Dena Williams is organizing the Pull Up on Portland Street event in downtown Dartmouth, on Saturday, July 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event shines a spotlight on local entrepreneurs and entertainers from the BIPOC community. For those who may not know, BIPOC is an acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.
“The Pull Up on Portland Street is more than an event. It's an opportunity for BIPOC vendors to take ownership of spaces that we're not typically seen in and have genuine allyship take place,” says Williams.
Williams came up with the name for the event: “Pull Up” is an expression used by many folks in the Black community when referring to a casual invitation to get together and hang out. For the event, she has matched entrepreneurs and entertainers from the BIPOC community with Downtown Dartmouth businesses, who will host pop-up vendors and performers in their bricks and mortar spaces. The aim of the Pull Up on Portland Street is to introduce new people to several emerging entrepreneurs, while creating an energized and festive atmosphere throughout on downtown Dartmouth.
Williams is the ideal person to organize the Pull Up on Portland Street, as she understands what it is like to hustle and get a small business off the ground during a pandemic. Williams started Vitamin Dee Entertainment in 2019, a talent agency specializing in booking artists from traditionally under-represented communities. In her work, she manages a handful of artists exclusively and handles booking gigs for dozens more.
“I want to bring light and love to historically neglected communities. It’s my goal to use Vitamin Dee Entertainment to promote positivity, inclusivity and diversity.”
Starting out performing in church alongside her family, Williams has been surrounded by creative people for as long as she can remember. Although she plays the cello and clarinet, and has dabbled in singing and theatre, Williams says it is not performance that lights her up, it’s supporting people in their creative process. She also recently graduated with a degree in social work from Dalhousie University.
“My goal is to build. I feel I’ve been called to build a community where BIPOC creatives can create, connect, share and have genuine support,” says Williams.
Williams’ most recent project is the Pull Up on Portland Street, which is a collaboration with the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission and the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning.
“The Downtown Dartmouth area has a rich history with BIPOC entrepreneurs that has been lost over time. To have the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission make a firm commitment to support this demographic is a response to the call of being equitable and just, while also advocating for the unity and support of the entire local business community in HRM,” says Williams.
During the Pull Up on Portland Street on Saturday, July 17, BIPOC vendors will be set up at various locations throughout downtown Dartmouth from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event takes place rain or shine. COVID-19 safety protocols are in place at all participating locations. A map and schedule can be found at www.downtowndartmouth.ca.
“I believe that the Pull Up on Portland will be a game changer for local businesses in the city, BIPOC and Non-BIPOC and alter how we think when it comes to 'supporting local business," says Williams.