The Arabber Tradition
Arabbing and arabbers (horse-and-wagon vendors of fruits and vegetables) have deep roots in Baltimore, particularly within the African-American community. It became widely popular after the Civil War, as the brightly decorated horses and wagons moved produce from ports and warehouses into the city’s neighborhoods. As industry grew, African–Americans were initially excluded from many jobs, but arabbing was open to all. Today, Baltimore is the only city left in the country that has working arabbers, but the number of arabbers on Baltimore’s streets has dwindled to just a few, and they are in danger of extinction.
The arabber tradition is worth preserving. It is much more than just a unique cultural tradition. It provides self-employment opportunities in neighborhoods where jobs are scarce. The arabber wagons bring fresh produce to Baltimore’s “food deserts” - neighborhoods without easy access to supermarkets and the fresh food they provide. This is particularly important for senior citizens and others with limited mobility - whether due to illness, injury, or old age, or simply a lack of transportation. There is also a tradition of looking after young people and putting them to work so that they don't get into trouble.
Many people who either grew up in the city or used to visit it remember buying food from an arabber wagon, and people still get excited when they see the horse and wagon coming down their street - no matter what part of the city they live in.
What We Hope To Accomplish
There are three remaining arabber stables in Baltimore, and they are clinging to life. With the money we raise, we hope to address some basic issues at each stable, in order to build a foundation that they can use to grow and prosper. Specifically, we want to do the following:
- Purchase two wagons and harnesses for the S. Carlton Street stable, and put several people to work in the process;
- Replace the roof at the N. Bruce Street stable, and install a new front gate which will provide much-needed security;
- Assist in the development of a "horse discovery center" for children at the N. Fremont Avenue stable, and help this stable with their very large water bill.
*Please note that all donations will be managed by our Fiscal Sponsor Fusion Partnerships.
What We've Done So Far
We are holding a fundraiser on April 7 for the stables, which has generated a lot of media exposure, and which has captured the attention of the city's politicians. We hope this will generate support for the arabbers and their stables. With the money generated at the fundraiser and through this campaign, we want to make essential purchases and repairs to the three remaining stables to put them in a position for further growth. We want to put people to work, and we want to provide an essential food services in parts of the city where this is an issue.
We are deeply appreciative of whatever support you can offer to help us revitalize this small but important part of the city's economy.
Robert Sullivan, Baltimore Photographer
Maxine Taylor, Artist and Owner of MAXgallery in Baltimore