Boxes made with love

Brown Girl Collective builds BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community by supporting local businesses and having fun together

Holding+hand-decorated+care+packages%2C+members+of+the+Brown+Girl+Collective+smile+at+their+first+ever+event+on+Oct.+24.+BGC+hosted+their+care+package+distribution+at+Zilker+Park.+The+event+was+a+success%2C+giving+away+around+30+boxes+to+BIPOCs+and+LGBTQ%2B+members.+Photo+originally+posted+on+the++%40browngirlcollective.atx+Instagram+account.+Reposted+here+with+permission.

courtesy of Brown Girl Collective

Holding hand-decorated care packages, members of the Brown Girl Collective smile at their first ever event on Oct. 24. BGC hosted their care package distribution at Zilker Park. The event was a success, giving away around 30 boxes to BIPOCs and LGBTQ+ members. Photo originally posted on the @browngirlcollective.atx Instagram account. Reposted here with permission.

Lily Prather, staff reporter

The picnic tables were lined with white boxes hand decorated with the words “Brown Girl Collective” written in the center. Each box was packed with various self-care items and some extra fun things. All the products were sourced from local Black, Indigenous, and Persons Of Color-owned business. On Oct. 24 at Zilker Park, the BGC members held their first event, inviting any BIPOC or LGBTQ+ folks to come to Zilker to receive a free care package.

We are bringing POC with all different types of skills and talents together. The team as a whole is very talented and are just genuinely trying to make a difference in people’s lives.”

— senior Alex Martinez

Brown Girl Collective is an organization made to help BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folx and create a community dedicated to them. The care packages made for any day was a success, both because of distribution and because of exposure for the organization.

“The gift box distribution went well!” senior and member of BGC Bella Bonesteel said. “We had a pretty good number of people show up to get a box. It was all really fun! We provided a bunch of free snacks and drinks as well so everyone could feel welcome to stay and chat.”

The distribution day was one of many BGC events to come. The organization started five months ago. People of different ages, schools and backgrounds showed up wanting to help: one of them was Isabella Bonesteel, McCallum senior and member of the BGC.

“The founder of BGC is actually a previous LASA student named Samantha Porter (Sam),” Bonesteel said. “She had the idea to start a local non-profit organization to support other Black and Brown women/non-binary folks within Austin and hopefully one day, in more places.”

Sam’s idea was brought to life on Aug. 18 when BGC posted to Instagram for the first time. The post included their mission statement, letting everyone know why BGC was started and what they wished to accomplish.

“The BGC is a non-profit youth lead organization aiming to help women of color and non-binaries of color pursue opportunities that normally aren’t available or too expensive,” senior Alex Martinez said. “But really, it’s about the community, we are bringing POC with all different types of skills and talents together. The team as a whole is very talented and are just genuinely trying to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Caring for people and helping others has always been a big part of me, and what I wanted to do. Being a part of BGC has been an amazing experience.”

— senior Bella Bonesteel

With a team all working towards the same goals, senior and BGC member Olivia Navarro says they have created a safe, caring and inclusive community.

“The people within BGC are some of the best people I have met, just some super smart and caring individuals,” Navarro said.

As the team became closer, building off each other’s ideas, they also relied on the community to help. As BGC continues to grow they continue to have conversations. Their supporters can contact them anytime with ideas of their own.

“Honestly, it has been so fun to watch our little community grow,” Navarro said. “As well as forming a community for others who aren’t members. It’s definitely a feeling of success seeing positive impacts of our work and feeling like we are making just anyone’s day a little better as well.”

BGC uses Instagram as a way to reach the public. Their page, @browngirlcollective.atx, consists of updates about events, quotes from BIPOC females, and a spotlight, each month of a Black or Brown female artist. The group is doing everything they can to widen their platform but because of the pandemic they have to consider safety.

“The sad thing is that COVID has really set us back,” Martinez said. “A lot of the ideas that we come up with are often shot down because of COVID restrictions.”

With an increase in numbers of cases they got to work planning and thinking of options that could work around the pandemic.

“We’ve been brainstorming some fundraising events,” Martinez said. “We’ve actually been allowed to host events at this outdoor venue owned by Urban Outfitters, so once COVID gets better in Austin, definitely expect us to host safe outdoor events.”

Even with the pandemic, BGC was able to overcome isolation and create a new community that was able to give support to the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ members. Even though the goal was to support others, they found a sense of satisfaction in the work that they’re doing.

“It’s amazing of course,” Bonesteel said. “Honestly I think it’s the least I can do. It’s extremely important, for both myself and for everyone, to take responsibility for past actions and to recognize the privileges we have. Especially the privileges I have as a white woman. Caring for people and helping others has always been a big part of me, and what I wanted to do. Being a part of BGC has been an amazing experience.”

BGC supports these local products

Me & the Bees Lemonade

Me & the Bees Lemonade is a subtly sweet bottle of lemonade made with flaxseed and honey. The business was started by Mikaila Ulmer and her family when Ulmer was just 4 years old. For each bottle sold, a portion of the profits goes to organizations working to help save honeybees. Me & the Bees sells five different flavors: classic, mint, prickly pear, ginger and iced tea. The Austin-based lemonade is sold at Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market, World Market, HEB and some Kroger stores in Houston. To read more about Ulmer’s story, visit www.meandthebees.com.

Rose’s Garden

Local shop Rose’s Garden sells handmade pieces that are inspired by Texan & Mexican-American cultures. The shop is run by three sisters who each have their own collection of products that showcase their individual personalities, featuring resin jewelry and accessories, unique stickers and vegan skincare. “Our goal is for our art & products to bring our customers happiness, joy, and positive vibes (and soft skin),” their mission statement reads. Rose’s Garden has an online store that can be accessed on Instagram @roses_gardenco and at the Rose’s Garden website.

 

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Gojema

Gojema is a local candle shop that pours and packages each candle by hand in Austin. Their products include renewable soy wax candles that are all scented with natural essential oils as well as a variety of candles and room sprays. Find Gojema’s candles on their Instagram, @gojemacandles, and at the Gojema website.