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Event will celebrate 50 years of history for ‘Nubian Notion’

Shanice Maxwell | 4/10/2013, 7:04 a.m.

After 50 years of dedicated service, a community gem will receive special recognition.

On Wednesday, April 17, the event “What is the Notion? A History of A Nubian Notion, Inc.” will commemorate the once-largest Afro-centric store in Boston.

As the central focus of the Roxbury History Speaker Series, a program presented by the Roxbury Historical Society, the store will be revered for its rich history. Co-sponsors include Haley House Bakery Café, Discover Roxbury and Shawmut Design and Construction.

The evening will consist of a presentation of the store’s history followed by a panel reflecting on the importance, influence and impact of the renowned black owned business.

In an era when finding treasured items and artifacts specific to black culture was a rarity, A Nubian Notion represented positive reflections of such. Items such as hand-crafted jewelry, fabric, art, books, cards, Afro-piks and dashikis created by Mrs. Elva Lee C. Abdal-Khallaq, the wife of the late founder, were available to the Roxbury community and its visitors.

While running A Nubian Notion and in his daily living, Founder and Owner Malik A. Abdal-Khallaq always sought to provide knowledge, self-awareness and a strong sense of cultural identity to others

Malik A. Abdal-Khallaq desired for all to understand the essence and beauty of knowing who they were and where they came from. He would often remind daughter Jumaada Abdal-Khallaq Henry Smith and her siblings — really anyone that would listen — about the power encapsulated within them.

“My father really loved education, both my parents did. They were always sharing something with others,” Abdal-Khallaq Henry Smith added.

“[My father] never did anything without a meaning or purpose,” brother Sharif Abdal-Khallaq added.

Another concept both parents instilled in their 10 children from a very early age that carried over into their businesses was cooperative economics. The strength of working collectively was something that never dissipated, but aided them as they took on roles in Abdal-Khallaq’s first business, Beau Brummel Tonsorial Emporium, and eventually, A Nubian Notion.

Thankful for these lessons, Abdal-Khallaq Henry Smith is excited for what the event will hold.

Candelaria Silva-Collins, panel moderator for the event, is also looking forward to a spectacular evening.

Silva-Collins, a St. Louis native who moved to Boston after attending college here, remembers first visiting the store to buy hair products. Years later, she would be responsible for bringing tours there through jobs she held at Boston Children’s Museum and ACT Roxbury.

“Staying with the community, staying in the community, expanding within the community and never leaving for 45 years or more [is their] incredible legacy,“ Silva-Collins said. “They’ve been a model of how a family business can survive and thrive. I’m looking forward to learning more and also pointers on how families can work together to sustain a business. Their longevity is notable.”

This isn’t the first of the Historical Speaker Series events she’s been to, but Silva-Collins is eager to attend to this one.

“Because A Nubian Notion is a great family-owned business we wanted a way to pay tribute,” she said. “One of the things Discover Roxbury really tries to do is acknowledge the living representatives of the rich history in Roxbury.

“And in terms of history, everything that any of us are doing today has happened because somebody else did the same,” she added. “So sometimes people reinvent the wheel when they don’t have to; sometimes you can start at a higher place by learning what went before, but that can’t happen if [we] don’t know our history.”

The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Haley House Bakery Café on 12 Dade St. in Roxbury. The audience is invited to bring memories to share and enjoy an evening of fellowship in honor of A Nubian Notion’s legacy.


Dinner will be available for purchase beginning at 5 p.m. Parking is free in the Haley House lot.