During the Dec. 18 game against the New York Giants, the Washington Commanders hosted their second annual Shop Black Holiday Market to spotlight Black-owned businesses and Black creatives from our region.
In the West End pavilion, nine different Black-owned restaurants and food trucks offered new and returning customers some delicious food to stay warm in the 33-degree chill.
Gourmet chef James Robinson of Kitchen Cray had a spot on the upper concourse during the game. His restaurant offers a menu including blackened salmon, mumbo shrimp and catfish and grits. There are currently three Kitchen Cray locations in the District, Maryland and Virginia – on H Street Northeast, Lanham and Alexandria, respectively.
“It means a whole lot. This opens up other doors for other opportunities, a different platform to be seen and to be noticed at,” said a relative of the owner at the food stand. “For a Black-owned business, that’s a great starting point.”
Everything Legendary, a plant-based burger stand owned and operated by a team of six, offered healthy options.
There were also soul food options, such as Clinton’s Fireman’s Cafe, which specializes in seafood, especially crabs and shrimp.
Ella Ray’s Cafe, based in Forestville and operated by North Carolina natives, offers an expansive menu ranging from oxtail and spaghetti to spare ribs and candied yams.
Silver Spring’s Seafood at the Shack gives a Caribbean spin on local seafood, with crab-stuffed plantain, salmon tacos and crab cake fried rice.
The West End Pavilion hosted a bidding process on artwork by Taron Butler, Carl Hall, Julian Gray and Summer Clickscale. All of these DMV-based artists were selected by the “Command the Canvas,” initiative in May based on original artwork that reflected the image of this area and of the football team.
Hall’s artwork was a rendering of former wide receiver Santana Moss holding up 21 with his fingers in commemoration of the late safety Sean Taylor.
“Santana is a player that embodies the Washington football legacy, and it was an honor to paint him paying tribute to his friend Sean Taylor,” he said at his game day exhibit.
Other local entrepreneurs, such as music artist and WI contributing writer Desmond Barnes, were part of the market selling their wares. Barnes is the co-owner of Heart of the City, a candle company. After vending and meeting new customers, Barnes visited a few of the food stands and bought some merchandise to commemorate the day and network among other business owners.
The Commanders’ website hosts a directory of local Black-owned businesses called Shop Black. Businesses ranging from athletics, to faith, to health and wellness are listed and promo codes are offered for some of the listed businesses.
During the game, fashion boutique owner Le’Greg Harrison was awarded a $10,000 Changemaker award by the team.
The game ended in a 20-12 loss, putting the Commanders’ record at 7-6-1, one game behind the Giants in the hunt for a NFC wild-card playoff spot. The Philadelphia Eagles have already all but secured the division with their 13-1 record.
On Christmas Eve, the Commanders will play an away game against the San Francisco 49ers and hope to keep their playoff aspirations alive.