Bostonians celebrated Black-owned businesses Saturday in Nubian Square, sharing in a vision of Black ownership in Roxbury and reveling in the feeling of community.
The event, called “Buy the Block Party: Unity Day Edition,” aimed to combine the atmosphere of a party with the calculated strategy of advancing Black-owned businesses.
The event “honors the broader vision of economic self-sufficiency for Roxbury,” according to the Madison Park Development Corporation, one of the event’s sponsors, which is helping another sponsor, Black Market Nubian, to purchase their building on the block.
Acting Boston Mayor Kim M. Janey, whose sister and brother-in-law own Black Market and is a longtime resident of the area, spoke at the event.
“This is amazing,” Janey said in a brief interview after posing for photos and shaking hands. “This is particularly important as it comes on the heels of the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which attacked Black Wall Street ... and here we can see just a vibrant community of artists, of business owners, of residents, of community leaders that have come together to celebrate.”
The celebration dovetailed with a “Savor the Square” event in a parking lot adjacent to Washington Street, which was partially blocked to car traffic. Together, the events offered two stages of live music, live art, and a few dozen vendors representing mostly Black-owned micro-businesses.
While Janey family connections ran deep — she even had a stand selling campaign T-shirts and one of the artists, Genaro Ortega (”GoFive”), was painting her portrait with spray-paint — most visitors just reveled in the camaraderie.
“It makes me feel good to see my community in all walks of life,” said James Woods Jr., 90, of Roxbury.
One of the vendors, Danielle Kieta, said she was energized by seeing the Black community coming together and Black-owned businesses supporting one another.
“I think it is an important way of staking a claim to our community,” said Kieta, who owns Kept Fresh, a business selling bee-derived products.
“I’m impressed with the amount of Black businesses that are here,” said Vanessa Henry, 41, of Haverhill, who was one of the out-of-town visitors who came to feel the vibrancy and revitalization of being in Black community.
“I needed a little bit of melanin,” she said with a laugh.
Behind the stage, one of the artists behind a massive “Black Lives Matter” mural on the street, William Gallop, spoke with Kai Grant, owner of Black Market, about new beginnings after seeing the energy and vibrancy of the street.
“This is how I grew up in Roxbury,” Grant said, discussing community events like Saturday’s that she said waned in the 1990s due to a lack of investment from City Hall.
Gallop, 23, a visual artist who grew up near the square, said he felt the effects of that decline, explaining how “everything became very gray” there.
But Saturday, he said, was the “happiest I’ve seen my community.”
He added, “This is creating a new scene. This is the new era of what cultivation is in Boston.”
Lucas Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.