By LaTosha Taylor
The smell of delicious food, the sound of live entertainment, and the excitement of shopping with local crafters will captivate you at this welcoming outdoor marketplace in Eastside Jacksonville. With the purpose of showcasing local minority-led nonprofits, entertainers and artistry, The Melanin Market, is a quarterly event that hosts an average of 60 vendors per market.
The Melanin Market, organized by Angie Nixon and Dawn Curling, runs from Union to Odessa streets on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. It’s strategically placed in Eastside, one of Jacksonville’s oldest historic neighborhoods with a storied African American history.
A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, formerly Florida Avenue, was once a lively central thoroughfare that served as the hub of cultural and economic vibrancy in East Jacksonville. But like many urban core neighborhoods across the United States, the Eastside experienced a significant decline following the Civil Rights movement. A racially charged riot in 1969 led to the destruction of many shops on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard and almost completely wiped out a half-mile stretch of businesses. Sadly, the Eastside community never fully recovered.
In a new effort titled “Historic Eastside Root and Rebuild: Activating the Dream,” United Way of Northeast Florida is partnering on a series of community events, exhibits and volunteer projects with Eastside community leaders, who are striving to restore the vibrancy of their beloved neighborhood.
“Our partnership with the Eastside is significant because we, the community, are acknowledging our city’s history — good and bad,” said Elizabeth Lufrano, community impact manager at United Way. “We’re making targeted investments in a neighborhood that’s working to rebuild and revitalize itself. The work is led by neighborhood leaders, and we are doing our part by lifting up their great work and providing support.”
The Melanin Market is one of many opportunities to participate in “Historic Eastside Root and Rebuild: Activating the Dream.” You can help advance this important work by joining United Way and friends at the Fourth-Annual Black History Month Parade and Melanin Market Saturday, Feb. 22. The parade will feature five bands, car clubs, motorcycle groups and more. It will start at Matthew Gilbert Middle School at 11 a.m. ending right at the market on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. If you are interested in walking in the parade with United Way, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visitors to the market will also have a chance to snag tickets to The UniverSoul Circus thanks to 93.3 The Beat.
The movement for a stronger Northeast Florida needs all of us – including you. To discover more ways you can join the fight for community change, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-involved.