Party with a purpose

The purpose of Sai’s Summer Cookout (above) is to highlight and support Black-owned businesses. Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

This weekend, Marsai Martin, actress and producers held “Sai’s Summer Cookout,”, or as Martin calls, “a party with a purpose”.   

The purpose of this event was not just about having a good time but also highlighting and supporting Black-owned businesses. Marsai’s Way, Martin’s philanthropic organization, put out a call for submissions via social media, inviting Black-owned businesses to participate in their vendor marketplace during the celebration.

One of the businesses featured in this diverse vendor marketplace was Armani Posh Candles, owned by Ramona Swift, a candle maker based in Atlanta. Ramona’s journey into the world of candle making was sparked by her desire to explore a creative outlet.
“My kids are all gone to college, it’s just me at home, and my husband, Ramone, travels for work. I needed something else to do, so my husband paid for me to take a candle making class, and I fell in love with it,” said Swift.

Swift’s candles range from food-based designs to incredibly detailed animals, complete with scents reminiscent of food-based products, with each candle taking approximately an hour to make each which Swift personally creates.

“I get lost with the craft. I find myself working late into the night, 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, just being creative,” said Swift. 

But also embracing the culinary theme is hairstylist Jasmin Cook, the founder of Brunch Haircare, a natural haircare company with products and ingredients taken directly from a menu, with each product being named after a brunch item.

“There are so many products out in the world, and with so much research coming out about how companies use toxic products for Black women, I wanted to combat that as a hairstylist of more than 15 years,” said Cook.

Cook’s motivation for starting her company came from a deep commitment to providing healthy haircare options for Black women and empowering them to feel confident about their hair.

“If you look good, you feel good, and I am all about empowerment and female empowerment. I just want to help people; I can’t get away from it; I can’t run from it,” Cook said.

The vendor marketplace showcased different businesses with diverse stories and backgrounds. This included , the founder and executive director respectively of Blacklanta, a lifestyle brand and directory for Black-owned businesses in Atlanta. Happily married, their business began with a simple idea in 2018 and grew into a resource for locating Black-owned businesses in the city.

“Back in 2018, the idea popped into my head and just came to me. I called Akkissia, and I had this idea of Blacklanta, but I didn’t know what it would be at that moment. As we progressed and grew on the idea, we realized that this could be a directory that helps find Black-owned businesses easier in Atlanta,” said Raven Strode.

Now happily married, the two met during college while separately attending Clark Atlanta University and Fort Valley State. They were both members of Delta Sigma Theta and attended a party of a mutual friend, who was also a Delta.

“Whenever you are married to an entrepreneur, you are automatically an assistant, and being business partners came naturally,” said Akkissia Strode.
While many local businesses were present, there were submissions from all around North America.

N’spired Creations, owned by Tamara Mann from Greenville, North Carolina, represented the creative world of home decor and stationery designed for African-American women. Mann’s business was born out of her desire to create products that reflected her identity, and her determination to be part of Marsai’s event was evident in her 8-hour drive from North Carolina to Atlanta.

“There was a point in my life when I was looking for items that represented me via notepads, bookmarks, and greeting cards. I couldn’t find them, so I decided, why not create them, and the business was born,” said Mann.

But the furthest traveler came from Toronto, Canada with Aux God, a music battle card game. Aux God was founded in 2015 and was conceived when owner Michael Rousseau was attending a party and a fellow party-goer challenged Rousseau to a sound-clash, where the chosen duelists go back and forth with their songs.

“I got kinda lucky, Aux God is one of Martin’s favorite games, and we received an email asking to take part,” Rousseau said. Traveling was not easy for Rousseau who flew into Atlanta after receiving the invite via email the week prior.
“I almost missed my flight, I was running through the airport trying to find my gate sweating buckets,” he said.

Initially not knowing how to shape the weekend, Martin’s initial thought was made into a reality. “It was always the idea to bring this out to the public; I didn’t know how. I wrote it down, and we had an amazing team execute it,” she told The Atlanta Voice.

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