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Source: Courtesy of Tones of Melanin / Tones of Melanin

Black expression has always been one of the most powerful things in our society. And since the pandemic began, the impact of Black expression and Black individualism has only increased. Now, there are an influx of Black Brand owners, from historically Black colleges and universities, making their mark in this movement.

18-year-old actress, Journey Carter, who has had roles in Ava DuVernay and Colin Kaepernick’s Colin in Black & White, the CBS drama All Rise, the Netflix comedy Family Reunion, and is enrolled at Prairie View A&M as an architectural student, is bringing a unique brand to the public that celebrates and encourages people to be themselves.

Carter created ‘Different” by The Journey Collection when she was only 12-years-old but took a break from it so she could mature as a woman. Now, she’s back and looking to spread positivity through her collection.

“Different is a brand for the socially conscious,” Carter told MADAMENOIRE in an exclusive interview. “It’s okay to be different… and that’s what I embraced.”

In 2021, Carter also created “We Are Not The Same” to serve as a platform for people to share their different stories and different struggles. 

“So many people are trying to do what they want, but sometimes nobody listens. If it was for me and nobody listened then I wouldn’t have this store,” said Carter. “I want “Different” and “We Are Not the Same” to  become this thing where everyone is like ‘oh yeah, she listened to me and now I’m here’ I don’t want the credit, I just want them to be able to speak their voice.” 

For Tones of Melanin owner and Norfolk State graduate Ashley Jones, making a difference in the HBCU community is a huge focus.

The brand that centers its focus on HBCU apparel has started to take off since the pandemic began. They currently have deals with huge companies such as Belk, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and where consumers can get a hold of their products. According to Jones, they are one of the first African American woman-owned brands to be featured in Dick’s Sporting Goods and on 

Jones who is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority incorporated, believes that Tones of Melanin could carve out a special place in the culture and allow HBCUs to thrive through their brand. 

“I feel like there’s nobody like us. We’re legit,” Jones told MN. “When I compare our company I compare it to Nike, Adidas, Under Armour…One day I want to be able to take over those Nike contracts that they have with HBCUs. So we hope to clash sportswear with streetwear and create its own market for HBCUs. “

Her time at Norfolk State allowed Jones to start the building blocks of Tones of Melanin before officially making it a business in 2017, which was two years after she graduated. Jones believes that her experience at her HBCU helped propel her to become an owner of a successful brand.

Some other HBCU owned brands that are making an impact include HBCU Culture Shop founded by Danielle Riley and Collegiate Luxe which is making apparel for many different schools. 


There is a significant shift in the advancement of Black-owned brands happening right now and these HBCU business owners are taking full advantage of this moment.

“We’re following our purpose more than what a job title is across the board,” Jones stated. When it comes to ownership I think it’s more important now. We are seeing Black businesses pop up left and right and they are sustaining… I’m thinking that a lot of these companies are going to become Fortune 100 or Fortune 500 companies. “


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