A brand-new event is coming to Richmond, and you won’t have to leave your house to attend. The RVA Virtual Pride Market this Saturday lets us support LGBTQ small businesses from home.
It’s June in Richmond, and in a normal year, it would be time to enjoy the many celebrations of Pride Month across the city. Like many other facets of the “normal” world, though, this year has seen a change to that dynamic.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and recent Black Lives Matter protests, events are being cancelled to protect public safety, and many LGBTQ organizations are stepping back to bring systematic racism to light. In times like these, breaking out the rainbow flag might not be enough for locals to show their support. Enter the new RVA Virtual Pride Market: an opportunity to make a difference, safely from home.
This Saturday, June 27, the first-ever event brings local LGBTQ small businesses together in an online market. Customers can support their favorite vendors without visiting public spaces, and donate to the Black Lives Matter movement through several organizations that have partnered with the market.
“Holly and I have known each other for a while through our nonprofit work,” Waller explained. “We parted ways because of different life paths, and then reconnected through the rad career network that exists in Richmond.”
Waller and Foster met in 2012, but it would be another eight years before the pandemic would bring them together for their latest project.
“At that time, I was in the midst of doing a lot of theater and costuming,” Foster said. “I’ve delved into different art aspects throughout my life. I’m a very creative-minded person… I’m trying to put marginalized communities first. I advertise to those communities regarding my services, and I try to cater in terms of non-traditional services. For example, I do flower beards. That’s not something that all designers are known for.”
Both owning small businesses that identify as part of the LGBTQ community, Foster and Waller used their platforms to reach out to local customers. Waller first brought the idea for the RVA Virtual Pride Market to Foster, and together, they got to work.
During the event, customers can pay for items through one Venmo or PayPal account, then the market disperses one hundred percent of funds to participating vendors. Paying in one place keeps the checkout process simple.
“Everything’s supposed to be priced between $25-50 to make it more seamless,” Waller said. “Folks can attend in their PJs and not leave their houses. However big in-person events and parades are, they might not seem like a safe space for those who don’t feel ready. This is a way for folks to engage and be a part of this, and show up in ways they haven’t been able to before.”
Running with the motto “You Don’t Have to Come Out to Show Up,” this year’s Virtual Pride Market will host local vendors like Dayum This Is My Jam, Pistil + Stamen, Karmalita’s Marshmallows and Confections, RVA Witches Unite, Two Fat Babies Candle Company, The Tottering Teacup, Nicmakesknickknacks, Diamond and Shadow, Over The Rainbow Apparel, Guy Piper, Color & Culture, and Sarah Schultz-Taylor Photography. More details on each vendor can be found on Facebook at the official event page.
Customers can choose either delivery or one-day pickup options. Vendors will be able to display and sell their work, and live entertainment will run through the event.
“It’s an LGBTQ+ market, it’s a fundraiser, there’s entertainment, there will be DJs, live performances, and we’ve got an LGBTQ+ children’s book reading,” Waller said. “And, of course, the most important part for Holly and I is awareness.”
Not only will the event support and highlight the LGBTQ community in Richmond, but it also sheds light on the Black Lives Matter movement. The market offers donation services to foundations and organizations available to combat these problems facing the nation right now.
“Police brutality is probably one of the biggest offenders right now,” Foster said. “We have so much work to do before we can get anywhere where people of color in the queer community are treated equally.”
Customers can donate to the SupportBlackLivesRVA Signs Project that benefits the Black Lives Matter movement. Donations can also be made to the Nationz Foundation, an organization dedicated to HIV-related education and overall health which also works to make Central Virginia more inclusive. The official RVA Virtual Market t-shirt donates 100 percent of profits to the Nationz Foundation.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” Foster said. “It’s personally gratifying to help others… We want to support however we can.”
Thinking ahead to the market’s future, Waller and Foster both plan to see how the next year unfolds before making any concrete plans.
“We have to be sustainable,” Foster said. “Hopefully, by this time next year, we won’t be in quarantine (fingers crossed). That would open up a lot of avenues and opportunities for us, and we’d be able to do an in-person event. It may be possible that we could collaborate with other folks in the community. I’d say it has potential.”
As the state slowly opens back up, many Virginians are unsure whether it’s safe to venture back out into public life. For those looking to make a difference from home, this Virtual Pride Market is a great option to show support. With more than two thousand people interested on Facebook, hopes are high that the first-ever event will be a hit.