Black in the Valley: More than a marketplace

Danielle Tranter, Reporter

A young boy appeared beside his mom Cheron Lewis, the owner of “A Mother’s Touch,” recommending customers to try his favorite product – the organic body butter – from their booth at the Black in the Valley Marketplace. It was made by his mom with him in mind. Using natural ingredients and homeopathic remedies, Lewis started her own line of beauty products such as body scrubs and beard oil based on her own family’s needs.

Mother of two and local entrepreneur, Lewis is a proud CSUN alumna whose business is rooted in Northridge.

She was one of about 30 vendors who came to the Black in the Valley Marketplace hosted by the Zawadi Cultural Collective at the Reseda Church of Christ on Saturday. Black vendors from across the San Fernando Valley sold a wide variety of items from homemade candles, custom waist beads, thrifted clothes and even vegan popsicles. The event was held to bring a greater sense of Black community to the Valley.

The event had live music by steel pannist Shoy Phillip, also known as Shoy Sauce, and food from the Manna From Heaven food truck, which offered cheesesteaks, burgers and chicken.

Organized by the Zawadi Cultural Collective, the four-year-old non-profit organization in the San Fernando Valley was created by Shania Accius, the founder and CEO, to “bring culturally based events to the San Fernando Valley.” She’d noticed that in order for members of the Black community to feel connected, they’d have to travel to the other side of the city for events that were based around their culture.

The Black in the Valley Marketplace is the latest event by Zawadi Cultural Collective. The organization, started from a private Facebook group Accius created in June of this year, became a central platform to promote Black businesses in the Valley.

Since then the group has grown tremendously, resulting in a new website and the opening of the outdoor marketplace with enforced social distancing.

Deciding to take this issue into her own hands, Shania and the ZCC began hosting events like the annual Women’s Empowerment Vision Board Party and Product Swap, as well as an annual Juneteenth celebration.

At the Juneteenth event, locals in the community are invited to enjoy free food and participate in various games and activities. It also provides a space to showcase local Black businesses and continue promoting entrepreneurship within the community.

“We invite all the local kids to create a business, come get a booth for free and sell [their] wares. It was a great way for them to practice entrepreneurship and just a good way for them to showcase their talents in the community,” Shania said.

Their next event will be a marketplace in conjunction with the organization’s annual Kwanzaa event put on by Girl Scout Troop 3246 on Dec. 19.

The troop, also known as Zawadi Troop 3246, is an all Black Girl Scout troop led by three mothers, Shania Accius, Daysha Britt-Wills and Tekoa Huey, who wanted their daughters to grow up around girls from similar cultural backgrounds. Zawadi means gift in Swahili, which is how they describe each of their scouts and what they bring to the community and the world.

At the Marketplace, the troop donated gently used children’s clothing and sports bras donated by athletic wear company Oiselle’s “Bras For Girls” campaign.

Black in the Valley also hosted a school supplies drive, handing out book bags filled with donated supplies for the upcoming school year. Two local Black-owned beauty businesses, Evette’s Beauty Supply and Beauty Beez, served as drop off sites for the community to safely leave their donated supplies to be given away at the marketplace.

The sisters of the historically Black women’s organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority San Fernando Valley alumnae chapter set up a voters registration booth near the entrance of the marketplace, where they — along with their family members — encouraged attendees to register and educated them on the importance of voting.

This inaugural Black in the Valley Marketplace event was a huge step towards strengthening the Black community in the San Fernando Valley and served a greater purpose beyond selling fabulous vintage clothes and unique paintings. Events like these, Jasmine Gates of The New Black History Makers said, “normalize that [Black people] make history on a daily basis.”