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Assunettè Oneta Zavi: Championing Afro-Indigenous Heritage and Indigenous Economic Development Through Entrepreneurship

Assunettè Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunettè Zavi)

Intersectional entrepreneurial aspirations outline a profound mission to foster economic development while preserving cultural heritage. This mission transcends borders and cultural boundaries for one visionary entrepreneur who aims to create a pathway for international business while honoring and uplifting Indigenous communities.

Formerly known as Juanita Myles, Assunettè Oneta Zavi is a visionary business owner striving to uplift and empower Indigenous, Native and Aboriginal communities through her digital marketing, branding and advertising agency.

Assunette Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunette Zavi)
Assunettè Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunettè Zavi)

A VISIONARY’S DREAMS

“In 2020, I created Narrow Way Designs,” Zavi says. “It’s a marketing company for Indigenous, Aboriginal and Native communities.”

For Zavi, dreams have been a guiding force since childhood. The name “Narrow Way Designs” was born in a vivid dream — a symbolic representation of the focused, albeit challenging, path ahead.

Zavi spearheaded Narrow Way Designs and created an innovative venture with a profound commitment to Indigenous communities. The company collaborates with Indigenous communities for cultural preservation and economic empowerment.

“I wanted to make sure it was a passion, and it was my destiny,” she says. “I prayed on it, asked my ancestors if this is something they want me to walk into.”

Zavi says she works with businesses along the diaspora of Indigenous cultures.

“I just want to give them the knowledge that I have so that they can create economic development within their own communities,” she says.

Through Narrow Way Designs, Zavi seeks to amplify voices that have long been silenced and forgotten.

“My mission for my company is to ensure economic development and growth within the communities I work with,” she says. “I want to create opportunities for American businesses to collaborate with Indigenous communities, fostering international trade while cultivating and respecting their cultural identity.”

Assunette Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunette Zavi)
Assunettè Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunettè Zavi)

Narrow Way Designs markets Indigenous products to a global audience. Zavi emphasizes its ethical sourcing and community empowerment. The venture aims to create sustainable economic opportunities while preserving traditional craftspeople by directly engaging with Indigenous artisans and supporting their livelihoods.

“Our approach is rooted in collaboration and mutual respect,” she says. “We seek to amplify the voices of Indigenous communities and empower them to share their cultural heritage with the world.”

By celebrating diversity and embracing Indigenous wisdom, Narrow Way Designs paves the way for a future where cultural heritage and economic prosperity go hand in hand. It works to create a more inclusive and equitable marketplace through partnerships with local artisans and grassroots organizations.

We seek to amplify the voices of Indigenous communities and empower them to share their cultural heritage with the world.

Narrow Way Designs facilitates international trading opportunities for businesses seeking collaborations with Indigenous communities while ensuring the preservation and celebration of Indigenous cultures.

“We don’t take away their culture. We don’t try to change their culture, but we just embrace it,” Zavi emphasizes, underscoring the essence of cultural integrity.

IDENTITY IS POWER

Zavi’s mixed heritage is of profound significance to her.

“I am Gullah Geechee and Muscogee Creek Indian,” Zavi says, tracing her lineage back seven generations. “I just felt the need to make sure I’m an advocate for those voices that are being overheard and dismissed.”

Assunette Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunette Zavi)
Assunettè Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunettè Zavi)

Zavi’s message is that identity is power.

“I represent both of my people, my Afro and my Indigenous,” Zavi says. “You can’t put me in a box.”

Her journey of self-discovery began in her teenage years, fueled by a desire to understand her roots.

Zavi’s grandmother would say, “We’re Creek Indian. We’re not Black. We’re Creek. Black is not a heritage, it’s not a culture — it’s just a color.”

Zavi says she never really understood what her grandmother meant, “because growing up in the urban cities away from our roots, I was just trying to fit in. I didn’t want to seem different.”

“Once I started to become curious about my history, I started to dive really deep,” she adds. “I wanted to really dive deep into my identity,” Zavi says. She started to read more about Afro-Indigenous culture that is not taught in schools.

Part of that journey involved Zavi changing her birth name — Juanita Myles — to Assunettè Oneta Zavi.

Zavi and her twin sister were in foster care until they were 3 years old, after which her grandmother took them in and raised them. As she got older, she would live with various members of her extended family.

Growing up in the urban cities away from our roots, I was just trying to fit in. I didn’t want to seem different.

Growing up like that gave Zavi “different perspectives” of her relatives’ own identities “and what it means to them.” Part of that spawned a desire to change her name.

“Juanita” was a name given to her by a nurse, Zavi says.

Assunette Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunette Zavi)
Assunettè Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunettè Zavi)

“My mother didn’t give me my name, my mother actually just gave birth to me and my twin sister, and she left us in the hospital. So we were given the names of our nurse, which was Juanita and Yvette,” she says.

Her original name “didn’t have any significant value to me,” Zavi adds. “It wasn’t thoroughly thought through. It was just given to me because we were just baby A and baby B.”

As she got older, though, Zavi started to dive into what a name means: Why would an individual give someone else a name?

“You give a name because it signifies what you want that child to become,” she says.

Assunettè (pronounced “Ah-SAW-neh-tay”) means “life.”

“So when you’re adopting a name, you have to make sure that it is enlightening to the individual that is saying it,” she says. “So, for example, when you say Assunettè, you’re saying ‘life’ every time you say my name. It’s just an affirmation to hear my name that has the power of life.”

Her middle name, Oneta, means “favorable one,” “grace” and “mercy” or “merciful,” and Zavi means “rich” or “wealthy.”

You give a name because it signifies what you want that child to become.

“And that’s what I’m trying to do: I’m trying to create and cultivate wealthy and prosperous and favorable businesses throughout the diaspora of my people,” she says.

Driven by a sense of purpose, Zavi embarked on a journey to create change with Narrow Way Designs.

With a fervent dedication to her Afro-Indigenous heritage, Zavi founded a business to recognize and support those with overlooked and marginalized histories.

Assunette Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunette Zavi)
Assunettè Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunettè Zavi)

TRUST

Zavi emphasizes the value of immersing oneself in Indigenous communities, learning their languages, needs and challenges firsthand. To her, earning trust through genuine engagement and commitment is imperative.

“Communication can be difficult when you don’t speak the local languages,” she says. “Building trust and relationships takes time and patience. We must show that we’re here to support and uplift, not exploit or change their way of life.”

Indeed, patience and consistency are essential in intersectional entrepreneurship. Building trust as an outsider requires a delicate balance of consistency, perseverance and humility.

“You cannot rush the process,” Zavi says.

For example, at the time of this interview, Zavi was in Tulum, Mexico.

“I’m really getting to know the Indigenous individuals over here … and I’m getting to understand what it is that they need in order for them to thrive with the businesses that they already cultivated,” Zavi says. “I just want to give them the knowledge that I have so that they can create economic development within their own communities.”

As Zavi spends time in Tulum, she reflects on honoring ancestral traditions and respecting the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Zavi acknowledges the simplicity and beauty of Indigenous languages, contrasting them with the complexity of Western dialects. Learning the local Mayan language serves as a bridge to deeper cultural understanding.

I just want to give them the knowledge that I have so that they can create economic development within their own communities.

Spirituality intertwines with daily life in Tulum as Indigenous communities pay homage to their ancestors and the natural world. Through conversations with local Mayans, Zavi gained insight into the rich tapestry of Indigenous wisdom and traditions.

Assunette Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunette Zavi)
Assunette Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunette Zavi)

HUMANITY AND NATURE

Central to the tenets of Narrow Way Designs is honoring and empowering Indigenous communities, whose knowledge and traditions are invaluable. Zavi passionately advocates for recognizing Indigenous wisdom and the urgent need to support and uplift these communities.

“Humanity is supposed to be one with nature,” she says.

Zavi highlights the interconnectedness between cultural preservation and environmental stewardship. As Narrow Way Designs continues to carve its path, she is committed to bridging economic opportunities with culture.

With a compelling vision and an unwavering dedication to her mission, Zavi envisions a future where Indigenous communities thrive with their cultural heritage generationally preserved. She stays committed to fostering cross-cultural partnerships and creating a world where every voice is heard and valued.

Narrow Way Designs is a testament to the transformative power of vision, resilience and unwavering commitment to making a difference. In a world where shining light on representation matters, Zavi is a beacon. Her entrepreneurial endeavors shape a progressive, inclusive, and intersectional future.

To learn more about Zavi’s work, follow her on Instagram at high_level.intentions or narrowwaydesignsinc.

Assunette Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunette Zavi)
Assunettè Zavi (Photo courtesy Assunettè Zavi)
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