They mean business: Sisters return with Kwanzaa crawl

United we stroll: Particpants in the annual Kwanzaa Crawl will visit black-owned businesses on Dec. 26, the first day of Kwanzaa, which is called Umoja, or “unity.”
Deneka Peniston

It’s black for the third time!

The business boosting Kwanzaa Crawl will return for its third year on Dec. 26, sending thousands of bar hoppers to 25 black-owned bars and restaurants scattered from Park Slope to Bedford-Stuyvesant. The day-long event, which also happens in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood, is the brainchild of two Caribbean-American sisters who wanted to focus on black economic power on the first day of the pan-African holiday.

In a year when a white manager called the cops on two black men sitting inside a Starbucks, and Flatbush nail salon employees attacked two black customers, it is more important than ever for the black community to prioritize black businesses, said the event’s co-founder.

“When companies or businesses like that nail salon or Starbucks mess up, that’s when we start to look for black-owned coffee shops and black-owned nail salons,” said Kerry Coddett. “With the Kwanzaa Crawl, I want black people to start becoming more active than reactive.”

The bar crawl also puts a positive focus on spots that are often the subject of negative stereotypes, she said.

“We don’t celebrate our businesses enough and say they have bad service, but this is a chance to go to all venues,” said Coddett. “They’re all so different — some are dive bars and some are fancy eateries.”

Every year the crawl’s popularity continues to grow, and ticket sales this year have already surpassed the 2,800 who joined the Kwanzaa Crawl last year, according to Coddett’s sister and co-founder, Krystal Stark.

“This year we are expecting 4,000 people, and we’ve exceeded sales from last year with 2,900 tickets already sold,” said Stark.

Most of the locations from the last two crawls have joined in again, along with several new additions, including Negril BK, Nzuri Lounge, and the Slope Lounge, among others.

Local businesses have been especially thrilled with the results of having a giant crowd coming out on the day after Christmas, traditionally a slow time, said Coddett.

“We had one owner in particular who hadn’t even been open for a year and was a first time restaurant owner when she participated, and she welled up in tears saying that we helped saved her business,” she said.

The siblings said hearing that type of testimony is not only rewarding, but a clear example of the positive effect the crawl has throughout the year, by exposing the businesses to new people, said Stark.

In Brooklyn, participants will gather at an early- or late-afternooon meeting location, where they will be divided into teams. Each group will set out on a different route to visit at least four bars, many of which offer drink and food specials.

This year the sisters will also add social media awards for best outfit, dopest venue, best disc jockey, and other categories, judged from the hashtag #KwanzaaCrawl2018.

Coddett said that the Crawl is a great event that people should join, whether they celebrate Kwanzaa or not.

“It’s an opportunity to do something positive, to have fun — but for a good cause and have fellowship with like-minded people,” she said. “It’s just a great experience where we make you feel pride in being black and celebrating each other.”

“Kwanzaa Crawl” Brooklyn meet-up at Boys and Girls High School (1700 Fulton St. between Schenectady and Utica avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant, www.kwanzaacrawl.com). Dec. 26; 12:30–2 pm. $35.

And at Kings Beer Hall (84 St Marks Pl. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope). 4:30–8 pm.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
African pride: Coddett encourages Kwanzaa Crawl participants to dress as “black as they feel.” This team leader donned a Kente cloth dress.
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Kolin Mendez

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