By Erin Okuno
A few weeks ago my friend Bao asked on Facebook “What are a few ways to make the holidays more meaningful and less about stuff?” The responses were interesting, everything from wrapping gifts in pillowcases to homemade gifts and repurposed gifts. I mentioned I try to shop at POC owned businesses, which means some gifts are experiences and tangible gifts are more focused such as art, food, etc. It also means there is a double impact of investing dollars into POC communities which hopefully also brings about other forms of justice, such as economic and environmental justice.
Here is the 2019 POC Shopping Guide. Be sure to the check the 2018 Shopping Guide for other ideas.
Along with the theme of less-stuff and investing in people and relationships giving experiences is often a great way to support POC businesses.
Take a Friend to Coffee or Drinks – For the holidays invest in people by taking your friends and family to coffee or drinks. If the holidays are too busy do it in January. Check the POC Map 2.0 to find a POC owned business for some nosh and drinks. A friend whose partner is a bartender said his tips generally drop by 30% during the holidays. Mostly because people are busy getting ready for the holidays, entertaining at home, or it is winter and too cold to go out. Make sure to tip your servers, especially your POC servers very generously during the holidays. Extend this into January as well when business is still slow for bartenders and servers since new year’s resolutions keep people out of the bars.
Gift Certificate for Relaxation – For people who have everything consider giving them the gift of slowing down. A gift certificate to a Korean spa such as Olympus Spa (women only) or finding a POC yoga instructor and buying a gift certificate to their class or retreat might be an appreciated gift. Finding the time to use the gift may be challenging but slowing down to invest in ourselves and each other isn’t a bad thing.
We are on Native lands and Indigenous businesses are all around us. If you are traveling during the holidays stop into a Native American museum or cultural center, here is a handy website with a comprehensive listing. While there buy some gifts, art, or food at the gift shops and restaurants to invest back into their businesses. Along with this, be sure to may your end of year rent payment to your local Native/Indigenous organization. If you are in Seattle you can make your rent payment to the Duwamish at Real Rent Duwamish. If you would like to support two other Native organizations in Seattle Chief Sealth Club supports the urban Indian community, and Daybreak Star Doulas supports mothers through birth and all the ‘feels’ that go with becoming a parent.
Christmas Trees in Seattle – If you haven’t picked up your Christmas tree yet pick up your tree from El Centro de la Raza in Seattle. The trees come from a Latinx owned tree farm near Seattle. The proceeds from the tree sales support the important programs at El Centro. Once you’ve picked up your tree and thank the kind volunteers, grab a coffee drink at The Station (another Latinx owned business). Once you’re done there stop for a bite to eat at Cafetal Quilimbo (really great tamales) further South on Beacon Hill or across the street at Carnitas Michoacan.
If you need flowers this holiday season, order them from Flowers 4 U. This is the ONLY Black owned floral shop in the Pacific NW. The owner needs to raise $6,000 or face eviction. Read this AfricaTown Story for more details and ways to help, including a link to a GoFundMe Campaign and advocacy to several mortuaries who used to order from her shop. [Added 12/14/19]
POC Owned Bookstores and POC Authored Books
This year books by POC authors have been a go-to gift. Whenever possible I’ve tried to buy these books from POC owned bookstores. Since last year’s gift guide, I’ve found several new POC owned bookstores which helped me diversify where to invest some of my book buying purchases. I’d rather spend my money at these bookstores than at the mega-online-store named after a river.
Mahogany Books is a Black-owned bookstore in Washington DC. They have a great collection of books by African Americans and Black authors. Ordering through their website is just as easy as ordering through other mainstream bookstores. I’ve found titles here I wouldn’t have noticed in other places.
Libros en Espanol is a Latino online bookstore. A few weeks ago, a friend who just had a baby asked for bilingual books as a baby gift. Of course, the aunty crew jumped all over this request. I was thrilled to find Libros en Espanol, a Spanish language bookstore. The website is all in Spanish, but overall easy enough to navigate to place an order, especially with the translate function on many web browsers.
Na Mea Hawaii is a Native Hawaiian owned bookstore in Honolulu, HI. The store host cultural events as well as books for sale. The online bookstore features a wide array of titles from Native Hawaiian history and culture to a Hawaiian language translation of Harry Potter. While I haven’t ordered from the website yet, the next time I want a book about my home-state I’ll be sure to consult the website and order a title through here.
Here are a few new books I am in love with by POC authors, give yourself the gift of reading them and then gift them to others:
Aloha Kitchen – I grew up in Hawaii and ‘local’ food is comfort food. This cookbook is by Alana Kysar, a Japanese American. The book has gorgeous pictures of ‘local grinz’ such as soy-glazed spam musubi, chicken adobo, haupia (coconut dessert), chicken long rice, and so much more. I browsed the book with my kid and she enthusiastically said: “I like that! Can we cook NOW?”
Trickster – We read this compilation of Native American graphic stories/comics during the Thanksgiving break. Both of my kids loved snuggling in to pick which comics to read together. Sharing this during Thanksgiving was a small way to refocus the holiday on our Native relations.
How to be Anti-Racist – Grab a copy of this book for yourself and one for a friend or colleague. Create a book sharing community so you can talk through what you’re reading and learning together.
This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto – I listened to the audio version of this book and found myself re-listening to parts. This book explains how immigration shaped and continues to reshape our nation and world. As climate change and other geopolitical forces change our world immigrants experiences change as well, and we need to understand these changes to be in more just relation with each other.
Perhaps in a future blog post I’ll share out a few more titles I liked from 2019.
Jump into Twitter-land and search up #BuyDisabled to find businesses and artist with disabilities. 2018 Twitter thread here or check out this website or this list. Take some time to find the POCs in these lists.
Down Time or On the Road—Podcast Time
If you are traveling or commuting this winter, download a few of these podcasts to learn more about POC experiences. While you’re at it make sure to support the shows by subscribing to their Patreon accounts or sending in a donation.
All My Relations is hosted by Matika Wilbur and Adrienne Keene, Native American womxn. The podcast covers everything from Native history to topics such as DNA testing, to Native erasure.
LeVar Burton Reads isn’t focused on race, but hosted by the former Reading Rainbow host and actor from Star Trek. Quite a few of the stories are by POC authors.
Code Switch by NPR. While this is a mainstream podcast, the topics are related to race and I often learn something new when I take the time to listen.
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