SAINT PAUL, Minn. — The Black Market in Saint Paul draws in large crowds with local vendors, food and music.
"It feels like you're at a family cookout. It's just a great time. I know I'm biased," said Seanie Sheppheard, The Black Market owner and organizer.
Sheppheard says the market is also popular because the community is immersed in a cultural experience.
"It's to really let people be submerged into Black culture. For people to get our food, see our artists, listen to our music," Sheppheard said.
But it's not just Black culture.
"We do not close our doors to anybody," Sheppheard said. "We have African vendors; we have foundational Black Americans. We have different types of Latino vendors. We have different types of white ally vendors."
Vendors appreciate feeling seen and sharing their passion with the community.
"African history, culture, hard to find books. Some states are banning the information from schools. So, we make it available," said Otieno Nyangweso, owner of Uhuru Bookstore.
And the community is taking it all in.
"I don't even need to know people's first names, and you know, we look at each other, we smile. Then there's a bond," said Billie Bolden, a first-time marketgoer.
While culture and community draw people in, Sheppheard said that a bigger mission keeps them coming back.
"There's been a huge disparity between Black and brown communities and other communities in the Twin Cities as far as our wealth gap," Sheppheard said. "We started this with a mission to help close that. We believe that a lot of the reasons why Black businesses don't receive more clientele or customers is because organizations don't know about them."
One business at the market is Vibe Art, owned by 12-year-old Ella Beard.
"I just want to inspire the world, inspire the future, and have people just dream big," Beard said. "They could be anything they want to be because they see a 12-year-old doing this artwork so they can shoot for success."
The Black market aims to elevate businesses that want to make a difference.
"[To] help others not from our culture get to know who we really are, not the stereotypes," Nyangweso said.
The Black Market is home to nearly 70 vendors and is open on the second Saturday of every month.
The next market is on August 12th from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. it is located at 767 North Eustis Street, Saint Paul.
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