Through a chance social media meeting, I came in contact with Kaasim, grandson of the founder of , “A Nubian Notion Inc.” As it turns out Kaasim has relatives who are Cape Verdean and I mentioned that I had written some articles for Cabo Verde Network.
One thing lead to another and so we have the interview below.
CVN: Not everyone necessarily knows what A Nubian Notion is. I had heard the name growing up, but you describe what it is a little for the readership who may not be familiar?
Kaasim: My Grandfather Malik Abdal-Khallaq went to Egypt and brought back a few items that he displayed in his Barbershop located on Humbolt Avenue named Beau Nubian Brummel Tonsorial Emporium. Because of the need and want for these items during the Civil Rights movement, he founded A Nubian Notion Inc. the storefront lasted from 1962 till 2017 until it was closed years after his death. A lot of people miss it, including me, and I’ve come in contact with a lot of people who want it to come back. It is still much needed today, in my personal opinion more than ever right now. I’m currently working and building my own store and my Uncle has an extension of his own store also. It was a Family Business so any Businesses that we have is an extension of his (my grandfather’s) idea.
Yes, my Grandfather started it with my Grandmother. I think the idea, from what I’ve read online came from his customers in his barbershop wanting the items he displayed that he brought back from his trip to Egypt.
“I believe that A Nubian Notion was and still is a Concept.”
In my own opinion, I speak for myself only and not on behalf of my family. But I believe that A Nubian Notion was and still is a Concept. It’s a Nubian Concept. We are Nubian People in America and we have to understand that. We have been cut off from our History and i think that his Life work was to reconnect his people back to their History and Educate them on where they came from. One thing I can say about my Grandfather was he was a teacher not in the typical fashion of an Educator. But just the fact that he had obtained Knowledge and he tried to Empower his people with that knowledge that the history books have kept from us. I think that was part of his Notion was sharing the knowledge. He taught so many Arabic. If I’m not mistaken, he taught me a little but I was so young i didn’t pick it up. I was 9 when he passed. I remember his funeral and feeling sad and walking down Humboldt to his barbershop and all of my friends from my Elementary school the Trotter on Humboldt, just giving me their condolences and I remember how many people attended his funeral. It was surreal, like a movie. I always looked up to him. He is the Bar that I’ve personally set. He was my Michael Jordan. I have this saying everyone wanted to be like Mike, I wanted to be like Malik. I think his Nubian concept, his notion is being set into motion. As you see Roxbury changing from the Black Historic Dudley Station to Nubian Square. The name is something you can’t take away at least right now. You see Black Market in Nubian Square. As many people that reach out to me and tell me stories of my Grandfather and his Barbershop or their experiences in the store. It just shows me how many lives he impacted from a career that many don’t see as glorious. I mean he was a Barber, he wasn’t a president, a politician or a celebrity. He was a humble hardworking man and an everyday joe. But he wasn’t average, he wasn’t regular. He is revered in Boston in Roxbury and by people that know him with the same respect people hold for Malcolm, Martin, Farrakhan, Ali and others. I personally think he doesn’t get celebrated enough for the Black Man he was. But that’s the way he wanted it. But he deserves his roses. He’s still teaching a lot of us and he hasn’t been on this Earth since 1996. Now that’s Legacy, that’s impact. And a positive one. One thing that amazes me is how many people tell me how he was such a great man and how many people he still impacts till this day. I’ve literally heard thousands of stories from strangers since I was a kid. It’s really an amazing thing, sometimes I took it for granted because he was my Grandfather.
I wish the whole world got to experience his teachings.
But as I get older I realize how amazing of a Black Man he was. For him to have the knowledge to reclaim his History and his Name. For him to bless me and my uncles and aunts and cousins with our names, I thank God every day for that man. I remember hating as a kid when people would mispronounce my name and having to educate them on how to pronounce it. Not even realizing that he made me a teacher just by giving me a name that wasn’t easy to pronounce. Learning on my own how to educate people and have that tough conversation. Some people might not catch that but I think I get my deep thinking and thoughts from him. Also, from what I’ve read and have been told he was big on self-independence. Nothing was given to me. I’ve had to earn everything really. I remember once I started working at the Store, my mom made me pay for my own stuff. I started buying my own wardrobe as a teen, food etc. I read in the Globe in an article after his death I believe that my Uncle said that my grandfather made them pay for their own haircut. There Weren’t any free haircuts in the barbershop just because they were brothers. They (My Uncles) also had to pay for their own clothes. So I know he was big on self-independence. My Uncles are big on that also. They don’t allow me to make excuses for anything. It was tough growing up as an Abdal-Khallaq kid because I really had high standards and couldn’t be the family disappointment. It was a lot of pressure but that pressure continues to make me the man I am today. The self-independence is one thing I know for sure he taught that is big. As an independent Musician (RNB Artist), I have happily taken the harder route and though it has been very difficult at times and though people don’t understand why I haven’t been successful yet in their eyes. (Signed with a label) it might be the hardest profession because you don’t get paid off your work and hours or your talent. But I can’t allow myself to get played (signing a deal) because as a Black Man raised by a bunch of Entrepreneurs and small business owners. I know the power in a Black Man owning his own. Even if I never obtain global fame, if I can make a sustainable career off owning my own works and creativity, I find comfort in that. My grandfather was a Barber. He wasn’t a rich celebrity so if he was able to be happy and his family was able to be happy with just being able to be comfortable. I think I will be happy when my business is able to do the same. I define what success is. Not other people. He was/is an amazing teacher. I wish the Whole World got to experience his teachings I think Black people and Human Beings would be far better off. He was really a people person. So was my Grandma. I def get that trait from them.
CVN: How was it to work at A Nubian Notion in Highschool?
“It was really cool, I started working on the ice cream machine in my Uncle (Godfathers) Store. A Nubian Notion High Damn. Alongside my cousin Kari. I had grown up in the store in Nubian Square, the former Dudley Station. Since I was a baby my Mother was one of the Managers she dedicated her Life to that store. So I would be there all the time. It’s where I met Vanessa Williams (Miss America) as a baby and countless other Celebrities. I kinda been working there unofficially just trying to help the customers all my life because it was my after-school program when I wasn’t at my Grandmother’s House or at the Barbershop. I loved trying to help the customers and work there even though I obviously couldn’t because I was too young. I loved seeing all the Black items, so many memories man. I think I connected most with the Record Store we had. I used to love hanging out with my Cousin Kubie and used to think he was so cool because he knew about all the new music that was coming out, all the black movies. Imagine being a Black kid and your Family owning a Black Record/Video Store. I didn’t go to Tower Records or Blockbuster. I went right to A Nubian Notion. It wasn’t till I got older and wanted to watch white movies that my Dad introduced us to Blockbuster. On Saturdays I used to Love being in the Store because in order to sell the Movies we had a tv in there and a VHS player so I would throw on the newest black movies to promote them but I’d really be watching them (laughs). Speaking of promotion, movies and music. This really shaped my Life and it wasn’t till about a year ago I really got how much A Nubian Notion put me in the position I’m in now. I’ve been around Celebrities all my Life as a kid the Radio Station and Labels used to do press runs at the Store there and funky fresh. I remember being in the store all the time when the Artists would come to the Store and Visit behind the counter building a bond with them was always cool. They would be so regular I never understood the fandom thing but I was really intrigued by how they were received. It was like a superhero and I got my first taste of that. I remember the labels giving us promotional use only CD’s to take home and play in the store. I grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s so I grew up in Black Music and Movies Golden Years. I mean from T.I., 50 Cent, Nelly, Tupac, Dru Hill, Clipse and many more. I found out about them 6 months before the world did. I remember having all the clothing from the Negro League Baseball Teams, the Black Colleges clothing. We had a whole selection of Black Gift cards, Black Posters, any Black book you could imagine from the Willie Lynch Book to the Coldest Winter Ever (which my mom made me read one summer). I had a whole bodega/corner store I got to grow up and work in. It was amazing. I was so blessed because it was owned by my family and they were black. And my whole family worked there. And if you worked there you were family and we trusted you. You came to the family cookouts/gatherings you were part of our family. I don’t remember anybody stealing, I don’t remember my uncles and aunts treating the people who worked for us badly. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain. I’m still friends with a few of them till this day. Picture the feeling you get when you watch Martin or Fresh Prince. That would be the feelings I get when I think about the store in the 90’s-2000’s. It was the Golden Era in my Life. Those beautiful colors gear music. It was all that stuff. The rest of the World got bits and pieces from tv shows, the nba, the music. I got it all overtime. It definitely has a lot to do with why I am so pro black. I thank my Grandparents for that, I’m so indebted to them.”