I started my business because I couldn’t find any cards for Black people, or for my own children. Since I was a child, I’ve always been into Black history, and I found it very confusing and hard not to see anything I could relate to. I keep a memory box for my kids, and one day my daughter was looking through her old birthday and christening cards and said: “Mum there’s no Black babies on any of my cards”, and I said: “There weren’t any around for people to buy”.
When I moved to Liverpool it was a shock. I previously lived in Slough, but came here after a council house swap. As soon as I stepped out of Lime Street Station and saw all the beautiful old buildings, I said to myself: wow! I walked past a club that was playing reggae music and thought: I don’t even need to look at the house, I’ve found my city. I’ve been to so many different places, but Liverpool is special; it's a community and there’s people you can talk to and share things with, like the Women's Organisation in Liverpool who offered me training, advice and support on how to start a business.
The International Slavery Museum is such a powerful place, I wasn’t expecting it. When we first moved here my daughter told me there was a Black museum, and I thought: nah this has to be a mistake, this can’t be right. But then we visited and it was like I was in a different world; here was a city that was not hiding its past. That’s what inspired me to do what I needed to do, I didn’t feel embarrassed about talking about my culture anymore, or what I believed in.
I’ve always looked up to Maya Angelou. I didn’t have a great childhood and her books were an escape for me. Her writing was so raw and so real, she didn’t gloss over anything, or pretend to be something she wasn’t, and I think that’s why I gravitated towards her. It was like: this is life, this is what you’re going to go through, but this is how powerful you are, this is how beautiful you are, this is what you can achieve. My mum died when I was 13 and I think of her as the mum I’ve never had. When I found out Maya Angelou visited the International Slavery Museum, I was in such a mood, I can’t believe I missed her!
I felt so surprised when my work was accepted by National Museums Liverpool, because my cards use such strong quotes; there’s nowhere to hide. I did think about watering them down a bit, but I thought no, I need to do this, these cards are needed. When I received the first big stock order, it just validated everything I was doing, that I was doing something good, and it really gave me the courage to fly with it. It’s reached the stage where I’ve had to outsource my printing because I can’t keep up with the demand.
It was so quiet in lockdown, but it allowed me to do more things I enjoy, like making art and jewellery. My work gives me the freedom to be myself, and that’s very important to me. It’s the freedom to create and to serve.
I’m now on social media after a customer said that I had no presence, and I’m now being contacted by people in the USA and Canada too. It’s amazing because I’ve always looked to America because they’ve always seemed more open with their Black history. But then one of my customers got in touch and said that although there’s an acceptance of the Black culture, they don’t have cards like mine - that made me want to cry.
Now I’ve started making Black history cards for the young generation. There are so many different personalities of our culture that are not really shown – it's either that we go to church, or we’re into the civil rights movement. I’ve also started to make cards based on Liverpool – people don’t even know Liverpool had the first Black Mayor and I’m like: “There you go honey!” There are so many strong characters in Liverpool that are making a difference for our culture and the movement. I made a Dorothy Kuya card, who helped found the International Slavery Museum. My only regret is that I never got the chance to meet her; I didn’t have people like that around me growing up.
You can buy Angela’s cards here.