Sooooo sweet: Chocolate Festival promotes Black artists, entrepreneurs and businesses
on February 5, 2023
In celebration of Black History Month, the Black Cultural Zone put a spotlight on love and local businesses, bringing them together in the Sooooo Chocolate Festival on Sunday at Uptown Station.
“Promoting local artists is the antidote to gentrification and displacement,” said Carylon Johnson, Black Cultural Zone CEO. “Festivals like these remind people that who we are is made up of our local small businesses. And so we’ve got to embrace them and elevate them.”
The rich fragrance of chocolate mixed with displays of fashion, beauty and art, as more than 60 entrepreneurs showcased their work at the festival. Akoma market vendors and artists were selling limited edition crafts and materials. Sweet and savory tastings from Black chefs were paired with selected wines from Black vintners.
The festival embraced Black History Month, highlighting traditions and culture. It also supported local chefs who don’t have their own restaurants or are just starting off in their careers.
“Local entrepreneurs are the heartbeat of any community,” said Reggie Borders, the owner of Pound Bizness, which makes pound cakes. “Without local businesses, there would be no diversity, no flavor.”
The Black Cultural Zone was conceived in 2014 and started out by addressing the displacement of Black businesses from their communities. The nonprofit provides a platform for Black arts and culture, and engages community members in art activism.
Visitors enjoyed food and hot chocolate as they walked through the festival and shopped for themselves and their loved ones in the month of love.
Several vendors were selling wellness products and highlighting the importance of self-love, including Myesha Williams’ My Evolving Wellness, which specializes in aromatherapy, and Gigi De Leon’s Hella Spiritual, which promotes spiritual well-being.
“All the artists here have put their soul into their work, and you can feel it,” said Nema Link, an Oakland resident. “It’s truly moving.”
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