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BW student promotes inclusion through Buzzin' Black Friday vendor fair

First-generation student Daisjah Brown '25 was inspired by a civil rights-focused alternative break to showcase Black entrepreneurship on the Baldwin Wallace campus.

Daisjah Brown '25 started the Buzzin' Black Friday vendor fair in 2023. The second fair has almost doubled the number of vendors featured.

During a summer 2022 civil rights alternative break trip to Montgomery, Alabama, and Atlanta, a light bulb went off for political science major Daisjah Brown '25.

While working in areas that were predominantly home to Black populations, the BW students noticed many of the businesses serving the communities were not Black-owned, which sparked a discussion.

"We tackled questions like … what barriers do Black-owned businesses face when starting up? How do income and wealth disparities play into this? Lastly, where are these businesses located around Cleveland, and what can we do to show them to our campus?" the Mansfield, Ohio, native says.

Taking action

When she returned to Berea, Brown went to work on the issue as a BW Brain Center Fellow for the 2022-23 school year.

"I came up with the idea of having a vendor fair to help show Black entrepreneurship and the circulation of the Black dollar and help create a more inclusive community at Baldwin Wallace," Brown explains. "We provide our vendors a $100 honorarium solely for showing up."

Growing Collaboration

About 70 students supported the first Buzzin' Black Friday. This year's event takes place on Friday, February 16, from 3-6 p.m. in the SAC.

The first Buzzin' Black Friday in 2023 featured eight vendors and over 70 attendees.

This year, the event will take place Friday, February 16, from 3-6 p.m. in the Student Activities Center (SAC) and showcase 15 vendors, some of them BW graduates, along with a free food truck.

The event has grown to add collaborators like BW LaunchNET, the Center for Inclusion, the David and Frances Brain Center for Community Engagement, the Black Student Alliance and Jumpstart.

Creating visibility and connection

"One of the most significant differences in Black-owned businesses is visibility," Brown says. "By having the event on a college campus, we are bringing vendors to a community who can then build relationships and have access to long-term connections. 

Brown points to alumna Jessica Williams '13 as a vendor who forged strong connections after attending the first Buzzin' Black Friday event in 2023. Williams owns Jess Juiced, a natural fruit and vegetable juice company that she started during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"She has continued to come back to campus for Black Student Alliance events, 'lunch and learns' with the Ratcliffe Growth Practice internship, and she is a LaunchNET client," Brown says. 

College career highlight

For Brown, who's been active on campus as a Brain Center student director, a Ratcliffe Innovation consultant, Black Student Alliance secretary and campus tour guide, establishing Buzzin' Black Friday is a highlight from her varied BW experience.

"I am a first-generation college student and never dreamed of being able to do something like this, and it has been so successful," she concludes.

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