What would it look like to have a space where Black people could come see reflections of themselves, and see their art form, and their makers being celebrated, and to provide a place where we could buy Black?
—Kalkidan “Kalu” Gebreyohannes
The lighthearted sound of Pharrell’s music drifts from behind the wooden fence of Blk Girls Green House on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It’s 10am and a crowd gathers on the block between 33rd Street and Brockhurst Street, awaiting their entrance into the open air plant shop where they will soon meet the new plants that they will bring home. Launched at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blk Girls Green House is the latest entrepreneurial endeavor of new friends Kalkidan (Kalu) Gebreyohannes and J’Maica Roxanne. Met with overwhelming community support, the Green House is an intentionally curated gathering space situated in the midst of West Oakland.
When we (virtually) sat down with co-founders Kalu and J’Maica, we realized early on that the Green House is way more than a plant shop; it is a deliberately designed space curated to affirm Black art, Black people, and Black culture during the double pandemic of COVID-19 and ongoing systemic racism. With an array of houseplants, fresh coffee, and specialty home goods, it has become West Oakland’s oasis, an environment for reciprocal healing and straight vibes. Between the giggles and grins that turned our interview into a natural conversation, we learned of the unexpectedly transformative work of the Green House and the responsibility that came along with launching this business. We asked about the success of the Green House, to which the duo spoke to the power of the space and its ability to meet the exact needs of the community at this specific moment. J’Maica credits their success to “doing the right thing, at the right time, for the reasons, in the right way.”
Trusting their intuition and in a feat that can only be attributed to divine intervention and guidance, Kalu and J’Maica created a space that they would soon find out would offer more than just products. Since its opening, the Green House has filled its weekend appointment slots and sold out of plants consistently. Lines start before opening and socially-distanced crowds have grown larger waiting for their moment to immerse themselves in the experience that is Blk Girls Green House. In the words of their very first customer, “this [space] is revolutionary.”
To experience the environment ourselves, we took a trip to the Green House on a slightly overcast but uplifting Saturday morning, where we chatted with some of the Blk Girls Green House customer community. Fitting for the space, we spoke with five Black women, who all shared their enthusiasm for the Green House and the impact it’s made on them and on the West Oakland community. We could tell just how important the public’s continued engagement is in helping Kalu and J’Maica shape the vision for this dynamic space. There’s only so much we can tell you from these lively conversations. Blk Girls Green House is best experienced for yourself, in action, bursting with life.