JERSEY CITY, NJ - Thousands of Jersey City residents were out Sunday, masked up, celebrating and supporting local Black owned businesses. The event, organized by prominent Jersey City businessman and entrepreneur Bruce Alston, coincided with National Black Business Day, and was, he told TAPinto Jersey City, an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to “connect and network.”
“As a nation and a city we can talk about gentrification and displacement,” Alston said, “or we can reinvent the wheel and create our own Black Wall Street.”
The second event of its kind this summer, Alston both lamented the number of Black owned businesses that have had to permanently close their doors because of COVID-19, and celebrated that Saturday’s gathering, held in a street fair like atmosphere along several blocks of Ocean Avenue, attracted 150 merchants.
As he surveyed the visible success of the day Alston surmised that “it’s everyone’s goal to work for yourself,” even if that means working a job in addition to a traditional “9-5,” especially these days, he added, when multiple stream of income are often necessary to make ends meet.
“We are creative people,” he said. “If we don’t have a job we are going to create one.”
“That’s being an entrepreneur.”
Among the businesses showing off their fashions was Hustle Woman, founded by Shaquita Hicks. While Shaquita had left the table momentarily her mother, Antoinette Bowers, proudly stood in her place.
Shaquita works another full time job, her mother said, but loves the opportunity to share new ideas, illustrated on t-shirts and other items, with her customers. The company, launched two years ago, reflects Shaquita’s work ethic which can be defined in one word: hustle.
Asked about the importance of being out and meeting new people Bowers shared her own knowledge of how the business world often works saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Both putting their commitment to spending their dollars locally into action were Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey and her Ward A counterpart Denise Ridley.
By employing local residents and keeping the community connected, and therefore safer, small businesses are “the lifeblood of our any town,” Prinze-Arey said, sharing her willingness to keep working on behalf of local entrepreneurs with the understanding that “each neighborhood has different needs.”
It wasn’t just businesses on hand as several non-profit organizations, including Save a Few, also shared information and other items to help advance their mission. Just established in February to “glamorize good decision-making” and support “at risk” youth, the non-profit launched in honor of the Founder Pelonda Glover’s son’s 16th birthday has ambitious plans to help young people become “better education citizens in a safer environment.”
Aaron, who gladly passed on a more traditional birthday gift and took on the launch of S.A.F., said he is working with his mother and others to get the group on the map. His message to his fellow teens who may be going down the wrong path was a simple one: The streets aren’t for you.
Ridley recently sponsored a resolution that will continue to recognize August 30 as Black Business Day in Jersey City, and was on hand to do her part to alleviate some of the struggles local businesses have faced in past months, as well as to let the community know that “we need to keep businesses thriving, even in a COVID-19 economy.”
It wasn’t just the financial transactions taking place that made the day successful, Ridley shared, it was the socializing taking place. “It’s nice to see neighbors interacting again.”
Carol Powell, whose tent full of sunglasses and other accessories was the one that drew Ridley’s attention when TAPinto caught up with her, added to the councilwoman’s comments about the positive atmosphere.
“It’s nice to see my people supporting one another,” she said. “When I look around I see us, that’s the beauty of today.” Offered good luck by this reporter Powell shared that it’s not luck that she thrives on but rather “blessings.”
“What’s for you will come to you,” she said.
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