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Black Market in Nubian Sq. hosts 3rd annual Buy the Block Party

Tanisha Bhat
Black Market in Nubian Sq. hosts 3rd annual Buy the Block Party
Painting of ‘Guru’ at the Nubian Square Buy the Block Party. PHOTO: TANISHA BHAT

Traffic was shut down along Washington Street between Palmer and Eustis Streets in Roxbury Saturday afternoon to make way for Black Market Nubian’s third annual Buy the Block Party — an event that celebrated Black Music Appreciation Month and the area’s creative contributions to hip-hop over the past 50 years.

The event commemorated the legacy of hip-hop artist and Roxbury native Keith Edward Elam, also known as Guru — which stands for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal. Elam was a part of the duo Gang Starr and died 13 years ago.

Attendees were able to browse products from more than 25 local Black-owned businesses, as well as enjoy music from performers DJ Premier, Nice & Smooth, Edo.G, Planet Patrol and Big Shug — the founder of Gang Starr. Marie “Free” Wright, the former co-host of BET’s “106 & Park” made a special appearance, and producer and actor Naheem Garcia was the master of ceremonies.

Roxbury visual artist Ricardo “Deme5” Gomez painted a black-and-white mural of Guru, which was unveiled at the event. Gomez told the Banner he is a big fan of Guru and wanted to harness his energy onto a surface.

“[I want people to feel] almost like he’s still here, because Gang Starr is forever,” Gomez said. “He was such a great artist, great lyricist. It was all about the voice and how it would marry with the track behind him. He was very jazz-oriented. Very cool, very laid back, very calm and collected but had so much to say about just about life and the powers that be.”

Gomez said he drew inspiration from a few images of  Guru online that really struck him and the whole mural took him slightly over a week to complete.

Buy the Block has occurred on the second Saturday in June annually since 2021. The first event focused on providing a platform for local Black-owned businesses as well as enjoying live music. Last year, the event spanned three days and included an art gallery exhibition, local vendors and a performance by hip-hop artist KRS-One.

The block party “honors the spirit of a pre-gentrified Roxbury and embraces long-time Roxbury residents and stakeholders who gain the opportunity to enjoy a full day of live entertainment, art, dancing and food/beverages inside the district,” according to the event’s ticket page.

Markita Durant, owner of MarTia’s Cakes, had a booth at the event and was selling cake jars to attendees. By the end of the day, she completely sold out of all her products.

“It was really great,” Durant said. “I didn’t know what to expect because of the prediction of rain and thunderstorms. I was surprised at how many people were out there in the rain and supporting. It was absolutely amazing. The turnout was great.”

She added that the block party was her first vending event since the pandemic, which caused her company to slow down, and this event allowed her to make business connections for future events.

“I work from a ghost kitchen in Westwood. I don’t have a storefront. So opportunities like this are really important, just to get out and meet people and let people know that I am here. Black Market, they never disappoint with making opportunities for people in our community and making sure that we have the opportunities in front of us,” she said.

Elaine Ellis-Phillip, co-owner of bakery and cosmetics company Sweet Glam, also had a booth at the event and said the block party is very good for her business, since she gets a lot of repeat customers.

“People come out. It doesn’t matter where they’re from, they always show up and they know that the event is gonna be amazing. I feel like sometimes the Black community forgets that we also have Black vendors, and you can really get a lot of great products, and from a lot of great companies,” she said.

Geo Costomiris is one of the main organizers for the Black Men’s Collective Boston, an organization that promotes Black men engaging in political theory by encouraging dialogues in small group settings, and was at the event trying to spread the word about his organization.

“It was very rainy,” he said. “It did impact attendance at first, and participation, but there were these random clearings that allowed for what I experienced to be very joyful interactions between people that already knew about us, and then largely people that didn’t know that there’s a Black men’s collective of Boston.”

Costomiris said events like these are important for the Black community in Boston because it promotes a sense of togetherness and encourages Black residents to stay in Boston rather than move to other cities like Atlanta or Philadelphia that have a higher population of Black people.

“So by showing love and community strength, we come together and show the preservation of the community in these outward displays,” he said. “It really ups the morale and ups the energy of people, so they say ‘Oh, I don’t want to move out of Boston’ as opposed to folks who say that, ‘Oh, there’s nothing to do here. I’m Black and there’s not enough Black people here.’ We’re really trying to be a part of this community push to say that ‘No, there are cultural spaces here.’”