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Market meets a neighborhood need

Focusing on one of the main teachings of Elijah Muhammad to do for self and the community -- Your Market & International Bazaar on Buffalo's East Side had its grand opening over the weekend.

African-American and other vendors will have the opportunity to sell their products six days a week for the next 10 weeks at the outdoor marketplace sponsored by Muhammad's Mosque No. 23. The market also will enable inner-city residents to shop within their community for much-needed items.

But mostly, it's about doing for the East Side community, where the Walden Avenue mosque is located.

"There are only so many grants available," said Minister Daveed Muhammad, the Nation of Islam's Buffalo representative.

"With the economic conditions of America, we have no choice but to do for ourselves. As long as we feel like we can depend on grants and handouts, we won't heed the call to do what is expedient at the time," he said.

The twin goals of the market are to raise money for the mosque by utilizing its large parking lot at 5 Walden and, in so doing, provide an opportunity for vendors, particularly for blacks looking to go into business for themselves.

The stands cost $50 for six days.

"Vendors can display their products or services for less than $10 a day, and there's no overhead for them," said Sister Bernadine J. Kennedy, the mosque member who came up with the idea for the market.

Space is available for 50 vendors selling everything from dry goods, baked goods, apparel, jewelry, books and videos, household items, furniture, antiques, crafts and especially fresh produce.

"People have to go all the way to Tops [on Jefferson Avenue] or Cheektowaga if they want fresh fruits and vegetables," said Kennedy.

She has approached local farmers about renting space at the bazaar.

About 10 vendors came out for Saturday's grand opening, including local historian Eva J. Doyle. Among her wares was a new item called Black History in a Box.

It includes learning materials, such as coloring books featuring blacks who fought in the American Revolution, and information on "first blacks," such as Bessie Coleman, the first black pilot, Doyle said. There's a "Who am I?" game in which children match names to pictures of famous black people.

"There is something for the whole family, for teachers and anybody who wants to learn African-American history," Doyle said.

Joyce Melton, a school nurse, and her husband, A.T., had some giveaways and freebies and were selling items like shoes, clothes and household accessories for as low as 25 cents.

"We just wanted to celebrate the day and bless the community," she said.

There also was a booth that promoted Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard.

According to Scott Carrie, who manned the booth, Hubbard started Dianetics years ago and had "numerous successes." He then encouraged the Nation of Islam to get involved.

Almost all the members of Mosque No. 23 are certified Dianetics trainers, Kennedy said.

The outdoor market will run weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. until October 29.

"We're trying to foster a different idea in outdoor shopping," Kennedy said. "We're trying to turn this into a major vendor avenue on the East Side."

For more information on vending applications and employment opportunities, contact Kennedy at 884-3312.