The Roots Collective, a network of black-owned businesses, will open the doors to its first community hub on November 10 in Liberty City.
The Black House will be a smorgasbord of all things black, beautiful, and creative. In the front, visitors can peruse a retail showroom. The back will house the printing press where everything can be created in-house, as well as a garden and lounge area that will host events.
"We've built it out so that folks in and beyond our network can come to our space, use our Wi-Fi, build off of our creativity, and host events at cost. Our goal isn't to be like every other venue where it costs an arm and a leg," says Danny Agnew, Roots Collective founder. "People renting it can help us out with a small donation."
Agnew says he had the idea to open the Roots Collective Black House over a year ago. In 2015, he started Roots Clothing creating apparel with messages like "Not Today Colonizer" and "Crackas Lie a Lot." The next year he headed Roots Printing, a one-stop shop for printing, brand, and marketing materials. He also hosts the Black Marketplace the first and third Saturdays at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, curating a selection of black entrepreneurs who sell their food, crafts, and services to the public.
The Black House recently purchased three computers that will be available for use by kids and adults who need access. Agnew plans on teaching Photoshop to youth in the neighborhood and is sponsoring shirts for them to print their creations.
EXPANDRoots Collective Black House opening November 10 in Liberty City.Courtesy of Danny Agnew.
"The idea behind that is to get the kids off the streets and give them a skill that they can use to make money for themselves. We always hear the negative [aspects] of kids being on the streets," Agnew says. "We're offering an alternative because once they have this skill, they can go anywhere with their creativity. We want to teach them to print so they can build their brands, sell their clothing, and put back into their communities."
Agnew says to keep the project going, it would be helpful to have the community invested in the Black House. He's working with the Dream Defenders, headed by his brother Philip Agnew, to help his business flourish.
"I'm very prideful; I'm from Chicago. I don't like handouts, and I like to show folks it's possible to dream and execute through your resources," Agnew says. "People know we have a printing company and a clothing line, but we would like to see people prioritize Roots printing and clothing because it keeps the lights on and keeps the ecosystem going."
The Roots Collective Black House is a passion project and symbolic for Agnew, who says his businesses and projects are pro-black but are not meant as a tool for separation. He wants to highlight the idea that black and brown communities need support from everyone to succeed.
"Our chapters are different, but our stories are the same. Immigration is not a black topic;
Latinos and Latinas also deal with those issues. I've been fortunate enough to build with the folks who pick produce for Publix and Walmart, and people don't tell their stories, but the capitalistic system is destroying families daily. When we talk about black, we can't not talk about brown."