They mean business: Sisters return with Kwanzaa crawl

U.N.I.T.Y: Particpants in the annual Kwanzaa crawl trek Brooklyn and Harlem exploring black-owned businesses on the first day of Kwanzaa, Umoja, which means 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 31 black-owned bars and restaurants in Brooklyn and in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood. The day-long event 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.”

Co-founder of Kwanzaa Crawl, Kerry Coddett.

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.

Uptown funk: Last year the Kwanzaa crawl expanded to include Harlem.
Deneka Peniston

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 say 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.

Dressed to the test: Organizers encourage guests to dress in clothing that makes them feel bold and proud to be black.
Google Drive Folder
Kolin Mendez

Participants will gather at a meeting location in Brooklyn or in Harlem, 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 disk jockey, and other categories, judged from the hashtag #KwanzaaCrawl2018.

Coddett says 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.”

Black pride: Guests are encouraged to wear all types of gear celebrating black pride. This year, organizers will be doing awards for best dressed and littest teams.
Google Drive Folder
Kolin Mendez

“Kwanzaa Crawl” at various locations. Brooklyn meet-up [Boys and Girls High School between Schenectady and Utica avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant,]. Dec. 26, 12:30–11 pm. $27-30.

Harlem Meetup at C.S. 154 Harriet Tubman [50 West 127th St. between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. boulevards in Harlem,].

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
African pride: A team leader donning aKente cloth dress — one of the crawl’s requirements to dress as ‘black’ as they feel.
Google Drive Folder
Kolin Mendez

More from Around NYC