Crowdsourcing a time machine
By Angelina Brede
When George Floyd’s untimely death sparked protests in major cities around the country, Bret Moore knew she needed to do something.
“I think I’ve always really struggled to find where I should be in any movement,” said Moore, a Black designer and Ph.D. candidate in the University of Michigan’s Department of English Language and Literature.
Cue Hubris & Homefries, an Etsy shop that Moore runs out of her Ann Arbor home, where she crafts polymer clay earrings, bolo ties, broaches and other accessories. Since its opening in late February 2020, it has become a successful business that has garnered over 300 sales.
“I’ve never felt like I was really a ‘front-lines’ person—which, I recognize, is a privilege, not being there,” she said. “I feel really guilty about not putting my body on the front lines as often as I would like to or as often as I see other people doing it. But I knew that I needed to do something, and I thought ‘OK, I have this platform and that is something I can use to contribute.'”
With the 1,500 followers Moore has gained on her Instagram account since launching it to promote her business, she decided to utilize it to advocate for and financially support those protesting against police brutality.
Shortly after the protests began in May, Moore started posting weekly auctions on Instagram, which she called “Earrings for the Revolution.” All of the proceeds go to the Detroit Justice Center, a nonprofit organization that she chose for its focus on “reuniting families and restoring the presumption of innocence by paying bail for people in need.”
She has raised $430 to date.
“I specifically wanted to raise money to bail out protesters, and it feels good to be able to help in some way,” Moore said. “And I’m still going—I think it’s important that we not go ‘OK, the week is over.'”
Moore has always expressed an interest in art and clothing. In fact, she started her first iteration of Hubris & Homefries in Brooklyn in 2006, where she began crafting handbags for fashion shows and local stores. The name of the store comes from her time in New York, where she spent most of her adult life.
“We would pose in the photo booths around Williamsburg,” Moore said. “While we were in the booth, my partner would say something like ‘chiffon daydream’ as a directive for how we might pose. Hubris & Homefries came out of that surrealist wordplay of my early 20s.”
In addition to earrings, Hubris & Homefries also sells homemade bolo ties, pendants and wall hangings as custom pieces, which feature famous Black writers, thinkers and activists such as James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Billie Holiday, Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde and Nina Simone, to name a few.
As a doctoral candidate in English, Moore teaches a course on Black writers and how we define political writing and resistance.
“The course considers how we think about modes of Black resistance and how our thinking has been shaped by the male thinkers of the Black Nationalist movement,” she said. “As part of the class, we discuss how an infusion of intersectional Black feminism and influential Black women writers might alter our thinking about Black resistance and Black movements against oppression.”
Moore has dreams of opening her own vintage clothing store one day. For now, she is writing her dissertation, which focuses on the connections fostered through clothing—and in the age of COVID-19, she has had more time to create products for her shop.
“I think COVID-19 and isolation has been a time where people really want to make things with their hands,” she said. “I think having this meditative practice where I can sit down with a pile of clay and in an hour or two produce a whole tray of earrings from start to finish has just really been a gift. And that my pieces enter into someone’s style repertoire, their daily practice of care and adornment—that is everything.”