Upbeat music, laughter and the smell of fried, savory food wafted down Northeast 14th Street at the Revolution Before Evolution Renaissance Festival — radiating warmth on the cold, rainy morning on Saturday.
More than 50 people braved the chill and roughly 20 tents lined the street, representing Black-owned businesses, community organizations and artists in the neighborhood. As wind knocked tents over and scattered business cards and flyers on the ground, vendors rushed to help each other amid laughter. The weather wasn’t going to break their spirits—especially for an event about coming together as a community.
Hatdrika Noble-Monroe, 27, creator of Swarthy, a community grocery and retail store represented at the event, said planning began in September, following a meeting with the Gainesville Police Department, which was present on Saturday.
One vendor, Julia Rainer, 27, sported a bright purple rain poncho to advertise her business, Create Space, which she started last year and features her work as a labor doula and childbirth educator. The organization also hosts different classes for women and children.
“I try to hold and create space for women to have the right birthing experience that they want to have, like good postpartum, educating them to know their rights as far as hospital births go,” Rainer said.
Her own experience as a mother and giving birth pushed her to help others, she said.
“I think that women are very powerful, and that when we’re going through these experiences of creating a child that it’s very important that we are protected and that we’re advocated for,” Rainer said. “I wasn’t advocated for in the hospital. I felt like I had no voice.”
She said Black women in particular need a protected birthing space and a support system that could include a doula or midwife.
Events like this festival, she said, are a great way to give this information to the community directly.
“We’re feeding off of each other’s energy out here,” Rainer said. “It’s exciting to see all of these businesses that are doing the same thing, trying to educate the community and trying to get their business and what they love to do outside.”
Another vendor, Reggie Nelson, 38, stood bundled up behind a table of candles, advertising his business Daily Burn, a vegan candle studio. Nelson started his business with little know-how, but at the end of last year, he started testing various soy formulas for candles and researching different variations.
His love of candles and encouragement from his wife gave him the push to begin his business.
“I wanted to try to just bring a clean, organic scent to people’s homes,” Nelson said. “It makes me feel good, and there’s something nostalgic about candles.”
Starting a business is all about connection, Nelson said, adding that events like the festival are a great way to share information, inspire others and connect with other small businesses to provide support.
Other vendors included Grace Grows, a community garden organization, the Alachua County Crisis Center, and the YMCA. Food was for sale from Xclusive Eatz, a food truck that makes “soul food” from scratch. Members of The Black Girls Club, a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring as well as educational and creative enrichment for Black girls, danced and did gymnastics.
GPD and Gainesville Fire Rescue also attended the event. Noble-Monroe said she wants the law enforcement workers to engage with the public — especially the youth. “We want to ensure that our youth have a healthy, beneficial relationship between their public servants and our community members,” she said.
The festival wound down around 3 p.m., to the crowd chanting “East side! East side!”
Noble-Monroe intends to make the festival and annual event, and she is working on increasing partnerships with more organizations throughout Gainesville and with the University of Florida to bridge a gap.
“We want to bring awareness,” she said. “We have to protest or bring awareness to what is going on in East Gainesville and the disparities and insecurities that our residents are currently experiencing.”