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 executive director of Calgary-based 10 at 10 — a company that promotes urban music and hip-hop culture — says he was caught off guard by the sheer magnitude of the anti-racism rallies in his adopted hometown.

"Living here for 14 years now, I've never seen that kinda support both from within the (Black) community (but) through our allies as well," he said.

Johnson, who also works as an A&R music and marketing consultant, says supporting Black-owned businesses today will support the community in the years to come and serve as a forebearer to systemic change.

"Buying Black evens the playing field when talking about opportunity," explained Johnson. "It's important for the Black community to have economic power in order to create or fund change.

"Buying Black is like directly investing into the institutions and the generational wealth of Black families. It brings economic strength to change the course and access to levels of education, land buying and financial wellbeing. When dealing with politics that affect Black families, that same economic strength can bring Black-focused issues to the forefront.

"Buying Black directly empowers Black entrepreneurs to create more jobs for Blacks, which in turn makes the community self providing."


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Challenging times for restaurant owners

Fay Bruney, the owner/operator of Simply Irie Caribbean Cusine in the Beltline, says the support comes at a difficult time for her business. After six years, the restaurant relocated to a spot near the intersection of 17th Avenue and Sixth Street S.W. — near Western Canadian High School — this winter, weeks before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Calgary. 

Bruney was forced to lay off all of her staff save for her cook as the restaurant was closed to dine-in customers but continued to serve takeout to a dedicated customer base that includes nurses and remand centre staff.

Supporting Black-owned businesses starts with identifying Black-owned businesses

Social media posts outlining businesses with Black-ownership have been shared in major cities in both Canada and the United States and, after seeing a need to shine a light on local businesses, a Calgary woman took it upon herself to fill the void.

"I saw many people sharing posts with Black-owned and Black-run businesses from their cities (ex. Toronto, Seattle, Vancouver etc.) and thought that Calgary should have one as well," explained Kelsey Deveraturda, a University of Calgary student. "Googling what businesses in Calgary were local and Black-run, I saw that there wasn't a comprehensive list available. I figured that I might as well make one so that Calgarians could go to one place and access information for organizations, groups, restaurants etc."

Deveraturda began to compile a list of Calgary-area BLM resources as well as restaurants, shops and services within the Black community. As of Tuesday, the list had more than 80 entires.

"My hope is that Calgarians continue to use it as a place to begin supporting and investing in our Black communities, and grow to support international movements for Black justice."

At Simply Irie, the social media push to support Black-owned businesses resulted in a jump of more than 100 followers on Instagram in less than 48 hours as well as an influx of positive comments.


From Fay: I do not like taking photos, at all. But a friend of ours @anthonykdo messaged us and said he would love to take a portrait of me. He saw what was going on in the news and said he wanted to do whatever he could to help out. I’m Fay Bruney, and I share ownership of Simply Irie with my husband Pat. I was born in Jamaica, a few years ago lol, and moved to Toronto when I was just 4 years old. Although I get to go back home every other year, one of the ways I get to connect with where I’m from is through food. I always dreamed of being able to open up my own restaurant so that I could share a piece of my home with people I love. I was blessed with the opportunity to do that now in the city I love, Calgary. I can’t express enough how overwhelming the support we have received from all of you the last few years has made me feel. I’ve gotten to feed people from every single background. A lot of you that actually have never even tried Caribbean food before. It’s been an absolute blessing that I get to share a piece of my home with all of you. So I wanted to take this time to thank each and every one of you that have been apart of this journey since we opened in late 2014. I wouldn’t of been able to fulfill this dream of mine without you and I’m 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. To those of you that have just discovered us in the past week, I am extremely sorry that we have been running out of food items. We were not prepared for this and the wait times have gotten out of control. My staff and I are doing our absolute best to get you your food as quick as we can, and we hope you don’t give up on us. I am Fay Bruney. Proud Jamaican-Canadian business owner. And I hope you get a chance to learn a little bit about where I come from, through our food ��

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