By Mark Drinkard, Staff Writer–


Black-owned businesses can be easily overlooked and under-appreciated; they often find themselves in tough situations, for they must contend with larger businesses and sometimes struggle to gain simple recognition even within their own communities.

However, this may not be an issue for long thanks to the new “Black Fridays,” which are a series of festivals showcasing black entrepreneurs, musicians, and artists.
“The idea was created by Kenneka Wellington,” says Erica Roberts, a local poet and one of the leaders of this festival. “We came together to bring the black entrepreneurial spirit together at this place.”

Roberts believes events like this are crucial in giving black business owners a platform for success. The most recent Black Friday event showcased many talented people and allowed them to educate others about their work.

One such business is Flutterbies: Art with a Message, created and run by Glenda Thompson. For over 20 years, she has been hard at work creating and selling her unique stained glass art to the people of Chattanooga.

Her work is influenced heavily by the Bible, and she uses the scriptures as artistic inspiration. “I’ll read something in the Bible and then I can visualize a picture that goes along with it and that’s how my art is created,” Thompson explained.

Success for Thompson does not always mean selling a piece of work, but rather it comes in the impact her patrons leave with. She says, “I gauge my success differently than purchases. If someone looks at the picture and reads the scripture then I have put out some of the impressions that God wants to convey to it, that someone has read something and has taken a little piece of the word with them.”

The festival also provided the opportunity for a UTC student to show off her talents. Charity Cullom, a visual artist, is making a name for herself in Chattanooga’s art world.

Cullom, also known by her artist name ChaaFaith, has been drawing since she was a kid. Her love for cartoons, pop art, and channels such as Cartoon Network motivated her to pursue art and eventually create her own brand.

She draws inspiration from many places in her life. Her pieces offer a deep look into her perspectives on her family, relationships, and personal struggles.

Although she faces the challenge of being in school while also creating art, she has found her passion and enjoys the work it takes to be successful in both fields.

Her efforts have also led to her business successfully growing. Two years ago she started her first art exhibition at AVA, The Association for Visual Artists, and after attending her first festival with the Black Friday series, has received two invitations to other festivals.

Overall, the Black Friday festivals are a great chance for black entrepreneurs and business owners to show off their skills and talents. All are welcome to come out and appreciate the work that so many successful entrepreneurs have to offer.

The next festival is scheduled for Friday, April 19th.

Glenda Thompson can be reached by email at artwithamessage@netzero.net or you can see her creations for yourself on her Facebook at Facebook.com/FlutterbiesArtWithAMessage.

To get in touch with Charity Cullom, contact her at charityfaith1996@gmail.com Her art can be viewed and purchased on Etsy.com by searching her artist name, ChaaFaith.

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