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Black businesses band together for "economic reclamation" after Minneapolis expo goes bust

Black business owners partner up to create Peoples Market
Black business owners partner up to create Peoples Market 02:13

MINNEAPOLIS -- A large-scale event planned by the City of Minneapolis during Black History Month was meant to uplift Black-owned businesses. But the "I Am My Ancestors' Wildest Dreams" Black business expo fell short, leaving entrepreneurs with losses.

Now the community is stepping up in hopes of making things right.

The Dream Shop is both a gift shop and community space that sits in the heart of North Minneapolis, near Fremont Avenue North and 37th. Owner Markella Smith says she and other small business owners jumped at the chance to take part in the event where 20,000 people were expected to attend.

"It's an expo at the Convention Center, so we were expecting there to be people," Smith said. "There was no community there. A lot of community members didn't know about it."

The city's new Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Department spearheaded the event that cost Smith and other Black vendors money they could not afford to lose. The city lost close to $1 million in the venture.

Many of those vendors called community activist J. DeVon Nolen.

"The loss the extraction of resources, it evoked all kinds of emotions," Nolen said. "It was very painful and it catapulted me into action."

Nolen partnered with Smith and Kamillah El-Amin, owner-operator of Royal Foundry Craft Spirits Distillery, to provide a space for The People's Market, calling it an act of "economic reclamation."

"We are giving vendors who were at the expo -- or who could have been at the expo -- giving them a chance to make back some of the money they lost," Smith said.

The People's Market will feature more than 30 vendors. They will take over a 15,000-square-foot building.

"This is an opportunity for us to remind ourselves that the solutions we need often come from community. We are constantly reacting to things that are happening to us," Nolen said. "This is an opportunity for us to be proactive and send a message to these entrepreneurs that we care about business in the City of Minneapolis and we want you to be successful."

The city auditor's office is looking into why the original event did not work.

The People's Market will happen from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Friday at 241 Fremont Avenue North. 

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