Woman sells items of African culture at shop, events

June 18, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.

Brenda Sorrell is a familiar face in the Crossroads area, especially during Juneteenth events.

Sorrell, who owns the shop Ebony Fashions, is often seen in her vendor's booth at various celebrations offering items of African culture for sale.

"I became interested in African-American history because it was not being taught in the high school or college where I attended," she said.

Although the college said it was working on it, nothing ever came of it, she said.

"There were ethnic studies on other cultures but nothing on mine. The way I see it is that my culture is just as valuable as any of the others. How else are people supposed to understand people from other traditions if you don't know anything about their culture?" Sorrell said.

She is from Edna but works as a substitute teacher for the Edna and Victoria school districts. She lives in Victoria as her job requires.

Sorrell's shop offers dashikis, African jewelry, caftans, kente cloth, George fabric, brocades, mud cloths, koosis (koe-sees), round pillbox caps and fabrics by the bolt.

"I have a catalog that I distribute in the fall and spring. I give them out to my customers, but they are not yet available online," Sorrell said.

Her shop is also popular with non-African-Americans.

"You don't have to be black to like African clothes," she said. "I think that every household should have some form of African culture, especially if it's a black or an interracial household. You should have something for both races to instill cultural pride in the family."

She added that women like the sarans, which they can wrap around their bodies while on the beach or on a casual outing. They also like the jewelry.

Sorrell said people of all ethnicities like to buy the kuns, and some Hispanic men like the African shirts because they are so similar to the shirts that are worn in Latin America. A lot of people like it, she said, because African clothes are so comfortable and very colorful. Large people love it because they can find fashionable clothes in their size of the same style as the smaller sizes.

"One black guy was looking for something to buy for his wife. I showed him a pair of unisex shorts with a matching shirt. He held it up to his body and finally said, 'Shoot, I want this for myself,'" she said.

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