The Debrief: How to Win Hearts This Hanukkah

OK, so maybe the title of this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. I actually have complicated feelings about gifts. They key to my heart is carved with attention, emotions and serious conversation. Show me you care about me by showing me you care about me—about my life and my experiences.

That said, maybe you want to get a gift for your spouse, sweetie or special someone. Something they’ll enjoy, admire or find interesting or meaningful. Maybe that’s something that supports social justice. Something that locates your connection (whether a long-term commitment or a fun flirtation-of-the-week) within the nationwide (worldwide?) conversation happening right now about race and racism in America. Something that shows you’re paying attention.

#NotOneDime calls for a December economic boycott on inessential retail spending. If shopping, support black-owned businesses and causes. Allies of all races are encouraged to support #BlackDecember in show of solidarity.

So here are my heart-winning, swoon-worthy gift ideas from (mostly Boston-based) black-owned businesses.

First, food:

Bring home a delicious surprise. Send chocolates in the mail. Plan a day or night out together. Food and romance have an age-old partnership, and for good reason.

Also, accessories:

I can’t actually eat most of the delicious-ness I described above, but I know any suitor who offers me a scarf or a pair of earrings is likely to make me pretty happy. Or my mom, to be honest, as I get most of my accessories from my mom.

  • Flauxy is jewelry designed and made by Keyse Angelo in Boston. You can assure the gift recipient that “each piece has a movement and durability to endure rough use by fabulously fancy people.” I love these pink earrings and this black-and-white necklace.
  • Fetysh Shoes & Accessories in Roslindale might require a field trip so your sweetie can try on shoes before you make a purchase. I’m intrigued by the boots and booties, but I might need to go to the Fetysh “Walking in Heels Class” in JP this Saturday before I can handle those heights on my own.
  • Haute Butch based in Santa Rosa, Calif., offers “a vibrant outward expression of dressing that represents the core of a butch woman’s gender presentation.” Complete with bow-ties, footwear and dress shirts.
  • Jameelah Woodard, aka Keep on Givin on Etsy, is based in Ontario, Calif., but can still help us stay warm in New England this winter. Check out the scarves, beanies and even baby blankets. (I’m trying hard to link to items that aren’t all pink. You’re probably buying things for people who aren’t actually me. And there are probably people out there who do actually like things that aren’t pink.)

Always, art:

Especially if you don’t live together, giving your sweetie the gift of art is a way to brighten their home space and be present in their lives even when you’re not physically there.

  • Black Art Collage features paper collages made by Monicka Hasan in Roxbury. For gifts that are both practical and beautiful, see her calendar and note cards in addition to her originals and prints available for purchase.
  • Ayana Mack does graphic design and freelance work in Boston. Take in her stunning paintings, sketches and illustrations. She has prints and greeting cards available upon requests.
  • Studio Vexer is an art and design studio run by Barrington Edwards in Dorchester. The “guiding principle” is that “art and design transform people from the inside out.” Ask about workshops and critique groups.
  • 950Design features prints by Cagen Luse on Etsy. If your lover is a bicycle lover, check out this tee and this tote bag.

Let’s call this “living”:

You’ll know if these gifts are right for your person. And if you don’t know, then maybe stick with the other sections.

  • Newbury Yarns on Newbury Street in Boston sells not just the things you need for knitting but also has tons of classes for people at beginner, intermediate and advanced skill levels.
  • Sankofa Sisters is a collective by and for women of African descent, currently selling natural deodorant to promote wellness. Check out this video to learn more.
  • The Rush Hour Mobile Dry Cleaning Service provides same-day cleaning with free pick-up and delivery. Just saying—sometimes the most romantic thing you can do is just help make the daily grind that much easier!

But obviously, books:

Maybe you’re confident in getting something your sweetie will be excited to read, or maybe you can go on a field trip together as a cozy way to spend a winter afternoon.

Or a Vineyard vacation:

Are my suggestions too tame for you? Looking to make a larger gesture? Lee Jackson Van Allen is the innkeeper at Shearer Cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s not too early to start fantasizing—and planning—for a summer getaway!

More miscellanies:

Some specific items online that seemed exciting…

There’s so much more! See these lists of black-owned Etsy shops, queer-black-owned businesses and organizations to support, and also Afrobella’s list of 101 independent black-owned businesses.

Please add your suggestions in the comments, as this list is not comprehensive by any means!