Expo to highlight black craftswomen from throughout state

Published 7:25 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2019

It’s been a year since Vee Norfleet took the plunge into small business ownership and opened the Busy Bee Crafts and Gifts as a brick and mortar arts and crafts business in Washington.

To mark that anniversary, Norfleet is bringing 28 black craftswomen from across North Carolina to Washington next weekend for the inaugural Black Girl Magic Craft Expo at the Washington City Market.

“These are all black women,” Norfleet said. “One of the reasons I wanted to feature them is I know the challenges I faced as a black woman business owner. There are obstacles we have to overcome that are not in place for other business owners, and sometimes you can begin to feel isolated, especially when you’re in a town where you don’t have a lot of business owners that look like you.”

Norfleet says this is an opportunity for all the vendors to strengthen their businesses through networking and mentoring each other in building their business. For Norfleet, however, encouraging and supporting black entrepreneurs is about more than just making money — it’s about building up communities.

“I don’t want to just make money,” Norfleet said. “I want to make a difference, and if this business can help me do that, then all the better.”

In addition to the craft vendors, the event will also consist of live entertainment from 3 to 4 p.m. Two dance groups, the Royal Butterflies and the Melanated Divas will entertain the crowd, followed by spoken word prose from Shantja Brown. Leesa Jones, with the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum, will also share historical programing during the event.

“I wanted to do something different, and that’s a reflection of who I am,” Norfleet said. “I think that’s the biggest piece of the puzzle that fell into place this year, is that I found myself as a business owner.”

Since opening her business last year, Norfleet has changed locations, moving to retail space on Sixth Street, just down the street from where she grew up. Being back close to home, she hopes that she can help address concerns that impact her community as a whole. For young girls in particular, Norfleet hopes the expo will make an impact.

“I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to about this expo who have said ‘I’m bringing my daughters. I want them to see this,’” Norfleet said. “That representation matters. Them seeing black women in positive roles matters.”

While the event will be a celebration of black culture and entrepreneurship, Norfleet also made clear that she wants the event to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone.

“I’m not looking to exclude anyone,” Norfleet said. “I want to give these women a platform that they sometimes don’t have. I hope people don’t look at it that way. It’s free to the public and all are welcome.”

The Black Girl Magic Craft Expo runs from noon to 4 p.m. on May 25 at the Washington City Market at 532 N. Market St. The event is free to the public and the first 30 to visit will receive special goodie bags. Live entertainment kicks off at 3 p.m.