African Marketplace lets people reconnect, buy

The marketplace event provides an opportunity for sales and fellowship.



YOUNGSTOWN — Saibo Kebbeth travels the country to attend African craft shows, and a Youngstown event is one of his favorites.

“When you say, ‘Black History Month,’ at most places, only black people come,” the Buffalo, N.Y., resident said. “But here, everybody comes. I love it.”

Kebbeth was one of 60 vendors Saturday at Youngstown State University for the African Marketplace.

It was the eighth consecutive year the marketplace was held as part of Black History Month at YSU.

The organizer, Dr. Victor Wan-Tatah, said vendors from several states come to show items that can’t be found in department stores. Among the items were African-made clothes, jewelry and statues.

He said that like a real marketplace, the event goes beyond selling items.

“It is an opportunity for people to reconnect. They come not only to buy things but to meet people,” said Wan-Tatah, director of Africana Studies at YSU.

Richard Rico Brown of Ricochele Imports in Cleveland had a table in Kilcawley Center that displayed wooden statues that he has imported. Sales are only part of the reason he has attended for the past four years, however.

“I came for the fellowship and to see people I haven’t seen in a while,” he said.

Agnes Nsam has a similar motivation for signing on as a vendor. The North Sider moved to the U.S. from Cameroon four years ago and enjoyed her attendance at the market place last year because of the opportunity to meet vendors from other states.

She displayed jewelry and clothing made in Africa. She said she also enjoyed the entertainment.

This year’s entertainment was the singing of the Harambee Youth Group and the Drum Circle of the Unity Building of Youngstown.

Kebbeth said the attendance at the Youngstown event is always good, no matter what the weather conditions are outside.

After this show, he was headed to another one in California. He said he travels to shows every week between February and October.

In November and January, he goes to Africa to pick up goods that he has ordered. He has them shipped back to the U.S. in cargo containers.

Kebbeth, who moved from Gambia to New York 20 years ago, buys necklaces, masks, clothing, purses and other items from villages in seven countries.

“They [African villagers] are happy to see me. I put in a lot of orders. They are making these items just to survive,” he said.

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