Black August in the Park co-founder Crystal Taylor explains how the market, now in Raleigh, offers a space for Black farmers and purveyors to thrive.
by Addie Ladner | photography by Bob Karp
Crystal Taylor co-founded Back August in the Park, along with Moses Ochola and JaNell Henry, a Durham-based community initiative created to give a space and opportunity for Black liberation in the Triangle. She soon realized though, that many small Black-owned businesses needed help generating income and there was a need to do more. “Everyone doesn’t have to be protesting in the street. Anything that we can do to share privileges and create spaces to help this community is why we exist,” Taylor says. “People have been so positive and supportive of that.” We caught up with the activist—who also started cultural events like Underground Collective and The Beats and Bars Festival—to talk about why her group is extending their mission to Raleigh and how they’re working to support Black farmers in North Carolina.
Tell us about the origin of Black August in the Park.
The market has been going on since around 2016. Historically, we did it on Black Friday in Durham and the purpose was to create a space of liberation for Black people. The market was to support Black businesses and provide them a space to thrive and circulate the Black dollar in our community. It’s not easy for Black-owned businesses to have storefronts and get that exposure, so we wanted to create a marketplace for that. Small Black-owned businesses would come and sell all sorts of artisan goods from shea butter to apparel and some food items, but it wasn’t necessarily a farmers market.
How did it evolve into the Black Farmers Market?
We started hearing from Black farmers who were sharing their stories with us about being under-represented and struggling to sell their products and generate income. We heard their stories and made it a mission to give them representation. It’s so important for food scarcity and systematic racism not to mention the health disparities in certain communities. It’s now a huge mission for us to give these hard-working Black farmers a space to thrive.
What types of things can you find at the market?
We have so many cool interesting items there. There’s a woman who sells wrapped sage around these beautiful flowers and herb bundles, eggs, peas, berries. A couple of business owners sell blended juices, and there’s a kid entrepreneur selling lemonade. We have restaurants that sell jarred rice, a hemp farmer, a mushroom farmer, someone who makes muscadine wine.
What’s been the response from Raleigh since adding a market here?
We are at the Southeast Raleigh YMCA and they have been a great partner. When we first opened the Raleigh market, we’d never been in Raleigh before. We had almost 2,000 people come out—the line was wrapped around the YMCA building! People in this community have been so welcoming, coming to volunteer and patronize. They’ve been strongly vocal that this is beyond time for something like this and it’s strongly desired in Southeast Raleigh. It’s been so fulfilling, to see the community and kids getting fresh produce from Black farmers, they get what they need and see these businesses thriving. It becomes a routine where people are getting to know each other and going back home and sharing on social media and with friends—it’s this cool cycle. We see in our Instagram stories that people have these entire family dinners where everything came from the market.
What’s the set-up like, considering COVID-19?
We have a strong social distancing process where we only allow a certain amount of people in at the time. We’re letting around 200 people at a time, masks are required and we try to keep everyone spaced out. We strongly encourage people to come, support and then bounce to let other patrons come through.
Visit the Black Farmers Market in Raleigh on September 27 and October 25 from 1 p.m- 4 p.m at the Southeast Raleigh YMCA (1436 Rock Quarry) or check out their first farm-to-table dinner on October 3 in partnership with Grass Grazed. For Durham residents, check them out next at Provident 1898 at 411 W Chapel Hill St on October 11.