On a moist Sunday afternoon, dozens of distributors have been lined up alongside State Road in East St. Louis for the primary day of The Illinois Black Woodstock Competition. The 2-day pageant, which began final yr, goals to highlight the number of Black-owned companies in East St. Louis and past.
Courtney Woolery, who created the pageant, stated she feels honored to deliver the pageant to town for the second consecutive yr. She hopes for the pageant to be identified nationwide and construct a group of Black-owned companies all through the nation.
“This yr, we acquired sponsored by IDOT (Illinois Division of Transportation) and we acquired sponsored by STL Blues, so we’re making waves,” Woolery, 32, stated. “We acquired to make it possible for if we get on that nationwide degree, we will have individuals from throughout and so they perceive that that is the place to do this. “
Sunday’s occasion featured dwell performances, video games, awards and a wide range of enterprise distributors from the metro-east, St. Louis, Detroit and Indiana. The pageant will proceed via Monday evening, ending with a fireworks present. Greater than 50 companies might be highlighted all through the occasion.
Woolery stated she’s seen extra Black-owned companies within the space since launching the pageant however wish to see extra. It’s why she needs to proceed constructing a platform for them.
“That is what it’s all about,” Woolery stated. “To have the ability to come out and do that. We’re assembly totally different individuals yearly. I can truthfully say that the distributors that we had final yr, these are new individuals (for this yr). Lots of people from St. Louis. There are extra Detroit distributors.”
The Illinois Black Woodstock Competition is hosted by The Black Woodstock Basis, a corporation that gives assets to Black-owned companies in East St. Louis. Woolery, alongside along with her enterprise associate Lauren Brooks, based the group final yr.
“Our basis simply makes positive that we educate our Black-owned companies, ensuring that they get solidified the suitable means,” Woolery stated. “In the event that they don’t know a lot about it we wish to take it from A to B, whether or not it’s a enterprise registration, public talking or simply so simple as serving to with logos. We wish to make it possible for they’ve these assets right here in East St. Louis.”
Latecea Brock is the proprietor of Beaded by his Grace, an internet jewellery boutique. She was one of many distributors on the pageant. Brock, of St. Louis, handcrafts her jewellery with gemstone beads, a follow she began a decade in the past though she formally launched her enterprise in 2019. She stated she heard in regards to the pageant on Fb and immediately needed to take part.
“It’s actually essential for our group that we band collectively and stick collectively and actually construct a group for us as a result of if we don’t assist us, who else goes to do it,?” Brock stated.
Group assist can be vital for Gerrian Watson, whose 7-year-old son owns Mason’s Lollipop Shoppe. The East St. Louis-based enterprise was additionally a vendor on the pageant. Watson, 35, stated her and her son participated within the pageant final yr.
“It’s vital to me as a result of plenty of the time, Black-owned companies, particularly small companies, are form of appeared over, so it’s vital to me as a result of I would like individuals to grasp and know that not all companies are unhealthy,” Watson stated. “I simply wish to be part of the nice in terms of serving to our group.”
Woolery hopes her pageant will proceed to have a optimistic affect in East St. Louis.
“It’s a giant factor. We’d like one thing like this,” Woolery stated. “We’d like one thing that the individuals might be happy with and name their very own, and (it’s) optimistic. Something we will do to spotlight town, we do.”
The final day of The Illinois Black Woodstock Competition will begin at 2 p.m. Monday at 8221 State St. It’ll conclude with a fireworks present at 8:20 p.m. Admission is free.
This story was initially printed July 4, 2022 5:00 AM.