Millions of people, young and old, are holding Black Lives Matter demonstrations spanning the full 50-state landscape of America. The call for equality and justice is even felt worldwide, as people all around the globe shout the names of those who have fallen to the injustice of police brutality.
Preceding this massive, ongoing show of unity and support was the viral onslaught of COVID-19, which brought about an unparalleled plummet of economies both large and small, as well as the highest unemployment rate ever to strike this country. Countless businesses have suffered financially, having lost their footing within their communities.
Not in 60 years, since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for equality, has there been such an unprecedented appetite for a new consciousness to emerge, one that challenges organizational systems which haven’t even so much as allowed discussions of the presence of racism and prejudice.
In the meantime, a universal ignition of support for Black-owned businesses has followed. People’s efforts to locate such businesses are a sign of solidarity and action toward real change.
Milpitas, for example, is home to Nichols Stitches, a custom embroidery and screen printing business that’s finding survival amid shelter in place, COVID-19, and the BLM movement. We reached out to owner Marcelle Nichols to both discuss the state of her business and understand her feelings as a Black American and business owner amid this heightened climate.
“When the pandemic hit, I went into mask-making mode. I donated masks to seniors, family, friends, and organizations such as Navajo Nation,” said Nichols, in regard to how she handled the sudden county-wide shutdown in protection of the public’s health. Now Nichols Stitches offers a wide variety of masks to safeguard against COVID-19 and other cold and flu germs that may travel by air.
Nichols, who grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, has been a Milpitas resident for 22 years. In 2011, she started a promotional branding business to help businesses grow via product marketing. Since that time, Nichols Stitches has been offering customized decorative solutions. Screen prints, heat transfers, and embroidery debased on a broad range of customized corporate apparel including jackets, bags, and promotional products are but some examples.
As the economy slowly opens, Nichols is prepared to work with the community and beyond once again to supply business promotional materials for a wide array of organizations and events.
She propels steadily even amid the unexpected racial devastation tied to the murder of George Floyd and the mass outcry that followed. When asked how she feels, Nichols responded, “I am tired and frustrated…when is this going to end? All of those emotions just rolling up in you.”
She continued, “I wasn’t raised like that, being concerned where you came from. I was raised to be truthful and with what’s in your heart. I try and see the good in everyone.”
As the outpouring of media coverage unfolded, Nichols decided, “I had to get to a point of saying, Marcelle, you can’t watch this anymore. Shut it off for a day because I’m tired of crying. I’m tired of thinking back on this and thinking back on that. When are people going to listen? And my heart feels great because people in Europe, England, Dubai, and here….and they’re having peaceful protests and things like that, like wow. People around the world are affected by this.”
Our discussion also touched upon the difference that leadership makes in organizations. “There is good and bad in everything. We just have to be willing to stand up for what is right…this is something that is going to take planning, going to take strategy; it’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s something that has to keep pushing forward. Ask, How can I help?”
She goes on, “I go and vote. I remind my kids to go out and vote. My kids have been voting. We can’t sit back because we don’t like something that’s happening. I’m gonna make my vote count.”
Ultimately, Nichols emphasized, “The type of people we are, I don’t care who you are, we treat everyone the same. My house has always been open to people.” An endearing value she has carried throughout her life.
Nichols’ business, along with her heart, remains open—and ever hopeful during these unrivaled times in pursuit of justice once and for all.
Nichols Stitching products and services can be viewed on their website: https://www.nicholsstitches.com/. Inquiries and orders can be submitted by emailing [email protected]. Take a stand during these times and encourage your company and place of work to support this Black-owned business in the city of Milpitas.
And if you know of any other Black-owned businesses in Milpitas we can feature here in The Beat, please reach out to us.