Lifestyle

How to Support the Black Community in Boston Right Now

From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.

Who among us wasn’t teary-eyed watching the first Black woman and first woman of Indian descent sworn in as U.S. Vice President this month? But even as everything has changed, not nearly enough has changed. Many months in, Black and Latinx Bostonians are still suffering disproportionately due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Black unemployment outpaces the national rate overall. We’re just a few weeks removed from an open insurrection. And it still remains to be seen how the country overall continues to grapple with systemic racism.

From places to donate to restaurants and entrepreneurs to support, now is the time to redouble your efforts to make a difference right now.

“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. “Be proud of what we bring to our communities and help amplify our voices.”

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 data analysis tool for tracking incidents involving the Boston Police Department (BPD). 

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 last summer and fall. 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 last year, but you can support the nonprofit’s year-round effort to break down barriers to arts, music, and culture. The Black Literacy and Arts Collaborative (BLAC) Project aims to level the playing field by promoting literacy, business acumen, financial literacy, and mental health through the visual and performing arts

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.

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 way back in March to launch the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition, the mission was simple: save our already vulnerable Black-owned restaurants. The cause is more vital than ever, and you 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. 

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 130,000 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). 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 doing takeout, while Petsi Pies is 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. They 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. (Side note: We’ve also since become proud owners of an original Williams painting.) 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 and learn more about inaugural winners Suhayl Ramirez and Amanda Best. 

Pure Oasis, the city’s first recreational dispensary, has barely skipped a beat despite numerous COVID-related shutterings and limitations and invites you to call ahead to consult with one of its budtenders. 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 for months now.

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 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, Artifact Soapworks, and Placid Candles will complete your in-home spa, as will an easy-care plant from Emerald City—and be sure to make an additional donation to help support the opening of the first Black-owned plant store in Massachusetts.

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 winter 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 is guaranteed to be your go-to resource for stylish hoodies, tees, and face masks. Starting to think about a 2022 wedding? Now’s the time to consult with Behind the Design—and while owner Hermela Belachew may be Boston-based, she’s planned destination weddings all over the world (sounds pretty good right about now, huh?)

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.
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