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The New Old “Ghetto Fabulous”

The high-end designer earrings are now validated as important art while its distinct origins in the creativity of Black and Latino communities are scarcely mentioned in mainstream press. At Fulton Mall—a longstanding laboratory of hip hop culture—and other commercial strips that serve communities of color, the kinds of independent family-owned businesses that provided vehicles for our personal expression are being rapidly replaced by international chain stores. Sometimes derided as “Ghetto Fabulous,” it seems our communities’ innovative style are as impactful as ever, but the spaces that cultivate it are being transformed without our input.

This dynamic reflects how the creativity expression of people of African descent is often devalued. The good news is that by celebrating our inner artists we reveal ourselves as fully human, help create community and discredit practices like gentrification and police misconduct that limit our life chances. It is essential that we embrace our impulse to create, share and appreciate art in all its forms – especially those that emanate from our traditions and customs. In the same day, I can be found visiting the fine art exhibition funkgodjazz&medicine featuring the work of Simone Leigh and Xenobia Bailey as well as shopping at the last independent boutiques on Fulton Mall for my own gold bamboo earrings ($27).

This month on The Progress, we honor Artists of the African Diaspora by featuring their work and life stories. I hope they inspire you to celebrate your inner artist. Subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss one uplifting post. It’s free!

Have fond memories of Fulton Mall and other labs for Black style? Share them with me in the comments section below.

Yours for Love and Solidarity,





PS If you’re in North Carolina near the Tri-City area, you can see Black and Cuba October 21 7pm at: UNC Chapel Hill – Diaspora Film Festival of Black and Independent Film – Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History – 150 South Road.

2 thoughts on “The New Old “Ghetto Fabulous”

  1. I agree 100% with this post! When I saw Rihanna in a photo shoot with two infamous model moguls like Iman and Naomi I knew that our innovated style had been captured in a high fashion manner. I applaud these three beautiful women of color that are representing “our” style in such a high fashion matter. Do they or better yet, do we receive credit for this?–No. But lets be honest, when have we ever received credit for our innovated ways?

    I guess what I’m saying is if it was not for our people you could not do simple things like spread that peanut butter across that PB&J sandwich. New York City would be a monstrosity of car wrecks if it wasn’t for Garret Morgan, who invented the stop light… And don’t even get me started on how Lewis Latimer perfected the light bulb and most of America still can’t get a clue (catch that?).

    For decades our music, fashion, art, and ideas have not been credited to our community. However, it is great to see that the things we do carry so heavily and our society everyday .I personally just hope one day that the things we make and do will be identified rightfully by us because the Black and Latino community has given our society a lot more than we are credited.

  2. Fashion seems to walk an very precarious and complex line when it comes to imitating, or paying homage to, various aspects of American culture. I also purchased my (now long lost) first pair of heart-shaped bambo gold-plated earrings in Fulton Mall, as I went to high school in the area. This style of earring strikes me as so Brooklyn- iconic it’s no wonder it has hit the haute fashion houses.

    But I’d still rather get mine at Fulton Mall…

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