YSU Marketplace draws shoppers, vendors
Booths of shea butter, African clothing and other fare filled Kilcawley Center.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Shea butter seemed to be the star of the show.
At the African Marketplace, held Saturday at Kilcawley Center on the Youngstown State University campus, shoppers were snapping up pure shea butter and shea butter soap.
The butter, harvested in Africa from the shea nut, is said to cure rashes and other skin irritations.
The annual event draws shoppers and vendors from Ohio and neighboring states, selling wares ranging from traditional African clothing, intricately beaded wall hangings to books and educational materials and carved wooden bowls.
One shea butter seller, Saibo Kebbeh, came to the marketplace from Buffalo, N.Y., and was headed to New Orleans for Mardi Gras as soon as he packed his inventory Saturday evening.
On his table were $150 wall hangings depicting fertility and agriculture.
"Anything with a face, that is fertility," he said, explaining the design of a piece that incorporated a slithering snake, an elephant and primitive face. "The animals, they are the agriculture."
The wall hangings Kebbeh sells come from Nigeria, he said. His carvings and masks are imported from African nations such as Kenya, Ghana and Togo.
The authenticity and availability of these items drew Sheila Cashwell of Youngstown to Kebbeh's display. She's been coming to the marketplace event for years, she said.
"Especially in Youngstown, you really can't find these kind of things," she said. "I think it's important for us participate in Black History Month events. It's something we can do as a people to continue and celebrate our heritage and history."
Cashwell decorates her home with African artifacts, but Saturday she came armed with a list of reading materials she wanted to find. She also planned to pick up some coloring books for two nephews.
"They love these things," she said as she called a greeting to a friend a few booths away. "This is one of the things I enjoy about being here each year. You run into people you don't see as often you'd like to."
Tyrone Hicks of Warren came to the marketplace this year with his own shea butter display. He started selling the soap three years ago after using it to clear his skin.
"I tried other things but they burned, and I wanted to clear my skin in a natural way," he said. Now he searches the Internet for festivals to attend, and he travels up to 300 miles to sell shea butter.
"Everybody wants it," Hicks said.
Not everyone at the marketplace was selling shea butter, or even African artifacts.
Neoma McDowell of Boardman sells bookmarks, T shirts and note cards that she said are divinely inspired. Her bookmarks are strings of thin satin ribbon in rainbow colors -- perfect, she said, for books in which you need to save multiple places.
"They are just right for a Bible, and I think that's an important part of our culture," she said.
Some vendors took the festival's proximity to Valentine's Day to do a little extra marketing. On display at one table: fuzzy white bears holding "I Love You" hearts and red martini glasses.