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  • Keyaira Boone

Culture, Canvases & Commerce Connect at City of East Orange's 3rd Annual Black Business Expo

“This is the first time I've ever shown my work in public beside at school” standing next to a canvas full of citrus shades and clad in a custom tee shirt he created East Orange native it’s surprising that Khalid Rosemin smiles bashfully as he speaks about his creation. One would never guess that the Savannah College of Art and Design graduate was such capable of creating such bold and colorful statements with his artwork.

“It’s just something about drawing women” he says turning his head towards the piece in hands depicting a young black woman sitting on the branch of a tree “I think it’s empowering to them but in a sense to me as well.” Rosemin deliberately shows kindness in the depictions of the women who have served as his life’s inspiration “It's like a giving back from me women have meant so much in my life and throughout the world and I feel like they’re often overlooked. My mother and a lot of the role models in my life women, aunts, grandmothers, they always had a positive impact on me.”

This month New Jersey Black Businesses held its third annual expo at East Orange's Cicely L. Tyson School Performing Center.

The event showcased over forty local vendors looking to create awareness about their products and services.

In addition to the vendors the event included a fashion show run by New Jersey based production company Run This Way featuring the work of local designers and a wildly impressive art exhibition that spoke to the breadth of local talent that has long been overlooked by the mainstream media including Rosemin.

These artists were able to showcase their work alongside the vendors with the support of East Orange’s local government including Mayor Lester E. Taylor III, the city council, and the Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

While the vendors and artists in attendance were all black business owners there was a great deal of variety in the diverse offerings they had on display. Participants were offering everything from on site massages to hand illustrated coloring books. One company even sold artisan salad dressings.

Red Bank New Jersey’s Keirenae Reeves displayed her eponymously titled hair and skin care line featuring the deliciously scented “slay butter”.

Reeves started the brand after seeking “to find a solution for some of my family members who had dry skin” shortly after she began her natural hair journey. Once she found the perfect recipes Reeves “just decided to go for it” launching her business in 2014 after receiving valuable feedback from family and friends.

The founders of Shop by Lee, a local ready to wear brand that creates sexy options from women of all sizes, displayed their crushed velvet suit dress in all of its on trend glory. While Three Sixty Affairs presented a beautifully staged event mock-up featuring .

Excited to display her work for the first time local ceramics designer Kristina Rookwood of K. Marie Ceramics decorated her booth with care arranging her handmade products in between carefully selected props including white stones, greenery, and strands of inviting twinkle lights.

Rookwood, who first studied ceramics as a student at Parsippany High School, obtained a degree in marketing from William Paterson University but it wasn't until a year ago that she opted to use it to start her business. "I have my own set up in my basement, my own pottery wheel, my glazes" said Marie excitedly as she gestured to a piece she created. She shared that she finished the pieces at Madison Mud a studio that also offers classes in the art. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce her business surrounded by other young professional“ I really want to get my feet wet in the community. I want to really introduce myself as a business to other young entrepreneurs and people in other businesses and see how we can work together. That’s what it’s all about- helping each other.”

Rosemin summed up the impact of the sunny Saturday on small business owners best saying “it was a big learning experience and I think it turned out pretty good.”


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