Photo Credit: Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce
Canadian Black Business Week spotlights why we need to keep supporting Black-owned businesses
Mayesha Chowdhury, Associate Arts Editor
The last week of October this year marked the second annual “Canadian Black Business Week” held by The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC). The aim of this week-long program was to highlight the individual challenges faced by black business owners and celebrate their achievements. Events included talks such as “Power Hour” where a panel led by the Chair of the Pan-African Credit Union discussed the surfacing Black Renaissance in the local community. Meanwhile there were also events like “Black Trivia Night” where you could test your knowledge and expand your network.
Businesses everywhere have been negatively impacted by COVID. However, entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) have been affected disproportionately by the wreckage the virus has left behind. Recently, the Black community was also rocked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd was murdered by a police officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. This tragedy contributed to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement protesting against incidents of racial violence against Black people. The movement also honours Black men, women, and children such as Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, and Regis Korchinski Paquet who were killed by senseless acts of police brutality.
The BLM movement has been going strong for the past couple of months, however, over time there has been less coverage by the press on this campaign. My question- how can we continue to sustain the current power of the BLM movement? How can we actively support Black communities in Canada? The answer might just be through supporting Black-owned businesses.
We might not realise it, but as consumers we hold incredible power which affects market trends and the supply of products. Remember the rush to buy toilet rolls during the first wave of the pandemic? Yeah, that was all driven by consumer need and buying power. Yet, even before COVID, Black business owners were unable to supply consumers properly because of systemic forms of racism they faced. Black business owners face not only cultural biases and discrimination, but physical biases. These are manifested through Black people being denied loans and turning to personal banking. But, without a business account in one of Canada’s major banks, a lot of small entrepreneurs do not qualify for federal emergency funding from the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). The intersectional identities Black business owners hold can also contribute to the way they are treated in society.
This is why programs like “Canadian Black Business Week” are so important. They provide us with active solutions that we as consumers can utilize to effectively help empower Black businesses. While it is vital that we fight back against individual forms of racism, systemic racism is harder to tackle because it is so elusive. This type of racism is literally built into our society and institutions. The dominance of white-owned brands and products are simply accepted by everyone and seen as a normal part of life. Supermarkets have massive sections filled with big brand names while Black products are shuffled off to one isle.
But do you know what’s the best way to challenge society’s hegemonic bias of promoting non-BIPOC businesses? That’s right. It’s reclaiming your role as a consumer and choosing to invest in marginalised businesses that need it most, instead of following market trends. I’m not saying that you have to completely give up your daily Starbucks, but why not decide to spice up your routine and try some Congolese Coffee from Coffee and Mikate in Toronto? Tired of your boring mass-produced shampoo and conditioner? Check out Blumseed’s organic, paraben and toxin free Chamomile and Calendula Clay Hair Wash which helps treat sensitive scalps. By taking the time to spend your money on non-commercialised Black-owned products, you can actively fight against the repressive structures in society that infringe on the rights of Black people.
There’s no more time left to be complacent in the fight against institutional racism. Get out there and vote with your coin.