Ashantae Handcrafted promotes self-care while empowering the Black community

When much of the world came to a standstill during the early months of the pandemic many people looked for new ways to fill their days. Some took advantage of their newfound time to learn new skills or tackle various projects. 

McMaster University student Alethea Clarke and her mother, Sacha Clarke, decided to use their time to start a business. Their online natural health and beauty business, Ashantae Handcrafted, will officially launch in early October. Currently, their main products are soy candles and natural soap bars.

“[Ashantae Handcrafted] came about as an idea during COVID, sitting around being bored, seeing other people getting their business[es] started . . .  and us ourselves trying to figure out self-care . . . We just decided "let’s start a business",” said Alethea.

[/media-credit] One of the various handcrafted scented candles that Ashantae Handcrafted creates

Described as artsy by her mother, Alethea is currently a second-year student in the life sciences program at McMaster. She is passionate about healthcare and finding ways to better people’s health. Collaborating with her mother, she created a business that merges her interests, using handcrafted goods to promote health, wellness and self-care.

“Just finding that time for yourself and to feel empowered to take that break . . . it could be sitting at home reading a book and having a candle lit. There's just a sense of peace that it gives you,” said Sacha.

“Just finding that time for yourself and to feel empowered to take that break . . . it could be sitting at home reading a book and having a candle lit. There's just a sense of peace that it gives you,” said Sacha.

Currently based in Oshawa, Ashantae Handcrafted offers delivery only within the Greater Toronto Area, but they will also do regular trips to Hamilton to drop off orders at a designated pick up location.

Alethea and Sacha are aware of the impact the products we use every day can have on our environment. All their products are made by them and use environmentally friendly ingredients, such as soy wax derived from soybeans, activated charcoal and essential oils. They want to do what they can to reduce their own carbon footprints and help others do the same.

Additionally, as a small Black business, it’s very important to them to use their platform to encourage and empower their community as well.

“I feel like it's important that we address that we are a small Black business . . . and it's important for our community to just uplift [the] community as well . . . nothing is too out of reach for us,” said Alethea.

“Also, just to empower young people as well . . . to think outside the box and maybe create something and do something that you’re good with. Like if you're good with your hands, start building stuff and something like that [can] change your direction. Like instead of you now looking for a summer job or job over the holidays, you can create your own,” Sacha added.

While their journey as business owners is only just beginning, both women are happy with the work they’re doing. Undertaking this project together has made the journey even better.

“In terms of what's been the best part for us so far, I think it's just working with my mom. It's pretty cool . . .  having this amazing idea to bring to the community and just to carry that out,” said Alethea, both her and her mother smiling widely.

Going forward, they plan to introduce customizable gift baskets for the holidays. They are also considering adding more products eventually, such as bath bombs or body scrubs. They’ll continue to expand their selection as long as it’s possible for them to make the products themselves and ensure that they’re conscious of both human and environmental wellbeing.  

Header photo by Kyle West, Article photos C/O Shanice Regis

By: Drew Simpson

On Feb. 26, the Green is not White environmental racism workshop took place at the Hamilton Public Library’s Wentworth room. The free, open-to all workshop, garnered intrigue from attendees interested in learning about environmental racism.

Presenters sat on a raised platform and the room was filled with chart easel pads, activist posters and resources. The Green is Not White workshop, which is organized by Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces in partnership with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion started its seven-hour agenda with a land acknowledgement, icebreakers and then laid down foundational knowledge.  

Environmental racism is originally defined by Prof. Benjamin Chavis as the racial discrimination and unequal enforcement of environmental policies. The types of environmental racism have expanded since this 1987 definition and currently encompass air pollution, clean water, climate migration, extreme weather, food production, gentrification and toxins in the community and workplace.

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The crust of the issue is that ethnic minorities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. Black and Indigenous populations are most affected by environmental racism, yet this makes it no less of a collective issue. Local case studies were highlighted to drive this message close to home.

For example, most of Hamilton’s waste facilities are clustered just north of and within residential areas. This includes a proposed electronic waste processing facility, which can cause lead and mercury exposure, and an existing chemical wastes facility that is known for chemical explosions causing evacuations and serious injury. Loads of biosolids have been trucked through neighbourhoods posing disease risks from pathogens, concerns of terrible odours and ammonia use for steam filtering.

Studies show that Hamilton neighbourhoods with single-parent families and low education are the most exposed to air pollution. Since these neighbourhoods have fewer resources and are systematically marginalized, they are targeted by acts of environmental racism. The hashtag #EnvRacismCBTUACW continually discusses case studies across Canada.

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Along with the extensive examples of Canadians and Hamiltonians living in dire conditions due to environmental racism, as well as the government’s oversight of this issue, various Hamilton organizations have taken it upon themselves to drive change.

This workshop was the third part of a four-phase action research initiative on environmental racism by ACW, which develops tools to better the environmental conditions of jobs and the workplace and CBTU, a coalition that breaks the silence on African-Canadians’ labour issues. While this third stage involves community engagement, the fourth and final stage involves a joint report and video that will be housed on both the ACW and CBTU websites.

The slogan “Green is Not White” highlights that green jobs and environmentally safe conditions should not be reserved for white people. People of colour are most likely to work and live in dire conditions, and therefore deserve economic justice and access to clean water and land.


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By Daniel Mark

Natural disasters used to be remarkable news. Hurricanes that take out entire power grids for months on end. Floods that close transit systems and trap people in elevators. Heat waves in eastern Canada that literally kill people. Now, because of climate change, they’re anything but.

On Oct. 8, 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that was, more or less, a prediction of the end of modern society. By the year 2040, we have to reduce our carbon emissions to around 50 per cent of what they were in 2010 – that is, if we want any chance of saving ourselves. We no longer have the luxury of time to discuss the reality of our situation and so I’m going to give you a reason to do something now.

First off, people will die. But those people are, for the most part, so far away that it can be hard to care. I’m sure there’s some psychological name for this concept of not giving a shit, but I’ll leave that for you to Google later.

Let’s explore closer to home. I was at a vineyard a couple weeks ago, and the owners were talking about how unprepared they are for the rapidly changing climate. It’s not just wine. Food itself is going to become more scarce and expensive, and I can pretty much guarantee at some point in the future you will be buying food grown in a lab or made from crushed up insects (this is not a hyperbole, these are actually the two most likely options). Still don’t care?

Parents often say they would take a bullet for their kids. But right now, we are all pointing a gun at our future kids’ heads. Picture your future sons and daughters, because they’re the ones we will have to apologize to one day. By ‘focusing on the economy’ and supporting fossil fuel companies, we are not leaving behind a stable financial future – we’re leaving our children a society fighting for basic needs: water, clean air, and space to live.

When mass migration begins to the safer regions of the world, this is what will happen. In that kind of a society, the economy will be the least of humanity’s worries. I wish I could tell you I was exaggerating.

That got pretty dark. At this point, I would bet you are expecting me to give you some reason for hope. Well, I’m not. Don’t run screaming, I’m not saying there is no hope, but I can’t tell you that you can stop worrying.

Actually, on second thought, do that. Get up, get dressed, and start screaming. Scream your heart out. Get on your laptop and urge local politicians to support carbon-free initiatives like the Light Rail Transit coming to Hamilton, urge provincial politicians to develop an actual climate plan, and urge our federal government to force major, rapid change.

This change isn’t bad, and it isn’t even that hard. Large-scale shifts in our society to renewable energy will actually stabilize the energy sector of our economy. It might cost a lot initially, but in the long run, we will have a clean planet and a thriving economy at the same time. That sounds like a good compromise for the business minds of DeGroote School of Business and the science minds of Burke Science Building.

Changes can be small-scale, too, and those are just as important. Buy less plastic, recycle, take the bus instead of driving if you’re a commuter! These things sound cliché, but they actually make a huge difference— not to mention, if you bring a travel mug to most coffee chains like Tim Hortons, you get a 10 cent discount.

It’s possible, guys. We are literally on the brink of the end of the fucking world as we know it. Someday, our children will look back and judge us on this year, this pivotal moment in time. It is up to you whether they see it as the time we saved the world, or the time we sat on our privileged asses with our venti double-mocha frappe and watched it burn.

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By: Crystal Lobo

The “SHIFT: Environmentally Responsible Print Practice Exhibition,” is currently on display at the McMaster Museum of Art. Professors Judy Major-Girardin and Briana Palmer present this exhibit, which displays work from applicants across North America.

Printmaking typically consists of heavy chemical use and other toxic substances. This exhibition aims to approach this art form from an environmentally responsible perspective.

78 artists across Canada and the United States applied to have their work showcased. Only 28 were chosen.

“We really wanted to maintain a high standard of quality. So all along this initiative, the idea has been that we can do things in a more responsible way without sacrificing quality,” said Major-Girardin.

The exhibit served as one part of the greater movement towards environmentally responsible art. The second component was a symposium held on Fri., Feb. 26th. This symposium consisted of workshops displaying the processes used by the artists of the exhibit in creating their works. It also included a discussion panel, as well as showcasing of faculty and student work.

“It was a really kind of lively day of exchange. Everybody was able to talk to people who had like interests and really begin to build the network … We felt like we got the word out in a short amount of time with art pieces and the symposium,” said Major-Girardin.

The exhibit shows the McMaster community that meaningful change in society stems from small circles, something Major-Girardin takes great pride in.

“One of the quotes that I always reference is one from Margaret Reed that goes something like ‘Don't ever doubt the power of a group of small individuals in changing the world because really that's the only way that the world has ever changed with a group of small committed passionate individual.’ So I guess that's the message. We really are empowered to make change here and it starts with a small group but that builds and can build a whole movement,” said Major-Girardin.

Judy Major-Girardin would like to recognize the Forward with Integrity President’s Grant for funding this project.

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