ENCINITAS — The mood was light and hopeful on September 13 as volunteers, local vendors and supporters of Encinitas 4 Equality (E4E) celebrated the opening of the groups’ first brick-and-mortar location.
The studio, named “E4E” at 414 Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas (previously Gather Yoga), serves as an office, community gathering space and boutique selling 13 Black artists’ and vendors’ contributions.
E4E Director Mali Woods-Drake described Sunday’s event as one of happiness and hope.
“Sunday’s event was our soft launch and volunteer appreciation event as well as an opportunity for our San Diego vendors to come up and get to know E4E’s community a little bit more,” Woods-Drake said.
“There was this feeling of hope that I think many of us have been lacking as we get closer and closer to the election and things have become more and more divisive,” Woods-Drake said.
Mischele Salvant, a 28-year-old surreal expressionist and feminist artist whose work hangs in the E4E space also attended, described the event as “extremely inspiring.”
“There were so many people from the community that came out to support from a loving place and that really, really meant a lot to the vendors who will be selling their goods here,” Salvant said.
Salvant pointed at various pieces on E4E’s walls, describing the evolution of her art through the years, stating the last several months have been her more prolific and impactful.
“COVID has really put a damper on artists, especially black artists,” Salvant said. “We’re also dealing with the stress of this social movement, trying to fight for social justice while maintaining our sanity. For me, being an artist has given me an outlet. I’m not holding on to that frustration like I normally would.”
Salvant is one of 13 artists and vendors selected to showcase their art in the new space.
“Every vendor here is in their own way, an artist, whether it’s the art of food in selling their spices, the art of the human body in scrubs, incense, lotions, and soaps, or traditional art like painted skateboards, books, and poetry,” Woods-Drake said.
According to Woods-Drake, the space became available to E4E as the group grew in the aftermath of June’s Black Lives Matter protests throughout San Diego County.
Originally operating from her own home, the group outgrew the space both physically and in terms of security. In recent months, E4E has received threats from Encinitas community members and deemed it was no longer safe to be meeting at Woods-Drake’s home address.
With a generous offer from the leaseholder of Gather Yoga and a successful GoFundMe campaign, E4E will inhabit the location for several months with the intention of bringing more black businesses and entrepreneurs to Encinitas by offering a space to sell their products.
“As a community space, we can begin to host the dialogue that’s been lacking for so long in Encinitas,” Woods-Drake said. “It’s a brave space where people can push past their discomfort and engage — be raw and vulnerable.”