Ballenger Highway

Keeping the community healthy with BAMS African Market

FLINT, Michigan — “It feels like we teleported to a different part of the planet,” says photojournalist Anthony Summers as he and I walk into BAMS African Market on Flint’s west side. As we entered, the owner’s sister and two little rambunctious boys, who couldn’t help but command our attention by asking questions and posing for photographs, greeted us. Their presence is a visible cue that BAMS is a multi-generational effort and a second home for them.

Tucked away in a small plaza across the street from Burger King on South Ballenger Highway and Corunna Road, BAMS is a unique market with African Caribbean roots that import herbs and other holistic essentials from West Africa.

The store is stacked from top to bottom with an array of traditional African organic “foodstuff sourcing, products, fashion, and various home needs.” Whipped shea butter creams, essential oils, perfumes, incense, and even vitamins to help with sexual prowess are displayed and stocked on shelves. Their focus, as labeled on over a dozen hand-made products by the owner, Sanuya called Sanuya Natural Herb, is to “keep you healthy.”

Two young boys play around inside BAMS on Dec. 20, 2023. (Anthony Summers |“We have oil, leaves, sea moss, and black seed capsules. [Sanuya] has made turmeric soap, body washes, and candy. Her eczema cream pops,” explains her sister while she takes us around the shop, detailing every product.

As if to give validity to the statement, several customers come in and out of the store purchasing products and asking if particular items are back in stock. But what caught my eye and my thirst was a hibiscus and ginger drink that refreshed us.

Sanuya's Natural Herb Sea Moss gel and natural sea moss refrigerated inside BAMS African Market, photographed on Dec. 20, 2023. (Anthony Summers | the greater Flint community and beyond, BAMS’ clientele includes the city’s African, Muslim, African American, Jamaican, Cuban, and other island populations. It is why their stock of items is large and varied.

In addition to herbs, there are various cultural foods and Halal items that many of their customers, including Sanuya and her sister, like to cook. “Tilapia is the big hit,” she explains, rummaging through the freezer. “We have ox tails, goat, lamb, smoked turkey because [people] have a lot of soups and stews with okra, spinach, and cassava leaves.”

Sanuya Natural Herb's Irish Sea Moss Detox, hibiscus, and ginger drinks stocked in a refrigerator inside BAMS African Market photographed on Dec. 20, 2023. (Anthony Summers | in touch with the community, BAMS occasionally offers cooked dinners, helps local churches, and even provides translation assistance for community members. Communal diversity translates to clothing, garments, and household items.

In the back of the shop, there’s kente cloth, prayer rugs, scarves, and head wraps. It’s all to give back to the community and “do a little something of everything because a lot of them come from the islands or have different religions. Whatever you’re asking for, [Sanuya’s] good at that too.”
To learn more about BAMS African Market, visit their website, give them a call at 810-234-1073, or visit them at 1015 S. Ballenger Hwy in Flint. 
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Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.