By Tuseda A. Graggs, shades Magazine

When Oakland’s Art & Soul Festival opens its gates this weekend, many of the vendors whose booths line the streets will be devoted followers who return each year to not only enjoy the music event, but to sell their wares, as well.

When the Art & Soul Fesival opens this weeklend, Anna Maria Bourgeois, owner of Ms. Bourgeois, will be there as she has for eight years. She has secured two booths along 14th Street to sell her custom-made dolls, T-shirts and tote bags.

“I love the Art & Soul Festival. That’s my favorite (event) of the year,” said the “almost” 70-year-old Bourgeois. “You’ll have to come by my booths and you’ll see just how much fun we have.”

The 10th Anniversary Art & Soul Oakland takes place from noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 21 and 22 at Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland’s City Center and on the streets around both, encompassing 10 city blocks. Tickets and additional information are available at www.ArtandSoulOakland.com.

Among the artists slated to perform this year are the “Funky Divas of Soul” En Vogue, percussionist of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” fame Vicki Randle, rapper MC Hammer, Latin Jazz musician and singer Pete Escovedo and R&B trio Tony! Toni! Toné! – all hometown artists.

Bourgeois said she missed last year’s event, but has attended all the others.

Bourgeois has traveled the world to buy the fabric that she uses to clothe her custom-made dolls of all nationalities. She also creates three-dimensional “Little Girl T-shirts” that have the doll heads on T-shirts and tote bags with the doll heads.

“It’s a blessing to have been able to travel to places like Thailand and the Philippines because I couldn’t afford to just go there on my own; but I was able to eat and sleep in the best of places because my job was paying me to go there,” said Bourgeois the former Merchant Seamen and Longshoreperson.

She began making dolls as Christmas gifts for her daughter and family members in 1975. By 1979, doll making was her side business and creative outlet. Now, she is retired and works the business only when she wants to.

According to a new study from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, women of color now comprise 14.5 percent of the American workforce. A growing trend within this group is small business owners and entrepreneurs who are using talents and hobbies to earn a living … or just some extra cash.

Oakland Artist Rachel-Anne Palacios, owner of Devikas Palacio, which means Goddess Palace, also will be at Art & Soul Festival this year – just as she has for the past seven years.

Palacios, who creates multicultural folk art and does Henna body tattoos, will host a booth this year in the Artists and Vendors area that lines streets within the festival gates. She is one of the many who return year after year because of the energy and vibrancy of the two-day festival. She returns in part because after so many years of attendance, Palacios said, her customers come back annually looking to buy her newest creations.

“Some of the same people come every single year and pick up something new. They are like old friends,” Palacios said. “We talk and they ask what I’ve been up to over the last year and I do the same. It’s definitely been a positive experience.”

Palacios, who has a home studio in Oakland, is an Oakland native with several generations of history in the Bay Area dating back to 1918 when her forefathers immigrated from Mexico and El Salvador.

She began her business in 2001 making gifts for friends and family. Palacios said her grandmother’s friends would always ask where she got her jewelry so her grandmother said, “maybe you should sell this.” Palacios began selling at the Ashby BART Flea Market in Berkeley, California, on weekends and at street fairs, and business took off, she said.

“I’m going to be working right up to (Aug. 21) making new pieces. It’s always a fun time,” Palacios said.

Access to the vendor booths and concerts are free with paid admission. Adults are $10 per day (online if purchased by Aug. 20) and $15 per day at the door. Seniors and youth (ages 13-17) are $5 per day (online if purchased by Aug. 20) and $8 per day at the door. Children 12 and under are free.

Originally published at myshadesmagazine.net.