Black Cultural Zone’s “Uptown Market” Showcases Oakland’s Local Entrepreneurs

A woman wearing a head wrap shows another woman a book
Uptown Market inside Block features local Oakland vendors and artisans, from clothing to books. Photo by Brandy Collins

Small business owners of Oakland have a new space downtown to share their wares, located near BART’s 19th street entrance. Black Cultural Zone has partnered with Block to open a new marketplace to showcase small, local vendors. 

Named the “Best of Oakland” at Uptown Market, the newly-opened space offers free retails space for smaller vendors selling culinary delights, clothing, and other sundries. Located in Block (formerly Square, Inc.) at 1955 Broadway, the Community Hub inside the same building offers nonprofits free space upon reservation for events and meetings.  

“Best of Oakland” at Uptown Market

Currently, these are the following “Best of Oakland” vendors collaborating with local businesses:

  • Micro Market Spaces is part of the initiative by Oakland-based nonprofit, Sanctuary for Sustainable Artistry, Inc. Products include clothing, candles and perishable food items from local vendors. Its flagship Micro Market is located on 933 Broadway.
  • Akoma Market – Akoma Market is an outdoor marketplace in East Oakland, featuring local vendors. Akoma Market vendor products will be featured on a rotating basis, giving each small business the opportunity to learn new skills in building and maintaining their markets at a brick and mortar location.

“It’s with immense pride and enthusiasm to unveil a project that is not just about commerce, but about fostering connections, celebrating diversity and shaping the future of our beloved Oakland,” Carolyn “C.J.” Johnson, executive director of Black Cultural Zone, said during the ribbon cutting opening remarks.  

The Black Cultural Zone, founded in 2019, is a coalition of local leaders and organizations created to promote Black culture, arts, and businesses in East Oakland. Johnson explained the idea for the Uptown Market retail space has been a labor of love born from “a collective vision to create a hub that really shows off our vibrancy.” 

Miles Dodson, entrepreneur and cofounder of Sanctuary for Sustainable Artistry, acknowledged this market would be an opportunity for small business owners to know what it’s like to have a small brick-and-mortar storefront and build community. “We’re committed to sourcing from local producers who often miss out on the opportunity to establish brick and mortar establishments,” Dodson said at the space’s opening event. 

people mill around inside a marketplace that is well lit and newish
Inside the market space of Block, located in Uptown Oakland. Photo courtesy of Black Cultural Zone.

Revitalizing Oakland Businesses After Pandemic

During the ribbon cutting ceremony in mid-August, Barbara Leslie, CEO and president of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged the impact that the pandemic continues to have on economic recovery efforts, particularly for small businesses. 

“The Chamber’s number one priority is supporting efforts in bringing the vibrancy back to our commercial corridors all across the city,” Leslie said. “Activating this beautiful space downtown becomes the catalyst for additional leverage, which ultimately would result in greater foot traffic, more visitors downtown and more business for our small businesses.” 

Vendors who are interested in being a part of the community of vendors can apply on the Block Community Hub website. Uptown Market is located at 1955 Broadway and open Wednesday through Friday from 11am- 6pm. 

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Black Voices in the Town’ is funded by The African American Response Circle Fund. In 2020, the Brotherhood of Elders Network in partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation established the fund in response to the impact of COVID-19 as a public health crisis for African Americans who live, work, and worship in Alameda County.

Author Profile

Brandy Collins is a writer and public services advocate born and raised in the Bay Area. She is a 2019-2020 cohort graduate from Oakland Voices, a blogger, and the funny one in numerous group chats. She is concerned with civic engagement and leadership development toward making public works more efficient for the people. Brandy is full of Scorpio magic and self-proclaimed Professional Aunty. Follow her on Twitter @msbrandycollins or Instagram @story_soul_collecter.

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