por Fakoya Jack-Vilmar

Ever since I first watched the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in middle school, I was obsessed with 90s fashion.  The color combinations, styles, materials, and confidence that celebrities exuded in their bold outfits forever intrigued and influenced my style.  Will Smith and other creative artists like Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah, Notorious B.I.G. Spike Lee, and Kid ‘n Play always looked cool no matter what they wore.  Not only did they look fly, they felt fly– which is something I started striving for. From wearing knee high Doc Martens to neon parachute pants to Nike high top dunks, I began to wear whatever made me feel “fly.” Seeing all these people of color use fashion as an outlet for creative expressivity led to my appreciation for different mediums of art and the importance of representation in different fields.   

     As a music therapist of color in a predominantly white field,  My personal experience in affinity groups as well as my thesis about the role of affinity group membership for marginalized music therapists, solidifies the importance of community. As an Afro-Caribbean woman from Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn who just finished her master’s in music therapy, a predominantly white field, I am more aware than ever of the need for mental health and wellness services in communities of color. The importance/need for a sense of community and belongingness in different artistic realms reminds us of how healing music and the arts can be, especially with communities of color who are often overlooked.  whose are  committed to providing access to services for people who are typically overlooked as well as reminding people of color how healing music and arts can be! In this world today, we must move past asking, “What’s wrong with you?” and acknowledge that everyone has some type of trauma and everyone needs a space to heal.  For me, realizing that I am not alone and am not the only one experiencing certain things constantly changes my perspective and understanding of myself and others.  Whether it’s connecting through a TV show, singer, clothing design, spirituality or movie– connection is a vital need as a human being and we all deserve to have it!

Connection is what led me to Exend Apparel. My experience exploring York, Pennsylvania– a somewhat unfamiliar place and connecting with people from familiar (cultural) backgrounds gave me a comforting feeling that intrigued me to explore Exend Apparel.  The authenticity, warm energy and emphasis on Afro-heritage culture and community were embodied in the founder and made me feel comfortable to engage authentically with this brand…which is an underrated opportunity these days!  Exend Apparel combines quality streetwear with empowering messages and designs that are made “for us” – while holding space for our rich and diverse lived experiences.