Before you agree to be a vendor or volunteer, I want you to know my story and I want to know yours. Hi, I’m Janet Johanson, a 42-year old woman. I have a husband and 2 children and have been a business owner for the last 18 years (pictures below – I want you to know me as a human, not just an organizer). At my businesses, we employ over 50 people and I am honored to be a part of their purpose and personal development. Getting my business to where it is today has not been easy. I grew up in the city of Milwaukee, my parents were both teachers and they made very little money to support 4 kids – but they made it work and we were happy. Because my dad was a teacher at a private grade school (making $12K annually and steeply discounted tuition for their families), we were all able to attend that school. My family could not afford private high school, so through a lottery system, we were lucky enough to have attended the public college-prep, Riverside University High School. 80% of the school was minority (mostly black). I took public transportation to and from school, and transferred at the corner of 27th & Center – not the safest place for a 14-year old girl to be. I studied and worked hard (started my first job bussing tables at 14), attended college, and then started my first business.
After the murder of George Floyd, I was F*&ing ANGRY and terribly sad. For 20 years, I was naïve to what was happening to the BIPOC community. I spent most of that week crying and trying not to post angry things on social media and then remembered, “you cannot change your emotions, but you can change your reaction to them, and that changes the outcome.” So, as a company, we took the approach to look inward and stop to listen – “Be the change you want to see in this world.” What I realized through LISTENING, is that most white people have not had my experience with black people – 84% of Minnesota is white, some of them may have had limited or NO experience with black people – and all they see is hatred and violence. DANG, that is not the BIPOC people I know. Personally, I think many white people want to help, they just don’t know how to do so in a way that is impactful and safe.
I contacted several organizations (Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce, Midway Chamber, NDC, etc.) to see if there was something like this out there that I could help volunteer or financially support and they said nothing really exists. After watching the TED Talk by Verna Myers, I learned that the best way to overcome biases is to walk BOLDLY toward them. So we created a place where people can engage with AWESOME BIPOC people and support their businesses, and the Black Business Is Beautiful Outdoor Market was born.
First, the BIPOC vendor committe would like to make BIPOC vendors MONEY and gain new customers – being a small business owners, we know how hard this is!
Second, for the community to experience AWESOME BIPOC businesses and people and walking boldy toward their biases. All vendors and visitors will feel welcome, safe, and loved. We hope people have an AWESOME experience, and then go home to told their friends about the AWESOME people they met and engaged with. We know that events like this this will not end racism or wealth inequalities – but doing something is better than doing nothing.
Our OUTDOOR market on September 12th was filled with love & joy and we want to continue to host a LOCAL Market EVERY second Saturday of the month in 2021.