DC’s pop-up festival celebrates black-owned businesses

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About 80 black-owned vendors and creators gathered in DC on Sunday for the first immersive Black on the Block pop-up festival, an LA-inspired event to showcase Black-owned businesses that often find limited access to exhibit their work.

“It can be very difficult for black-owned businesses, especially small black-owned businesses, to get their foot on the ground,” said Lanie Edwards, CEO of Black on the Block. “To be able to provide them with a platform to do that consistently, every month is our goal.”

Edwards, who has a small fashion line in Los Angeles, said she was the only black-owned business in several pop-ups she was invited to, so she decided to create a space for and by black people. , not only to present their work but also to create a network where customers interested in the work produced by black creators can always find them.

At DC’s newly remodeled Franklin Park at K and 14th Streets NW, visitors were offered options to purchase merchandise including clothing, artwork and jewelry on display at dozens of owner stalls. DC and owners in other East Coast areas. The festival included live music, food trucks, enclosed spaces for VIPs and opportunities for small business owners to network.

In partnership with National Football League star Stefon Diggs and the Downtown DC Business Improvement District, Black on the Block hosted its first free event and is expected to continue each year, Edwards said.

Behind tables of unique clothing designs, custom pomades and art, the entrepreneurs not only talked about business, but also a story of resilience through which they create opportunity as black entrepreneurs.

Co-founder Tyler Lee said he and his business partner created Black Is Love, a t-shirt-focused clothing brand, to increase love in black culture. They are based in Northern Virginia but sell their clothes online across the country.

Holding a ‘Black women are superheroes’ t-shirt, Lee said he remembers watching cartoons and movies growing up in which the word ‘Black’ and even black characters were always there. associated with negative connotations.

“People look at the word ‘Black’ in a derogatory way, so we named it Black is Love to kind of change that narrative,” he said.

FTK – For The Kids – founders Gerald Jackson and Andre Revell said their clothing brand takes pride in fashion while honoring educators.

Jackson and Revell said they were raised by educators. So they wanted to combine their passion for art and community service while helping teachers working in underprivileged schools pay for their school supplies.

“We believe that no educator should pay out of pocket for school supplies, so a portion of our profits goes to underfunded educators,” Revell said.

Alexandra Arnold, 32, who co-founded SOLV, a boutique that offers personal care products such as candles and crystals, said that in partnership with other female entrepreneurs, she recreated her personal healing journey in a small business selling products with elements of black spirituality.

“I wanted to create something that allows our unique voices and cultural experiences through the prism through which our spirituality is viewed,” Arnold said. “While we don’t exclude anyone, it is through the lens of black women and black designers and our spiritual experience that we create these products.”

About Margaret L. Portillo

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