By Carol Tannenhauser
This is why Linda Wolff, owner of CPW, a woman’s clothing boutique on Amsterdam and 84th Street, has had a #Black Lives Matter sign in her window since 2012.
I was raised in Scarsdale with an alcoholic father and a mother who was a gambler and I was abused physically and mentally. My savior was Earlene, my housekeeper for 13 years. My parents were never around and she raised me, took me to church. I received communion and ate fish on Fridays as a Jewish girl. Earlene knew enough not to leave me at home when she had vacation, so she took me with her to the projects in DC and I lived with her family for her vacation. Always. I was the only white person in the projects but they and I saw no color difference. They were the best and only great childhood memories I have.
When Earlene grew old, she moved back to DC to be with her family and eventually died, but she left a deep and lasting imprint on Linda, who has been a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement since it began after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. She immediately put up the sign.
I was broken. Being raised by a black woman for 13 years of my formative life, she was my mother. The Black Lives Matter movement started after Trayvon died and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted black and brown people to know they have a safe place to land in my store. ALWAYS. The amount of gratitude I receive from people of color for the sign is amazing. Truck drivers pull over, come to the store, hug and thank me. Women and men ring the bell and thank me for seeing them. I have been an activist for color since I was four. This isn’t new for me. I have no fear. I know what it feels like to be uncared for, unloved, disregarded, taken for granted and treated like I was invisible. My service to my community is that no one feels that way in my space. EVER.”
The Black Lives Matter sign has also brought Linda criticism and may have hurt sales, but she will not take it down.
Woman say they won’t shop in a store with that sign. Trump supporters threatened my life. Men come in and want to know do I care about them and do their lives matter? I say I’m not having this conversation. We are in the midst of a long-time-coming revolution. And I’m happy to be a part of it.
On Monday, Linda and other NYC retailers will enter Phase 1 of the state’s plan for reopening. She is unsure how or if curbside and in-store pickup, which is what retailers will be allowed, will work for a clothing store. “I just know I’ll be there,” she said, as she has been for 30 years. Follow her on instagram @cpwboutique or call (646) 637-5912.