By Miriam Schwartz
July 2, 2018
The Black Market pop-up shop in Boston’s Dudley Square neighborhood stood proud and defiant on the eve of its season grand opening. Black Market, now in its second year, was born out of a desire to give entrepreneurs a space to build their dreams, and in turn became the fulfillment of a dream for its founders, too.
But just 72 hours before the grand opening, owners Kai and Christopher Grant found a hateful message spray-painted on the building’s wall.
“White Lives Matter,” the graffiti stated, but this didn’t come as a surprise to Kai Grant. Far from deterring her and her vision for Black Market, she was more determined than ever. “We knew it was coming. We knew it was just a matter of time,” she wrote in a Facebook post adding, “WE WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.”
The Black Market pop-up shop was conceived with a mission of eliminating the wealth gap between black and white households in the Boston area and celebrating black culture. The Black Market even paved the way for others who took inspiration from its success—several storefronts have popped up around Boston.
According to a report that was shared in a recent Boston Globe article, the median net worth for non-immigrant African-American households in the Greater Boston Area is $8, while the household median for whites is $247,500. This disparity is especially relevant in the Dudley Square neighborhood, home to Black Market and a vibrant black community.
The graffiti’s inflammatory message also showed a misunderstanding and ignorance about Black Market’s mission. “We wanted to create an opportunity for black-owned businesses and make a dent in the wealth gap experienced by Boston’s indigenous black community,” said Kai, “we are one of the most diverse markets in New England. We represent more than 25 nations, all ages, religions, [and] languages.”
Despite those events, the Grants had a “by local for local” marketplace in Roxbury to open, and vendors to welcome. Local vendors have flocked to Black Market because of the unique opportunity that it presents—a space to show their creations, build a customer base, and show a record of cash flow—all of which are instrumental for entrepreneurs looking to take the next step in business.
“I’m here because I love my community. I’m fourth generation Roxbury,” said Kai between answering last-minute questions, waving to people passing by on Washington Street, and beaming with excitement about the upcoming opening.
“There is so much potential here, but it never gets moving; it’s not translating to the community,” adds Christopher Grant. Together, the Grants put their money (they funded the Black Market pop-up shop with their retirement savings) directly into building up and supporting the Dudley Square community.
At their core, Kai and Christopher are problem solvers, and they’ve put their years of experience—Christopher as a 25-year foreman for the MBTA and Kai as an entrepreneur in her own right—in service of the community they live in. “We are creating solutions to these things. We’re told to pull ourselves by our bootstraps. This is a bootstrap business—we’re pulling ourselves up, and our community,” said Kai. The graffiti, followed by an effort on social media to take down Black Market’s Facebook page, wasn’t just an attack on Black Market and its vendors. “It was an attack on our community,” adds Kai.
But on a sunny Sunday in late April, the attack became a thing of the past. The Black Market was open, and the Grants, the talented vendors personally curated by Kai, and hundreds of shoppers filled the space to capacity. As Prince played in the background, shoppers browsed handmade beauty products, clothing, jewelry, and home furnishings—all lovingly made by the people selling them. There, an opportunity to support hyper-local businesses and put money directly into the community’s hands was met with enthusiasm. Even Mayor Marty Walsh stopped by to show support. Outside, there was no trace of hateful words. Inside, only love.
The Grants stressed the need for cooperatives in the black community but also that Black Market is a space for all, that welcomes all. “We’re at an interesting time, we’ve seen a lot of divisive narratives created, but we are united. Everyone that comes into this space is welcome,” said Kai.
Surrounded by the vendors of Black Market and all repeat attendees from last year, Kai was resolute. “We believe in our mission and we’re not going to stop. It’s too important right now.”
Follow Black Market on Facebook for updates on events, pop-up shop dates, and to support the Dudley Square community.
“We’re at an interesting time, we’ve seen a lot of divisive narratives created, but we are united. Everyone that comes into this space is welcome…” – Kai Grant, Owner, The Black Market