Black-Owned Business Creates African Masks in Light of Pandemic

Miami Times photo illustration/Eman Elshahawy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that everyone where a face covering. This entrepreneur plays a role

“I don’t want to be compliant with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said no one ever amid national precautions to prevent the widespread coronavirus. Wearing a mask is acceptable conformity of the new normal, but let’s face it, surgical masks are just not cute.

Miami Times photo illustration/Eman Elshahawy

Currently, mask variations are limited to the cheap disposable masks issued upon admission to an emergency room or the more high-tech, medical sanitary surgical masks advertised on with a dust respirator, folding protection and ear and head handles that hang comfortable.

If neither of the latter fits your fashion fancy, Alexis Williams, founder of a local clothing boutique in Gulfport, MS, is doing her part to simultaneously fight the spread of the coronavirus and bring awareness to African culture.

Her company, Aloha Glamour, is selling reusable Ankara-print face masks in response to the desperate need for protective measures against the spread of COVID-19.

“My masks are 100% cotton, reversible, reusable and machine washable,” says Williams, whose boutique specializes in African-print and Hawaiian-inspired clothing.

“My masks are not meant to replace surgical masks, but it is a contingency plan for those who don’t have the ability to get surgical masks because of the shortage. It is not medical-rated, but it is good enough to filter our hazardous particles and bad smells. The response to it has been overwhelming and we want to do anything we can to help out.”

The Miami Times reported on Friday, April 3, that the CDC is now recommending that everyone wear a cloth, face covering when out in public places to protect others in case they are unknowingly infected with the virus.

Late Friday night, the agency updated its consumer-facing web page for COVID-19 self-protection with advisements to cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others because you could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.

According to the CDC, everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public. For example, if you are going to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities and cloth, wear a mask. Face coverings should not be placed on young children under age two or on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Further, the agency stressed, do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker. People in public should continue to keep about six feet between themselves and others because a cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing and that even asymptomatic people can spread coronavirus to others.

Dr. Otto Yang, a professor in the Dept. of Medicine and the Dept. of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles chimes in on the mask conversation with candor.

“The CDC, it’s like they’re talking out of both sides of their mouth,” Yang said in an interview excerpt with

“One side of their mouth is telling the general public, ‘Hey, you don’t need masks, forget about it.’ The other side is, ‘Health care workers need to wear N95 respirators. Is that a double standard? Are they valuing some people more than others?”

Yang encourages judgement and said that “If you’re out for a walk — in essence, going to a setting where you can be at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) from other people, “then I think that not having a mask is fine and that fits the CDC recommendations,”

The face masks sold by Williams in her Mississippi boutique are not N95 certified, but they are big enough to wear over top of a N95 mask. This helps with keeping your hands off your face, which is one of the primary ways in which the virus spreads.

For every face mask sold, Williams is donating a free one to local health care workers.

Williams says when she began selling the masks through her website and on social media last week in hopes that it would help others, the response was tremendous. Soon, she said, members of the healthcare community began reaching out to order masks as well.

“I decided to encourage my other customers to help provide masks for those on the front line in this pandemic battle,” Williams said.

“I asked them to make contributions so my business could provide face masks for someone in public service for free. Several of my customers have responded by donating to help in this important effort.”

For more details and/or to make a purchase, visit and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contributed to this report.

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