Tiffany Griffin and LaToye Morris are sitting in a local coffee shop laughing, talking, and discussing all the upcoming events for Mahogany Manor
; their self-described “Black woman’s country club with a twist." There’s a Girls’ Night Out to see the movie "Woman King", in-house workshops, and their annual Sistahsgiving event coming up in November.
“Sistahsgiving is a play on Thanksgiving,” says Griffin. "It's us getting together as sisters and enjoying each other’s company. We’ll have dinner, play some games, and exchange gifts; last year we had a Soul Train line. It's Just a fun time."
Griffin and Morris met several years back while teaching at the Detroit Windsor Dance Academy. Their idea for Mahogany Manor originated in 2018 as both women were trying to find a way to carve out a space for themselves between work, motherhood, and family obligations so they could decompress.
Tiffany Griffin. Photo: Kahn Santori Davison.
“We were in the thick of things with children and them becoming themselves and we thought we should do funny mom quotes. And it went from that to, ‘moms need a place’, ‘wives need a place’, then it was, ‘business women need a place’ and specifically Black women just need a space where we can just be ourselves and be acceptable to each other,” says Morris.
“It was about just us spending more time together and learning what we liked, didn’t like, what we had in common,” adds Griffin.
Morris and Griffin began by surveying metro Detroit’s landscape for places centered around respite for Black women and allies of Black women. They came across social groups for mothers who don’t work full-time and women collectives that incorporated activities with their children. Ultimately, they decided to curate their own space where Black women could focus solely on themselves, driven by the need for self-care.
LaToye Morris. Photo: Kahn Santori Davison.
“Our tagline is 'relax, relate, rejuvenate', right? So we want to have a space to relax, just decompress; especially in the middle of your schedule,” says Morris.
"Everybody is busy. It's all about self-care and balance. That's really what we want to provide, that place where we can retreat [...] a place where we can legit have space and opportunity to rejuvenate ourselves before you get back to life. Your home sometimes is not it, the coffee shop sometimes is not it."
“We want to be able to let our guards down, we want to network organically, we want to be able to provide workshops and opportunities," says Griffin.
Throughout 2018 and 2019 the duo began to host different events and programming to give women a taste of their overall vision. Just when they had built up enough energy to open up a permanent location, the pandemic hit and everything came to a halt. Once it was safe to, they got back to work and held a launch party in July.
They were able to secure residence in the Brownstone Room in Marygrove’s Madame Cadillac building one weekend per month. It serves as a co-working space with egg chairs, a community area, a lounge cafe-style area, wine, cheese, crackers, and music.
“It’s a vibe," says Griffin.
“We’re still looking for a permanent home, but Marygrove has allowed us to come in and set up [...]. Since we’ve been moving forward, now that we officially have our space, we kinda’ did it this way to make certain we weren’t crazy and the response has been phenomenal,” Morris says.
The Mahogany Manor operates on a monthly membership basis and is open to any woman, or transitioning woman, who wants to join. Griffin and Morris say there isn’t a vetting process or lengthy application; "just kindred spirits hoping to attract other kindred spirits."
“We’re definitely not the bougie crew," says Morris. "We want all women to feel welcome. You don’t have to have a certain criteria or elitism to be a part of this [...] The determination is on you, if you find the need for something like this. Our focus is on Black women and the needs of Black women because we know our challenges, but we welcome any woman."
Because Mahogany Manor is, for some members, a getaway from the daily parenting grind, children are not allowed. “If your child is there then you’re not really taking time for yourself. It's all about the balance and finding the space where we can connect on different levels,” says Griffin.
Mahogany Manor also offers programming such as yoga classes, breast cancer awareness, mental health exercises, and many other self-care workshops for women.
“Every month there will be a focus, so whatever the focus is we’ll bring subject matter experts from whatever the field may be,” says Morris.
“Anything that's going to enhance you as a woman, anything to help, that's what we want [...] It's not just the kick back pad. You definitely can use it like that, sometimes you need that but it's also going to be a place where people can get resources that will put them on the path of wherever it is they are trying to do,” adds Griffin.
“I became a member of Mahogany Manor because of the vision set by the founders to make a space for hardworking African American women to unwind, chat with similar-minded individuals, and feel a sense of connection with those that might be experiencing the same struggles and accomplishments,” says member Linda Hendricks. "There is no other space in Detroit like it that was built by and for brown women. I’m here to support and be a part of this pioneering journey."
Griffin and Morris have big plans for Mahogany Manor. They picture five locations, 10,000+ memberships, and expanding. "We’ve been working on this since 2018, so our plans are huge," says Morris. "We have momentum now, we want it to be a household name, like ‘We’re going to the manor today’."
All photos by Kahn Santori Davison.