Baltimore Arabbers: Preserving tradition. Feeding communities.
Do you run a small business, or have dreams to start one? Each week on The Tidbit, brought to you by Cureate, we discuss tidbits of knowledge around starting and running a small business with a food and beverage lens. Kim Bryden sits down with guest experts and shares trending new topics on food, business and culture to help best prepare you for your business journey.
EPISODE 23: BALTIMORE ARABBERS - PRESERVING TRADITION, FEEDING COMMUNITIES
A FEW QUOTES
Juneteenth - an American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States.
We recognize Arabbing as an African-American folk tradition; an economically-viable system and method of apprenticeship unique to Baltimore.
Arabbing is a long-standing, locally-specific African American tradition out of Baltimore. An Arabber is a street vendor selling fruits and vegetables from a colorful, horse-drawn cart. Once a common sight in American East Coast cities, only a handful of Arabbers still walk the streets of Baltimore. On this episode, we sit down with James Chase, President of the Arabbers Preservation Society and an Arabber himself; and Holden Warren, filmmaker and producer of John & James - a documentary short about James’ work and his relationship with the Amish.
Best part of being an Arabber is being your own boss.
If you have a load of watermelons you may want to go North, if you have a load of tomatoes you may go South - it depends on the season, what you have on your cart.
It makes me feel wonderful that people are depending on me. For us to provide the elderly with fresh fruits and vegetables, even if they don't have money - we extend a line of credit. We are going to get older too, who's going to take care of us? [...] I love going there to serve these people [...] it's a hard world out there.
People may think its outdated, but when kids come into The Yard and see the horses, and you see their faces...
We want to create a horse discovery center, as therapy animals. It is a place with a lot of violence [...] violence is segregated to very specific neighborhoods and the Arabbers are very much ensconced in the middle of the violence.
James' work is very important because of the fruit, because of entrepreneurship but also to create a place of healing [...] a de facto therapy center.
I had all of the opportunities to be a part of the drug circles, but because of the older generation taking me in and teaching me [...] the youth aren't getting the same love and attention.
All that stuff on social media ain't nothing but illusions.
People don't realize this connection exists between the Arabbers and the Amish/Mennonite communities [in New Holland PA].
The only people who work their horses like the Arabbers do are the Amish. They're using them in the same capacity - there's this really intrinsic bond.
Given the racial politics of this country right now, [as a black and white guy] they're able to have [honest] conversations and respect each other on such a deep level. [...] [This film] is about humanity and this deeper connection.
Don't be a pretender, just be yourself. You just have to be yourself.
As long as you have respect for yourself, and respect for others - you can do anything you want. The sky's the limit. Me, I'm just a people's person. It comes from me being exposed to different things in life. I've seen a lot of things.
Don't sit out here on these streets wasting your time. Trouble is easy to get into, and hard to get out of. Just look around, it's all in your face of what you could become.
If you ever want to come to Baltimore and see the Arabber yard, come check us out!
Support by donating, spread the word, buy some fruit.
To Juneteenth: Baltimore as a free city - one of the first entrepreneurial things the Black community could do is Arabbing. It is the beginning of Black entrepreneurship.
The American dream: you don't have anyone above you. People came here to become a self-made man. It wasn't about becoming rich, it was about being your own dude. [...] It's about freedom and perserverance. Having agency and ownership of your action and living out your true purpose.
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