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Providing support for Black-owned businesses during Black History Month

SEI in North Portland is holding an outdoor market this weekend to support Black-owned small businesses that may not have brick and mortar.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Community is always the focus at Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI) in North Portland.

“We wanted to create opportunities for Black vendors to come and sell their goods and be in front of the community again,” said Ibeth Hernandez, SEI's special events specialist.

In February, the emphasis is on Black History Month. This Saturday, just like last weekend, SEI will hold an outdoor market in the parking lot. Live music, food, and a place for businesses to get some exposure.

“We actually also have on our website a Black business directory,” said Hernandez. “There you will find a very extensive list of Black-owned businesses throughout the Portland area. You can support them by purchasing online directly from those vendors if you're unable to come to the market.”

Produce Portland is one of the vendors.

“Especially during COVID without any events really going on, these kind of marketplaces help a lot just because most young entrepreneurs, the only place they can sell their product is at events or pop-ups,” said Jordan Carter, creative director of Produce Portland.

Along with support for businesses, they’ve unveiled a project meant to inspire.

“I know I didn't like history when I was in school, and I wonder why. It's because I didn't learn the things about like the people that relate to me,” said local artist Edmund Holmes.

“We're talking about highlighting Black inventors that innovated during their time. What better way to pay homage to them than to innovate with storytelling?” added artist Steven Christian. 

Holmes and Christian were part of a team behind a comic book-style mural titles “Invent the Future.” It’s a tribute to Black inventors and their contributions, but it’s more than just a mural.

“It was really being able to bring the mural to life with animation with sound, and really enhancing the experience that you would have with the mural with digital technology,” said Christian.

Through an Instagram filter, augmented reality brings the pictures to life.

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

“It's important that we tell the right history and we celebrate the people who should be celebrated because they're often left out of history books, they're not talked about in schools,” Hernandez said.

For this team, and the businesses, the hope is to foster the conversation through art and through community to motivate the next generation of history makers.

“One of our fundamental beliefs is that every child has a gift,” Hernandez said. “So, if we can, through gifts, expose students to something that they've never tried before and help them find their gifts we will have accomplished what we set out to do.”

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