Black History Month Inspires Mask Businesses Across the Island

By: Jessica Coacci
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One of the only good things to come out of the coronavirus pandemic is a new market for medical masks. Mask businesses have been a hot commodity in attempting to make an income during people’s free time. 

February is Black History Month, which means communities unite and the rest of the country recognizes the accomplishments of Black Americans. As some businesses across the island were suffering throughout the beginning of the pandemic, Bonzetta Bryd took advantage of an opportunity to make light of dark times by making face masks when they were limited in March of last year. 

In December, Long Island hit its highest rate of unemployment at 5.5% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. This left a lot of families with free time on their hands to be creative and find ways to have a source of income. 

“The mask business is important to help ends meet,” said Bryd. “I am unemployed and it helped me tremendously make money.”

Byrd is a resident of Copiague and sells her masks on social media sites and to family and friends. Besides masks, she also sells clothes, designer glasses, mugs, and earrings. Byrd said her inspiration for making masks started when she was taught to sew by her mother.

“I started sewing about 15 years ago,” said Byrd. “I was inspired to make masks because I feel they save lives.”

Byrd sells a variety of masks for sporting events, matching masks for couples and ones for any special occasion such as weddings and birthdays. Byrd has also made merchandise in recent efforts to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement.

In light of Black History Month, Byrd said she will make masks inspired by the month. Virtual field trips, supporting Black owned business and participating in online events are some of the ways Long Island plans to be celebrating this year. 

Byrd is not the only black owned mask business that is inspired by Black History Month. Nigeria native and current resident of Deer Park, Lara Ajayi, sells masks through her social media platforms.

“Black History Month has helped shape my views and raise awareness that my voice is essential to preserve African diaspora heritage,” said Ajayi. 

Ajayi started making her masks for her friends and family, and the positive feedback about the comfortability and prints of her masks inspired her to make it a business. As a womenswear fashion designer, Ajayi enjoys sewing and creating statement pieces with different patterns.

“I could not keep back all that goodness from the world now that face masks have come to stay and every accessory should make a statement,” added Ajayi.

Ajayi said she has been able to emphasize Black History Month through her “Black Queen” and ‘Black Princess” patterned masks. 

Both Ajayi and Byrd plan to continue to make masks while raising awareness for times of suffering in the pandemic. 

Jessica Coacci

Jessica Coacci

Jessica Coacci is a journalist at Stony Brook University. She is a Long Island Native and advocate for social justice, diversity and environmental policy. She plans to seek change locally and nationally through her informative reporting. Instagram @Jessicacoacci Twitter @JessicaCoacci__

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