https://t.co/fU2pALAgj1
— THE ashley ✨ (@LoveASharie) May 21, 2019
“Black businesses have always had to fight to thrive in the face of racial hostility, violence, economic exclusion, segregation, and discrimination,” she continues.
“The systematic denial of small-business loans or the 1% investment of venture capitalist dollars into Black businesses are the results of institutional racism. To shift this, I believe that we must support actual Black bossinesses. With this choice we can grow our workforce, invest in our communities, and control the quality of the products that we consume.”
Henderson concludes by pointing out, “Between 1983 and 2013, white households saw their wealth increased by 14 percent. But during the same period, black household wealth declined 75 percent. Buying Black is an attempt to increase the wealth in the Black community, which is the definition of lifting oneself and one’s community up the ladder.”
If you’d like to help BLK+GRN continue their efforts to highlight authentically Black owned businesses, you can donate to their GoFundMe simply go shop on BLK + GRN to help them (and the 65+ Black women-owned brands they collaborate with) grow and thrive!
For those who say they’re looking to invest in our community, this is your way to literally put your money where your mouth is.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric