Defining what it means to be a Black man is among the most important goals for a newly opened Midtown gentlemen’s club, Christina Williams explained, offering insight into what men of color are raised and called to be — but that society has often twisted into something unfair.
“It has nothing to do with color. It’s more so about his character, his desire to be a person of impact in his community and his family. Someone that’s operating in a spirit of excellence — and anybody can do that,” said Williams, co-founder of The Blakk Co. — a members-only space for men of color to gather and connect, founded with the goal of empowering, uplifting, and encouraging them at a time they need it most.
“Men in our community don’t have a safe place to go — one that’s positive, one that focuses on uplifting and empowering them and allowing them to unapologetically be who they are,” Williams said, explaining that she and her best friend and co-founder, Tamela Ross, began work on The Blakk Co. shortly after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in spring 2020.
“From an entertainment standpoint, typically, when we all want to go out in our city, there’s a lot of different places to go — but there’s not always a lot of spaces where men of color feel welcome,” she explained, offering insight into the Black experience.
“A lot of times we’re still dealing with systemic racism — because you’re dressed a certain way or because you look a certain way you’re not always welcomed into a place. … We have to worry, ‘Are guns going to be drawn at the end of the night? Is it going to become a crime scene?’”
Opened at 36th and Main streets in June, The Blakk Co. offers everything from Kansas City Chiefs watch parties and barbering services to happy hours, discussions with guest speakers, coworking sessions and speed dating nights — each event curated by Williams and Ross and intentionally designed to capture the excitement of Kansas City’s nightlife and other amenities, reshaped in an image that’s free of such fears.
“We’re changing the narrative [that talks] about violence and [says,] ’All men of color are a threat.’ We know a lot of great guys,” she said. “I like to say Blakk is a hybrid experience. You do get the lounge component, but we’re not a bar. You do get the coworking component, but we’re not a WeWork coworking space. We have complimentary grooming [services] that we provide our members but that doesn’t make this a barbershop.”
“The men who walk through this door, they’re here because they want to be here; they’re here because they’re looking for somewhere nice to go where they don’t have to worry about all of those other factors. They can just kind of come in and be surrounded by goodness, good conversation, and positivity.”
One of the ways The Blakk Co. markets its message to the community is through apparel. Click here to shop its current collection online.
The Blakk Man
“The Blakk Man is powerful. A man of distinguished differences, societal importance and great significance. He is a man that understands his positions and knows his worth. He is an affirmed man, a leader, a father, a protector, a brother and friend to many.”
“He is the epitome of strength deep in his soul. He is well bodied and capable of moving mountains mentally and physically in his life. He is sure of where he sets his footprint in the world that constantly tells him where to stand.”
“He brings life to his family, community and abroad. The legacy that he works to build is done by relentless passions to ignite change, break barriers and shift nations at the completion of his work, done by his own hands.”
“He is the truth and he knows nothing more than to walk in it. He is called blessed and gives life to those that know him. He is excellence. He is blakk.”
Still in its infancy, the venture already has sparked partnerships with such organizations as Brown Sugar Collective, The Porter House KC, and WeCode KC — a sign of the community’s willingness to collaborate and the need to better support local Black men, Williams said, recalling words from Mayor Quinton Lucas during a ribbon cutting ceremony in early June that reinforced the timeliness and purpose of the business.
“He was wowed. He was like, ‘This is exactly what we need,’ those were his very words. A nice place, a place of positivity, a place that represents everything except for what we know to be on the local news at 9 o’clock at night,” she said.
“This is not a location where anybody can just walk in off the street. If you’re here, it’s because you’ve been invited to be here. [Our events] weed out the silliness or violence and, in many cases, systemic racism.”
While The Blakk Co. is designed to solve problems and meet the needs of men of color, membership isn’t exclusive to a particular demographic, Williams said.
“We welcome everyone and we’ve had guys who come in that are not men of color and they feel completely at home. We have a saying, ‘When you come into the club, you don’t leave out the same.’”
And, so far, no member or guest has — including Williams and Ross.
“We’re truly enjoying the experience of being in servitude. In our daily walks of life, everybody has a job to be of service to someone. This just happens to be the way that we are in our community,” she said, adding the company’s mission could give way to generational impact.
“It’s not just about the men, but also the youth — because they’re watching the men. Creating a space where you’ve got outstanding men of color connecting, it just changes the trajectory of what our community looks like overall. From man to man, child to child, we need to start somewhere. We need a positive start and that’s what we’re here to do.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.