Dorchester pop-up market features community vendors
While many city street crossings and bus stops remained thick with plowed snowpiles last Saturday morning, Dorchester resident Juanda Alexander was busy setting up a cheerful indoor display of hats that she sells in her part-time business, Juanda’s Hattitude. With help from daughter Shonna and 14-year-old granddaughter Jinihya, Alexander filled her table for the Ujamaa Bazaar with headwear ranging from winter fur pieces to brilliantly-hued brimmed hats and delicate fascinators.
The Ujamaa Bazaar, a pop-up market organized by the Black Economic Justice Institute, Inc., will be open every Saturday this month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the large hall at 61 Columbia Road in Dorchester. BEJI recently moved its headquarters into the lower floor of the building, which is home to the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. (MAMLEO).
The market is named for one of the principles of the seven-day Kwanzaa holiday. In Kwanzaa, Ujamaa is observed as the principle of cooperative economics, “to build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.” BEJI hopes to foster in the local community a “buy black” and “by black” mentality, with both phrases included as Twitter hashtags on event publicity flyers.
“We want to start supporting each other, putting our purchasing dollars together,” says Priscilla Flint-Banks, BEJI’s co-founder and vice president.
Products for sale on this day included Obama-themed T-shirts and calendars from D. Steele Enterprise, jewelry from Designs by Malika, and sheet sets and jewelry from Sheets Galore. Natasha’s Homemade Organic Body Butter is expected to be among the vendors on other Saturdays.
Visitors to the Ujamaa bazaar also can buy chicken and waffles cooked by Danny Harris, and may find representatives from organizations such as the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance and OneUnited Bank on hand to share information about first-time homebuyer classes or banking and loan options.
Organizers estimate about 25 or 30 people stopped by on the first Saturday, but as the market opened for its second day on Feb. 11, organizers and vendors weren’t expecting a big turnout, given the snowy conditions. They are hopeful that word will get out and the snow will fade, so that the remaining two Saturdays can be successful sales days.
BEJI was formed in 2012 to advocate for economic opportunity among communities of color and Boston residents. Along with the Boston Jobs Coalition, BEJI has worked on Good Jobs Standards for Roxbury development and on strengthening the Boston Resident Jobs Policy ordinance. The group’s current advocacy efforts include securing economic opportunities in upcoming Greater Boston casino development and keeping the community involved in Blue Hill Avenue development plans. For more information, see http://www.bejii.org or call 617-515-6908.