New Season, New Location
This Fall season of the Black Arts Mixer and Marketplace warmed my heart almost as much as the sun warmed the leaves falling from the autumn struck trees. Fall is here and the new season perfectly matched the newly located of the mixer, previously held at Garfield High school’s gymnasium now moved to Garfield Community Center where many were pleased with the new space which included indoor bench and outdoor picnic table seating. I walked in to free lavender soap samples from The Soap Throne, and my black business haul this season consisted of several skin and facial products products as well as books, artwork and even some tasty food, this season was my first food purchase from the Mixer as I usually come with a full stomach but I wanted to make sure to try a new Black owned restaurant so I left my salon hungry, ready to try something new.
Once I’d gotten to the Mixer later in the afternoon it was so easy to lose track of time and stay until the very end. When I walked in I saw a ton of familiar faces including artists such as Lucien Lekea of Natty Dread Illustrations and product designers like Nyema Clark of Avenue South. It was a field day jumping from booth to booth talking to the creators, artists, designers and authors providing their products and services at this event. One of the first accessories I picked up were earrings, I can’t help but notice all of the unique and colorful designs. I love earrings and I can’t leave these events without grabbing at least one pair, this time I purchased 3 pairs. One set from Headwraps by Kim and another 2 sets from Sugar Foot Shoetique. Earrings that glorify the beauty of Black women and black culture are my favorite and they always look great, especially while wearing an afro.
This past summer I used the last of the whipped Shea butter that my step-mother purchased at the Winter Mixer from Avenue South. It comes in a decorative and sturdy green container. I used the butter to gloss my lips, moisturize my hands and even deodorize my underarms. I’m an advocate for replacing chemicals with natural products all ver the body and I encouraged several friends who have sensitive pits to use Shea butter under their arms. Although there’s bit of an adjustment period, its much healthier to use than standard deodorant’s excess chemicals which cause rashes and have been said to heighten the risk of breast cancers. Now that I’m in the habit of deodorizing my arms with Shea butter I looked for a product that I can dedicate to my underarms and saw Ah Lip and Body Butter. Owner and manufacturer, DeWanda Evans had several flavors of body butters from banana to strawberry, I purchased the pina-colada flavor and I look forward to seeing how this butter mix works. I was surprised by the six healthy ingredients that are used in her products which will be a much healthier and simpler mix to apply to my body than those overpriced products filled with chemicals and preservatives that sit on supply-chain shelves.
While I was grabbing a lunch from Jamaican Island Cuisine, Imani Tafari urged me to grab my dessert from Lanier’s Fine Candies. As she was telling about how great Lanier’s peanut brittle tasted another customer came up to the booth eating from a box of Lanier’s peanut brittle, the customer excitingly agreed that I needed to get a sample before he packed up his booth. That was enough to persuade me and I walked over to Lanier’s booth and asked for a sample of the dark chocolate covered cashew brittle. As soon as the chocolate hit my tongue I requested a box of it and when CEO, Herman Lanier quoted the $14 price I didn’t even blink to hand over the cash. I ate a few pieces before gifting the rest of the box to my father who ate the rest that night, I regret not getting a second box…
Art is incredible work
A very important part of our culture are artists. Artists do the work of illustrating our history and our truth in a way that can be visually stimulating and more effective in sharing or displaying with elements of beauty. Each time that I go to the Mixer I support at least one artist by purchasing a piece of art. Last season I purchased 2 prints from Lucien Lekea of Natty Dread Illustrations, but during this mixer I had a chance to talk to Thaddeus Hunnicutt and purchased 2 prints from him. Hunnicutt is a Seattlite, a graduate from Seattle Central College, who is very talented. His work is geometric and very detailed drawing on Egyptian aspects of African culture while using silk screen methods to add color to his pieces that beautifully blends and adds effortless dimension to his drawings. After speaking to both Thaddeus and Lucien I realized that neither expect to sell a lot of artwork at these events, which was surprising for me but when I think about how often I purchase art its less shocking to realize. How much of the art in our homes is from Ross or Target? Rather than being a piece created by an artist we were able to support through an event like the Black Arts Love Mixer, we’re more comfortable with hanging massed produced stereotypical quotes or skylines on our walls.
In relation to artists, I met poet and book publisher Royal Prince of Royal Family publications. Poetry is an incredible art, I’m familiar with the reflective and healing work of poetry through my work as a mentor with children incarcerated in King County’s Juvenile Detention Center with the Pongo Poetry Project where we write poetry with youth as a form of healing from traumatic experiences. Prince had a few copies of texts he’s published through his own publishing company. I was so impressed with his starting his own publishing company to publish his work, including a poetry book that I purchased, The Concrete That Grew the Rose, a memoir like poetry collection detailing the life of Prince. I was excited to receive a signed copy that I look forward to sharing during this school year in KCJD working with the Pongo. In addition to black owned restaurants, Zumba Fittness lessons and small business vendors there were also live performances by musicians and spoken word artists including singer, songwriter and producer Alena Larie. I missed her live performance but was pleased to find that she was selling CD’s and purchased one. Her music is uplifting and inspirational, on the fringe of being gospel which I also enjoy.
It’s so disheartening to live in America as a Black entrepreneur where Western culture is much more comfortable with big business mass production than supporting individually owned small businesses and intimately invested entrepreneurs which is the platform by which the rich get richer and the gap between the poor and the elite continues to grow, stifling the growth of start-ups like those we get to interact with during the mixer. This is one reason why its so important for us to show up at these events to the well being of each other socioeconomically. When we do this we build up our economic strength as a community. In comparison to other race populations where the Jewish dollar stays in the community for 20 days, Caucasian dollar stays in the community for 17 days, the Asian dollar stays int he community for a month, and the African American dollar stays in our community for less than 6 hours! Think about where you spent your last dollar, were the owners of the business African American? Even if the cashier at Popeyes was black, the owner of the company is not. In the United States only 2% of businesses with at least 1 employee are Black owned and of those 14% don’t make it past the 2 year mark. Because of this it takes a great amount of effort to keep the dollar in the Black community as there are less and less opportunities to spend with Black business owners. Its so easy to get our paycheck and turn around and give it back. We must be intentional about keeping our money in our community in order to grow our economic power. We currently have no economic power as a community which is dangerous in a Capitalist democracy where the dollar is our power. Without dollar power we have no political power, stifling us from making necessary changes that would positively impact our communtiy.
Please note: The pictures included are not all of the images that were captured during the event (I also do not take pictures of every singe booth, I usually focus on ones for which I made purchases). If you are a vendor interested in getting the digital copies of photographs that I took of your booth please email me or contact me using the contact page on this site with your request and I’d be happy to send you any photos I have of your table.