Recognizing an ‘inspiring force’: City business owner honored with Black Excellence award

State Sen. Jo Comerford, right, recently presented Aimee Salmon  a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Salmon recently opened Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, right, recently presented Aimee Salmon a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Salmon recently opened Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

State Sen. Jo Comerford, right, recently presented Aimee Salmon  a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Salmon recently opened Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, right, recently presented Aimee Salmon a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Salmon recently opened Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

State Sen. Jo Comerford, right, recently presented Aimee Salmon  a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Salmon recently opened Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, right, recently presented Aimee Salmon a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Salmon recently opened Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Aimee Salmon, owner of Positively Africana, responds to State Senator Jo Comerford presenting Salmon with a citation of recognition of the 2024 Black Excellence honoring Salmon's work and leadership.

Aimee Salmon, owner of Positively Africana, responds to State Senator Jo Comerford presenting Salmon with a citation of recognition of the 2024 Black Excellence honoring Salmon's work and leadership. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Aimee Salmon, owner of Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton, speaks after receiving a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.

Aimee Salmon, owner of Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton, speaks after receiving a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

State Sen. Jo Comerford, right, presents Aimee Salmon  a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Salmon recently opened Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, right, presents Aimee Salmon a citation of recognition for the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Salmon recently opened Positively Africana in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By Aria Martinelli

For the Gazette

Published: 04-10-2024 4:29 PM

Modified: 04-11-2024 9:19 AM


NORTHAMPTON — A “good soul” and “inspiring force” who enriches western Massachusetts by bringing African culture to her new downtown store recently garnered some attention from the eastern part of the state.

Aimee Salmon, the founder and operator of Positively Africana, was recently honored with the Black Excellence on the Hill Award for the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.

“You are an inspiring force and a leader in our community, and we are all so lucky to have you here doing what you are doing,” said Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, during an April 2 visit to the store on the second floor of Thornes Marketplace.

“You are!” “You are,” voices in the crowd cheered.

Comerford presented Salmon with the citation for the award during the visit, which followed an in-person event at the end of March in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House at which all honorees were recognized.

An excitement for Salmon’s business and a respect for her leadership defined the tenor of the event.

“She deserves it, she’s such a good soul,” another voice heard in the crowd.

The work of the African women artisans — from woven jewelry to Congolese tailored blazers to “The Aimee Doll” collection — distinguish the storefront.

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The award is a testament to Salmon’s devotion to African female artists in bringing their artisanry to Northampton’s local scene, as well as for her work in spreading awareness of the cultural gifts of African culture. Salmon dedicated the honor to her ancestors, saying being recognized is an honor and privilege.

“Growing up poor in the eastern Congo, I never imagined being recognized for anything,” Salmon said in a statement. “This nomination is a testament to my hard work, hope and passion for self-growth. I thank everyone who has supported me in my journey and supported Positively Africana. … I couldn’t have made it this far without you.”

Salmon’s drive for creating Positively Africana is centered around her passion for African women and economic empowerment, as she articulates.

“To empower the African community to continue creating art and craft so they can do what they love so they can find fulfillment and enjoy their passion” is important to Salmon. She feels like she can do this being in the United States with a college and business degree. “They are so gifted, and I don’t want that gift to be wasted,” she says, speaking about the artists.

Originally from the Congo, Salmon moved to the United States 10 years ago. She holds a bachelor of arts in psychology and education from Mount Holyoke College and a minor in entrepreneurship, organizations and society. Salmon speaks about how the business classes that she took in college inspired her entrepreneurial work in creating Positively Africana.

In five years, Salmon sees Positively Africana as a recognized brand serving African women in creating more jobs. “There’s so much need back home,” she says.

The Black Excellence on the Hill Award is an annual award is given to “individuals embodying the best of the community who uphold an innovative uplifting spirit,” Comerford said.

“She (Salmon) is a shining example of someone who is innovative and entrepreneurial and a community leader embodying the very best values I can think of,” says Comerford, explaining why she chose Salmon for the award. “She lifts up people.”