by Fiona Dang

Foregrounding inclusivity and community, BIPOC-led markets across the greater Seattle area have been thriving in recent years, and many will be showcasing local talent this summer. These markets have sought to redress the staggering absence of markets centering BIPOC entrepreneurs and to reduce the often high barriers to entry such as application and vendor fees, bias in selection processes, and lack of mentorship. These markets support diverse communities of vendors with businesses that range from food and drinks to arts and crafts, apparel, beauty, and even performance. Here is your guide to several BIPOC-led markets in the Seattle area and beyond.

Black Night Market

The Black Night Market showcases Black talent and offers opportunities for small businesses to network and promote their brands. Not simply a shopping destination, the Black Night Market offers experiences where artists perform on stage, audience members enjoy fashion shows, and visitors partake in activities like paint and sip or cake decorating workshops.

In addition to her ongoing coordination of the Hilltop Indoor Market, Mari Griffin has cultivated a space for Black entrepreneurs. Small business owners often have to juggle multiple roles — production, accounting, and sales — and sometimes maintaining a social media presence is just one more burden. Griffin helps by providing extensive marketing and social media support for vendors and their products, honing the power of their stories to sustain relationships with target audiences. Griffin also offers mentorship and works on contract to assist entrepreneurs with branding and marketing on their own platforms. 

“I believe it’s important for us to have these spaces so that we can create economic success, especially within the Black community,” Griffin explained. “My intention with Black Night Market is to just have a space to celebrate ourselves.” 

Photo depicting crowds gathered around various booths inside an industrial space.
The Black Night Market isn’t just a marketplace, it’s a showcase of Black talent that includes music, fashion shows, and other live entertainment. (Photo: Brian Cheesemen)

The “Buy Black” message is typically prominent during protests or Black History Month, but Griffin encourages supporting Black-owned businesses all year. “When something happens with a Black person and the police, that’s when [the “Buy Black” message] is really emphasized. I’m doing it when it’s quiet. I feel like it’s more of a trend rather than a lifestyle,” she says. “I wanted to create a space where there’s nothing going on that says to do this, but do this. Do this not because someone was shot or killed, do this because it should be a normal thing to do.” 

This sustained effort invested in monthly markets has resulted in business owners attracting regular customers and custom order requests as well as a community of vendors who have uplifted one another. 

The Black Night Market takes place from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the last Friday of every month through December 2022 at Edison Square in Tacoma (5415 South Tacoma Way). The next markets — on June 24 and July 29 — will feature live performances, food trucks, and local talent.

Makers Art Market

The first Makers Art Market was held in July 2021 and offered an opportunity for artists struggling to show their work to the public. At the time, many in-person markets were suspended due to the pandemic. Emerging jewelry e-commerce business owner Kaining Wang felt compelled to connect with and support local makers who encountered similar issues, starting a market herself. Now facilitated by Wang and Elise Uyema, the market has since expanded and takes place almost every month at Alki Beach.

“Through organizing Makers Art Market, we have been able to build genuine friendships with local makers and constantly meet new small business owners. It has been essential to feel connected with others as small business owners ourselves,” Wang and Uyema reflected. 

“We share resources and lessons learned from experiences so we grow together. It is also extremely rewarding when we see positive feedback from the local community. With the West Seattle bridge being out of service for the past couple of years, our hope is to bring fun and exciting vendors to the ‘island’ to add to the liveliness of this beautiful community,” Wang and Uyema said. 

Pair of headshots depicting Kaining Wang (left) wearing a white blouse and Elise Uyema in a striped blouse.
During the pandemic, jewelry maker Kaining Wang (left) wanted better ways to connect with customers, and she knew there must have been other small businesses in the same situation. Partnering with Elise Uyema (right), Wang hosts the Makers Art Market in Alki Beach. Photo of Wang by Shao-Hsuan Hou. Photo of Uyema by Devin Larson, from Backcountry Bohemians.

Makers Art Market has aimed to organize diverse lineups of vendors with original designs and handmade works. “​​Being part of this has opened my eyes to the lack of BIPOC-led markets in Washington, let alone across the country. In my experience, the markets I’ve participated in didn’t incorporate BIPOC makers as one of their main considerations when choosing vendors. I would end up in a market with 90% of the vendors being white and most of the attendees were also white,” Uyema elaborated. “With our market we make it a point to have at least 50% BIPOC representation, and even offer scholarship booths to emerging artists who need assistance.” 

Knowing that booth fees may be an obstacle to some makers, the team sponsors at least one scholarship booth per market. Payment plan options for vendor fees as well as equipment share are available.

Celebrate the makers and admire their handmade work at the Makers Art Market taking place at Alki Beach Park, 2665 Alki Ave. SW, Seattle on the following days this year: August 13 (12 p.m to 6 p.m.); September 10 (1 p.m to 6 p.m.); November 5 (12 p.m to 5 p.m.); and December 3 (12 p.m to 5 p.m.). 

Rain or Shine Community Market

In the Fall of 2021, Jenni Liu planned the first iteration of the Rain or Shine Community Market in just one week. Having listened to numerous artists who experienced discrimination applying to several prominent markets, she decided to host them in her friend’s backyard. Liu explained her decision to sustain the Rain or Shine Community Market: “There’s a real need for people running markets to be People of Color. It’s not just about having BIPOC artists because when you don’t have a spot at the table, you just don’t know.” 

Since the first market, Liu and her team have organized five other Rain or Shine Community Market events in Tacoma and Seattle community spaces. 

Values of accessibility, welcomeness, inclusivity, open-mindedness, and respect have guided the direction of the market. The team aims to decrease barriers to entry by offering sliding scale and scholarship vendor fees as well as equipment shares. They have connected new vendors with veteran small business owners for mentorship, and presented the Business Basics Webinar for Washington Makers in partnership with African Community Housing & Development. On the market’s Instagram account, the “Meet the Makers” series spotlights the many small business owners and their missions, sources of inspiration, and creative practice.

Featuring over forty vendors, the next Rain or Shine Market will take place on Saturday, June 25, 2022, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Phinney Center, 6532 Phinney Avenue North.

Simply Junsta 

Founded in January 2022, Simply Junsta has attracted hundreds of followers across its social media accounts. Small business owners Silvia Godinez Anaya and Jocelyne Garcia Sanchez have felt frustrated by the absence of BIPOC vendors at markets. Garcia Sanchez noted the oft-exclusionary nature of markets led by non-Hispanic people as the catalyst for Simply Junsta.

“We started our own market so we can make the rules. We don’t want to leave anyone out. We’ve been there, we felt that, and it sucks. It’s a bad feeling to just wonder why I didn’t get approved. Some people charge $40 or $50 to apply, and you don’t get in so you lose money,” Garcia Sanchez said. 

At Simply Junsta there is no fee to apply, selection is on a first-come, first-served basis, and selected vendors only need to pay a flat-rate fee to help cover the cost of the venue. Many Simply Junsta vendors only speak Spanish, so Godinez Anaya and Garcia Sanchez, who are bilingual, are able to help them navigate setup or equipment shares. Simply Junsta serves as an inclusive market to help emerging entrepreneurs become comfortable, confident, and successful showcasing their businesses. 

The core belief that “The sun shines for everybody” has guided the vision of Simply Junsta. Godinez Anaya and Garcia Sanchez have promoted the brands of many businesses via social media and offered thank you gifts as gestures of appreciation. The team emphasizes community rather than competition. Whereas many prominent markets are typically held in Seattle, Simply Junsta markets take place in Everett.

Consider coming out and shopping from over 30 vendors at the next Simply Junsta market held on Saturday, June 25, 2022, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 6814 Washington Ave., Everett.

Fiona Dang (she/her) is a first-generation Chinese American art historian. Fiona has demonstrated her commitment to building bridges between scholarship and expansive art publics through her experiences working at museums.

📸 Featured Image: Vendors at the Rain or Shine Community Market. Market founder Jenni Liu said, “There’s a real need for people running markets to be People of Color. It’s not just about having BIPOC artists because when you don’t have a spot at the table, you just don’t know.” (Photo: Della Tosin)

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