MEMPHIS, Tenn — What started as a virtual event to support Black-owned businesses during the pandemic is now becoming a festival.
This Saturday, the Juneteenth Shop Black event is returning for a second year. It'll be held on Saturday at the Fourth Bluff Park in Downtown Memphis.
The event got its start the previous year virtually and featured more than 100 Black-owned vendors. That event, according to organizer Cynthia Daniels, brought in more than 100,000 people to the website and $1 million spent.
"I really wanted to create a space for Black businesses that didn't get the opportunity to go to the trade shows and festivals during the summertime," Daniels said about the original creation.
This year's in-person event will feature 50 local businesses that will bring products from artwork to clothing to beauty essentials and more.
"I thought, we need to celebrate," Daniels said. "There needs to be some joy after such a tough year. Honestly, a lot of the vendors participating, it is their first time being in a public event again. I have not hosted an event in 16 months so I absolutely wanted to do something in-person again."
That's the case for Domonique Madden of NNC Creations. She specializes in abstract paintings and customized glass art. Her business started before the pandemic but was accelerated during it.
"It's a great festival with a great cause," Madden said. "We're celebrating something that is so important to our history."
For Daniels, it was important to have the event continue to be on Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the final emancipation of enslaved people.
Today, studies show a wide equity gap in white and Black-owned businesses. American Progress writes, "if financial capital were more evenly distributed and Black Americans enjoyed the same business ownership and success rates as their white counterparts, there would be approximately 860,000 additional Black-owned firms employing more than 10 million people."
"People need to understand that when they're spending money with a Black business, you're recirculating that money so they can reinvest it, they can expand their team, they can expand their business, invest in more marketing to have a larger platform," Daniels said. "When you are shopping Black you are really helping that business thrive."
For Madden, she thinks the emphasis to shop Black and local is important.
"I think a lot of time we as Black people have had to work extremely hard to get the recognition that might of come easier to others," Madden said. "Just getting the time to highlight different Black companies and Black entrepreneurs that are bringing incredible products and resources to our city and community is extremely important.”
The Juneteenth Shop Black Festival runs Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.