When it comes to embracing minority groups, Boston tends to fall short. Even when we come close to acceptance and true integration, there seems to be a veil of racism surrounding these victories as well.
Last year, Kai Grant, an African-American businesswoman, along with her husband Christopher Grant, opened Boston’s first black-owned pop-up store, called Black Market. This space represented an opportunity for black vendors to come together and sell their products, many of which are African goods. Not only does a market like this create a network for black entrepreneurs, but it also can be a pathway for diversity in the city. At the very least, it makes the presence of black people known.
Problems arose when Boston Magazine recently mislabeled another black market that opened in the Seaport district as the city’s first pop-up run by black people. This market, which is opening its doors later this month, is a venture brought forth by Quontay Turner, a former vendor at Grant’s Black Market. She thought the market would be a way for her to introduce a minority business into a predominantly white neighborhood — only 3 percent of Seaport residents are black.
A mistake like this can’t be coincidence, though. Instead of conducting a proper fact check, Boston Magazine committed the grave mistake of failing to attribute the black shop in Roxbury as the first of its kind. Of course, when the store was opened in a white neighborhood like Seaport, an assumption was made that it was the first black-owned pop-up in Boston.
Yet somehow, this isn’t surprising coming from a Boston-based news organization. While we can try to think this mistake is just a slip-up in fact checking, the error really points to the systemic racism that is so prevalent in this city. Time and time again, we run into such accidents that probably stem from a place of racism.
Ignoring the successes of black businesses in Roxbury is indicative of how people do not pay attention to what happens in a neighborhood that is majority black. It takes away from the accomplishments of the founders, the Grants, in establishing a successful, lucrative business. This could have been a moment to feature black people who created their own successes, but they were failed to get the credit they deserved.
While it’s important to have minority-run businesses across the city, opening a market in Seaport where black entrepreneurs can sell their goods can help bridge the racial and even socioeconomic disparities there. It’s a notoriously affluent neighborhood and has been revitalized over the years for professionals to boost the economy. But apparently, these professionals only include white people. Seaport’s white residents make up 89 percent of the population.
Soon after the mistake in Boston Magazine last month, Black Market was vandalized, with perpetrators painting “White Lives Matter” on an exterior wall. This was a clear example of how some Bostonians continue discriminating against black people.
Instances like these make it evident that these markets are important spaces to educate the public. They can also be beneficial in erasing the stereotypes associated with black people. Despite prejudices, we need to see black people as successful businessmen and entrepreneurs.
The argument that the concept of a black market is exclusive and unnecessary is entirely illegitimate and counterproductive. When we don’t talk about people who are oppressed, their narrative gets erased — and we can’t afford to let that happen. The market is a way for black people to reclaim history and undo years of economic discrimination. They deserve recognition for their work, and this must happen regardless of the racism that plagues this city.