Story by Amber Chen
Photo by Anitra Terrell
South Pasadena’s lack of diversity is inevitably paralleled in the business landscape. Reflektion Design, which operates online versus from a brick and mortar store, is based in South Pasadena and is this city’s only Black owned business.
Anitra Terrell founded Reflektion Design in 2013 when she was laid off from another job and decided to take the opportunity to forge her own path. Reflektion Design is based on her travels to Ghana as a textile buyer and Fulbright scholar. The store sells home decor, accessories, jewelry, and textiles all from Africa. Terrel talked with Tiger about the racism she has experienced as a resident of South Pasadena.
Why did you choose to live in South Pasadena?
Anitra Terrell: I chose to live in South Pasadena because it’s beautiful. There’s lots of green space, it’s quiet, and close to the gold line. It has a small town charm but it’s close to the city qualities that fit my personality.
What experiences with racial profiling have you encountered at South Pasadena?
One day me and a friend were taking product photos on a bridge across the street from my home. After 20 minutes or so into taking the photos, a police officer drove up and asked us what we were doing and why we were on the bridge. He said someone called the cops on us and reported our behavior was suspicious and looked like drug activity.
I will never forget this incident because it was shocking, offensive and ridiculous. I was across the street from my home, a place I’d lived for 7 years and yet I couldn’t enjoy it because I looked suspicious. Given the current climate I am grateful the situation ended peacefully because it may not have.
Why do you think South Pasadena only has one Black owned business?
The business community reflects the overall community. When you want to start a business, you consider its diversity and the likelihood that the community would support your business. So if you don’t see yourself there you’re less likely to open a business there.
What has your experience been as a Black business owner?
There’s been highs and lows. Any business owner will tell you the first few years are rough but overall I’m so glad I chose entrepreneurship as my path. Through my website I am able to share beautiful decor and accessories from Africa with people all over the world. Locally, however my products tend to resonate with people in other parts of Los Angeles. So even though I live in South Pasadena, the majority of business comes from parts of L.A.”
Do you think the community here is doing enough to foster acceptance of Black people?
Black people are not looking for acceptance instead we are looking for the same things everyone else is: a safe place to raise a family, live and thrive. To exist without the fear of attack. I do think South Pasadena could do more to create things that would attract the Black community.
The Chamber of Commerce could play a major role in fostering relationships/encouraging black businesses to set up shop in South Pasadena for example. I also think the variety of businesses in the area could use some mixing up. There isn’t anything cultural that would attract diverse groups of people [to] the area, which is why you see more people gravitating towards Old Town Pasadena, Leimert Park or Downtown LA.
What steps should South Pasadena take in order to make Black people feel welcome?
One of the first things South Pasadena can do is diversify who is at the table making decisions, from positions in city government, to teachers to having more black owned businesses in the area. Next is housing, the consequences of redlining should be addressed and more can be done to attract black home buyers to the area. [However, there are also things that can be implemented fairly easily] that would make Black people feel welcome. [For example], there’s a recreation center in the area. Diversifying the program offerings, staff, and instructors would attract other ethnic groups.
[South Pasadena is a] beautiful community that for a variety of reasons looks a certain way. It would benefit so much from diversity and culture in ways that it can’t even imagine.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences. South Pasadena has so much potential, I look forward to seeing the community diversify.