Scores of people flocked to the Minneapolis convention center Saturday for the "I Am My Ancestors' Wildest Dreams" expo, a convention showcasing Black-owned businesses, services and goods.

Music from a live band greeted visitors walking through the expo doors. A wreath of white ornaments opened a path to the show floor, where a sign reading "The Black Market" stood covered in faux plants colored green, red and yellow. Air rushed into seven or so bounce castles in the children's "Too Dope to Bully" section, and vendors in a nearby healing garden set up meditative singing bowls, crystals and massage chairs.

For Millard Smith, the expo represents progress. Smith and his wife started the Body Talkk, a small business selling organic body products, around 2008. The pair used to bring in around $100 when selling at the city's Black Market, but Smith says being at Saturday's expo introduces them to more customers.

"The Black Market is big, but now this is even bigger because you can associate this with the city. That's a big collaboration to be a part of," Smith said.

The expo, hosted by Minneapolis' new Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Department, is the city's first major Black-centered event since George Floyd's murder in 2020. Organizers envisioned a "Black Mecca" experience at the venue with A-list entertainers, but ethics concerns forced them to scale back and lean on $140,000 authorized by the City Council.

It's still a huge opportunity for vendors like Denytria Harley. Harley started her business, Flawless by Queen D, on Juneteenth 2022 after realizing her love for makeup and cosmetics could make a profit. Saturday's expo is the biggest event she has attended, but Harley said camaraderie among these businesses has made a world of difference.

"Having that support is everything," Harley said. "We're going to push for our brothers and sisters because we already know what it means to be said 'no' [to] so many times."

For visitors, the experience was a chance to get in touch with their roots and to see the city in a new light. Ashley O'Brien identifies as mixed, and said the conference makes her feel at home.

"I'm just so happy my kid could see Black joy and people, families and friends, and just a different view of our city than we get," O'Brien said. "The wealth divide is so bad that it's hard to feel good about spending money. So this is a place where you can spend money and you can feel really good about it."

That wealth disparity has narrowed, but last year Minnesota recorded the 13th-largest gap in incomes of Black and white households, according to a regional labor analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

"For an event like this, everyone from every walk of life, no matter what, can interact with each other and learn about how it is in different places," visitor Denzel Knapp said, adding that he's been racially profiled in multiple states. "We need to build our north Minneapolis. We need to build our St. Paul. We need to build every ghetto there is to help our kids in the future."

It would take time to better every community, but vendors like D'Angela Hester have hope. Hester owns Bubbly Bath Salts by D, and said the event truly represents her ancestors' wildest dreams. Hester's grandma was a single mother without a high school diploma who grew up when Jim Crow laws legalized racial segregation. Still, her grandmother worked to open an arcade and candy store that helped to support the family.

"I don't understand how [our ancestors] would have been imagining this for us. I'm sure that it's something that they would have loved," Hester said. "It feels really humbling and it feels like an honor to be here to represent, like 'You guys didn't work in vain.'"