Dozens of black-owned bars and restaurants in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Harlem will open their doors on Thursday, December 26th, for thousands of people who will be participating in this year's Kwanzaa Crawl. The annual event celebrating black culture and community was created by sisters Kerry Coddett and Krystal Stark.

After feeling powerless after yet another killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of law enforcement, the sisters gathered friends to brainstorm ideas about what they could do to change the situation. "Black people need political power to change any of the laws. And we realized that you can't have political power without economic power," Stark, a talent manager, said. "So we thought about what does economic power look like to black people... and that's cooperative economics."

They saw changes in their neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, noticing how gentrification was causing black-owned businesses to shut down. Coddett, who is a comedian, writer, and activist, observed that the new business moving into weren't hiring "people who look like they are a part of the original community."

Coddett and Stark settled upon steering customers to black-owned business. "A little bit of cash goes a long way," Coddett explained, and soon the Kwanzaa Crawl was born. Bar and restaurant owners were "very receptive to the idea," said Stark, but they were concerned about whether the event would actually bring in the people and revenue that the sisters projected.

Those worries disappeared after the first crawl in 2016, and now business owners are reaching out to participate, based on word of mouth and the success. Last year, 4,100 "Crawlers" visited 30 bars, raising $250,000, and this year, they're expecting 5,000 attendees at the 35 venues.

"It's not a 'bar crawl,' we need a lot of resources. We have 65 teams, 25 to 100 crawlers in each team," Stark emphasized. After a kick-off, which includes a Kwanzaa ceremony (there are two kick-offs in Brooklyn and one in Harlem this year), team leaders bring their teams to designated bars. After two hours, teams go to a new place, ensuring that crawlers can visit up to four bars—and that the bars can handle the crowds.

Typical complaints about bar crawls center on the fact that bars and restaurants can't really anticipate how many people come in. By staggering and organizing the teams (and having rules for crawlers), businesses can better plan staffing and food and drink service.

During the 2018 Kwanzaa Crawl

"Unity is one of [the Kwanzaa Crawl's] guiding principles," Coddett added. They worked hard to "make things equitable" amongst the businesses and "moving [the teams] as a unified collective."

Harlem tickets are sold out, but there are about 200 left for the Brooklyn leg, which is bigger and features over 30 bars. However, tickets typically go fast on Christmas, when people finally make their plans.

Coddett's favorite thing about the event is the "feeling of love and unity...It's just a matter what space you went into, you felt like you were coming home."

Plus, Coddett said that no one has their cell phones out. "People are actually having a good time... And you can feel it in the air."

"The response from the venues is what I look forward to," reflected Stark, "and their ability to retain customers after the event... People refer to the list and come back to those businesses. And from our crawlers' perspective, people are just so happy to see us all get together. It's thousands of people in one room supporting a cause in a way that's not reactive. It's a very fun holiday event, and we do it with purpose."

The Kwanzaa Crawl is on Thursday, December 26th. Tickets are $40, offering, the FAQ notes, "Entry into one of the most epic experiences of your beautiful Black life."