Beyond Black Lives Matter: How Calgarians can continue to support the Black community

Camillia Smith-Alexander with her husband and daughter, promoting BLM How Can I Help at Saturday's Vigil. | LAYLA DART FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The Black Lives Matter movement has taken the world by storm again, including Calgary.

Over the course of last week, three separate events were held with hundreds in attendance for each.

Monday kicked it off with a protest and a march, Wednesday’s event followed suit, and things concluded with a heart wrenching vigil late Saturday afternoon.

A photo from the Black Lives Matter protest on May 3. LAYLA DART / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

But how can we continue this movement of change beyond these protests, rallies, and vigils? How else can we support our Black community?

Adora Nwofor, a Calgary comedian and activist who has been at the forefront of Calgary’s Black Lives Matter movement, has suggested a number of ways to do this.

This includes learning about racism, “being humble” and listening “with humility” when Black people are speaking, and “center[ing] Blackness.”

“The list can go on,” she said.

Support black business

Firatol Shune spoke at Saturday’s vigil, toting a comprehensive list of Black-owned businesses for Calgarians to support. The list also included NGO’s and non-profit organizations either run by or in support of the BIPOC community.

She presented the list on Saturday on behalf of a group she’d been working with to compile it who could not be present.

“I just woke up on Thursday and I was like ‘we need to do this,’” said Shune

“How can we help these people be educated.”

By this she means, on where and how to support the Black community.

She emphasized the benefits of supporting Black restaurants, both to the community and individually.

“It’s just another way of saying ‘you want to help? Here’s where you start,’” Shune said

“It’s easy to chant and go home, but you still go to McDonalds.”

Hundreds gathered for a peaceful vigil at Olympic Plaza on Saturday June 6 LAYLA DART / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Shune and her team are working on a catalog as a resource, sorting different businesses into different categories.

A similar list to what Shune is producing can be found here.

Camillia Smith-Alexander, a local massage therapist and entrepreneur, has started her own initiative to support her community.

Supporting black businesses in more ways than one

BLM How Can I Help is a non-profit organization that Smith-Alexander has organized to enrich and lift up other Black entrepreneurs in the city.

“There’s so many ways to support Black businesses,” she said

“It doesn’t always mean coming and buying services.”

Smith-Alexander relayed a story about trying to find real estate to set up business as a registered massage therapist. She’s struggled to find resources to help her learn the best way to do that, and places that will give her the space to set up in.

Providing support and helping Black-owned businesses get on their feet are other ways to build up the community.

This can also mean supporting Black city councillors, as well as increasing supports and their accessibility for black youth.

“[This is] so they grow to aspire to whatever dream that they have,” said Smith-Alexander.

“Knowing that there’s a safe place for them to land when they’re ready to get to where they want to go.”

Along with these initiatives, it’s also important to donate to organizations that support Black communities, as well as initiatives started within them.

Calgary business starts to chip in

One Calgary business is doing just that.

Monogram Coffee donated all of their drink profits to Action Dignity, and will do the same thing on the first of July. They plan to continue this on the first of every following month, donating to alternating organizations.

“We realized that as a business, we could do better at prioritizing and finding ways to support change,” said Jeremey Ho, Co-Founder of Monogram Coffee.

“Specifically, within anti-racism within our organization, our team, and also within our communities.”

Ho recognizes the place his company has within the community, and hopes that this initiative inspires other business to follow suit.

It’s his way of putting “the action where the words are.”

But he isn’t doing it for the spotlight, but rather as a way of doing the right thing.

“This is just one small step,” he said

“What we hope is that donations are not just the end of it, but people still keep this frame of mind.”

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