One day, probably soon, I'll tell you the story of how I came up with the idea to start Socialight Society. Today, I want to tell you about the name itself --
If you've ever heard me speak at an event, it's likely that I started with telling you all about my maternal lineage:
I am Nyshell Imari,
Daughter of Marcia Sarah,
Daughter of Bertha Lee,
Daughter of Velma Lee,
Daughter of Mandy
I probably mentioned that I just learned of Great-Great-Grandma Mandy in 2023, and I'm not really sure of the spelling of her name. But like the scribe that I am, I'm letting spirit lead me and filling in as I go along.
"How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mother's names." - Alice Walker
That maternal lineage is so important. Marcia, Bertha, Velma, Mandy and, my four daughters will add my name to the list.
I'd go on to tell you that my people come from Brookhaven, Mississippi.
I come from praying women
I come from creative women
I come from entrepreneurial women
I come from "don't take no stuff" women
I come from resilient women
Those are my people, and I carry their names proudly.
In the same way that I celebrate my mama 'nem, I started Socialight Society as a creative safe space where Black women would feel seen and celebrated. One question that I'm asked often is, where did the name come from? And if I'm totally honest, it just came to me.
Back in 2017, I was in the car with my husband and we were talking about this space that I would create one day and I was like, "I'm calling it Socialight Society."
Okay, but what does it mean? I'm so glad you asked!
SOCI relates to people or human behavior, and
LIGHT relates to being the light in someone else's life.
Then there's SOCIETY -- a community, of people having common collective activities and interests.
So it's literally, people coming together to be the light. Just imagine if we did that in real life.
While the name and idea came to me in 2017, I didn't pursue it as a possibility until 2021.
Side note: In 2017, there were less than 10 Black-Owned Bookshops in Michigan.
The Open Education Database reports that there are around 10,800 independent bookstores operating across the United States. Of this number, a mere 6 percent of those are Black-owned.
So anyway, I took notes in my phone and kind of put this campaign in the back of my mind. I have young children, now ages 5, 6, 9, and 16. At the time of this idea my youngest daughter wasn’t even born. I was a stay at home mom, my hands were more than full taking care of our family…
I figured this was something that I would do much later in life. I imagined being a cute old lady, with grey hair, sitting behind the desk of my bookshop.
In the meantime, I’d just keep collecting books for my personal library. And “be the light” on social media.
Long story short, one thing led to another and we ended up opening our first storefront, January 2022. And although I never really imagined having a bookshop inside of a mall, it's the quaint little shop I always dreamed of.
Now one thing about a good name, you want to make sure you protect it. I did just that by getting trademarked. I (and by I, I mean my trademark lawyer) submitted our application January of 2022 when we opened, and it was finally approved in March of this year - 14 months later. Again, timing is everything.
So we covered trademarks and timing -- Now, all that's left is Tanqueray, which is what I'm reading now. What did you think I'd be talking about?
About the book:
One of HONY's most followed stories, the tale of Stephanie Johnson, better known as Tanqueray.
1970s New York City: Go-go dancers, The Peppermint Lounge, gangsters, Billy’s Topless, and Stephanie Johnson… In 2019, Humans of New York featured a photo of a woman in an outrageous fur coat and hat she made herself. She instantly captured the attention of millions. Her name is Stephanie Johnson, but she’s better known to HONY followers as “Tanqueray,” the indefatigable woman who was once one of the best-known burlesque dancers in New York City. Brandon Stanton chronicled her life in the longest series he had yet posted on HONY, but, now, Stephanie Johnson—a woman as fabulous, unbowed, and irresistible as the city she lives in—tells all in Tanqueray, a book filled with never-before-told stories, personal photos from her own collection, and glimpses of New York City back in the day when the name “Tanqueray” was on everyone’s lips.
Have you read it? Want to read it? Grab your copy here.
Until next time,
Photo Credit: Kayla Turpin Photography