Interview: Destiny Harris on her Business, Art, & Organizing (1/3)

[Image Description: Destiny Harris wearing an orange top and orange accessories]

Interview by Ellanora Lerner

This piece is part of a three-part interview. Click the links below to read more.

On Community Organizing|On going to an HBCU

This is an interview with Destiny Harris (she/her, they/them, anything said with love and respect). Destiny is a Black queer artist and organizer from the westside of Chicago and a student at Howard University. You can find Destiny on Instagram @whole.hearted.hoodlum and selling handmade wire earrings and loc jewelry @dipsandcoils

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Ellanora: Thank you for talking to me today. So, to start off, can you tell me about your business and why you started it?

Destiny: So, I consider myself a little fashionista, or whatever (laughs). I love clothing, it's my favorite thing to do. I’m a big fan of monochrome and 90s aesthetic, and also streetwear and like, ‘little kid’ aesthetic. I dress up no matter where I’m going. If I’m going to the corner store, I’m in the bathroom trying to color coordinate something. 

[Image Description: Destiny Harris wearing a green top and green lock jewelry]

Accessories are a big part of my outfits, earrings are the accessories I wear the most. Oddly enough, I’m allergic to nickel, so I would always see really cute earrings and I’m like, ok I want to wear these but then they would break my ears out. I can only keep them in my ears for enough time to take a picture (laughs) and then I have to take them out. 

I was in AP 3-D art class my senior year of high school and one of our assignments for our portfolio was to make something wearable and I was like - I want to make some earrings, because again that’s like the accessory I wear the most. In my art studio we had a miscellaneous closet that I would always go to to find inspiration for the assignments. So, I just went into the miscellaneous closet and I found this large ass role of wire and I was like I’m gonna make some earrings out of this (laughs). And I was like I have no idea how I’m gonna do it though because the wire was so, like, you had to use all your back strength just to bend the wire.

It was also last minute. It was like the week before the AP exam and I was like oh my gosh I’m so behind, I’ve just got to pump something out at this point. So, I made some earrings and it looked horrible, and they were entirely too heavy. But I got a friend who was my model for all of my pieces to model them for me and I took pictures of it. And that was that. 

My art teacher was like, “I know you really rushed, but I bet if you got a better gauge of wire and sharpened it people would be interested in buying the earrings”. And I was like hmmm, would I wear these? Probably not (laughs) - because they were so ugly. But my friend made them look a lot better than they actually were when she modeled them. So, I ran a poll on my ig, and I asked folks like, hey if I made these look actually cute, would you be interested in buying them? And a lot of folks were like, yeah, these are cool, they’re different, they’re unique. 

And so, I didn’t do nothing with them for like, a month and then I was like, you know what let me try and make these earrings. I found some more wire that was better, and I started making them. Most of my costumers were people in my high school, so I would go around school and there would be people walking around the halls with them. 

And then, after I graduated high school I was like, ok, that was nice while it lasted. And I didn’t do anything for the first four months I was in DC [at college] and then in December, I was like maybe I should go back to this (laughs), maybe this is something I should do. So, I made an Instagram page, didn’t do nothing with it again (laughs). I made a couple posts, vendored at a show, and then I didn’t do nothing with it until March [of 2020]. March is when I actually decided that I was gonna use it and be committed. 

So, there was a lot of on and off and on and off and on and off but that’s how I got into it. 

[Destiny Harris wearing rainbow earrings and loc jewelry]

Ellanora: Do you see this business as tied in with the community organizing that you do?

Destiny: So, I’m an artist and poetry is my main thing. I’ve been writing since I was in third grade, been performing competitively since I was in fifth grade. So, art came into my life way before organizing did. I didn’t get into community organizing until like my freshman year of high school. But the reason I got involved with community organizing was because most of my art was political, about my experiences. Like what does it mean to be a Black, queer, poor - you know, all that stuff. That was the bulk of what my writing was about and so I was like wow community organizing, not only can I like express my fears but I can really work to fix systems of oppression. 

As I first got into community organizing, I realized that art and organizing are inseparable. Art is a very important part of movements and in our art we organize when we’re speaking to our experiences. 

When I got into earring making, weirdly enough, I didn’t consider it art. People would be like, oh my gosh I love your art. And I would be like, eh is this art? (laughs) In enough time I guess I realized that it is. 

I didn’t think that jewelry making would become political, but I guess it kinda was inevitable. Like, I hate capitalism and I’m working against all these other things organizing and obviously, my audience is predominantly Black and predominantly queer. 

Again, I know that art and organizing are inseparable, it was just a matter of me realizing that jewelry making is a form of art. And a radical form of art if I might add. I didn’t come into this with the intention of this being political but with my personality and my organizing and my other art, it was kinda inevitable that it did occur.