Samantha Turner is an artist who creates hand-painted works that pay homage to the city of Chicago under the handle S.Rose Chicago. Her works almost exclusively feature graphic caps that have sayings such as “Chicago Bae” or “Excuse the Chicago in Me” fashionably. Over the weekend S. Rose was a vendor at the BLK+ BRWN Market hosted by the Brown Girl Project at the Connect Gallery, 1520 E. Harper Ct.
The Brown Girl Project is an initiative to help women of color with their business ventures by curating spaces to work and connect with each other. The market was a two-day event allowing women of color to provide commerce in a collective space, inviting people to come in and enjoy mimosas and minority-owned businesses.
Christine Griffith, the founder of the Brown Girl Project, says that experiences are something that people miss coming out of quarantine, and that is what provided the spirit for the BLK + BRWN Market to be born. “What we actually experienced during the pandemic, was how we can be more supportive to both Black and brown people from the way of commerce and helping them build their businesses a little bit better so that they can sustain,” she said.
The market featured business owners with an array of specializations. Iritisen Muhammad is the owner of Lineage Vintage, a business that provides styling services. Muhammad says that sourcing through thrift stores and antique shops was something she did with her mom as a hobby. “I used to do this with my mom,” she said. “She passed away and then that's what birthed Lineage Vintage, to come from her lineage and now I'm here and now I get to pass something to the next generation.”
Though this was the first pop-up, the market is not just a one-off. The Brown Girl Project will host another market in the fall in a bigger venue. Griffith says that they are currently working with people in the city to find the ideal location without having to compromise space, so they’re able to have more vendors
Griffith says that the Brown Girl Project will have its first brick and mortar space in 2022 in Little Village, noting that it’s a neighborhood on the cusp of Black and brown communities. Although the Brown Girl Project is focused on empowering women of color, the mixed-use space will also be open for men of color to showcase their businesses as well. “We really were focusing on Black and brown women initially, but I think that Black and brown people is where we really need to harvest more opportunities,” said Griffith.
The new space will give minority business owners a chance to sell their goods in a tangible way without the burden of high cost and with a sense of community. “By having a space that allows for young budding entrepreneurs to be able to house their wares, or whatever it is that they're selling, but then also leverage a network of people who are there also to sell their things,” explained Griffith, who says the building will also be a co-working and office space.
“Being able to build and bridge something that I think could be really impactful for a community to just organically come together, I think could be super beneficial,” said Griffith, explaining how she sees Chicago’s history of segregation as an opportunity to make a significant impact.