My People’s Market spotlights local entrepreneurs of color

This vibrant pop-up marketplace showcases work by local makers of color.

My Peoples Market – Paz Hair Lounge – Catalina GaitanPortland hairdresser Nelly Ayala, co-creator of Paz Hair Lounge, at My People's Market.

My People’s Market showcases local entrepreneurs and makers of color, connecting them with industry professionals and consumers.

Photos by Catalina Gaitán

Celebrating its fourth iteration this summer, My People’s Market returned June 1, 2019, bringing together dozens of local artists, entrepreneurs and creatives color for an evening of live music, networking and shopping. The summer market was held at the Post Office in Northwest Portland, in the heart of the Broadway Corridor development project.

Soapbox Theory’s booth at My Peoples Market, summer 2018, showcased their kid-friendly accessories, home decor, clothes and more.

Developed by four local nonprofits (Mercatus, Prosper Portland, Travel Portland and Partners in Diversity), the first My People’s Market was held in November 2017 and connected Portland creators of color with the travel industry and professionals who could help expand and scale their businesses. The event also served as an early kickoff to the holiday shopping season, drawing more than 1,200 attendees who shopped, ate, drank and danced throughout the evening.

Colorful arrays of fans, reusable calligraphy sets and more at local vendor’s My People’s Market booth in summer 2018.

“Per capita, Portland has the highest percentage of people of color entrepreneurs. It’s a small demographic, but people that are here are doing amazing things. It’s part of Portland’s spirit,” said Michelle Comer, Travel Portland’s community relations manager and one of the event organizers. “One thing I hear is ‘How do I find my community in Portland?’ So we thought it would be great to have an event for everyone to come together and make connections to people in their community.”

MexiRicanPDX served up summertime cocktails at My Peoples Market in 2018.

The first My People’s Market

The pop-up marketplace was set up within The Redd East, a space owned by local environmentally-focused nonprofit Ecotrust. Y.G.B. (Young Gifted Black and Brown) Portland curated a lineup of live performers, including local musicians, artists and dancers, who performed in both the warehouse space and the large tent next door. The night’s MC, Carlos the Rollerblader, zoomed between guests and tables with a microphone in hand as vendors shared their artwork, products, cuisine and services with shoppers.

Spice of Africa dishing up food at My People’s Market in 2018.

One of these makers was Courtney Morentin, founder and baker behind local small-batch bread business Wyld Bread. Morentin, who is Colombian and Mexican, moved to Portland from Southern California in 2016 to launch her business. Upon arrival, however, she found herself missing the diversity of her community in California.

A Mudbone Grone farmer talks their technique at My People’s Market in summer 2018.

“I’ve never lived anywhere where the majority of people are white,” Morentin said. “I grew up in a place where most people were Mexican or Latino and from different cultures. It’s the only thing Portland’s really lacking.”

Fortunately, Portland’s DIY culture helped Wyld Bread thrive. “There’s something in the air in Portland, I swear, that just makes people want to create and be part of it,” Morentin said. “People here are so incredibly kind and give their time to other people. More often people here will tell you ‘you can’ instead of ‘you can’t,’ and it’s nice to be part of that community and to feel supported by one another.”

DJ Casual Aztec performing on the My People’s Market main stage in 2018.

Intermingling with the scent of Morentin’s freshly baked breads were aromas evoking traditional cuisines from around the world. These included freshly poured, single-origin Mexican coffee steeped in cinnamon and brown sugar by Revolución Coffee House, platefuls of steaming chili verde tamales by Tamale Boy and fragrant curry samosas pulled straight from the fryer by Spice of Africa.

The Churros Locos truck selling freshly-fried churros at My People’s Market in 2018.

By the end of the evening, more than 1,200 attendees had eaten, drank and — most importantly — shopped their way through the marketplace. Many of the participating vendors sold out of their products, indicating there’s a strong local craving for events like My People’s Market.

Local artists and visitors collaborating on making art on the spot at My People’s Market in 2018.

The future of My People’s Market

The first My People’s Market provided a rare opportunity to see so many locally made goods in person, as many of the vendors don’t have brick and mortar stores to sell their products. The event was so successful, its creators were inspired to hold more iterations of the market (and even more events like it) at least once per year.

An artist at work at My People’s Market in summer 2018.

“I love the theme of this event,” said Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish. “To all the people that are chasing a dream and who want to grow a business in Portland, we want to do everything we can to support you … [and] in a city that celebrates small business, we have to do everything we can to help the vendors here be successful.”

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