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When the COVID-19 pandemic cut Harkless’ basketball season short this past Spring, the 27-year-old New York Knicks forward began to think about how he could help others with his newly-found free time. The real catalyst for his jump into activism however, was the death of George Floyd and the protests for racial equality that followed for weeks after. Harkless wanted to use his platform to raise awareness on ways that people could help the Black community, so he transformed his personal website, MoeHarkless.com, into a comprehensive resource hub. The website name, Black Lives Now, served as a call-to-action, and the message was clear: The time to make a difference is now.
“I heard a lot of my friends saying they wanted to help, but didn’t know how to or they didn’t know where to start,” Harkless told Departures. “Now you can just direct them right here and we’ll show them how they can help. Even if it’s the smallest thing like signing a petition or going to a local protest, it’s just how you jump into the action right now...that was the goal we had when making it.”
Harkless’ website features numerous resources to support the Black community, including anti-racist literature for all ages, guides to Black-owned restaurant and small businesses, voting registration information, and even mental health resources.
“I felt like it was an easy, but an effective way to make a difference,” Harkless said of creating the website. “It’s bigger than me, so it was a no brainer.”
The importance of having a central resource location for supporting Black lives and Black culture cannot be overstated, as Black-owned businesses have struggled for decades to get the same exposure and funding as majority white-owned businesses due to discriminatory business practices dating back decades. Redlining, for instance, was a government-backed practice that predominantly outlined minority communities that they would not provide home or business loans for—although now illegal, the impact of this is still felt today. Harkless is determined to address these racial disparities by raising awareness through his website, but he is also trying to create change by directly working with industries that he is passionate about, one such being the wine industry.
Harkless was first introduced to the wine industry while playing basketball for the Portland Trailblazers, and his interest in wine has now blossomed into a full-blown passion. A member of the NBA’s growing wine team, the oenophile previously hosted “Wine Wednesdays” on Lebron James’ UNINTERRUPTED, and earlier this month he announced a new collaboration that combines his love for wine with his Black Lives Now initiatives.
Harkless has partnered with The Prisoner Wine Company to continue his efforts to raise awareness for racial justice and equality, a collaboration that the basketball player says just makes sense. Constellation Brands, the wine label's parent company, announced this past June that they were investing $100 million in Black- and minority-owned spirits businesses over the next ten years. They'll also be donating $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end mass incarceration and racial inequality.
“I already loved their wine, so once I found out they were interested in helping the community and impacting and making change, it was a no-brainer for me to reach out and try to make that happen,” Harkless told Departures. “I’m excited to see what comes out of it and be able to make some things happen with Prisoner.”
Harkless is hopeful that his partnership with Prisoner will help the wine industry become more accessible to a wider community, a sentiment that also rings true with his budding status as an art collector.
While Harkless admits that the art scene was “intimidating” to break into, he is excited to continue growing his collection, and making the art industry more accessible to a broader community through his activism.
“I loved to draw and paint as a child, but obviously as I grew older and started to focus more on sports I kind of shied away from that stuff, though the interest was always there,” Harkless explained. “As I got older, eventually the switch flipped and I just was like, ‘I should start collecting some stuff.’ I just started buying little things here and there, and over the years things just started adding up and now my collection is pretty big.”
Harkless names talents such as Felipe Pantone, Nina Chanel Abney, Marcus Jahmal, and Derrick Adams as some of his favorite artists of the moment, and notes that the exposure and recognition of these and other Black and Brown artists are long overdue in the art industry.
“I don’t think the art world is white-washed, Harkless explained. “I don’t think that Black artists are suddenly a new thing; I think that we’ve created this art for hundreds of years, and we’re finally getting the attention and respect that we deserve.”
From his sports career to the wine industry to the art world, Harkless continues to open doors where the Black voice has more often than not been shut out, and he’s making it clear that these institutions should be celebrating both the Black community's inclusion and contributions, starting right now.