Back in June, after George Floyd was killed, a group of local Frederick residents came together with the common purpose of creating change amidst the social injustices throughout the country.
They knew that more was needed to create change. So they funneled their anger into action and decided to create solutions themselves.
It started with a conversation thread in the Frederick Minority Business Group on Facebook. During this time, there was a massive push to support Black-owned businesses, and many people saw its effectiveness. However, this group recognized that it needed to be easier for the Frederick community to sustain those efforts over time.
One group member suggested opening a Black-owned grocery store. Shana Knight -- who would soon become the founder of SOUL Street -- piggybacked on that idea, suggesting opening a Black-owned Farmers market.
That conversation thread led to a group call to brainstorm ideas together. Soon, SOUL Street was formed -- by founder Shana Knight, along with co-founders Evelyn Johnson, Jarad Bowens, Tasha Bowens-Blair, Catherine Dorsey, Terez Dorsey, Adrian Hawkins, Loren Brown, Michelle Forbes, Alexandra Gushard Edwards, Kayla Slusher, Lorenzo Nichols, and Paige Galloway.
SOUL Street is “a local collective of Black business owners and community members who have come together to empower the Black business community through events, outreach, advocacy, and education.”
Co-founder Evelyn Johnson elaborates, “A group of us got together and decided that we wanted to do something together here in Frederick to empower the Black community. It was an overwhelming time, and to have a team come together and do something positive in this community was something we all needed.”
In less than a month after the first phone call, SOUL Street hosted its first Black-owned Farmers Market event in Frederick over the Fourth of July weekend.
The success of their first event confirmed the demand for what they were offering -- especially considering it happened over a hot and humid holiday weekend and during COVID-19.
Shana shares, “The demand was really high even at our first event. We had a lot of Black-owned businesses that showed interest in being vendors -- we couldn’t even accept everyone for the first events. Hundreds of patrons came through, and it showed that people wanted to see what Black-businesses were selling.” Shana says.
At the next event, the demand was even higher. That’s when they knew they were onto something.
“Suddenly, people are seeing that vendors are selling out. Now, we have people who haven’t vended before reaching out to use all the time. People are calling from other counties trying to vend at our event.” Shana says.
Even after just a few months of operating, SOUL Street is already cultivating new businesses and supporting them to grow. SOUL Street’s impact is enormous, and its vision is ever-expanding.
Shana says, “We’re inspiring businesses, growing businesses, and helping the Black business community build wealth. We’re encouraging people to use their spending power to support Black businesses. It’s like we are really just connecting, inspiring, empowering, and cultivating.”
Evelyn responds, “That all has to do with wealth. Wealth isn’t just money -- it’s knowledge; it’s unity.
Shana continues, “Kids are coming to events and seeing people who look like them be their own bosses. That’s planting powerful seeds.”
The founders have many goals for SOUL Street. For the coming year, their goal is to have a regular weekly market at a standard location. After that? The possibilities are endless -- like going nationwide and assisting their vendors in opening their own stores. SOUL Street is also looking to support Black business owners in the future by providing education and resources to help them grow and thrive. They want more visibility and representation on shelves.
The next opportunity to experience and support SOUL Street is on Black Friday (November 27th, 2020), through a COVID-safe event complete with rules in place for health and safety.
“We know that people want to make a difference -- like all those people marching with us at the protests. It gave us the idea to have a Black Friday event. Instead of traditional Black Friday plans, we invite you to shop Black. That makes an economic statement and shows that we have power in our money.”
SOUL Street Black Friday is a family-friendly, community event where everyone is welcome and invited. You have the opportunity to make a difference while enjoying the live music, getting to know the community more, and enjoying the holiday event.
SOUL Street Black Friday Event
Friday, November 27 from 1 - 6 pm
at the NEW Jerk n Jive Location 409 Prospect Blvd in Frederick!
SOUL Street markets adhere to COVID guidelines, taking place outdoors, with socially distanced spacing, entrance/exit traffic flow, and hand sanitizer provided. MASKS ARE REQUIRED!
Interested in being a vendor at SOUL Street? Find out how to qualify and other vendor FAQs on their website here: https://mysoulstreet.com/pages/vendors-1
Learn more about SOUL Street here: https://mysoulstreet.com/