If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, it’s possible you’ve spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on Disney-themed trinkets and souvenirs in mere minutes. Every 10 feet is a cart or actual store selling such items that are hard to pass up when you’re in such a magical place. But if you walk through Downtown Disney, it’s impossible to miss the Post 21 cart filled with essential oils, scented candles, handmade jewelry, and colorful eye-catching books, puzzles, and affirmation cards uniquely designed for children of color. The business was created by a Mother-Daughter duo, Juana Williams and Blair Paysinger, who for years, wanted a full marketplace that focused on modern and design-forward products from Black-owned businesses. The duo makes up the first and currently only full-time Black-owned business in Downtown Disney.
Shadow and Act was invited to Disneyland’s first-ever #CelebrateSoulfully event for media. The event was to kick off June’s Black Music Month with a curated experience centered on immersive attractions in the park, tours, and a special preview to watch the newest production, Tale of The Lion King, and speak to the creators and choreographers of the new show.
While buying Princess Tiana ears and Mickey Mouse teacups are a given when you’re in such a magical place, Post 21 offers that Black-girl magic we all know, love, and need. We spoke with the mother-daughter duo bringing their brand Disneyland, the reception, hopes for the future of their business and businesses alike, and more.
S&A: What's the significance of the name of your business?
JW: As many know, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the Greenwood District was Black Wall Street, in 1921 there was a complete massacre of the entire town, including all of the business. At that time, it was one of the largest legitimate businesses of all Black-owned businesses. So that’s what our foundation was. With the name, we’re like, ‘OK, it’s post-1921 now and it’s a new day. We will never be guarded again. That will never happen.’ And here we are today to build Black businesses.
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How did you end up in Downtown Disney versus getting a storefront elsewhere?
JW: Disney called us. We had no intentions of doing an actual location. We thought we were just a retail business. And as far as scaling, we had moved to corporate gifting. So we also did that. We did not think that this was something that was on our path, but when they came to us then they asked, we said, ‘Let’s look into this.’ We really did it for fun. We thought, ‘Can we pull this off? Can we really do it?’ And in fact, our first call is most interesting.
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First of all, we didn’t even believe it was really Disney. But when we talked to them, we were like, ‘Did you realize that Post-21 is these two people right here on the phone call with you? ‘Like we’re the whole operation right now.’ So from the time they called to the time we actually moved onto the resort, it was about a year, a little less than a year. The goal was to be open by Christmas. And that was only two months before the November holiday. The shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic happened in the middle of our planning to open.
We had been planning for you know a couple of years before that to be a story and we’d always plan to open on June 1st because of Black Wall Street. But it just so happened that was the day when a lot of other things happened. So it wasn’t just the pandemic, but it was also the fight for social justice. And that was like the first day of the conversation transitioning to, ‘We need to do something about this.’ And supporting black-owned businesses is the way to do it. So having us was kind of just a one way to do it.
How do you feel about Disney's diversity and inclusion efforts with #CelebrateSoulfully and their intentional efforts to have people of color and their patrons and guests immersed in our culture and our lifestyle within the parks? And how does Post 21 fit into that?
JW: I really didn’t know what they were doing before, but I can speak to how it’s been for us since we’ve been here since the past Christmas holiday. So for the event, there was one #CelebrateSoulfully event in February in honor of Black History Month. So I appreciate that. I appreciate that they called us and that when we become part of Downtown Disney, it is just not this one Black-owned business, but it’s all these Black-owned businesses that are in the works as a permanent fixture here and even those that are just pop-up shops or temporary experiences. So I appreciate that.
And as far as Disney as a whole, I would like to have the time to find out exactly all that they’re doing. But the way they’ve been with us from the beginning has been amazing.
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BP: For us, they were extremely helpful. They gave us that’s all we needed. They answered every question we had and supported us in every way we needed it.
JW: They really held our hand through the process.
How has the reception been from Disneyland consumers?
BW: A lot of people have said they’re so happy to see us here. They’re so happy that Disney is making these improvements. And I think the reception has been pretty positive.
JP: Since we’ve been here, and especially at Christmas time when we first got here, we literally saw people come to our stand and when they would see our books and our puzzles and our pictures, the reaction has been amazing. They’d tell us, ‘You have no idea how good it feels to see ourselves here.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I do. I understand exactly how you feel.’ So it has been a great experience.