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What Patrisse Cullors Can’t Live Without

Photo: Dana Washington

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked artist, activist, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors — who will be presenting at the National Immigration Law Center awards this month — about the book, earrings, and art she can’t live without.

Octavia Butler is one of my top favorite authors, and my favorite sci-fi writer of all time. Her writing is always at the intersection of race, class — and in this instance, vampires. I love fantastical things, and because this focuses on vampires and not humans it adds another element of imagination. In the book, she’s having a conversation about racism, but through vampires, and you just never know where that’s going to go. You’re reading it, reading it, reading it, and then it takes a hard left, and you’re like Oh shit, I didn’t realize we were going to go into these deep political topics. Even though she always does that in her books. I’ve read pretty much all of them, but this was my favorite. She died pretty soon after she wrote it, so it has a lot of sentimental value for me.

I found Jennifer Fisher on Instagram because, you know, good old Instagram. I think J. Lo was wearing them and she tagged Jennifer Fisher, and I was like, Oh let me look at these hoops, and went to her page. I fell in love with her jewelry, but also her story — I don’t think she started off as a jeweler, she was doing something else, and then became a mom and started to make jewelry. The hoops are kind of a staple. I travel a lot, and it’s the jewelry that goes in my little jewelry purse and is my go-to earring. I was just in Houston for the debates, and I wore them there.They’re just super classy.

I watched it for the first time when I was probably 8 or 9, and it was the first movie that I remember consciously crying and having an emotional response to. I just remember my older brother, who really took care of us because my mom worked a lot, was so worried about me, he was like, What’s going on? Are you okay? I remember him ushering me into my room to calm down. It was interesting because I was so grateful he was nurturing me, but I wasn’t ready to stop watching the film. It’s a staple. I watch that movie at least once a month. It’s nostalgic. Now I think the acting is not that great, so I don’t think it could make me cry the way it did as a kid, but it’s so nostalgic and reminds me of my childhood.

I grew up in Los Angeles and I used to go to this African store when I was maybe 18, 19, 20 years old, but they never had clothes for young people. I would go in because I liked the fabric, but I didn’t like the styles. Then one day I was in the neighborhood, maybe a decade and a half later, and I walked into the store and was like, What the hell, this is not the same store. These two young women who are sisters, Bo and Kay, were like, We’re the daughters of the woman who used to own the store, our mom was going to get rid of the shop, and we were like ‘no this is a staple in the community, we’ll take it over.’ So the two daughters took it over and they did a lot of styling and the clothes from Black Panther. They do a lot of custom stuff, and you can go on Instagram and order from them. It’s such a good vibe. [Editor’s note: Email hello@kutula.org for inquiries.]

Photo: Reid, Hilary

Foremost is a really good friend of mine, I’ve known him for like a decade now. His work has been really important for the Black Lives Matter movement — he’s done such amazing pieces for us. We did a collaboration together for an evening that I curated called An Evening with Warriors and he did several beautiful pieces, specifically around social justice freedom fighters. We also did an evening dedicated to Malcolm X, and he did all these really beautiful images for Malcolm. [Editor’s note: Email 4oremost@gmail.com for inquiries.]

In maybe 2012 or 2013, I went to Melody Ehsani’s store on accident because she was doing nail art in her store, and I was obsessed with nail art. So I went to her store and I was like What is this place? I think I bought a few earrings at that point. Then she asked for my partner to come do a speaking engagement at her shop because she does these Melody Ehsani talks. And I actually did a book talk with Lena Waithe when my book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, came out. I’ve been to her Soho shop in New York, I shop online for her stuff all the time. She was doing women’s empowerment before it was cool and trendy! She has these chunky earrings that I have two sets of — they’re multicolored door-knocker earrings. They go with a dress, and they look so great with jeans and a T-shirt.

When we launched our merchandise line last year, we worked with a few different designers. We worked with Telfar, and he did a shirt just for Black Lives Matter, which I love. We worked with Emory Douglas, who did a tote bag for us. I really like these capsule collections, it warms my heart. For the T-shirts, it’s really having a conversation with designers, seeing what they’re interested in, and giving them a lot of creative freedom around like, Can you design a shirt that people would love? That’s really how it’s been, it’s been a super simple process.

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What Patrisse Cullors Can’t Live Without