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2018 Essence Festival - Day 1

Source: Johnny Nunez / Getty

Sundial Founder (think: Shea Moisture, Madam C.J. Walker, etc.) Richelieu Dennis continues to prove time and time again that he’s here for Black women. Since selling his company to Unilever for an undisclosed (but clearly enormous) amount, the Liberian entrepreneur has since bought Essence, started a fund for black women, and now onto his latest venture…real estate.

However, it’s not just ANY piece of property that the multi-millionaire has purchased. He is the owner of Madam C.J. Walker’s 34-room mansion, Villa Lewaro, located in Irvington, New York. This historic property is full of black history, beyond Walker. It was designed by Vertner Woodson Tandy, a black architect from Kentucky. The space was often used as a meeting place during the Harlem Renaissance. According to the Hudson Independent, Dennis wants to turn it into a retreat and training center “designed to support Black women entrepreneurs in their efforts to turn their ideas into flourishing enterprises.” While a museum would have been dope, actually helping black women accumulate wealth and grow their businesses is even doper.

This purchase is on the heels of Irvington passing a new zoning law permitting adaptive reuse of registered historical buildings for non-residential purposes. Think tours, events, schools…this is why Dennis has the option to turn the space into more than just a museum. We’re here for it. He met with Irvington’s Board of Trustees in early December to discuss and present plans for Villa Lewaro.

This isn’t his first dive into the Madam C.J. Walker brand. In 2016 he launched a collection of hair products that bare the famous entrepreneurs’ name. He stated, “The story means so much to so many. And I felt it wasn’t right that the most relevant and cultural icon of beauty and the beauty business, and the representation of what beauty means to our community, was not represented in the same way as Estée Lauder and Coco Chanel. It’s not like we don’t have that (Walker) legacy to look up to.”

Now, this is how you use your wealth for the betterment of the community.


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