STATEN ISLAND, NY – Anthony Fakoya, 26, said: “George Floyd could have been my father, my uncle, my cousin; it could have been me.”
Because of this, the Mariners Harbor resident said he was inspired by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and at the height of the 2020 protests he designed a t-shirt with the message ‘No justice ! No peace!”
The first batch of t-shirts sold out in just hours, and Fakoya donated all proceeds to BLM foundations.
“I am very attached to the movement, because I am an African-American man. I grew up in Mariners Harbour, and there were times when I was pulled over and put in police cars for no reason…I’m very supportive of my people because I have a black sister and a black mom,” did he declare.
“As we all know, the murder of George Floyd was monumental during the [coronavirus] pandemic. We all started protesting, myself included. I thought, ‘What can I do to help contribute to the protest and to my community?’ So I created BLM t-shirts in the thick of it all,” Fakoya added, noting that he had the help of his younger sister, Folasade Fakoya, who is an activist and advocate for the African-American community.
BORN FROM THE PANDEMIC
He said his desire to launch a clothing line – dubbed ONYXX BE VIBRANT – was born just before the peak of BLM protests during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, when “the world shut down”.
“The pandemic has been a scary time. … I spent most of my days at home doing nothing. I used to train and play basketball to occupy my time, but that wasn’t the case anymore,” said Fakoya, who was playing college basketball at Monroe College in the Bronx when the pandemic hit. .
“Fashion has always been something I have thrived in. One day, while sitting at home during the pandemic, I had the idea of starting a clothing brand, which would become ONYXX. It just took off from there. … I’ve always shopped more than most people, so I thought, ‘Why not design my own clothes and wear my own brand?’ he added, noting that he has since graduated from college and is also an occupational therapist.
With his brand awareness growing thanks to the BLM movement, he decided to push forward with his designs which symbolize “the transformation of negative energy into positive energy”.
“It’s the concept of my brand. I never had an easy life; I have always turned the negative into a positive. Where I come from, most people experience negative situations but never turn them into positive ones, but that’s not my case,” Fakoya said.
BEHIND THE NAME
The positive energy theme can be seen from her brand’s logo, a black panther holding an onyx stone, Fakoya said.
“An onyx is a black stone that offers powerful vibrations of protection, strength, focus and willpower. This stone is there to continually move you forward in your life. …Not only will an onyx give you a burst of energy to get up and start chasing your dreams, but it will also protect you on your new journey,” he said.
“For me, the panther is a powerful and creative animal. The panther is holding an onyx stone. Thus, the stone itself is the power that the panther transforms from negative energy into positive energy. That’s the whole idea of the brand. … When people put on this hoodie, I want them to know that they can overcome whatever obstacles they face,” Fakoya added.
The black panther is also “a really powerful animal and can adapt to different environments around the world. … I want people to feel the power and the concept behind the brand, not just the cool design.
STAY ON THE RIGHT PATH
Growing up, life was not always easy for Fakoya. He said his father immigrated from Nigeria and worked long hours just to make ends meet.
“My dad was always working long hours driving Uber, working 16 hour days. I would never see my father. My mother eventually became a nurse, which helped me pay for my college education,” he said, noting that he did not do well in high school, which led to him being expelled from the basketball team.
But once he entered college, he began an upward path to success and played basketball again. In addition to embarking on a career as an occupational therapist, he said he hopes to succeed with his brand ONYXX BE VIBRANT. In the future, he added that he hopes to open a storefront for his clothing line.
ONYXX BE VIBRANT AT A GLANCE
New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that chronicles the stories of new Staten Island business owners. If you have a new business in Staten Island, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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