“For Us, By Us” is the Mantra Behind Long Island’s Premier Festival For Black-Owned Businesses

By: Miya Jones
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Black Long Island hosts the premier festival for Black-owned businesses to showcase their passions.
"For Us, By Us" is the Mantra Behind Long Island's Premier Festival For Black-Owned Businesses

Wyandanch resident Diana Caicedo, who lives in the apartment right above where Ujamaa Festival was taking place, admits she didn’t know about it at first.

“I woke up, heard all the noise, and I looked outside my window and I’m like, ‘Let me go check this out,'” said Caicdeo. The event was an unexpected but pleasant surprise, and she believes events such as these are necessary. “If it’s not us putting money back into the community then who’s going to do it?”

The festival is appropriately named Ujamaa Festival, which means cooperative economics and is one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Showcasing products and services created by and for the Black community was the driving force behind making the event happen.

“Black businesses tend to end in the first five years due to a lack in marketing,” said event organizer and Black Long Island Co-Creator Falischa Moss. “The motivation was to bring Black-owned businesses together to network and show the community that we are here.” The men and women of Black Long Island have been hosting the festival for three years now. The first one started in December of 2017.

This year, there were 47 vendors showcased including Inside Kinks founder Khadijah King. She created her own natural hair care line in 2015 after taking a trip to Hawaii where she lacked easy access to quality products. After hearing about the festival on Black Long Island Facebook, her favorite Facebook page, she immediately wanted to be part of an event that she believes makes a huge impact.

"For Us, By Us" is the Mantra Behind Long Island's Premier Festival For Black-Owned Businesses
?: (left) Khadijah King

“I think we’re putting a lot of money back into our communities,” said King. “It’s also amazing to see the actual faces of people who own these companies.”

Another owner who made face-to-face connections with the community was a charming and knowledgeable member of the new generation. Tatiana Leftenant was just 8-years-old when she started Sheascents, a line of natural body, bath and hair care products. She’s now 16 and has been featured on BET.com and Black Enterprise as Teenpreneur of the Year.

"For Us, By Us" is the Mantra Behind Long Island's Premier Festival For Black-Owned Businesses
?: (left) Tatiana Leftenant

“I started my business because I had eczema really bad down my arms and legs and shea butter was the only thing that helped,” said Tatiana. She then saw that there was a need for a products that treat eczema after she saw her friends struggle with it as well. By creating her business, the young entrepreneur was able to satisfy a need in the community.

Another member of the new generation, and the youngest vendor in attendance, was 6-year-old Payton Lewis. His goal was to contribute by saving the environment. With his nonprofit Payton’s Planet: Door-2-Door Recycling Service, he collects recyclable items and brings awareness to the importance of recycling for future generations.

"For Us, By Us" is the Mantra Behind Long Island's Premier Festival For Black-Owned Businesses
?: Payton Lewis

Creatives were also given the chance to show their work. Filmmaker Marcus Robinson, screened his documentary “Our Father” for the first time.

The film analyzes men’s relationships with their fathers and how they’ve influenced them as men, fathers and father figures. The project is ongoing and may include women’s responses in the future. He hopes it will ultimately start a conversation around the subject of fatherhood. This is why he decided to come out to Ujamaa Festival.

Businesses at the event ranged from film and recycling to fashion and hair care. But ultimately, the entrepreneurs behind these businesses were from the community and had the common goal of contributing to their community. While doing so, attendees and business owners were able to not just buy and sell products, but network and fellowship.

“Over the years, there’s been such a negative tone within the Black community as far as businesses,” said Moss. “We’re trying to offer the opportunity for people to come together and work out their differences. We’re all Black! At the end of the day, we have the same problems.”
The next festival will likely be in December of this year.

Miya Jones

Miya Jones

Miya Jones is a Long Island native and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Shades of Long Island. She's been a journalist since the age of 17 and is a diversity advocate. Follow Miya on Instagram and Twitter: @miyajones1996 and on Facebook as Miya Jones.

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