I remember three cotton TV commercials with a message of “cotton is the fabric of our lives”. This cotton theme has survived for decades. Visuals from the commercial showed an image of a cotton boll with light breezy clothes blowing gently in the wind hanging on an outdoors clothes line. There were images of people wearing cotton clothing with a light and free lifestyle that anyone would enjoy. The commercial message was everyone should purchase cotton and your life will be free spirited.
I have never related to cotton growth or cotton production. My cotton images were of slaves and tenant farmers laboring in vast cotton fields. Workers laboriously hand harvesting and carrying sacks of cotton to be weighed for meager compensation. My image of cotton is the exploitation of humans. Recently because of my introduction to the cotton industry in VALOR I have changed some of my thinking. The history of cotton production in this country I will never forget but I can start viewing this commodity differently.
Visiting the Commonwealth Gin in Windsor, VA allowed me to develop a different image and add to my thoughts of cotton. I have an image of cotton production from intake of raw product to a final product. A final product for distribution to those industries and consumers where cotton is the fabric of our lives. I had the pleasure of a conversation with Tom Alphin, owner of Commonwealth Gin. Our conversation explored involvement of African Americans in the cotton industry. The industry’s diversity whether one is owning a cotton processing plant, transporting product or working cotton ginning industry is extremely low. Historically cotton production involving minorities has been a blemish on America’s culture. Virginia’s cotton industry is not diverse but has opportunities for production and processing of cotton. Mr. Alphin said he wanted to see me as the first woman of color to invest in cotton production.
I started researching current cotton production by African Americans and discovered a new theme for cotton, Cotton is Our Culture. In North Carolina, Julius Tillery, CEO of Black Cotton.Us, LLC, http://blackcotton.us/about-us/. Black Cotton’s goal is encouraging cotton production and investing into a current market of decorative items featuring cotton bolls, cotton plants, cotton wreaths and many more. Black Cotton.Us is a business of cotton farming and production of decorative merchandise. Those decorative cotton items that will give your home the farmhouse feel. Because of cotton’s background I still will not purchase any of the decorative products of cotton for my home. I will support the growth of cotton production from field to final product by African Americans. I will support investments into design of cotton farmhouse products. My impression of cotton production changed to financial investments and supporting growth of the industry. Now I am more aware of why “Cotton is Our Culture” is Black Cotton’s slogan.
I am not ready give my home the cotton farmhouse decor but I will enjoy the potential of a beautiful cotton field.