On Friday November 27, the running track at Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Complex in Miami Gardens was lined with tents and tables. Representatives for 32 black-owned small businesses had laid out their products — jewelry, art, food — for shoppers to peruse. It was Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, and the idea was to redirect dollars from Walmart to South Florida’s black communities.
More than 300 shoppers attended the Black Friday Marketplace, which was a relief for organizer Daniel Agnew. He had spent the past two months meeting with officials from the City of Miami Gardens and Mayor Oliver Gilbert to acquire the necessary permits. In his spare time, he recruited black businesses to sign up.
“It was just the first event, but it was inspiring that people had faith in the process,” says Agnew. “It was a true display of power in the community to create a black spending network.”
Agnew had been dismayed by the economic reality he witnessed all around. Developers were gentrifying swaths of land in predominantly black communities like Little Haiti and Overtown. Walmart treated its workers so poorly that in 2012, there had been 1,000 protests outside its stores; yet that year, the company reported its best-ever Black Friday, with 22 million customers and almost $60 billion in sales.
Last year, with five other activists, Agnew cofounded Roots Collective, a group that would harness economic and artistic support for South Florida’s black communities. They set out to strengthen the community with a network of black businesses.
The Black Friday Marketplace was a culmination of that effort. It kicked off with about 35 South Florida Walmart employees walking onto the track at 11:30 a.m. They had been fasting for 12 days to protest wages at Walmart stores and asking for a $15-an-hour wage.
“We broke bread together and broke their fast,” Agnew says. “It was really powerful seeing Latino and Latina workers alongside people from the black community.”
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Vendors sold holistic medicine, natural foods and juices, clothing, and accessories. Artists and musicians showed up, as did a group teaching self-defense. Agnew had originally hoped for 100 vendors but was pleased that more than 30 had shown up.
“It was the first time, so I think so people were skeptical,” Agnew says. “The feedback has been great so far.”
Agnew wants to keep the momentum going. He intends to make Black Friday Marketplace a recurring event at the park, probably on the second Friday of every month. He is meeting with city officials and expects the next one to take place January 8.
“We’re definitely hoping to grow as an event,” Agnew says. “That means attracting more businesses and members from the community.” Visit rootscollective.biz or search for Black Friday Marketplace on Facebook and Instagram.