Taking place the second Saturday of each month at 17th Street Farmers Market, the Richmond Night Market lights up the evening with the music, art, and culture of Richmond’s black community.
“The Richmond Night Market provides a fresh open-air gathering for handmade, independent artists and small businesses, while highlighting the city that surrounds it. Nestled in the heart of Shockoe Bottom at the 17th Street Market, RNM highlights creativity, commerce, and community in Richmond at one of the world’s historical sites. It is a staple experience in the city so you want to join us for this free, family friendly social shopping experience each month.”
As the day shifts to dusk on the second Saturday of every month, the bland, gray cemented center platform of 17th Street — right in the heart of Shockoe Bottom — transforms itself into a new-world marketplace. More people than you could count on four sets of hands and feet stroll the compact strip as if it were a mile long, each person looking for that small piece of culture that brought them outside.
The vibrations of music shake through the ground — noticeable from multiple blocks away. A DJ spins his records for the enjoyment of the entire area, smiling as he watches the crowd interact with his music picks and their agreement with his decision. Behind him stand members of a band, tuning their instruments and connecting their equipment as they prepare to take over the show. As the DJ continues his set, the band form a circle around each other to say a quick prayer before hugging and laughing among one another.
The energy deriving from this space seems celebratory; the sounds of indistinct chatter and laughter rise in volume as you inch closer and closer to the cemented marketplace. A good time could be sensed by someone passing in their car, and this good time was visible as well.
The smell of spiced food and homegrown herbs fill the air, lifting people off their toes towards the source of their curiosity. Dozens of tents lined up with people scanning their surroundings for anything of interest or relevance to them or their loved ones. The shine of hand-crafted jewelry shines bright against the faces of its viewers, enticing them with styles they’ve never seen before. A woman laughs in excitement amongst her friends as she poses in a dress suited to her perfection.
At a tent across from these women sits a painter, surrounded by his own works — talking with his audience as they question him in admiration. The smile on his face is that of a man presenting his true passion while being met with the positivity and review he truly wants. One after another, people stop by to stare at the works, eventually getting in a few pictures or buying a piece due to their infatuation.
In a distant corner, cheers and applause arise from a crowd of people as they watch models walk down an urban runway — strutting and posing as they walk a straight line, face empty of emotion, towards the cameras in front of them. Among these models are women with artistically-crafted braids, each style speaking to its audience in its own way. Camera flashes and shutter sounds emerge like breaths from the audience, merging itself with the aura coming from the marketplace.
“I originally was brought here by a friend, didn’t think I’d really like it too much. Next thing I know I’ve bought a necklace, two candles, and a painting for my living room. Everything I didn’t even know I needed.”
The sound of coins clattering, bills fluttering against one another, and phone alerts from money services parade the atmosphere, and behind that sound sits the very definition of happiness — community. You wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it. However, I am here to show you that you can see this on a regular basis right here in Richmond.
This marketplace-style community was a curated effort by none other than the Richmond Night Market, an organization dedicated towards the progression of black arts and culture in the City of Richmond. Their goal has been to create a space where a multitude of black-owned businesses and creatives can come together to provide an amazing, innovation experience for all of Richmond’s locals — and from what I’ve seen so far, they’re doing an amazing job at keeping it afloat.
Their most recent event, which took place on Saturday, September 15, featured an amazing assortment of creative organizations and vendors: Chanel’s Cookies & Crumbs, Love Mila Brand, Adiva Naturals, Arley Cakes, Soul Taco, Afrikana Film Festival, Yoga Joy, Cool Kids Science Club, and more, as well as performances from artists like HighDefinition Band, Ron Stokes, and David Marion. What seemed like a rare experience was simply another Saturday for the members involved with the Richmond Night Market — and seemed to be a big success.
For those of you feeling bad because you missed this event, have no fear. The Richmond Night Market happens every second Saturday of the month at the 17th Street Farmers Market in Shockoe Bottom. The next event will take place on Saturday, October 12, from 5 til 10 pm.
“Honestly, I wish this were something that happened bi-weekly. I’ve lived here all my life but whenever the second-Saturday Night Market comes around, then I start to really feel at home. I start to feel like a real Richmonder.”
If you want to see the community at its best, that’s what you’ll find at an event like this. So make sure you come out — you wouldn’t want to miss your chance at a rare treat like this.
Top Photo by James Loving, via Richmond Night Market/Facebook