por Nina Walker·
When I left Central Pennsylvania18 years ago, I never thought I’d return other than to visit family. However, life is a funny thing and the older you get, the more you hold plans loosely in the palm of your hand. Growing up here as the only brown girl in my class through the majority of my K-12 experience, I spent so much time feeling like I didn’t fit in…that I didn’t belong…that I was too different. Too light-skinned in certain spaces and too dark-skinned in others..Too much…Not enough…Never enough. In all those spaces where I felt othered, I thought being different was the problem.
Coming back 18 years later with a stronger sense of pride in who I am and with my own family, I couldn’t feel further from that! Back then, I didn’t know who I was and most of my circles didn’t know how to engage with those who were different from them without making them feel othered (rewrite, keep it active). That was the problem. Inequity. Not feeling seen or heard or accepted. That was the problem with them, with the community…not with me.
Exend Apparel belongs to those of us who feel unheard, unaccepted and othered.. When my husband, Chase, shared his dream and vision for Exend with me, I knew we were meant to embark on this journey and build this community as a family. Yes, he’s a brilliantly talented artist and designer as you’ll see through our designs. But more than that, community is at the heart of Exend. Our brand is committed to people across the African Diaspora seeing themselves represented in spaces and pieces that typically haven’t been designed with them in mind.
As we raise our own beautiful black daughter, Ava, we are constantly reminded of how the world sees us individually and collectively. We have to take so many extra aspects into consideration when making choices about where we live/move to, find faith communities, make our future plans, choosing kids’ schools where they aren’t the only students of color. After all, those are often the added invisible burdens that people of color face that many don’t understand. And I’m sure many of you reading this can relate.
We may not have control over many things/spaces we encounter as we navigate our lives, but we have decided that we can also put our energy into redefiniting what “home” means to us–no matter where we are– by creating those spaces that we want to see ourselves and our daughter represented! So while I’m back to a place I said I’d never return to for this season, I’m no longer trying to find myself–but rather just trying to find my people. And part of that community is you– this community! So regardless of where you are in your journey, our prayer is that this will become a space you grow to find yourself at “home” as well – a place where your melanin is fully seen, your roots are fully embraced, and your experiences are fully affirmed! We can’t wait to go on this journey with you!