The 20th Annual Cultural Connection African Marketplace Expo was held March 12th-13th, at Dixon Elementary School, 8306 S. St. Lawrence Ave. The expo brought together more than 65 Black vendors from across the country, according to Malika Jackson, coordinator for the event.
The annual marketplace expo targets local Afrocentric shoppers seeking a cultural connection. Black artisans and entrepreneurs from Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, among others filled classrooms, the school’s hallway and gymnasium with unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade items. Chicago designers brought plenty of their 2017 Spring designs, featuring mud cloth, denim, and camouflage wear. The presentation of African indigo fabrics made into gorgeous classy two-piece designs was on exhibit, which was made by a Baltimore designer.
According to an event’s spokesperson, several thousand people were expected to turn out over the course of the 2-day affair.
Jackson, a former art teacher at Dixon Elementary, worked on the ground level to help create the Cultural Connection Marketplace more than 20 years ago. Somewhat similar to the Black Women Expo, but with a little more originality, Jackson stated that the marketplace expo was an idea that was first originated by Sandra Haynes. Haynes, who is now deceased, was a former Dixon Elementary Black Studies teacher.
“Sandy understood the importance of educating our children about their greatness,” Jackson said. “She taught and exposed them through literature, about the rich heritage of our race. She also taught them that we were kings, queens, merchants, and entrepreneurs and that we carved our destiny as a people. We were not just mere consumers. Sandy showed our students how to work with entrepreneurs and artists.”
For several years, Alta Flowers, a mentor for the University of Minnesota and Chicago native looks forward to attending the annual marketplace event and according to her, it is always an empowering experience. Flowers said, “I have attended the event in past years. I love the atmosphere and the idea that vendors come from various states, and they’re not just local vendors. It is wonderful to see black and brown-skinned people coming together under one roof to support and acknowledge our culture. It is also great to see the many products of the artisans’ gifts and creativity showcased under one roof. Every year I learn something new, and I meet someone new. You leave feeling empowered,” Flowers stated.
Jackson stated that the purpose of holding the event during the month of March is to do away with the idea of hosting Black History events only in February. “We wanted the children and the community to see that Black History is every month, Haynes said.”
“Sandy would be proud of the legacy she has left along with her daughter, who is an artist. She had the vision to start a marketplace where children could work alongside entrepreneurs and artists to see first-hand how people of color realize their dreams and passions,” Jackson added.