EAST ORANGE, NJ— Juneteenth is a day that marks when the last slaves were freed following the civil war; for it, one North Jersey community is addressing modern civil rights and inequality issues in part by empowering aspiring entrepreneurs.
The hustle and bustle of business inside the East Orange Pop Up Shop means just a bit more on a day like Juneteenth.
“What better way to show people we support Juneteenth than to show we support small business,” said East Orange Mayor Ted Green.
Now, 154 years after the last slaves were freed, East Orange, which is more than 80 percent African American, has propped up a collection of entrepreneurs in a once empty space.
There are more than 25 individual businesses here predominately operated by African-American women selling everything from hats to books to shoes and clothing.
Scarlett Rocourt, for example, is peddling her hair products and trying to make a name for her business, Wonder Curl.
Kimberly Grant is a more seasoned seller of boutique items.
The shops are normally open Thursday-Sunday from noon-7 p.m. at 15-33 Halsted Strett, right next to the Brick Church NJ Transit stop.
Hundreds of miles away in Congress on Wednesday, Juneteenth took on a more political tone with congressional leaders, including NJ Senator Cory Booker, discussing reparations.
However, like all things in Congress, if it ever happens, it will take time.
Inside the East Orange pop up, the businesses have the potential make change a reality right now.