By next year, the structure will be torn down for a Union Market-style development that will include Blackford’s sprawling food hall touting Black-owned businesses, Market 7. The project will be a beacon for Wards 7 and 8, which have only three major grocery stores serving more than 150,000 residents, most of whom are African American. The wards are commonly known as food deserts, though Blackford says “food apartheid” is a more accurate term.
“Food apartheid really takes into account the long history of discriminatory practices against communities of color, particularly Black communities via redlining and other economic disenfranchisement that really puts communities in positions that don’t allow them to attract major retailers to their particular parts of the city,” says Blackford, 31.
Blackford was inspired to create Market 7 while on a teaching trip to Ghana, where she saw firsthand how integral community markets were to underserved residents. In 2017, she began hosting pop-up markets in Ward 7 to prop up Black retailers and urban farmers before the Neighborhood Development Group offered her a dedicated space at its Benning Market development. In July, Essence awarded Blackford $150,000 to jump-start Market 7 as part of the magazine’s “Build Your Legacy” competition with Pine-Sol.
Market 7 will occupy Benning Market’s 7,000 square-foot lower-level space with a small community grocer and food incubators from across the African diaspora. On Blackford’s D.C. Dream Day she can be found — when she’s not fundraising for Market 7 — at her favorite spots in Wards 7 and 8, an area she’s long called home.
This is a Dream Day East of the River. It’s a sunny day; it’s Saturday. I would wake up right on time (8 a.m.) and by 9:30 a.m. my first stop would be to pick up a light breakfast at Catherine’s Kitchen. It’s a great cafe and diner in Ward 7 that does Latin, Caribbean and Southern-style soul food.
And then I would end up at Dreaming Out Loud’s Farm at Kelly Miller. I haven’t been there yet, but I know the team over there so well and we were talking about doing a farmers market at Market 7. On my perfect day, I would go visit their farm and maybe get some produce if they have some available that I could pick up and do the farm tour that they do.
I would then go to the Hive 2.0, which is a co-working space. Sometimes I go there and work out of the room. In my dream, I’m working on a TV series because we sold an idea to some major network like Hulu or Food Network and do a series on food deserts and Black farmers and Black food businesses to amplify these voices. That hasn’t happened yet, but that’s like a dream for me.
The Hive 2.0 is right below the Anacostia Arts Center in Ward 8. Anacostia Arts Center has art exhibits but they also have . . . Black-owned businesses in that space. On my lunch break, I would go upstairs and go to MahoganyBooks and say hi to the owners and check out the new books they have. Then I would go to the vegan restaurant called ELife and get lunch there.
After going back and finishing up the meeting with my team, I would go back upstairs and stop at Nubian Hueman, because I want to pick up a candle for my house. Nubian Hueman is this great collective market in the Anacostia Arts Center that sells things from all over — you can get clothes, things for your kids. And the founder, Anika Hobbs, is awesome.
I’d also stop at the Fresh Foods Factory before leaving the door and grab a healthy snack. It’s a small grocery store in Ward 8 and it’s owned by a Black woman named Amanda Stephenson. They have this Ethiopian chips and dip combo that she sells at her store that’s so good, and I would probably grab that on my way home.
Then I would come home, drop my stuff off, and then end my day with a treat and get a Mani and pedi at Nailbed & Bar. It is a nail salon in Ward 7 that is Black-owned and [female]-owned. Then I would go home and end my day with some Netflix and munch on my snacks.