Sharifa Murdock, Co-Owner of Liberty Fairs and Founder of ENVSN Festival
My family is from Trinidad.
I’ve been to carnival in Trinidad once and it was phenomenal. I felt the energy. It’s different because we have carnival here in New York but there, it’s on a whole other level.
I just called my grandmother about how carnival got started because every year every one’s family goes.
She explained to me that the Spanish and the French people started Carnival in Trinidad. The descendents of freed slaves weren’t allowed to celebrate but they did it anyway, in secret.
[Editor’s note: The festival was called Canbouley. In 1881, the Canbouley Riots occurred where they fought against the British for their right to keep their celebration. They succeeded and eventually Canbouley was merged with Carnival, bringing its West African roots with it.]
They would come together, listen to music, sing songs and that is how carnival was originated. I think that was phenomenal just to kind of understand, because so many years we’ve been going and not understanding what we were celebrating. Going to carnival made me truly understand the essence of what it is to be West Indian. It just gave you that feeling of pride, joy and love. I now understand the coming together of people.
Both of my parents came to this country [from Trinidad] and they just figured it out. My dad always told me if you want something, you have to work hard. Growing up, I had to work extra hard. I remember, a friend asking, “Why do you get so dressed up for work?”
I remember saying, “Because I have to.”
I also loved to get dressed up but I remember thinking back then you have to because I had to play a part. [Now],I work just as hard as anyone else, but what I’m not going to do is break my neck to prove that I can work harder than you.
I can tell you mentorship is important for young Black girls, because I was that Black girl. I am still that Black girl. I grew up in Brooklyn. Having a mentor changed the direction of my life. It’s important for me to educate other young Black girls on how much impact one person can have.
My life would’ve been totally different if I had not taken the job at Atrium in 1997 if I had not worked my butt off and sold so many sneakers and jeans that someone took notice of me.
“Oh, a beautiful little Black girl that is excited to be around customers but we would never put her in these positions.” That’s all they could’ve seen me as. Instead, Sam Ben-Avraham the owner of Atrium, called me back, he told me what his dream and goals where for me. I thought, “Wow, you see that for me?” And he said, “I trust you.” He saw something in me that I never saw in myself. I would have never believe that I would be where I am today. I did have goals and dreams, but I had help. I had a push.
My office always makes fun of me. They’re like any little black girl comes in and you just going to hire her, huh? Yes.Because someone has to give them that opportunity.
It’s important to support Black businesses, but I think that we first need to dig deeper to the root. We need to start supporting each other first.We need to provide access and unfortunately, a lot of the access is outside our community.
Everyone is excited when someone gets a job. I don’t want to hear about like “the first this” or “the first that”, ever again. I want to know that this is the norm.
I think we’re moving in a special space right now. I think that it’s important that we recognize that African-American culture has been the most influential in every aspect as of our pop culture from music to entertainment and fashion. It’s referenced and used as inspiration on every vision board across the country and the world.