By Christina Luick
The Black Lives Matter movement has moved center stage. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, protests and discussions about racism and police brutality transpired after the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for approximately nine minutes after he was arrested.
The four officers involved have been fired from their jobs and are facing charges.
Many people lately have been trying to educate themselves more about how they can be actively anti-racist to help push this movement forward in hopes of making some change or to make others aware of problems in society.
New Saints Collective is an initiative that was created this year by two friends, Danae Edmonds and Claudia Priego, to provide resources to bring awareness through work and healing.
Edmonds is from Raleigh-Durham, NC and also runs Aspiring Co., a media company for women.
“I found myself often feeling super heavy as a Black woman in America,” according to her bio. “I wanted to think of a way to heal while still taking an active stance.”
Priego is a Mexican-American animator and illustrator based in Atlanta, GA.
“As an artist and storyteller, I believe in my power of using my creativity for good and telling the stories of those who are underrepresented in our world,” she said. “We are here for a short time to spread love and live with compassion to help others rise alongside us, and in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’ This is what I hope to do with New Saints Collective.”
New Saints Collective began with an idea from Edmonds to make prayer candles. She was planning to ask Priego, who she met while attending college, to help create a design, when Priego posted a Black Lives Matter illustration on her Instagram page.
The illustration is of a Black woman crying while wearing an American flag-designed mask that says, “I can’t breathe.” Behind the woman are names of victims of police brutality.
Before making the illustration, Priego was looking for a way she could use her art for good.
So when Edmonds proposed her idea of creating prayer candles, Priego was excited.
“From there, once we had the idea for the candles, it was just like what else can we do because I don’t want people to think that buying a candle means that you fixed a problem … Obviously that’s not how it works,” Edmonds said.
Both women began to brainstorm ideas for ways their business could be a source of healing for the community.
They began their business with providing resources about racism for people to educate themselves and spark conversations about it. The women plan to adapt their resources to help the communities that need support.
Then it evolved into selling T-shirts, with 10% of each shirt sale going to Black Lives Matter and to help Edmonds and Priego raise funds to cover their startup costs.
The women also hope to expand what they offer to things such as posters, scented prayer candles and possibly subscription boxes with items from Black-owned businesses.
Back on Juneteenth (June 19), they had a pre-order on their prayer candles and received almost 20 orders.
Their candles have designs by Priego that depict Black men and women with no face features, a style similar to something she used to do, so people can identify with the illustrated people more.
Once an illustration for New Saints Collective is close to being finished, she sends it to Edmonds to make any possible tweaks. They both like their designs to be minimalistic.
With every order of the items New Saints Collective sells, Edmonds and Priego send out a postcard with names on the back of people who have been victims of police violence or hate crimes and have links to resources.
New Saints Collective also successfully raised $500 from selling T-shirts and donations to help Black Lives Matter and help fund their start-up costs. People can still donate, and the money will go towards grassroots organizations, according to the site.
Priego said she hopes their site will help bring awareness to the current issues and provide a place where people can feel safe. “I think it would be really cool to serve as a platform for people to come and find peace but also be able to get everything that they need and also promote themselves."
Edmonds said in this current environment of marches protesting racism and police brutality, she is more reminded of her past experiences as a Black woman growing up in New Jersey.
“It’s always been happening, it’s just now with us all being home because of COVID,” she said. “I feel like the timing of everything could not have been more aligned and we’re hopeful that this time maybe something will be different because literally everyone is watching, the whole world is watching how America is failing the community.”
Edmonds added that white people can’t just say they’re not racist, they have to be actively-anti-racist.
Priego said she feels there are people coming together during this time and there is progress being made.
“We’re going to get somewhere eventually,” she said.
Edmonds encouraged artists to use the talents they naturally have and help towards a change.
To learn more about New Saints Collective and to view the resources they provide, visit www.newsaintscollective.com .
Danae Edmonds, Co-Founder
" Hey Girl Hey! I’m Danae A Edmonds. I care a lot about social media, design, women's issues, race issues, equality, empathy, and being a good human. I consider myself a bit of an accidental activist. I don’t think I ever set out to be an activist in any way. But as an outspoken black woman (both plus size and just under 6 ft tall) it was a role I naturally fell into. I am originally from South Jersey but call Raleigh-Durham, NC home. I am also a three-time stroke survivor. I was also selected as a Top 20 Marketing Expert for 20 on the Rise in 2019 (a partnership with Rising Tide Society and HoneyBook).
I am also full of ideas, often times to my detriment. My first business is Aspiring Co. (a media company for women). I found myself often feeling super heavy as a black woman in America. I wanted to think of a way to heal while still taking an active stance. "
Claudia Luna Priego, Co-Founder
"Hi! My name is Claudia Luna Priego and I’m a Mexican-American animator and illustrator. As an artist and storyteller, I believe in my power of using my creativity for good and telling the stories of those who are underrepresented in our world. We are here for a short time to spread love and live with compassion to help others rise alongside us, and in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” This is what I hope to do with New Saints Collective. "