July 17, 2024


Art Is Experience

The Pioneer of Black Greeting Cards, Cleven Goudeau

Everything man-made we see and use nowadays has got a creator. This creator held an idea which turned into a concept. From that concept came the vision. Then the vision became reality, but with reality follows several questions such as ‘What will it look like?’, ‘is it needed or wanted?” or ‘how will it be applied by the end user?’ these all need responses. With every new product made, it can then be adjusted by somebody else who has another vision and so the cycle of production continues and grows.

A man named Cleven Goudeau A.K.A (also known as) “Goodie” bore such a vision, which was way back in 1963. Mr Cleven Goudeau’s vision has granted many including myself to participate in the journey he began so long ago. A journey of acknowledging that black art and culture exists and should be seen.

Goodie is rightfully the Pioneer and Innovator of Black Contemporary Greeting Cards. It had to start somewhere and it began with this man. Black greeting card businesses nowadays whether they are an internet site or a market store in your local town didn’t exist. Come to think of it when Goodie’s artistry talent was 1st printed in a newspaper in 1951, the internet, which we have come to depend on today didn’t yet exist since the World Wide Web was born in 1969. Nothing on these lines existed when Goodie took those bold 1st steps and developed his 1st black card in 1963. Other people didn’t even realise these steps needed to be taken. But that is the beautiful thing about ideas, it only takes one individual to envision something special and to follow up on it. Then that idea contributes great changes to society and then society adjusts to let in those great ideas. It’s taken numerous years for this man “Goodie” to be acknowledged and granted such a title of “Pioneer of Black Greeting Cards”.

He has opened many doors for ethnic greeting card designers like me, yet many black people still don’t know this courageous man exists and the achievements he reached. I truly believe without his vision in 1963, we would not see black cultured greeting cards today.

You have to also remember that when Goodie’s vision happened segregation was still about. A time when black people where looked down upon, not worthy of sharing the same schools with our white counter parts. With all this happening, what Goodie did was a heroic accomplishment up there with Rosa Parks, riding at the front of the bus accomplishment. Its people like Goodie that inspires me and makes me really love my black culture. A culture, that’s overpowered numerous obstacles and is still breaking down barriers today.

The turning point for Goodie was when his mother was sick and had to go to hospital. Wanting to give her an exceptional card he designed his own Get Well card. The doctors and nurses enjoyed it so much that this single black greeting card found its way around the entire hospital. With such an outstanding response his first line of “Goodie Cards” was born. Which I find ironic for that was the reason I began my line of greeting cards, but I designed my black card for mother’s day. His cards sold at local speciality stores in 1966. He attempted to get help with a business loan of $50,000 but was refused. Goodie was entering an industry with a brand new product which had no rules, no standard, and no nothing. An outstanding product for over 20 million black people to enjoy but the white establishments in the industry didn’t understand. The greeting card industry then was worth $800 million annually and had only four major participants. Yet these major participants weren’t creating black greeting cards. In 1968 Goodie became the co-founder and executive creative director of Onyx Enterprises Inc. This was the only greeting card company that created black greeting cards and white greeting cards side by side nationally. Sadly Goodie departed the greeting card business in1973 due to unsatisfying sales and complications with marketing.

His product had its own merits and required nothing more than equal acceptance by the companies already in the greeting card industry. For he was in a time when black people had to prove themselves. This great vision wasn’t embraced like it ought to have been all because they didn’t want to understand what black people needed and wanted. Thanks to the most high and his blessed gift his range of Goodie Cards allowed him to put three kids through college, however Hallmark and other greeting card companies will happily support the statement that ‘there was no market for black greeting cards’ and completely deny the black market. Yet their statement just doesn’t add up, why 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 would not their black counter parts want the same.

Nowadays 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 ought be part of black history and be commemorated for what he’s done, for so many of us striving to succeed in the greeting card industry with our own range of black greeting cards. He’s accomplished a lot and collapsed so many barriers for us, yet this great man is so humble, he is truly blessed.

His words, is the only way to finish this epic story:
“I create things that can’t be denied”.

Happy Learning.