BUSHWICK — MetaDEN’s changing lights ooze on the wet sidewalk: pink, blue, green, orange, red. Inside, vendors — exclusively people of color — are in business for their December night market: selling vegan food, jewelry, rocks, oils, creams, CBD derivatives, reading tarot, chatting with guests, and connecting as a community.
MetaDEN is a multi-purpose space prioritizing people of color (POC) and centers queer and trans folks. The facilitators, healers, and vendors are exclusively POC, their co-working space and some events are also exclusive, but night markets and other gatherings are often open to all to support diverse vendors and their services. In December, metaDEN moved from Bed-Stuy to 1335 Gates Avenue in Bushwick.
The space hosts everything from markets, healing sessions, and rituals, to sports classes, panel discussions, and shows. On regular days, metaDEN has a permanent storefront with everything from CBD tinctures to clothing, a coworking space, and a POC-authors library inside.
Founded in January of 2019 by Joss Martinez, who uses they/them pronouns, 28, and McKenzie Angelo Martinez, she/her, 30, creating a POC space in a rapidly gentrifying Bushwick is meaningful to the co-founders. Last year we reported that the number of Black-owned businesses in New York City has declined while it increased across the country.
“It felt really important to hold a space that was for people of color,” McKenzie said, “to make sure that we could still see ourselves here.”
POC-only spaces provide refuge, especially for healing. In this setting, surrounded by those experiencing the same societal issues, people can feel comfortable expressing themselves without feeling like they’re being judged.
“Oftentimes in spaces that are mixed, we have to deal with microaggressions, and a whole bunch of other things that just happen because of dynamics of power and privilege,” McKenzie said.
Moreover, some discussions need to happen in those POC-only spaces. For example, last September, metaDEN hosted a workshop called “Cornrow and Chill” for people with natural hair, where patrons shared their haircare techniques. It allowed people to sit down and talk about their hair and value its beauty, when the standards of beauty in our society have often leaned the other way.
Places of healing and empowerment like yoga, reiki, or capoeira studios, historically from minority cultures, are dominated now by white folks and do not always make POC feel welcomed or seen.
“There’s a difference between learning something from people who whitewash your history, and our space where everybody is trying to dive back into our cultures and figure out what those practices are,” Joss said.
MetaDEN is designed to be a healing space for the POC community, where they are able to ground themselves and self-reflect.
“It’s hard to change the world if you don’t feel okay,” McKenzie said.
MetaDEN launched a coworking space this January and will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to people of color. The coworking space will be accessible through a $5 day passes and various memberships that have perks like shop and event discounts. You can check their class schedule, and their Instagram for more information, as well as their website. You can also help their fundraiser for performer stipends, moving, rent and furniture expenses.
Update: metaDEN was founded in 2019, not 2018 as previously stated; it was also clarified the space centers queer and trans folks, and now reflects the event “Cornrow and Chill” was about natural hair.