Juneteenth Freedom Market celebrates Black creativity

By Anna Busalacchi, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The 40+ Double Dutch Club performs multiple step and double dutch routines for attendees. K’Von Jackson

Omotola Akinbiyi, a Columbia fashion design alum and small business owner of Bon Femmes, was one of the vendors at the Juneteenth Freedom Market Friday evening, selling colorful jewelry, art prints, home decor and beauty products made exclusively by women.

Akinbiyi said the event, hosted by Refine Collective, a Chicago-based online community of women- and minority-owned businesses and freelancers aiming to shift consumer buying power towards minorities, was a great way for people to discover small businesses.

In celebration of local Black-owned businesses, the Juneteenth Freedom Market showcased more than 50 vendors at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Friday evening in a lively display of art and culture decorated with Pan-African flags.

“I think it’s really cool that [the Freedom Market is] taking place at the MCA because, obviously, my whole goal is to [spotlight] women makers and artists,” Akinbiyi said.

The Freedom Market showcased and highlighted Black-owned businesses and vendors at the Museum of Contemporary Art. K’Von Jackson

IB Majekodunmi, founder of Refine Collective, said the event was a celebration of Black creativity and entrepreneurship in light of Juneteenth, the federal holiday on June 19 honoring the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in 1865.

“I think when we think of Juneteenth, obviously it’s a celebration, but there’s also a kind of sadness to it,” Majekodunmi said. “I just want to bring joy, and I think Chicago is slept on a lot. I think Chicago is a hub of a lot of really dope people, especially Black people, Black creatives, Black entrepreneurs doing very incredible things, so I just wanted to create a space for that.”

The event featured music from local DJs, a performance from the 40+ Double Dutch Club and a collection of vendors selling clothing, art, books, jewelry, plants and more. The market was sponsored by Red Bull, SoHo House Chicago and Perrier, to name a few. Additionally, Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper was in attendance.

Some of the event proceeds went toward the Gray Matter Experience, a nonprofit supporting Chicago’s Black youth in entrepreneurship.

Majekodunmi said Refine Collective grew from a January 2020 realization when Grail Cafe, a Black-owned coffee shop, opened in her neighborhood in Printers Row at 715 S. Dearborn St. and was struggling to compete against the nearby Starbucks. This inspired her to create a directory of local Blackowned businesses to connect with and uplift.

IB Majekodunmi speaks to attendees at the Freedom Market and introduces performers on stage. K’Von Jackson

Kelley Moseley, market vendor and owner of the small business K Fleye, said she has been a part of Refine Collective’s events since the beginning and describes it as a big supportive family.

Her abstract, one-of-a-kind accessories are inspired by conversations with people and made of reclaimed materials such as leather and metal to minimize her carbon footprint, she said.

Moseley, born and raised in the Austin community, said she hopes the market will bring Chicago closer together as a community.

“We all live here together, and we all need each other, so say ‘hi,’” Moseley said.

K Fleye recently opened its first showroom in Bronzeville at 4622 S. Martin Luther King Drive, selling clothing, accessories and art and offering free art classes.

The 40+ Double Dutch Club member Jamie Johnson dances and weaves between dual jump ropes. K’Von Jackson

Chris Cloud, director of marketing at the MCA, said he hopes the event will keep recurring for years to come because it represents the cultural energy in Chicago.

“Being a Black person and working at this museum, it’s so dope, seeing so many Black creators and artists here, and that we were able to share our space,” Cloud said. “I think a lot of times, even just the use of space in museums and cultural institutions are so guarded, so we’re really excited … to really bring people out to celebrate Blackness.”

Alexis Davis is the founder of LIT by LEX Candle Co., a vendor at the market selling homemade candles inspired by music and color. The recent college graduate began making candles in the pandemic and said she wanted to create something that was sensory accessible to everyone.

“It’s for the groovy people,” Davis said. “That’s what I’m always saying, it’s for all of us because I know we as humans experience so many deficits, and I wanted to create something that crossed off multiple senses.”

Each candle is colored based on the album it is inspired by and comes with a QR code to a Spotify or Apple Music playlist made by Davis. Davis said she is at the Wicker Park Farmers Market every Sunday selling candles.

“I’m just grateful to be utilizing my creativity, especially in a time right now where if we don’t create, then what do we have?” Davis said. “That’s what gives me the energy to keep going, is to create and to be inspired by so many beautiful Black people here.”