Annual gift and art show returns to steer holiday shoppers to Black entrepreneurs and artists

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
A report for a member of the US Corps.
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After a two-year absence, the BZB Holiday Gift and Art Show will return to Washington, D.C. this month at the Shiloh Baptist Church Family Life Center. Labeled the “largest African-American department store on the East Coast,” the 100,000-square-foot market spans two floors and houses more than 80 black entrepreneurs and artisans.

This year, the BZB Art and Gift Fair is celebrating its 30th anniversary, opening its doors on Black Friday and being open to the public every Saturday until Christmas Eve. It will also be open on Friday, December 23.

Juanita Britton, CEO of BZB International, Inc. And the founder of this event said: “Artists, entrepreneurs and I are ready together and we are back.” We have no plans to stop, and we have everything you need.

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Nicknamed “Busy Bee” by her grandmother at the age of three, Britton founded BZB in 1983 as an African Diaspora special events, marketing and travel company.

The BZB Holiday Art and Gift Fair began a few years later after she visited Brixton Market, a vibrant multicultural showcase for Caribbean and African artisans in south central London.

Inspired by the sight of many black and African makers and artisans displaying their wares in a classy and upscale market, he decided to bring the concept to the United States.

After catching the attention of the D.C. business community, he hosted the first event, gifting several black businesses free market space.

Juanita “Busy Bee” Britton is the CEO of BZB International, Inc., a public relations, event planning and travel firm. This year, he’s back and celebrating the 30th anniversary of his BZB Holiday Gifts and Art Show.

About 24 of the businesses have been a part of the BZB Holiday Art and Gift Fair since its inception, and Britton has seen them grow from small, family-run operations to large corporations.

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DC-based Unitees did just that. The custom printing house started with family members pressing t-shirts and relied on only one machine. Now, Unitees manages its own embroidery factory and supplies garments to customers from all over the world.

When Covid-19 created social distancing, Britton organized smaller pop-up art galleries so black artisans and entrepreneurs could continue to sell their wares during the holidays.

This year, the BZB Art & Holiday Gift Show will feature jewelers, fashion designers, psychics, natural food connoisseurs, painters, sculptors and more.

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A staunch supporter of the black shopping movement, Britton thinks more people in the African-American community understand the importance of using their dollars to support black-owned businesses, not just big box retailers.

Buying black is a way of life. It’s not just going to the corner store and buying potato chips. “It’s literally understanding and knowing what it means for the black economy that we put as much of our capital into black businesses as we can.”

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