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Black LGBT Businesses Launch “I Am Me” Campaign to Support Formerly Incarcerated Trans Women

For everyone taking a stand during these unprecedented times, there’s no reason why we can’t smell and look great while doing it. There are fantastic LGBTQ+ businesses and organizations that need your help and want you to look great while you’re out making a difference in the world. If you want to know where to start, we can point you in the right direction.

Two Black and queer owned businesses, Sankofa Athletics in partnership with the Nick Ricardo Collection, have teamed up to bring a new collection that directly contributes to a very important cause—supporting the San Francisco-based TGI Justice Project, an organization that helps trans, gender variant and intersex people navigate life after incarceration while simultaneously working hard to end the traumatic legacy of systemic abuse, racism, and discrimination experienced by black and brown lives from law enforcement and correctional institutions in the U.S.

Khalia Ervin owner of Sankofa Athletics, a fitness, athleisure style clothing brand, and Nick Ricardo, founder of the gender-neutral fragrance line, Nick Ricardo Collection, created the "I Am Me" Campaign to support, encourage and provide hope to members of the LGBT community and people of color in these difficult times.

As their mission statement says,

“We as creators of color hope to not only motivate our community to be unapologetically themselves, but to also show the importance of solidarity, and the need for queer and POC entrepreneurs to give back to their communities.”

With every purchase of their “Be You” edition, you’ll receive a fragrance sample set and 15% off the purchase of a bottle from Nick Ricardo's delectable collection of non-binary fragrances (to die for, seriously), and you’ll also receive an athleisure apparel tee from Sankofa Athletics with 10% off your next apparel purchase (yes, please) that will encourage you to yoga, run, lift or meditate —whatever you need to shake Ground Hog Day on repeat (thanks, COVID-19).

When you show your support to these inspiring Black and queer businesses you are also contributing to a good cause. For every “Be You” purchase you make, two dollars will be donated directly to the TGI Justice Project.

The TGI Justice Project, founded by recently-retired trans activist and historic Stonewall Riots leader, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, has made great strides, already shutting down a juvenile facility in the Bay Area that was known for abusing the young LGBTQ population.

Nick Ricardo Collection

Miss Major then passed the torch as TGIJP's Executive Director to Janetta Johnson, a Trans activist who serves as a mentor to other Black trans women who have had experience with incarceration. She saw the need to build spaces for Black trans women, but also, the black trans community as a whole to come together, both to have a space to discuss the issues facing the community and to come up with an agenda for how to respond to the toll on trans lives at every level of the system.

Gaye had the pleasure of speaking with Erik Schnabel, the program director for the TGI Justice Project. He's responsible for a wide range of fundraising and communications initiatives. Erik explained some of the amazing things the organization is doing, including: expansion work to other states and the mentorship role the current Executive Director, Janetta Johnson has played in the trans community.

Erik also discussed weekly community meetings the organization hosts. This is where he met Nick Ricardo, which ultimately became the seed that launched the collaboration between Nick and the TGI Justice Project.

“We’ve been around for 15 years. The organization started as a result of seeing the need for someone who could both work with transgender, gender variant and intersex communities and their legal rights as incarcerated people going into the system, coming out of the system because transgender people, especially transgender women of color, the majority of the folks we work with, are really impacted by the criminal justice system," said Erik.

Picture of TGIJP Executive Director Janetta Johnson speaking at a recent protest

"Many are shut out of the system and so often turn to survival sex work or street economy work to survive and be able to live day to day because there aren’t often opportunities surrounding employment.

We saw so many folks trapped in the criminal justice system because of this….many female transgender individuals were being housed in male facilities and male transgender individuals were being housed in female facilities.

There was a real need to support folks along every step of the [way]."

To find out more about the organization, go to: Also, there’s a rad documentary about Miss Major and the awesome work she was doing for the trans community in the 1960’s called “Major!” that you should check out too, if you need some more motivation and inspiration! 

Gayes, are you ready to join the movement? Go order your fragrance and cute outfit, take a picture and post it to your social media!


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