The pioneer of black greeting cards, Cleven Goudeau
Everything man-made that we see and use today has a creator. This creator had an idea that turned into a concept. From that concept came the vision. Then the vision became a reality, but with the reality comes several questions like “What will it look like?”, “is it necessary or desired?” or “how will it be implemented by the end user?” all of which need answers. With each new product produced, it can be tweaked by someone else who has a different vision, and so the cycle of production continues and grows.
A man named Cleven Goudeau AKA (aka) “Goodie” had such a vision which was way back in 1963. Mr. Cleven Goudeau’s vision enabled many, including myself, to participate in the journey he started so long ago. A journey of recognition that black magic and culture exists and must be seen.
Goodie is rightly the pioneer and innovator of the black contemporary greeting card. It had to start somewhere and it started with this guy. Black greeting card today’s businesses, whether it’s an internet site or a market store, don’t exist in your town. Come to think of it, when Goodie’s artistic talent was first printed in a newspaper in 1951, the internet we’ve come to depend on today didn’t even exist yet, as the World Wide Web was born in 1969. Nothing along these lines existed when Goody took those bold first steps and developed his first black card in 1963. Other people didn’t even realize these steps needed to be taken. But that’s the beauty of ideas, it only takes one person to imagine something special and follow through on it. Then that idea contributes to great changes in society, and then society adjusts to allow these great ideas. It took many years for this “Goodie” man to be recognized and given such a title “Pioneer of Black Greeting Cards”.
He opened many doors for ethnic greeting card designers like myself, but many black people still don’t know about the existence of this brave man and the achievements he achieved. I truly believe that without his vision in 1963, we would not be seeing black culture greeting cards today.
You also have to remember that when Goodie’s vision happened, segregation was still there. A time when black people were looked down upon, unworthy to share the same schools with our white opposites. With all that happened, what Goody did was a heroic feat up there with Rosa Parks riding in the front of the achievement bus. People like Goodie inspire me and make me truly love my black culture. A culture that overcame many obstacles and is still breaking down barriers today.
The turning point for Goody was when his mother was sick and had to go to hospital. Wanting to give her a unique card, he created his own Get Well card. The doctors and nurses had so much fun that this single black greeting card made its way throughout the hospital. With such an outstanding response, his first line of “Kindness Cards” was born. Which I find ironic was the reason I started my greeting card line, but I designed my black card for Mother’s Day. His cards were sold at local specialty stores in 1966. He tried to get help with a $50,000 business loan but was turned down. Goodie was entering an industry with a brand new product that had no rules, no standard, nothing. An exceptional product for over 20 million black people to enjoy, but the white establishment in the industry didn’t get it. Back then, the greeting card industry was worth $800 million a year and there were only four major players. Yet these big contributors weren’t creating black greeting cards. In 1968, Goodie became co-founder and executive creative director of Onyx Enterprises Inc. It is the only greeting card company that creates black greeting cards and white greeting cards side by side nationally. Unfortunately, Goodie exited the greeting card business in 1973 due to unsatisfactory sales and marketing complications.
His product had its merits and required nothing more than uniform acceptance by companies already in the greeting card industry. Because he was at a time when black people had to prove themselves. This great vision was not embraced as it should have been because they did not want to understand what black people needed and wanted. Thanks to the highest and his blessed endowment, his line of Goodie Cards has allowed him to put three children through college, but Hallmark and other greeting card companies will happily support the claim that “there was no market for black greeting cards” and they completely deny the black market. Yet their statement just doesn’t add up because black people have always existed and we have the same demands as any other culture. So if white people have a way to share happy celebrated moments by sending greeting cards, why shouldn’t their black counterparts want the same.
Today, Goodie works with students, introducing them to the world of cartooning through classes at Micheal’s in Vallejo, while also teaching classes at the Vallejo Arts Foundation.
This great man should be a part of black history and be honored for what he did as so many of us strive to succeed in the greeting card industry with our own range of black greeting cards. He achieved a lot and broke down so many barriers for us, yet this great man is so humble that he is truly blessed.
His words are the only way to end this epic story:
“I create things that cannot be denied”.
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