A celebration of Black America — and the critical work it’s done to begin breaking systemic cycles nationwide — is expected to launch soon in Kansas City, promising to shine a light on Black-owned businesses and creators, Kearra Johnson said.
“As young, Black entrepreneurs in the city, we’ve been looking for ways to get our brands and our power combined to create something cool for the community,” explained Johnson, founder of Studio LO, maker of the Revolution Card Deck, and co-organizer of Thank You, Black America — a Junteenth-honoring pop-up market she’s launching with the help of Brian Roberts, founder of The Black Pantry.
The event — set for June 19 at The Black Pantry’s 325 E 31st St. retail space — will also feature participation and goods from Made in KC, Aya Coffee + Books, Black Drip Coffee, DJ Nick Davis, and The What Truck, Johnson said, noting the collaborative effort was inspired by a T-shirt she and Roberts recently designed.
“We wanted to create something that celebrates Black culture, all of [the things] the Black community does for our country — and the world in general,” she said, looking back on a year that’s seen candid conversations surrounding the importance of Black-led initiatives, companies, and increased awareness of what words like diversity, equity, and inclusion truly mean and how to act on them.
Click here to purchase a “Thank You, Black America” tee designed by Johnson and Roberts, before it is formally released as part of the pop-up.
“As a Black creative and entrepreneur in this city, I’ve noticed initiative — from more of the larger businesses — making it their [objective] to reach out to and support Black-owned businesses and support Black creatives and movers and shakers,” Johnson said.
“We wanted to [host something with] young, Black entrepreneurs, newer brands that are buzzing and that have a very strong presence in Kansas City. It’s just going to be a dope event, so come out.”
Collaboration between Johnson and Roberts comes after a year of wild success for the pair. Johnson’s Revolution Card Deck gained national recognition on the heels of Black History Month, while Robert’s Black Pantry traded its pop-up market for a brick-and-mortar space through a partnership with Made in KC.
“Brian does a good job of continuing that aspect of pop-up at his brick and mortar. He’s giving a lot of people opportunities,” Johnson said, noting a similar attitude is held by each of the participants and groups featured in the inaugural event.
Such an approach means Kansas Citians won’t only find goods and treats on display at the event, they’ll find an opportunity to connect with resources that could help them expand their networks if they’re looking to build businesses of their own.
“Not only is everybody really well connected; everybody is loving and friendly and willing to talk,” she said, noting her own approach to events goes far beyond making money or marketing her brand.
“I don’t worry about selling things. I [focus on,] ‘Oh, this is who I’m meeting, this is who inspired me today,’” she said.
“That’s the underlying motivation for us as business owners and as creators and as individuals. — that human-to-human contact and being able to meet people.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation works to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity.