Food & Drink

How to Support the Black Community in Boston Right Now

Here’s how you can help.

A lot has changed, and nothing has changed. Even as demonstrations across the country have  pushed the country towards a reckoning with structural racism in ways not seen before, police brutality continues, most recently with the horrendous shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests have widened in the days following, with the Milwaukee Bucks refusing to play their playoff game, leading to broader boycotts across the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and Major League Soccer.

Demonstrations, protests, standouts, and vigils have also continued across Boston this summer. And local Black businesses and organizations have seen unprecedented support -- which, so far at least, seems to be evolving into a norm rather than a trend. (Let’s keep that going.)

“I am proud to be a Black business owner in Boston, where there are sadly too few black-owned businesses,” says TJ Douglas, co-owner of The Urban Grape. “I would ask everyone to support the causes you're learning about through these protests by patronizing Black-owned businesses, sharing the work that they do, and connecting them to Boston’s many financial resources. Be proud of what we bring to our communities and help amplify our voices.” 

From places to donate to shops where you can use your cash to support local businesses, here are some of the ways you can continue to make a difference right now.

Urban Grape
TJ Douglas, co-owner of The Urban Grape | Brian Samuels Photography

Donate to nonprofits and community organizations

Opening your wallet to a nonprofit is one direct way to support local civic engagement while also educating yourself about Black- and BIPOC-led organizations here in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Bail Fund pays up to $2,000 so that low-income people can leave jail while their cases get resolved. Stable Ground Boston works to address our city’s chronic housing insecurity and its psychological toll by placing artists, trauma specialists, and legal designers into community settings. Among its other initiatives, ACLU Massachusetts has launched a new data analysis tool for tracking incidents involving the Boston Police Department (BPD). The national NAACP Convention, slated to take place in Boston this year, was canceled due to the coronavirus, marking a loss of funds and making it even more vital to support the work of the NAACP’s Boston branch.

The Boston chapter of Black Lives Matter and Violence in Boston Inc. are two of the organizations that helped organize peaceful protests and demonstrations around the city earlier this summer. Both the Black Ministerial Alliance and the Boston TenPoint Coalition were visible presences during the demonstrations. Progressive Massachusetts is a grassroots organization committed to social, racial, and economic justice, among many progressive ideals. Families for Justice as Healing works to end the incarceration of women and girls. BAMS Fest may have been remote this year, but you can support the nonprofit’s year-round effort to break down barriers to arts, music, and culture.

Also, explore some of the many local nonprofits, such as InnerCity Weightlifting, Operation Lipstick, Youth Enrichment Services, and My Brother’s Keeper 617 dedicated to building social and economic capital for high-risk youth, and efforts like the Prison Book Program and BU’s Prison Education Program aimed at elevating the city’s currently incarcerated residents. And now that Ibram X. Kendi is a local scholar, consider donating to BU’s newly established Center for Antiracist Research, which he heads up.

Suya Joint
Suya Joint

Order takeout and delivery and contribute to restaurant staff GoFundMes

When District 7 Tavern owner Royal C. Smith and Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen owner Nia Grace first teamed up in March to launch the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition, the mission was simple: save our already vulnerable Black-owned restaurants. You can support the staff from those restaurants and other founding members Savvor Restaurant & Lounge, Soleil Restaurant & Catering, and Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club by donating directly to the coalition. The group also declared August to be the city’s inaugural Black Restaurant Month and consolidated the names and info of more than 70 Black-owned restaurants and bars in one place to make your patronage that much more easeful. 

Black-owned restaurants have also dedicated their time and resources to philanthropic efforts. The entrepreneurs behind Commonwealth Kitchen, many of them men and women of color, have launched CommonTable to provide nutritious and culturally appropriate meals to families in need and have since distributed more than 87,000 meals, working closely with partners like 50Kitchen, Tawakal Halal Cafe, and Achilitos Taqueria.
 
There’s never been a bad time to patronize MIDA (oh, those lamb ribs), but now that chef/owner Douglass Wiliams has been named one of the top 10 Best New Chefs in America 2020 by Food & Wine, you owe it to yourself to explore the entire menu (including the new Express Lunch takeout). If you’ve been toying with a dietary change, now is a great time to explore Black-owned vegan restaurants Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor and Discover Vegans. On the other hand, if it’s comfort fare you’re after, M&M BBQ is once again serving its fried chicken sandwiches and pork ribs on the patios of Dorchester Brewing Company as well as doing takeout, while Petsi Pies is still doing pies and pastries for pickup. Now is also a great time to be exploring smaller, Black-owned spots you might not have yet gotten to in person, like Cesaria for Cape Verdean, Ali’s Roti for Trinidadian, and Suya Joint for Nigerian.  And be sure to stock up on locally made cabinet goodies from A-Butter and Hillside Harvest.

Shop at other Black-owned businesses

In May, The Urban Grape sustained some damage during the vandalism and looting after the peaceful protests had ended. “We don't want you to let this moment cloud the larger conversation, or add fuel to the fire of misinformation,” the store said in email to customers back then. “Please continue to listen and learn from the pain and anger of the black community.” The shop then commissioned local artist Curtis Williams to paint a mural over one of the broken windows, a mural that now hangs in the home of coowners TJ and Hadley Douglas. The Douglasses have also since launched the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color to increase opportunities for professionals of color in the hospitality industry; you can donate to the scholarship online.

Pure Oasis, the city’s only recreational dispensary, just reopened on May 28 after being shuttered for months due to COVID-19 restrictions and has barely skipped a beat. Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury Crossing places African-American authors at the center of its collection and has an especially impressive selection of young adult books dedicated to activism, history, and race relations. Just be patient: The bookstore has been overwhelmed with orders since June.

Self-care is as important as ever. For those who de-stress through sweat, both TRILLFIT and 4 Corners Yoga & Wellness have both opened back up for in-person classes and are also continuing to offer live and on-demand remote classes. Linda Wells of Linda Wellness Warrior is also offering weekly outdoor yoga classes in Franklin Park. If your self-care is of a more sanguine nature, both Organic Bath Company and Brown and Coconut offer online orders of their organic, plant-based skin products, and Beauty N Simplicity is also now offering a lavender and lemongrass-infused hand sanitizer in addition to its delicious whipped shea body butters. Chrisira’s Cure and Placid Candles will complete your in-home spa.

House of Culture is reopened and also still taking clothing orders by phone and DLachae Clothing lets you customize laid-back African print pieces. B. Royal Boutique is having an epic summer sale of its flowing maxi dresses and jumpsuits. Last Lust stocks gorgeous kimonos and robes, the better to keep your spirits up during the neverending pandemic. Rooted Wraps sources its gorgeous fabrics exclusively from Sierra Leone. And Darealas, a Dorchester clothing store that was also hit by looters, has since designed a “Rebuild” tee, which you can order online to help support the business.

More ways to help?

Check out a list of national organizations we've compiled here. If you have thoughts on other businesses you'd like to see included in our local stories, please email feedback@thrillist.com.

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Meaghan Agnew is a Boston-based contributor for Thrillist.