As a master writer for Hallmark, Melvina Young is well-practiced in keeping a finger on the pulse of her community; making note of the emotions they may need to express, and later translating them into a card.
“Our job really hinges on the power of empathy, that ability to get into someone else’s experience that has never been your own, and to treat that experience with respect,” said Young. “Consumers trust us to serve their emotional lives, and that’s an incredibly important thing.”
So, in the summer of 2020, as she saw injustices arise against the Black community, she and 10 other Black female writers, illustrators and editors knew Black people needed to see their experiences respected in the same way. As a result, they created Uplifted & Empowered, a collection of 11 cards written by and for Black people in need of support, hoping to offer words that express the solidarity and resilience their communities needed.
“We are unequivocally speaking to the fact that we know the Black community is deeply hurting right now and that we are connected with our traditions of resilience and overcoming,” said Young. “That tradition of Black support networks got us through all our tribulations and joys and it still gets us through.”
Courtney Taylor, a senior writer and community manager for Hallmark and another one of the project’s collaborators, said the collection allowed her to think about how she could help aid the healing process for people in her community. For one card, she asked herself how to express appreciation for the activists who often bear painful emotional burdens.
“You have to have people to turn to in the midst of racial violence. You have to have someone who will hold you, hear you, and speak for you when you can’t manage to speak and guide you when you can’t manage to go it alone,” said Taylor.
The cards are a part of Hallmark’s Mahogany collection, a line of cards that speak to the Black experience and culture. Hallmark has five other lines of cards aimed at specific communities, but the Uplifted & Empowered collection is the first to foray into the issue of race.
While the Uplifted & Empowered collection may be the first card collection aimed at racial resilience, Young said the power of words has long been revered in her community, pointing to the way prayers, hymns, shouts and protests have all played a large role in sustaining hope. She wanted the words on her cards to feel a part of those histories.
“The words I wrote in these cards are the same words I would give to my 23-year-old daughter, who’s brilliant and Black and struggling with racial injustice and inequality,” Young said. “They are the same words my mama, who held my hand as I walked through the front door of my newly integrated elementary school, said to me. These are the same words I tell my brother who’s a six feet four teddy bear of a Black man, but for whom the world only sees danger.”
Taylor agreed, saying she hopes the authenticity of the cards, which come from a place of true empathy, shines through while easing the burden of finding words to describe such difficult times.
“I think we really underestimate how hard it is to find those words, especially if you’re not a writer,” Taylor said. “So these cards get those words right. They give people the language to express their grief, their anger and hope, and that’s a really difficult thing to do sometimes.”
The cards were created by Black women from start to finish, with the group of women spearheading the creation of the collection, while also writing, designing, and editing it. Young said she hopes that process will help Black people feel represented, and offer them a means to share authentic, powerful messages.
“I hope that they can hear their own voices spoken back to them in their authentic cultural cadence with the expressiveness and lyricism and hidden poetry and casualness of our real conversations.”