When Anika Hobbs, founder and lead curator of the Nubian Hueman boutique, began looking for a location several years ago, she knew a few things were important to her vision.
Though Nubian Hueman — a name based on the origins of humanity and the array of ways the African Diaspora is represented — began as an online store with an occasional pop-up presence, Hobbs, who had studied environmental design and interior architecture at Syracuse University and began working with H&M upon graduating, had larger designs.
Eventually, she would go on to spend over 12 years with H&M in various capacities, including working as the Mid-Atlantic district manager and helping to open the British fashion company’s first store in China.
Her experiences and knowledge gained in that process made her confident in her ability to execute her vision for Nubian Hueman, and judging by the beautifully designed space at Anacostia Art Center, where she eventually settled, most would agree she has succeeded.
“[We work in] 27 countries and six continents,” she said. “We’re just really big advocates for supporting the independent artists and getting them a brick-and-mortar space to showcase their work.”
As important as their international interests have been to been to the development of the space, their annual Black Luv Experience event at the center has been also key to forging community ties.
“There are so many people that believe in what we do,” Hobbs said. “We’re proving that we are here to stay and we are willing to do the hard work to be here.”
Started in 2014 with a handful of vendors in a smaller space inside the Arts Center, the Black Luv Experience has since grown exponentially, with last year’s event attracting over 1,300 participants throughout the entire center as well as the adjacent Honfleur Gallery.
“It’s another night of black excellence,” Hobbs said.
This year’s event, with its “Black Panther”-inspired “Welcome to Wakanda” theme, featured more than 20 vendors, DJ Underdog and DJ Native Sun, performances from musical artists including Tabi Bonney and Sa Roc and several panel discussions.
Risikat Okedeyi, a well-regarded local content creator, functioned as one of the curators of the Black Luv Experience.
“I had been introduced to Anika through a mutual friend and my first foray into the Anacostia Arts Center was because of her,” Okedeyi said. “And when I saw the Experience and what was happening I was like, ‘I have to be a part of this.’”
Speaking on her goals for the event, Okedeyi said, “What we’ve done for the past two years the model has been to create panel discussions that are timely and topical but also to create workshops that allow women and men to have private conversations and then something that brings everyone together.”
Jay Sun, music curator for the Black Luv Experience, offered effusive praise for Hobbs.
“She’s a beautiful addition to our community, she runs a good business, she does outreach in the community, and she has established herself as a humanitarian and a philanthropist both through her store and her personal life,” said Sun, a lifelong Anacostia resident.