Breast Cancer Survivor, Activist, & Sexuality Educator Ericka Hart’s Brooklyn Home Is a Celebration of Blackness

updated Dec 19, 2019

Breast Cancer Survivor, Activist, & Sexuality Educator Ericka Hart’s Brooklyn Home Is a Celebration of Blackness

updated Dec 19, 2019
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Name: Ericka Hart and Ebony Donnley, and Baguette X, the dog
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Years Lived In: 3 months, renting

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Ericka Hart, activist, breast cancer survivor, and sex/racial/social justice educator for the past decade, and her partner Ebony Donnley (a writer, audio engineer, and Ericka’s manager), have filled their bright Brooklyn apartment with an array of personal objects, a beautiful paint palette, and a palpable atmosphere of warmth and welcoming. It’s an impressive feat, considering they’ve only been in the rental for a few months. 

Plants—and the connection with nature—are an important part of their home’s decor. “For me, our place is centered around plants,” says Ericka. “Plants are like my altars. Being grounded and being connected to the soil is very near and dear to our ancestral lineage.”

The most powerful part of their home’s decor—and the couple’s favorite element—is how their space represents and celebrates Blackness. “From the rare, vintage black art, photos, original hardcover books, magazines, artifacts, and antiques, to our vinyl record collection, we take great pride in preserving our African ancestry and Black American heritage,” writes Ebony. 

Family photos also fill the home; a way to stay close to their families that live in Puerto Rico and California. The couple, who have been together for three years, have also layered a variety of textures to create a richly decorated space, and to marry their two different design styles together. “I love rattan and bohemian style,” Ericka says. “If it was up to me the whole place would be filled with rattan furniture, funky rugs, and stuff, but Eb hates that.” Ebony explains: “I like textures, I like structured things, I like woods and leathers, and suede, I like the way certain things feel.”

Along with her educator work, Ericka is available for speaking gigs. Check out many different videos and articles that have featured her, and listen to the podcast she and Ebony have, called “Hoodrat to Headwrap: A Decolonized Podcast.”

Credit: Apartment Therapy Video

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Our style is clean, classic, funky, eclectic—black! Textured, but homely. I’m (Ebony) more of a minimalist but Ericka is a rattan freak and if she could fill the house with it from wall to wall, she would. Thankfully, I’ve foiled her wicker plans and we’ve struck a happy medium full of hella different types of textures—glass, “pleather,” faux fur, wood, suede, etc. I really value records and rarities, as you’ll see we have vinyl accessible in multiple places throughout the home so you can slap on the go.

Inspiration: Older black people, our grandmothers and mothers—how they used to keep house. Plants and definitely family. Our families live in Puerto Rico and California, respectively, so it was important for us to have photos of them all around the house to ground and comfort us.

Favorite Element: Our favorite element is by far how representative and celebratory of blackness our home is. From the rare, vintage black art, photos, original hardcover books (such as one of a limited copies of ‘Negro in Our History’ by Carter G. Woodson), magazines, artifacts, and antiques, to our vinyl record collection, we take great pride in preserving our African ancestry and Black American heritage. They are the most valuable pieces in our home. And it wasn’t enough for us to just have emblems and images of Black Americana, we also sourced all of these items from local black-owned businesses in Brooklyn and even some of our furniture pieces like the Noguchi glass coffee table from BLK MKT Vintage in Brooklyn and other furniture stores like Peace and Riot in Brooklyn and Material Life in New Orleans. [We actually toured Material Life owner’s New Orleans home!]

Biggest Challenge: Applying and being approved for the apartment was by far the biggest challenge we faced. Gentrification is endemic in Brooklyn, so alongside the widespread displacement of black folks in historically black neighborhoods exist major systematic impediments to housing security for us. Though recent changes in New York City rent laws are attempting to mitigate some of these effects, the process of finding an apartment here is still very discriminatory and racist, especially for black, queer, and trans people.

What Friends Say: “I’ma just spend the night”—them, three nights later.

Proudest DIY: Well, the “D” in this case would stand for “design” it yourself, but we love our custom wooden shelves made for us by Steph at Jack of All Trades in NYC. Ericka told him what she wanted and he made it happen all by hand.

Biggest Indulgence: Green suede couch from Joybird.

Best Advice: Shop local, buy black.

Dream Sources: A home that we own.

Resources

PAINT & COLORS

  • BEHR Premium Plus Ultra 1 gal. #220B-7 Electric Orange Eggshell Enamel Interior Paint and Primer in One for altar way in hallway
  • BEHR Premium Plus Ultra 1 gal. #M160-4 She Loves Pink Eggshell Enamel Interior Paint and Primer in One
  • BEHR Marquee Tournament Field (Green) Eggshell Primer in One

ENTRY

  • Hall Tree (hall tree is the type of chair, brand unknown) — Dobbin St. Coop (vintage item, deadstock)

LIVING ROOM

  • Lewis Sectional — Joybird
  • Noguchi Cof ee Table — BLK MKT Vintage
  • Industrial Modular 33’’ Bookshelf — West Elm Ashlyn
  • Bookshelf— Cost Plus World Market
  • Vintage Cowhide Wingback — Dobbin St. Coop
  • Vintage Wicker Chair — BLK MKT Vintage
  • Big Dipper Arc Floor Lamp — CB2
  • Vintage Kenwood Ka3500 Amplifier — eBay
  • Nina Simone Art Work by Broobs
  • Decorative Pillows — Jungalow
  • Rug — Jungalow

DINING ROOM

  • Vintage Bench — Dobbin St. Coop
  • Poster of Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx from Domino Sugar Factory Exhibit
  • Pressing Comb — Jinxed Philadelphia
  • Spider Cactus — Marche Rue Dix

KITCHEN

  • Original satirical ad from the ’70s making fun of original “Coppertone Girl” ad from 1953 to address stereotypes that only white people needed protection from sun
  • “Nurture” Print sent to us by Loveis Wise, the first black artist to illustrate a cover of the New Yorker.

BEDROOM

  • Alocacia and Bird of Paradise — Da Hing Flower Shop
  • Rug — Cost Plus World Market
  • Vanity — Vintage, stained and refurbished by Kiyanna and Jannah of BLK MKT Vintage
  • Altar Wall Colon Statues — BLK MKT Vintage
  • Mudcloth — Our friend Nzinga Dotson-Newman

OFFICE

  • Green bookshelves — Hand painted by JOATNYC
  • Shelves came — Bedford Galleries Antique Furniture Store in Bedstuy
  • Printer’s Large Writing Desk — Pottery Barn
  • IKEA Kallax Unit
  • Vintage Suede Wingback — Dobbin St. Coop

Thanks Ericka and Ebony!

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*Correction: Jannah of BLK MKT Vintage was initially written incorrectly as “Jay.”