“I just want to tell stories that are rarely told,” Emory explained. “Because of a lot of things – my talent, the way I dress, the people I’ve worked with, but mostly luck – I have a certain aptitude for youth culture. And I choose to use it, sometimes, to talk about stories the kids won’t see at school or through [social media] algorithm. “For example, the day we talked, he sent a pair of shoes to the artist 24kGoldn along with works on Black Seminole history, which he later posted to Instagram. “He reposted it and said, ‘Our history.’ Here’s a kid, a rapper, with a million followers, posting books about an untold piece of history. ”
And therein lies the power of Emory’s juxtaposition of personal history and commercial enterprise: by telling a unique story of his own, he is able to strike a common chord. It’s part of his ongoing mission to create products that engage consumers but are based on stories of Black culture.
As part of the partnership, Ugg is donating $50,000 to the Backstreet Museum of Culture, as well as Guardian Institute, which focuses on empowering young people in the arts because they are connected to both Black and Indigenous cultures. “Let us want for the many what we want for the few,” said Emory. “What we wanted for the monoliths of Black culture — Kanye, LeBron, Maya Angelou, Cornell West — we wanted the same opportunity for a little girl in Jamaica, Queens. We wanted to have parity, not just to celebrate a few Blacks who overcame the fissures of capitalism and systemic racism.”
But what really stuck with Emory on that visit to the museum, and what he hopes people will take away from this collaboration, is not just his own history, but that of the people of New Orleans. “New Orleans is one of the most dignified places I’ve ever been to,” he said. “It’s not about any form of stereotyping of systemic racism or suffering. They honor their local heroes steadfastly. They celebrate black women, black men, black children. They celebrate the First Nation culture, another culture that stands next to them. They celebrate it through music, not just pop music. They’re not the richest, and they’re not the most famous, but they’re decent. “