Bay Area florist hands out yellow roses to celebrate black pride – NBC Bay Area
Most businesses are built from the ground up. So it’s fitting that Ariana Marbley’s career as a florist began with the land, tending the gardens alongside her grandfather in East Oakland.
“My love and appreciation for the things that would come out of Earth,” Marbley said. “I think I started there with him.”
These days, Marbley spins her magic with flowers in her garage in Oakland, the home port of her local business, Esscents of Flowers. After leaving a corporate gig at Chevron, she devoted herself to her business – expanding her client base like stretching flower petals.
And then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The world froze. His business too. Its impact was immediate.
“Within a week, all of my events were canceled,” she recalls.
But even locked up at home with her husband and two young sons, creativity seemed to bubble within her. She began cutting plants and flowers from the front yard, flowerbeds and neighborhood fields to put together elaborate bouquets.
“I started to forage for food just to stay sane and feel connected and grounded,” said Marbley, cuddling a bunch of dahlias in a vase.
As she struggled to figure out how to weather the COVID-19 storm, a second storm formed on the horizon with the death of George Floyd. Protesters filled the streets of the nation, fueled by a rage that Marbley knew well growing up in Oakland. As a black woman, she clamored for a way to give voice to the growing protests and tapped into a resource she knew well: flowers.
She came up with the idea of giving black roses yellow roses, as a symbolic way to let them know they were seen and heard. She called for volunteers to help distribute them.
“So all over Oakland there were people handing out yellow roses to black men, women and children,” Marbley said, “and the response was absolutely amazing.”
His own business began to see the fruits of the new consciousness, as a wave of new customers sought out black-owned businesses to support. The orders came from people in places she didn’t even recognize.
Yet even among the new supporters, the old world still seemed to rear its ugly head. She applied for PPE loans to support businesses during the pandemic, but never got a response.
It was the epitome of recent federal studies that showed black-owned businesses were less likely to be eligible for pandemic loans than white businesses. The reasoning was that black business owners were less likely to have relationships with banks.
Marbley remembers when she started her business and went to a bank to apply for a $ 5,000 seed loan.
“I remember going to several different banks and each of them was turned down,” she said. “To be completely honest, I didn’t think I was going to put a lot of money in a bank just by being a black woman.”
One recent day, while Marbley was working at a table full of flower orders, his young sons Jalen and Landen walked in and out of the garage, bouncing between virtual lessons and playing with the neighborhood kids. She coaxed them to sweep the floor full of newspaper clippings.
“I am proud for my mother that she achieved her goals in life,” Jalen offered before running away.
Although big weddings are on hold, Marbley sees business flourish again. She is busy making home deliveries and selling bouquets in a neighborhood café.
“We have good days and we have bad days,” said Marbley from behind a wall of mud. “But I have to keep hope.”