The Black experience; local Black-owned businesses, live performances and food

Celebrating Black excellence

Bridget Maxwell

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Photo by Bridget Maxwell

Ojibwe Ballroom held ‘The Black Experience’ event on Feb. 27

The Black Student Alliance and African Student Association hosted The Black Experience on Feb. 27 in Ojibwe Ballroom. This event featured locally Black-owned businesses, live performances and food by local Black restaurant owners. It was sponsored by Hair Stuff LLC, the Student Senate Equity in Student Matters Commission and the Office of Multicultural Affairs

UW-Eau Claire has put on numerous events in Feb. for Black History Month. These consisted of the Black/multicultural hair and skincare drive, the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and a film showing of ‘Ndani Eau-Claire.’ The Black Experience marked the end of the month-long events. 

Featured vendors included Hair Stuff LLC, Drip Kickz, Transformation by Taz LLC, Royal Image Boutique and Beauty Bar and Styles by Mimi. Performances were by Max Ellison from the Blugold marching band and the ASA UW-Eau Claire dance team. 

Vice President of the Black Student Alliance, Jasmine Rosario, a third-year marketing student, said this event is a way for students, staff and the community to learn of the local Black-owned businesses around town. She said this opens doors for local businesses and allows their passions to be monetized and showcased.

“Black excellence is not always just students, presidents or politicians; it’s people around us,” Rosario said. “We need a connection between our community and students since we both have a lot to learn from one another.”

She said supporting local communities, especially during a pandemic, is essential in keeping Eau Claire a vibrant socially connected town. 

The Black Experience is to also show minority students that there are successful business owners who look just like them, Rosario said.

Sophina Annabella, a spiritual artist based in Eau Claire, said this event is a great way to highlight local businesses like herself. Having just moved to town, she hasn’t yet established herself in the community she said. 

“I am trying for my LLC, so this is a great opportunity for people to know who I am and get familiar with my work,” said Annabella. 

Receiving an invitation to this event made her feel welcomed and appreciated, she said. Annabella said growing up she felt disconnected from her Black side since she was raised by her white mother. 

She said this event is important for people like herself struggling with identity and what it means to be Black. Being able to come together and learn from one another is a great way to feel a part of a community, said Annabella.   

Secretary of the Black Student Alliance, Destini Wilson, a third-year criminal justice student, said she hopes students will gain a broader understanding of the Black excellence that surrounds the campus and community. 

“Not many people know of these Black-owned businesses, so this allows them to get their name out there,” Wilson said. “While also showing minority students there are successful people around the community who look like them,”

According to the Universal History Archive, Black History Month draws awareness to Black identity and remembers the legacy of African Americans’ accomplishments and contributions. The Black Experience is just one way of honoring Black excellence. 

Maxwell can be reached at [email protected]