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Bringing It Black offers up a unique night market experience

Carla Eckels
Catherine Franklin, owner of Rootwork LLC, explains how to use one of her products to customer Rev. Cynthia Smart.

Visit a new event that helps promote minority-owned businesses in Wichita.

About 25% of Kansas' minority-owned businesses are based in Wichita. They used to be found mainly in ethnic neighborhoods, but things are changing. The organization Bringing it Black is starting a new event on Final Fridays, featuring products by Black-owned businesses in a popular alley in Wichita's downtown as part of the inaugural night market.

On this particular day, Danielle Johnson — one of the founders and organizers of Bringing It Black — is ushering shoppers into the colorful brick pathway.

Carla Eckels
Angelica Baker, owner of Heaven on a Paper Plate, serves Cajun pasta on Turkey Leg at the Bringing It Black Night Market. Baker, who has been in business for about 5 years, recently won Best Chef at Wichita’s Blackout ICT awards.

"We are doing Final Fridays in gallery alley," Johnson says. "This is an opportunity to bring out varying vendors and create just a really good ambiance and experience. We have no shortage of minority vendors here, but it's open to all businesses. We want to make sure that there's an opportunity for folks to engage with different vendors, get some food, get some drinks, and just have a good Friday night — safe, fun and enjoy the downtown area.

"The organization Bringing It Black was formed a few years ago. We realized we wanted to create cultural opportunities, so places and spaces that were safe, with good music where we can authentically be ourselves and really just turn up and hang out with one another."

Catherine Franklin, owner of Rootwork LLC, explains how to use one of her products to a customer.

“Over here, we've got some body butters,” says Franklin. “They are all natural made with about seven different butters all natural for the skin. We specialize in products for men and women and so it just keeps the skin looking good, glowing."

Franklin says some of the ingredients in the products come from Africa. “We are a holistic business, so we sell a lot of mind, body and spirit products.”

Angelica Baker's business is Heaven on a Paper Plate, which has been in operation for about five years. Baker was serving turkey legs with Cajun pasta for the event.

"I'm a caterer. I meal prep, I sell meals daily too as well," Baker says. "I cater like weddings and baby showers. I started off cooking for friends and then my friends were all like, 'it's so good, you should sell it.' I started selling small meals and it progressed on to catering weddings and all those kind of things."

Baker says customers rave about her food. "I won Best Chef Award this year at the Blackout ICT Awards. I kind of knew I would win," she chuckles, "but I was up against some good competition. I'm very confident, I know my food is great."

Rev. Cynthia Smart happened upon the market while walking in downtown Wichita. She immediately began shopping.

"I think it's important for us to be able to gather and to support one another," Smart says. "It allows others to see about our culture, some of the things that are important to us. I think it's also time of diversity and building of our community."

Felicia Thompson is another organizer of Bringing It Black Night Market. She owns Two Beatz Boutique. Thompson started her clothing business as a mobile boutique.

"I think it's important for businesses of color to be represented in every space," Thompson says. "This is a different space that we haven't been in, so it's really nice to just be out here and just have people that are just naturally walking through, come in and checking out and supporting our businesses. In a boutique space, there isn't a lot of Black businesses at all. So, I felt that it was important for us to be represented in a way, bring clothing here that represents us and that you can connect with, that you don't have to purchase online. We have it right here."

Carla Eckels
Chris Ford looks over items at the Bringing It Black Night Market. He says, “We have so many people in different places in the country that's coming in, making dollars in our own community. Anytime, we can make money in our own community, I think that's a good thing.”

Chris Ford had been living in Tulsa for 35 years, and just began working as a chef at NetApp on the Wichita State University campus. He decided to attend the event after hearing about it from his cousin.

"We have so many people in different places in the country that's coming in, making dollars in our own community," Ford says. "Anytime, we can make money in our own community, I think that's a good thing."

Elijah Hamilton agrees. He's the owner of Forever Bonded, a business that welds jewelry chains in place permanently…or when you decide to cut them off.

"It is important to be a part of this event," Hamilton says, "to share my knowledge on, my business and everything like that. And also, be able to explore different avenues of Black culture and being able to support other Black owned businesses. You know, my traffic is their traffic too. So, we all work together to make the community a great place."

Bringing It Black Night Market will return on Final Friday in late October.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.