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Antonio Benjamin

Antonio Benjamin (b. 1981) is known for rendering nudes. Working in traditional media such as colored pencils, acrylic, and ink appeals to Benjamin because he likes to have a large array of colors available when creating his iconic groups of flavored nude people. Benjamin remarks, "My work is about a group of people. Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla people. They all think different. The chocolate people, they are really black, but I just call them chocolate."  In both digital and traditional media, Benjamin often depicts African American people and churches, reflecting his community and culture. Flashing his trademark bright smile, he says this subject matter is important and inspiring to him “because of our history.”

Shindana Toys and Games

Shindana Toys, a Division of Operation Bootstrap, was founded in 1968 in the aftermath of the 1965 Watts, California riots.   "Shindana Toys, a division of Operation Bootstrap, Inc., stands alone as the largest black-owned and operated toy company in the world. It had its genesis in the rubble of the 1965 Watts revolt and it emerged in 1968 with a will to compete in the face of discouraging odds. A practical recognition of this spirit is reflected in the selection of the name “Shindana” – it means competitor in Swahili."Shindana was founded by Lou Smith and Robert Hall without government subsidy or aid. Substantial working capital, technical assistance and equipment were provided initially by Mattel, Inc., with no strings attached, as an expression of that company’s commitment to its social responsibility in the Los Angeles community. The company's goal was to help rebuild the community and provide jobs for community residents.  Their moto, Learn, baby! Learn!  was in stark opposition to "Burn, baby! Burn!" which was chanted by the 1965 rioters as they burned buildings in their own community during a six-day protest against police brutality.Shindana Toys was one of the many co-ops formed under the Division of Operation Bootstrap.  Their doll factory, located in Watts from 1968 through 1983, became a forerunner in the manufacture of ethnically correct dolls for Black children.  While most Shindana dolls were Black, their catalog of dolls includes a few that represent other ethnicities. Dolls were designed in Los Angeles by Edward "Batiste" Williams. The company marked a line of 32 Black dolls and 6 Black-oriented games. Mr. Lou Smith is to be remembered, for his vision helped make the difference between success and failure. He never wavered from Shindana’s objectives of providing jobs with pride in the ghetto and showing people that they can help themselves, and that in the process they can learn to love those who may be different from themselves. He believed that “the only plan is the commitment.” Today the Shindana dolls are collector items.  

Willi Smith

Willi Smith was one of the most talented designers of his era. "Being black has a lot to do with my being a good designer. My eye will go quicker to what a pimp is wearing than to someone in a gray suit and tie. Most of these designers who have to run to Paris for color and fabric combinations should go to church on Sunday in Harlem. It's all right there."WilliWear, the company he co-founded in 1976, went from $30,000 in sales in its first year to $25 million in 1986. His soft, baggy looks did not require sophisticated tailoring and benefitted from the Indian textiles that he chose for their supple hand, easy care and comfortable aging, and indescribably indefinite colors. Smith's slouchy softness was a "real people" look. As Smith once remarked, "I don't design clothes for the Queen, but for the people who wave at her as she goes by." While primarily a designer of women's clothing, WilliWear was also influential in men's clothing. 
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