Cultura Plenera is a non-profit organization dedicated to community building in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia areas through the traditional Puerto Rican musical styles of Bomba and Plena. Bomba is a Puerto Rican musical genre that dates back more than 300 years, has heavy African influences, and expresses the sentiments of Puerto Ricans and their culture through barrel drums, maraca, cúa, singer and dancers. Plena is another Puerto Rican musical genre, which dates back more than 100 years, and also narrates stories of the Puerto Rican experience through hand drums, güiro and singers. Both Bomba y Plena are central to life in Puerto Rican communities inside and outside of the island.
Fata Togba-Mensah is the CEO of FAsmarketplace in Wheaton MD, a one-of-a-kind place where the focus is to stimulate local economic and community growth. Fata’s inspiration to create such an environment came from growing up in her home country Liberia. Fata’s mother owned a tailor-shop, her grandfather was a storyteller and her dad was an eloquent speaker who taught her the importance of self-expression. Fata, who is a trained educator, says that her major source of strength comes from the support of her husband James and her children. She decided to pursue her interest in the arts, full-time, as a toy maker, designer and an author of children books. She created the FAs Marketplace to help other small artisans start their dream businesses too.
Fata explained that the marketplace was created out of the need for independent artist and “creatives” to launch, maintain and grow their businesses in Montgomery County. In its first year over sixty businesses have passed through the Marketplace, from pop-up-shops to those with long-term arrangements. FAs Marketplace is housed in a formerly abandoned building. “Of course,” Fata says, “the business has not been short of challenges, especially since the location was closed and unused for a long period of time. So letting people know we are here in the community and getting the word out is pivotal to our survival in the space.”
The marketplace is getting ready to celebrate its one-year anniversary on April 17, 2020, but got the news that they have to relocate because of increased rent. The anniversary events would have started off with a fundraiser to get a commercial kitchen that would have been used by food vendors and artisans who create skincare products. The kitchen would have also been a place where different cooking classes would have been held, all this now has to be put on the back burner because of the recent news.
When asked what success of the FAs Marketplace would look like, Fata says that each individual artist, musician, crafts person could reach their own personal goal through being at the Marketplace. “An artist gets a major record deal, a designer gets a major contract or they are featured on a major platform. That would be the ultimate success.” The Marketplace also hosts art and sewing classes for adults and children, family movie night, “Live at the Marketplace” (where local performers showcase talent), sip-and-paint nights and karaoke.
FAsmarketplace is surely a place that is contributing significantly to the fostering of folk life in Montgomery County. I you know of a place that they can relocate, please contact us. You may also contact the Marketplace directly at: