Christmas at the Forum, an annual craft show for local vendors, returned to the Halifax Forum in early November. This year the show is hosting a record total of six vendors.

Kordeena Clayton is founder, organizer, and vendor consultant for Takin BLK, which is described on its Facebook page as “a grassroots business initiative born in the north-end of Halifax Nova Scotia, founded by two Black queer women to support Black-owned businesses.” It was Clayton who helped get the ball rolling for the involvement of Black vendors at this year’s event.

The photo on the left shows Jessica Bowden wearing a burgundy hoodie and standing in front of shelves where other clothing items are on display. The photo on the right shows another woman making a transaction with a customer. In the booth are more clothing items for sale, including shirts and masks that say Black Lives Matter.
Jessica Bowden, founder of Teens Talk Now Apparel. Photos: Matthew Byard.

“I was contacted by the organizer for Christmas at the Forum [and] they wanted to collaborate and wanted folks to participate in their event,” she said. “All I did was pass along his info and he agreed to make arrangements with vendors in regards to accessibility.”“

Jessica Bowden is the owner of Teens Talk Now Apparel, one of the vendors at this year’s event, also shared the other information with Black-owned businesses.

“Because technically it’s not a platform you’d see Black vendors in,” Bowden said. “So Chris Banks, [event manager of Christmas At The Forum] was very open to making it more local and more inclusive.”

Joyce Adom, the owner of Simply Go Natural Cosmetics, is originally from Ghana in West Africa and moved to Halifax in 2015. She says she started making natural cosmetics because she couldn’t find any products locally, and as a safety measure for her two-year-old son at the time, who has eczema.

“I needed natural products for him because he used to eat the creams, so I needed something safer, so I developed the skincare for him,” Adom said. “So that’s how the project started, and since then I’ve been going to market, and it’s been five years now, and all our products are now in Sobeys.”

The photo on the left shows Joyce Adom in a purple Gap hoodie showing off some of her natural beauty products she's selling from her booth. In the second photo is a display of more products sitting next to a stuffed snowman with a black hat and red scarf.
Joyce Adom, founder of Simply Go Natural Cosmetics. Photo: Matthew Byard.

Filling in for owner Junior Moaku, Mitchell Tempro talked about the creation of Save Me Save We, one of the other Black-owned clothing companies at the event. Moaku started the company in Wolfville a few years ago.

“The purpose of [the company] is to push mental health awareness, and also help educate people with their mental health literacy,” Tempro said. “Talk to your friends about mental health. A lot of people are struggling with a lot of the same problems, and it helps a lot to use the right language and be able to talk to each other about it.”

Twelve-year-old Taya Skeete, founder of Taya Ties, is the youngest Black business owner whose work is featured at this year’s event. Her mother, Jaslynn, was tasked with running her booth and talked to The Examiner about the origins of her daughter’s business. Skeete sells masks, scrunchies, socks, shirts, and sweaters.

“It’s a tie-dye apparel company,” Jaslynn Skeete said. “[Taya] started it last year during quarantine. She’s been in business just over a year now.”

Rocks From My Bra is a  handmade custom-wire jewelry company founded by Niambi Tree. Speaking with The Coast earlier this year, Tree said the idea for her business came about when she discovered how to use healing crystals through a counselling session.

“Sometimes you can just tell when someone needs something you have more than you do, and so for the first year I was just walking around legitimately giving people rocks from my bra,” Tree told The Coast in February.

“Sometimes I would lose the rocks cause I was wearing them in my bra, so the way the jewelry part of it came in is, I had to figure out a way to not lose all the stones that were helping me get through the day.”

A photo of a booth for the business Rocks from my Bra. There is a table in the booth with a sign on the front that says Rocks from my Bra. Owner Niambi Tree is sitting next to the table wearing a pink shirt and a blue face mask. In the second photo is a display of some of the jewelry made from healing crystals.
Rocks From My Bra, one of six Black-owned vendor companies at this year’s Christmas At The Forum. Photos: Matthew Byard.

The other Black business featured is Michnat Fashion, an African-design clothing company, founded by Funmi Odeniyi. Though she was busy while on-site during the first weekend of the show, measuring and tailoring items for new and potential clients, in a blog post on her company website she wrote about the inspiration behind her business.

“The desire to fully pursue my passion in fashion was largely influenced by the need to fulfil my dreams and purpose in life and fill the existing gap for the demand for Afro-designs mixed with western flair within the city/Province,” the blog post said.

“I started creating styles when I was 10 years old and have since taken up the passion to make it a profession. As a Chartered Accountant with over 13 years financial institution experience, I left the white-collar job for a lifelong desire that gives me inner satisfaction. I design trendy, versatile, and vibrant fashion with a touch of Afro-flair for all special occasions. Customized and tailored to make you feel unique and confident!”

Two photos from the booth of Michnat Fashion. In the photo on the left, a woman is taking a photo of another woman who is standing behind a rack of clothing. In the second photo, a mannequin wears one of Michnat's designs and has a string of holiday lights around its neck.
Funmi Odeniyi, founder of Michnat Fashion. Photo: Matthew Byard.

Christmas at the Forum has been an annual holiday tradition in Halifax since 1978. This year’s event includes 330 vendors and is scheduled to run for five weekends at the Halifax Forum up until its final weekend from December 3 to December 5.

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Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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