As we at certainly know, words have power. We learn to describe places, products, and even people by painting them with our words. The color black appears all over in nature, but its name also has a history of being used to invoke intimidation or negativity. The weight of this narrative has hidden in the shadows of homes while the reality of it has been forced on Black people. Neffi Walker wants to change that.
Walker, a celebrity designer and the founder of The Black Home, unapologetically paints her world in black. And now, the Harlem native is spreading this vision with a home storefront in Newark, opening on Juneteenth. The location and the day are intentional, highlighting the joy, the freedom, and reclaiming the definition of black into a celebration for new beginnings.
As an Afro Latina, Walker uses heritage and culture as the blueprint for what she designs. The store will offer products ranging from wallpaper to vintage furniture, tableware, clothes, and more, all designed to celebrate black as a color a culture.
So why Juneteenth? Juneteenth is a celebration on June 19th commemorating the day (a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation) that Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaimed that “all slaves are free” to the enslaved in Texas. As a result, it’s been used to recognize the end of slavery in the U.S. Recently, the Senate passed a bill to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
But the holiday has been observed by Black communities long before discussions around national acknowledgment began. It is a day told onto hope, a day to learn, and a day to grapple with present realities. To commemorate all of this, Walker is spilling the joy into the streets of Newark with a block party. Guests can enjoy music, food, and support the work of people of color represented in The Black Home. It will be a display of freedom, jubilee, and creativity.
“I felt like having an outdoor celebration with some significance made sense for what The Black Home is,” Walker explains. “Our ancestors didn’t own homes. Our ancestors were redlined. Our ancestors have been priced out, put into ghettos—now I see millennials learning more about these spaces. So this launch is really a’thank you’ to what was done in the past. We are investing in what we want our safe space to be in America.”
The door is wide open and you don’t want to miss out.
What inspired you to start The Black Home?
I’ve been doing interior design for the past 10 years. I started because I ‘m a diehard New Yorker and when I moved to the suburbs of New Jersey, it felt like “The Shining” at the time. I just had a baby and so many changes in my life were happening. I started redesigning the house and what should’ve been two years, I completed it in six months. I started to take on other projects for friends and soon realized I not only felt good, but I had a business.
What is the story behind your design choices?
I was trying to look for a design aesthetic that felt real. I love black from color to culture so I wanted to display what the beauty of Black is. I received a lot of kickback when I first started and I didn’t really care. I felt that maybe they will understand if I showcase what the beauty of a black wall looks like (which seems scary to some) and explain the significance of my choices. I ‘m happy that now it’s becoming a thing to use black in your home.
How do you redefine the color black?
Black gets a bad rap. You know, “black magic” or “black cats”–it’s really silly. If clients are asking for “bright” and “airy,” I explain to them how it’s possible to achieve that feel with oxblood or navy blue. Nine times out of ten, clients know my style isn’t bohemian or bright colors.
I love how the store embodies how dynamic black is as color and culture. It’s not just about the holiday, but how we need to see the beauty of Blackness every day. What impact do you want to have?
People don’t know the beauty in our resilience. After last year and brands pointing to me as a designer, I’ve had new followers make comments like, “I didn’t know there were Black interior designers!” I think it’s important to normalize the voices of Black designers.
What can customers expect in your new store
90% of the items in-store are sourced by people of color. You can find vintage furniture, clothes, skincare, and more for purchase on Juneteenth. The store is 2,000 square feet, so when people walk inside, they look around, soaking it all in. It’s a lot of color against black walls, Black artwork, and pottery. I ‘m allowing seven microbusinesses to be in this space for six months. I want my clients to find something new and refreshing. A lot of good is happening in here.
Is there an ideal shopper for your store?
There’s no ideal shopper for us. This is for anyone who loves, understands, and respects the culture and wants to use a piece of that to beautify their home, which is our demographic.
What do you hope for the future of The Black Home?
I want this to be the Black Barney’s. I want people to come in the spaces we create and convene, make a friend, and find something new. We want to showcase Newark so it’s accessible and for people who might have never visited, besides to see Beyoncé at the Prudential Center. I want them to feel the pulse of the city.