Don’t Blackout: Support Black Lives Matter Movements AND Small Business Owners

With the recent tragedy and injustice caused by yet another case of “police brutality” I think we can call it manslaughter now. All four Minneapolis police officers involved with the arrest and murder of George Floyd all face criminal charges. FINALLY… but we are so far from the war being over. There will never be an “ah-ha” moment, it is always a slow build and push to get the justice system to transform into one that serves EVERYONE.

While I have been struggling to gather the words to express what I feel, I really had to think about everything that has been circulating in the social media vs. the Media. There is so much mismatched reporting it really saddens me as an alumni of journalism studies. While social media was doing “hard reporting”, as in protest attendees equipped on the ground recording protests, outing riot starters, looting and peacemaking between protesters and vandals, the Media (capital M for mainstream) paints the divide loud and clear. I don’t want to get into the Media anymore in this post, but the blurred messaging has been swirling in my mind.

“Tuesday June 2nd is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week […] It is a day to take a beat for honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”

Blackout Tuesday Initiative

While social media is winning the game in showing the message loud and clear, the event of the trending hashtag #BlackoutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused left me unsure if I should participate. Shouldn’t we be sharing more information and not less? The campaign originators expressed that if people partake in posting the simple black square to NOT use the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag as it was clogging up the algorithm for resources about where to support BLM with a bunch of black squares holding zero information. That was one of the problems for me.

A report by Nylon Magazine breaks down the confusion of #BlackoutTuesday in a recent article:

“To that end, now that June 2 has rolled around, record labels and music industry executives and players have begun posting solid black squares to their feeds as a visual cue for the blackout. This begs the vital question: how is this helping the cause?

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It’s true that the music industry has long profited off the labor and creativity of Black artists, often without proper repayment, credit, or accountability, as the “Blackout Tuesday” statement also points out. Just take a look back at the Grammys scandal that took place earlier in 2020 for the most recent moment of reckoning.”

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Yet, many on social media are pointing out the ineffectualness of the initiative to truly reckon with those institutional problems. Instead, “Blackout Tuesday” feels like a vague and performative gesture without offering any actual transparency or material action. Others, like Kehlani, have also pointed out that Tuesday isn’t actually the biggest business day for the music industry, which makes the initiative even more confounding.”

Artwork by @laurenmartin_studio

While well intentioned, many personal accounts of varying races were quick to jump onto this trend. I was about to as well, but I thought there has to be a better way. I thought about it for the next few days and I wanted to write about that. I am a white 30 something female and I’m quoting another phrase being circulated: “I will never understand, but I stand…” with you. Since I’m still battling the bureaucracy of receiving ANY unemployment due to me, I donated the amount of a cup of coffee to the Official Justice for George Floyd GoFundMe. What now? Then many of my acquaintances in the small business world were quick to advertise their friends and colleagues of color in the entrepreneurial world. This includes designers, vintage curators, beauty professionals, artists and various small business owners. So, the rest of this post is dedicated to sharing and supporting all of the businesses I have come across that are owned by POC and small businesses that are donating their earnings to various community bail funds around the nation.

Market In The Alley: A collective of creators, designers and makers

Ever since moving to Las Vegas, I sought out to find a gathering of small business owners and generally anyone who is side hustling in some sort of way. With Vegas having a stigma and allure of being the Sin City to satisfy your vices, I want to remind visitors (and myself from time to time) that it also is an actual place with actual people. This year I have become more invested in how I spend my time. I have been freelancing much more than actually going to my “day job”, which graciously allows me to work as part time as I want. So, with various copywriting projects filling my time, I thought what better way to ignite my right brain then to seek out the passion projects of Las Vegas and unveil some buried inspiration.

After a few years of exploring places I would normally go to “get out of the house” I stumbled upon a daytime event this past January. On a random Sunday I went to Market In The Alley in downtown Fremont across the street from the abandoned Fergusons Motel, which has been a vacant space for many years, except for the Burning Man Big Rig Jig sculpture towering above the desolation.

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Big Rig Jig at Fergusons

Now, the downtown Fergusons is a bustling hub in the making. It has finally undergone a major makeover to become a co-working space for various workshops, boutique hotel rooms, main offices for Market In the Alley and other downtown businesses. At the last Market I wandered over to take a look at the progress and there are few units already in operation, like the new Hatsumi Japanese Restaurant and a space proposed for a coffee shop.

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Photo: Fergusons Downtown on Instagram

The Downtown Fergusons collective also started a monthly event in the evenings that focuses on tasty libations: alcoholic and non-alcoholic called Pour in the Alley.

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The Pour in the Alley event is usually during the week before the next Market, which occurs every third Sunday. In the past they have had tasting events focused on tequila, coffee and most recently, mezcal. Next month’s will be rum focused. For future Pour in the Alley events peep the Fergusons Downtown Pour in the Alley Calendar.

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Big Rig Jig on a stormy Market In the Alley in February

Vulnerable moment PSA: The first time I went to Market In the Alley, I was feeling pretty down and out after getting into a car accident the week prior. I really needed to GET OUT and be around people doing cool things: making, creating, moving on, working towards their goals, instead wallowing in the event that had just occurred. I’m so happy I did, because not only was it a distraction, but it ignited something in me to keep going and keep brainstorming ideas on how to resolve the situation. And walking through the Alley is inspiring…

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Myself and friends taken at the January Market by Christopher Matlock

So, with friends from work we have made Market Sundays a regular day date. Each time we go, I always meet a new person who wants to collaborate; whether it’s cosmetology, photography, music or film production. This area is full of creatives that are wandering around looking for their next inspiration. This is what makes the wheel turn: a community of individuals that hustle for their dreams and aren’t afraid of collaborating for free.

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My hairstylist I now see, I met her twice at the market! Once at the January market and then at the February one; it was fate. She coaxed me into getting a fresh look from her along with makeup for a photo and video shoot. Out of that one collaboration, I now know a Vegas based fashion stylist, hairstylist, makeup artist and photographer. And we all have regular Market Sunday meet ups.

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Myself and Amber at April’s Market in front of the mobile Burnt Boutique

As for the event vendors, there are always so many. It’s hard to list my favorites. Vendors change monthly depending on if they can snag a booth in time before the deadline or if the event sells out. A few lovely vendors I frequent have been there regularly and always have an assortment of their own goods: from vintage wrestling tees, jewelry, coffee, organic home products, and so much more.

Each month I feel like there are more vendors than the last. Market in the Alley is definitely growing in popularity and it’s fun for everyone. There is always a rotation of live music outside nestled in the middle of the Market greens.  The Bunkhouse Saloon  has drink specials all day, plenty of food trucks to satisfy every different diet, coffee, animal adoption and morning yoga some days. As we move into the ‘hotter than hell’ of desert summers, Market in the Alley will most likely transition into a Night Market.

Hope this helps anyone in Las Vegas, visiting or stationary, that is looking for another way to socialize, take in the local scene or get those creative juices flowing… ✌️