Black Wall Street Lifts Up Black Businesses

Eleanor Polak photo

On the Green for Black Wall Street.

The New Haven Green swarmed with tents. Music boomed from the loudspeakers, covering everything from Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears to Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” by Shakira. The air hung heavy and sweet with the scent of fried dough and freshly-applied sunscreen. The second annual Black Wall Street Festival had begun.

Rashad Snacks Jackson and Adriane Jefferson

Two of the founders of the festival, Rashad Snacks” Jackson and city Director of Arts, Culture & Tourism Adriane Jefferson, started the event last year as a way to promote Black-owned businesses. Our goal was to bring everybody together and really circulate the dollar and give Black businesses a chance to vend,” said Jackson.

The first year, the festival featured 30 vendors, who earned a combined $100,000 by selling their wares. For vendors, in addition to the money they earn upfront, the festival offers an opportunity to build their customer base by spreading awareness of their existence. There was a vendor last year who literally didn’t have a store,” said Jackson. He built so much clientele at Black Wall Street that now he has his own store.”

This year, the number of participants swelled to a massive 150 vendors and exhibits. It’s just going to continue to grow,” said Jefferson. We had to turn people away. But as long as there are more Black businesses, it will continue to grow.”

Silver Daniels does Tayema Barton’s hair.

One such business is The Trachouse, a hair salon that also sells its own line of products. Ruby Douglas, who volunteered at the tent, said that Black Wall Street provided the perfect opportunity for The Trachouse to broaden its market. We’re Black owned, and it’s a great way to get out there and promote our business,” she said.

Tayema Barton, a client, sat under the tent getting a stitch braid demonstration from Silver Daniels, an employee. Barton said that businesses like The Trachouse build up confidence and keep the community looking good and feeling good.” Black Wall Street brings us together for a positive reason, and it gives us a chance to share each other’s ideas,” she said.

Sandra Enimil

Stalls around the Green sold items from clothes, jewelry, and candles to household appliances as big as ovens or as small as water bottles. Sandra Enimil ran the tent for Pretty Afrika Designs, a clothing and jewelry boutique that she owns with her mother. Her mother sews, Enimil beads jewelry, and they curate certain items from Ghana and Kenya. My business communicates culture in that my mother is an immigrant from Ghana,” said Enimil. She pulls from her background to pass on an interest in making things that represent Ghana and Africa.” Enimil took advantage of Black Wall Street to promote Pretty Afrika Designs to a wider audience. It gets our name out to people who may not find us otherwise,” she said.

Stephanie Mallard.

Other booths offered opportunities rather than wares. Stephanie Mallard helmed the booth for ConnCAT, where she works as career pathways manager. Among its many services, ConnCAT currently offers after-school programs and free training in phlebotomy, medical billing and coding, culinary arts, and bioscience. When we found out about Black Wall Street, the thought was we need every opportunity to come and share what we have to offer,” said Mallard. This festival helps the community because it gives us a day when we can all come out and support each other’s businesses, each other’s dreams.”

Anita McLean.

Along one side of the Green, food stalls perfumed the air with smells that would make your stomach growl. From fried dough to kettle corn to donuts, there was something for every appetite. Anita McLean owns Many Donuts, a business that sells many donuts and tops them with many flavors.” She said that attending Black Wall Street helped her business by providing an opportunity for interacting with the public, seeing the people, and giving them something they haven’t tried before.”

Woody H. with fellow members of the 40+ Double Dutch Club.

A flock of women in red shirts flooded the area in front of the stage. They represented the 40+ Double Dutch Club, an organization for women over 40 focused on fun female fellowship,” according to one member, Woody H. The 40+ Double Dutch Club provides activities like hopscotch and hula-hooping to get people moving and encourage them to build one another up. Members from chapters all over the country — New Haven, Philadelphia, Delaware County, New Jersey, Texas, Boston, Maryland, Virginia, and more — coalesced to provide their support and energy to Black Wall Street.

Charisse and Toot compete in a dance battle.

Host Slay Washington called four people to the front of the crowd to participate in a dance battle for a mysterious prize. The competition ran to a second round between 40+ Double Dutch members Charisse and Toot, who danced to a series of songs including Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe. Eventually, Toot took home the prize of two tickets from Avelo Airlines. The members then showed off their double dutch skills by skipping rope and showcasing a variety of tricks, like the one-foot, the round-the-world, and the walk-it.

Much like the 40+ Double Dutch Club, Black Wall Street is all about community and mutual support. James Nicholas from the Black Business Alliance took the stage to share a few words with the still-dancing crowd. The energy is just ecstatic, it’s electric!” he declared. Black Wall Street was full of that energy, whether through dancing, music, skipping rope, or vending. This year you can see the festival has grown, and that is exactly what we do,” Nicholas said. We help you grow.”

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