Jennifer Brooks
See more of the story

The bookstores weren’t selling the stories Mary Taris wanted to read.

So the former Minneapolis schoolteacher started her own publishing house.

Taris had always loved books. They were her escape as a child, even though little black girls rarely got to be the hero of the story.

As a teacher, she searched the shelves for books to inspire her students. Stories where they could see themselves reflected on the page.

“I don’t want any other kids who look like me growing up thinking that they have to dream about being someone else,” Taris said. “I want them to be inspired to be themselves and see the greatness that’s within them, and see that they come from great people and a loving, supportive community.”

Someone should do something about the books, she told herself for years.

“I finally realized, it’s going to have to be me,” she said.

Strive Publishing, founded in 2016, offers black authors and illustrators an audience of eager readers.

Those readers will get a chance to browse the first volumes of the Strive imprint — picture books, children’s stories and a crackling new young-adult fantasy series — this holiday shopping weekend.

Dozens of north Minneapolis artists, fashion designers, chefs and entrepreneurs are banding together for a two-day bonanza of Black Friday shopping and holiday eating at the Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON) on West Broadway.

Black Friday on Broadway gives fledgling businesses space to sell the sort of goods North Side shoppers can’t find anywhere else. The annual event runs Friday and Saturday at the NEON business incubator at 1007 W. Broadway, as well as at small businesses up and down the street.

Every year, north Minneapolis residents spend millions of dollars at shops and restaurants outside their neighborhood.

This year, during Black Friday on Broadway, the community is hoping to keep those dollars closer to home.

Back in 2015, NEON teamed up with the Local Initiatives Support Coalition to calculate just how much of the North Side’s buying power was empowering retailers outside the West Broadway commercial corridor.

Residents in a 6-mile radius along West Broadway spent $6.5 million on clothing at shops outside the neighborhood and another $7.5 million dining outside the North Side.

And while there’s nothing wrong with hitting the Mall of America for some people-watching and indoor roller coasters, NEON wants to remind the neighborhood just how much West Broadway has to offer.

Maria Little-Arnold didn’t like messages being marketed to her young daughter.

So she started her own clothing line.

“We’d be watching TV and I’d tell her, ‘That’s not how women are. We don’t fight; we’re not negative,’ ” she said. “Hey, there are black women out here that are entrepreneurs, that are business owners and that are positive. We’re not out here naked; we are doing something positive for ourselves.”

She founded Acronym Village, an empowerment clothing line that sells T-shirts emblazoned with inspirational messages.

BBP: Beautiful Black Princess, one shirt reads, beneath a silhouette of a little girl with curls and a tiara.

TRUE: To Realize Ur Everything, reads another, with the encouraging message reflected back in a mirror, in case you missed it the first time.

“I love the North Side,” Little-Arnold said. “Everything I do is about the community.”

Neighbors who take their retail dollars elsewhere, she said, are “missing out on the uniqueness we have. The community, the oneness we bring, the difference we have.”

For more information about Black Friday on Broadway and other upcoming retail pop-ups, visit neon-mn.org.