Food & Drink

How to Support the Black Community in Boston Right Now

From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.

Suya Joint
Suya Joint

On Sunday, Boston saw its first major wave of demonstrations demanding justice for George Floyd and protesting police brutality and systemic racism. Hundreds gathered in Government Center for a demonstration, and hundreds more marched from Roxbury to Boston Police Headquarters, where clergy members led a service that included a moment of silence for Floyd that lasted exactly 8 minutes and 49 seconds. A third demonstration began at 6:30pm, with hundreds if not thousands of activists marching from Nubian Square to City Hall.

Smaller vigils and demonstrations have continued every day since, with community groups and churches also hosting virtual dialogues around systemic racism and ways to act. One of those ways? Supporting Black businesses and organizations in the Boston area. 

“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 make a difference right now.

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. Among its other initiatives, ACLU Massachusetts has recently 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 have been organizing peaceful protests and demonstrations around the city. Both the Black Ministerial Alliance and the Boston TenPoint Coalition have been visible presences during the demonstrations. Progressive Massachusetts is a grassroots organization committed to social, racial, and economic justice, among many progressive ideals, and local chapters are continuing to hold online events and organize vigils and local demonstrations. 

Finally, explore some of the many local nonprofits, such as InnerCity Weightlifting, Operation Lipstick, 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.

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

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. Darryl’s is also currently doing takeout and delivery, and Grace is hatching plans to make cocktail kits and even music a part of its future takeout packages. 

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. When not serving brunch, lunch, and dinner fusion fare for takeout and delivery, 50Kitchen is preparing and serving meals for healthcare workers.
 
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 both takeout and delivery of its fried chicken sandwiches and pork ribs, 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.

Shop at other Black-owned businesses

Like several others in the South End, Urban Grape sustained some damage during the vandalism and looting Sunday night 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. “Please continue to listen and learn from the pain and anger of the black community.” The store remains open, and has also asked that folks consider giving to the Equal Justice Initiative founded by Bryan Stevenson.

Pure Oasis, the city’s only recreational dispensary, just reopened on May 28 after being shuttered for months due to COVID-19 restrictions. The shop was also hit by looters in what co-owner Kobie Evans called a targeted attack. But they too reopened for business the very next day. 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.

Self-care should not be dismissed during this time. For those who de-stress through sweat, both TRILLFIT and 4 Corners Yoga & Wellness are offering live and on-demand remote classes. If your self-care is of a more sanguine nature, both Organic Bath Company and Brown and Coconut are open for online orders of their organic, plant-based skin products. 

House of Culture is taking clothing orders by phone and DLachae Clothing lets you customize laid-back African print pieces. And keep an eye on Darealas, a Dorchester clothing store -- also hit by looters -- that hopes to be back to taking online orders soon.

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.