CALGARY – As the Black Lives Matter movement grows across North America, an emphasis has been placed on the need to support local black-owned businesses.
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Beni Johnson, the founder and CEO of 10 at 10 in Calgary – a company promoting urban music and hip-hop culture – said he was surprised by the size of the anti-racism rallies in his adopted country.
“I’ve lived here for 14 years and have never seen this support come from within the (black) community as well as from our allies,” he said.
Johnson, who also works as an A&R music and marketing consultant, says helping black-owned businesses today will sustain the community for years to come and serve as a forerunner of systemic change.
“Buying black picks up the field when it comes to odds,” said Johnson. “It is important for the black community to have economic power to make change or finance it.
“Buying black is like investing directly in the institutions and generational wealth of black families. It brings economic strength, changing course and access to education, land purchase and financial wellbeing. When it comes to politics that affect black families, the same economic strength can bring black-oriented issues to the fore.
“By buying black directly, black entrepreneurs can create more jobs for blacks, which in turn means that the community is self-sufficient.”
Demanding times for restaurant owners
Fay Bruney, the owner / operator of Simply Irie Caribbean Cusine on Beltline, says support for her company comes at a difficult time. After six years, this winter, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in Calgary, the restaurant moved to a location near the intersection of 17th Avenue and SW Sixth Street – near Western Canadian High School.
Bruney was forced to fire all staff except her cook as the restaurant was closed to customers but continued to serve a dedicated customer base of nurses and remand prison staff.
Supporting black-owned businesses begins with identifying black-owned businesses
Social media posts describing black-owned companies have been shared in major cities in both Canada and the United States. After realizing the need to shed light on local businesses, a Calgary woman took it upon herself to fill the void.
“I’ve seen a lot of people share posts with black-owned and black-run businesses in their cities (e.g. Toronto, Seattle, Vancouver, etc.) and I thought Calgary should have one, too,” Kelsey said Deveraturda, a student at the University of Calgary. “When I googled which Calgary businesses were local and black-run, I found that a comprehensive list wasn’t available. I figured I might as well make one so that Calgarians can go to one place and find information for organizations Groups etc. can access restaurants etc. “
Deveraturda began compiling a list of BLM resources in the Calgary area, as well as restaurants, shops, and services within the Black Community. As of Tuesday, the list had more than 80 entries.
“I hope the Calgarians will continue to use it as a place to support and invest in our black communities and to support international movements for black justice.”
Hi friends, this is a comprehensive google doc of black owned companies in YYC, as well as local organizations and Canadian groups that you would like to donate to! https://t.co/t4KgHufVwu
– kels (@bittykels) June 4, 2020
At Simply Irie, the social media push to support black-owned companies resulted in more than 100 followers on Instagram in less than 48 hours and an influx of positive comments.
Von Fay: I don’t take any photos at all. But a friend of ours @anthonykdo sent us a message saying he would like to take a portrait of me. He saw what was going on on the news and said he would do anything to help. I’m Fay Bruney and I share the ownership of Simply Irie with my husband, Pat. I was born in Jamaica a few years ago and moved to Toronto when I was 4. Although I can return home every two years, one of the ways I can connect with my origins is through food. I’ve always dreamed of opening my own restaurant to share a piece of my home with people I love. I was blessed with the opportunity to do so now in the city that I love, Calgary. I cannot express enough how overwhelming the support we have received from all of you over the past few years has been. I have to feed people from every background. Many of you who have never tried Caribbean food. It was an absolute blessing to share a piece of my home with all of you. So I wanted to take this time to thank each of you who have been separated from this trip since we opened in late 2014. Without you, I would not have been able to fulfill my dream and I am forever grateful. My kids said I shouldn’t apologize, but I’ve been in this country a long time and the Canadian in me can’t help it. For those of you who just discovered us over the past week, I am very sorry we ran out of food. We weren’t prepared for this and the waiting times got out of hand. My staff and I are doing our best to get your food to you asap and we hope you don’t give up on us. I am Fay Bruney. Proud Jamaican Canadian Business Owner. And I hope you have a chance to learn a little about where I come from through our food
A post shared by Simply Irie (@ simply.irie) on Jun 6, 2020 at 11:19 pm PDT
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