Would you like to learn about Afrocentric history and culture, or how to be an ally to Black people, while also supporting a new Black women’s business initiative?
Two Peterborough women — both of whom revere their African heritage — are starting a new business in town with the goal of establishing financial stability for themselves.
But it’s also so much more.
Zingha (the ‘h’ is silent) is the name of this venture by co-owners Cheryl Edwards and Charmaine Magumbe, both grand-mothers, who have been friends for close to 15 years. It is named after a fierce African anti-colonial warrior, Queen Zingha, who reigned in present-day Angola in the mid-1600s.
“We want this to represent the empowerment of all women, but especially Black women,” said Jamaican-born Charmaine, who is also the volunteer chairperson of Peterborough’s Community Race Relations Committee (CRRC), and a co-founder of the local Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’ve admired Zingha for decades. She was a strong leader and peace negotiator. To this day, they still honour her in Angola.” Cheryl Edwards, co-owner.
“In general, in our society, you don’t see a lot of Black women being written about in a positive way — usually they are celebrities, if they are, and it’s good to have them as icons — but we need to see regular Black women being empowered,” said Charmaine.
Zingha will launch its line of specialized Afrocentric mugs, t-shirts, tote bags and COVID masks Saturday, Sept. 5 at the Silver Bean Cafe from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with Beau Dixon and Vanessa Sears performing from noon to 12:40 p.m.
It’s billed as wearable art printed in Peterborough displaying West African symbols. Each product features Black-oriented designs by local Black artists: Cheryl Edwards (adult t-shirts, mugs, bags), and teen Jalen Brink (youth t-shirts). Its logo was designed by Canadian artist Stu Adams, and features the West African symbol, Asase Ye Duru (the divinity of Mother earth).
Also for sale are $10 cloth masks, in different sizes, made in Nigeria.
But Zingha.ca, the business’s website, is not just a shopping site. It’s also a free resource for those who want to learn about people of African descent, as well as those who want to be an ally in a progressive, positive way. You will find Afrocentric links, women’s resources, film and books lists for adults and children, colouring pages of Black heroes, instructions to make an Afrocentric board game, and allyship education resources. See: https://www.nzingha.ca/edu
Then there’s its Afrocentric library. For $10 per year, or by purchasing one of its products, you can become a library member and borrow children’s books, fiction and non-fiction for two months. A $20 minimum returnable deposit is required to borrow a book. When you return the book in acceptable condition, you’re refunded the deposit.
“I’m hoping everyone will visit the website and be inspired by Zingha’s story and inspired by the Afrocentric symbols,” said Cheryl, who works in tech support and also has a book-binding business. She is a former member of the CRRC in Peterborough. “I’ve admired Zingha for decades. She was a strong leader and peace negotiator. To this day, they still honour her in Angola.”
“And we’d like to see the website as a place for people to go to for information on anti-racism. I don’t think there’s a website like this now,” said Charmaine. “It’s very important to develop allies, also.”
At the Sept. 5 launch, Beau Dixon and Vanessa Sears will be performing from noon to 12:40 p.m. There will be several Afrocentric prizes to be won for both adults and kids.The first 25 people to arrive will receive an Afrocentric bookmark. T-shirts are priced at $25, tote bags at $15 (or $10 if you buy a t-shirt), and mugs at $15.
Items can also be purchased by contacting Cheryl through the website.
“It’s really, really important that people support Afrocentric businesses, because it helps us grow as Black people,” said Charmaine. “It’s important for wealth to be distributed to Blacks as it is with non-Blacks, and the non-racialized.”
Cheryl, who grew up in Richmond Hill, said she faced racism every day — and it was traumatizing. She hopes Zingha will empower people who are faced with racism, as well as educate allies.
“I am a very strong proponent of women’s strength and resilience. Women’s well-being and mental and physical health are really important to me,” she said.
By Melodie McCullough