NEW BEDFORD — This is the second year Juneteenth is recognized as a federal holiday, and BuyBlackNB is ready to celebrate the city's Black business owners again on Sunday.
“Part of our mission is to circulate money in the community,” said Justina Perry, founder of BuyBlackNB. “We do this by empowering ownership, collaboration and community building."
On June 19, the Rotch-Jones-Duff House is welcoming the return of BuyBlackNB's Juneteenth vendors pop-up event. Executive Director Dawn Salerno said she has offered to make it an annual event at the house that will run indefinitely.
"Having that event on the ground, on Juneteenth specifically, it may not have been what it looked like here in the past, but it's definitely a commitment to our future," Salerno said.
"And everything we hope to be in this community as a vital part where people of all kinds and ages gather all the time."
This free, public event will have something for the entire family. All are invited to shop a curated selection of local Black-owned businesses while enjoying community building on Juneteenth Independence Day.
There will be children’s activities, live music, raffle prizes and for dads: Father’s Day massages.
Vendors include: Body By Mari, Insightful Tees, Taj Collective, Footprints Cafe, Brown Suga Stationary, For Our God Only, Faith Endures, Kinks Haircare, Hillustrationz, Alison Wells Fine Art Gallery, True 9 Accessories, 6 Figure Smile, Cards By Cecelia, Celia’s Boutique and Vermarje Tea Co.
"Thankful to BuyBlackNB for having a creative space for Black-owned businesses to share their gifts," said Mary A Fernandez, owner of Vermarje Tea Co.
"New Bedford was home to my mom and I always enjoyed visiting my grandparents and seeing my cousins. I look forward to returning and offering tea to the community."
Additional vendors to participate are Patricia Lincoln, Crafted By A & A, The Communal Space, Oshuns Garden Botanicals, Starseed Herbal Care, For The Soul:All Things Health & Wellness, Baskets of Grace, New Bedford Historical Society, Anika Tyshia Skincare, Raffa Chimi’s, Quinn Harris Illustration and Unplugged Essentials.
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The mission behind BuyBlackNB
Established in April 2020, BuyBlackNB is dedicated to discovering, highlighting and promoting Black-owned businesses in the SouthCoast.
“Anti-black racism has prevented Black economic progress for decades," Perry said. "Blackness is seen as a struggle and Black culture carries a negativity with it in society. By creating these spaces of joy within our community we challenge negative perceptions about Blackness.
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BuyBlackNB hosts year-round events with a hand-selected, diverse group of local vendors. During the pandemic, the organization hosted HerStory, an event series in partnership with the New Bedford Historical Society and sponsored by the Women’s Fund SouthCoast to showcase local Black women in business.
The online portion of the series invited local entrepreneurs, business owners and community leaders to discuss topics such as beauty, health & wellbeing, professionalism, children and social media influencing.
On May 26, BuyBlackNB hosted their first in-person HerStory event which also served as the finale to the online series.
The event featured 35 local Black women business leaders with music by the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, food by Krave Restaurant, performances by Our Sisters' School Step Team and a keynote by Dr. Viviane Saleh-Hanna.
"This is a phenomenal room of bosses," said Rayana Grace of the New Bedford Historical Society.
"I felt that I've been seen," said Alison Wells, owner of Alison Wells Fine Art Studio & Gallery.
"It felt nice, we're like a sisterhood. I felt camaraderie and it was a lovely event, well organized and everything. And I am definitely very thankful to be here."
Strengthening Black business owners
A native of Trinidad, Wells said she attended UMass Dartmouth with a plan to do a three-year program in two years and get out of Massachusetts. Now, she's been part of the art scene in New Bedford for over 18 years.
"I felt very welcomed from the first time that I moved here, as a student, and now as a professional artist, and a business owner," she said. "But, now, with BuyBlack it's even stronger because they're putting light on other Black-owned businesses, even within the community."
"What an amazing group of women to be among," said Bernadette Souza, executive director of Youth Opportunities Unlimited. "I love what BuyBlack has done for everyone so far. Just so happy."
"This is the sort of thing we needed," said Lee Blake, president of the New Bedford Historical Society. "To see what has been accomplished, to see what's going on around me in here, it's so great for our community."
Celia Brito, owner of Celia's Boutique, a mainstay in New Bedford for over 18 years, said BuyBlackNB has brought new faces into her store.
"This is so exciting, and it can only get better from here," Brito said.
“We’re hosting a space that welcomes and uplifts local, talented creatives,” said Perry. "We definitely have not captured all of the black women business owners within the SouthCoast, but we have 35 awesome women that deserve honoring."
"We are connecting, and we're stronger," Wells added. "We have to support each other first, before we expect other communities and people to support us."
Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.
This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: New Bedford BuyBlackNB highlights more Black owners for Juneteenth