At 81, Jackie Bell is far from retirement.
She may not have a computer or a smartphone, but what she lacks in technology, she makes up for in resilience.
She remembers the Overtown she grew up in, before the construction of I-95 drove businesses out of the community.
“You didn’t know you were segregated,” she says. “Because you had everything in the community that you needed. People worked, people owned businesses. It was a very vibrant African-American community.”
Through her organization, New Washington Heights CDC, which works in tandem with SEOPW CRA, she’s worked to bring black-owned businesses back to Overtown for more than 45 years and continues to be a pioneer for economic change in the community.
Ten years ago, Bell created Folklife Friday, a monthly marketplace featuring international food, arts and crafts, live music, and more. The goal is to help small businesses in the community generate revenue and recognition, and eventually move on to becoming established storefront businesses.
“The only way that you can change a community and employ a community is to create businesses,” she says. “And Folklife is really a stepping stone for businesses who are trying to get started.”
Her business acumen is Southern, like her hospitality. You can even work from her office if you need to. “The door is always open,” she says.
If you’re a small-business owner with an idea or someone who is curious about the changes happening in Overtown, you can meet Jackie Bell and a host of vendors at Folklife Friday, held every first Friday of the month from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Ninth Street Pedestrian Mall (adjacent to the Black Archives Lyric Theater).
If you don’t already know Bell, you will when you see her. She’ll likely be the best dressed.