Food & Drink

How to Support the Black Community in Chicago Right Now

From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.

Brian Jupiter
Chef Brian Jupiter | Courtesy of Hilary Higgins
Chef Brian Jupiter | Courtesy of Hilary Higgins

The events of the past weekend have left many of us at a loss for words. Many want to help but aren’t sure where to start when it comes to supporting communities affected by the events surrounding the peaceful protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder. In Chicago, whole swaths of the city have been shut down due to the unrest, especially in the South and West Sides as well as downtown due to mayoral enforcement. A curfew is now being enforced from  9pm to 6am daily, CTA is running sporadically to say the least, and businesses all over the city are boarded up while others are drastically limiting capacity. Throw in the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and the situation couldn’t be more overwhelming, emotionally, physically, and, for so many shops, restaurants, and other businesses struggling to survive, financially.

Right now, one of the ways you can help is to support Black-owned businesses in your community that have been affected by both the pandemic and this developing situation. From nonprofits and community efforts to donating to local businesses, here are some of the ways you can safely make a difference right now.

Support local nonprofits & community efforts 

Organizations, activist collectives, and other official fundraisers are a great place to launch your search. GoFundMe continues to be an excellent resource for tracking down worthy causes, many created and maintained by motivated residents within the community. Aaliyah Lara’s Chicago Black and Brown Business Relief Fund is aiming to raise $20,000 to help rebuild area Black- and brown-owned businesses impacted by the recent unrest including Flamingo Bar and Grill, Express Food Market, and Quesadilla Monarca, among others. Jeremy Joyce of the website Black People Eats launched his own fundraiser benefiting Black-owned restaurants like Mabe’s Deli and Greater Grand Crossing’s Harold’s Chicken over at Black-Owned Restaurant Relief Fund. And out West, community advocate Charles Pickett’s Save the West Side, Chicago is directing donations toward getting small, primarily POC-run businesses in Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, Douglas Park, and Austin back on track. Chicago Black Owned Business Relief, Rebuild Black Communities in Chicago, Ja’Mal Green’s Help for Small Businesses in Urban Communities, and Rebuild Black Chicago are all engaged in similar efforts.

Chicago is home to scores of more formal organizations fighting the good fight. My Block, My Hood, My City, founded by lauded activist Jahmal Cole, has thrown its all behind a small business relief fund dedicated to assisting Southside spots in need. The site provides opportunities to donate, volunteer, or request relief for a business in need. Rebuild the Hood, Inc. is also stepping up to the plate. Committed to revitalizing distressed communities by backing small business and real estate ventures, the 501(c)(3) non profit is attempting to raise $50,000 via their GoFundMe initiative, Black Business Boost: Chicago. “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest as a result of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, it is more important than EVER to unite and agree to rebuild Black owned businesses,” states the group’s Facebook page

Prefer your boots to hit the ground? Leap into action by joining one of the in-person clean-up efforts in neighborhoods around the city. Sign up to get notifications on recovery campaigns in the 1st Ward here, follow Increase the Peace on Facebook to stay up-to-date on relief events, and keep an eye on the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce, West Humboldt Park Family and Community Development Council, and South Shore Works as they announce upcoming clean-ups and other ways to get involved.

Chicago Community Bond Fund is a celebrated charitable organization that has doubled down on its efforts to post bond for Chicagoans arrested in correlation with recent protests. "Over 30,000 people have generously ensured we have over $1.6 million available to pay bond for people arrested right now and eventually end money bail and pretrial incarceration,” their website states. Following their website-crashing success, the group sent out a Tweet suggesting folks spread the love to other grassroots organizations including Assata’s Daughters, Circles & Ciphers, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Chicago Freedom School, and dozens more.

Donate to restaurants & bars 

Chicago’s thriving restaurant industry was brought to its knees in March because of the COVID pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home order, and for establishments owned and operated by people of color, more trouble  stemming from this week’s events adds yet another layer of financial distress to an already difficult equation. 

Download the eatOkra app, a slickly designed guide to Black-owned restaurants in your area. Each listing features reviews and other details as well as links to online delivery and takeout options for each Black People Eats provides a similarly comprehensive POC-owned restaurant directory while Seasoned and Blessed went so far as to compile this interactive map. If social media is your thing, be sure to follow accounts like @blackchicagoeats, @officialchicagobrw, and @blackfandb for all the latest foodie news and updates. 

You can also feed your soul by donating directly to Chicagoland Black-owned restaurants and bars in need. While not exclusively devoted to POC-run businesses, it’s easy to access your favorite Chicago eatery’s GoFundMe campaign (or submit a missing business to the list) by sifting through this ultra-handy fundraising database. It might seem like a no-brainer, but this form of crowd-funding has proven to be fast and effective. 

As of June 2, Hyde Park’s beloved Virtue has raised $52,180 of its $60,000 goal aimed at providing meals to first responders, and Roseland stalwart Old Fashioned Donuts exceeded its modest goal for vandalism-related repairs 10-fold after a single day of campaigning. “This was posted yesterday with the intent of only reaching our goal of $1000 to fix our storefront window but we have surpassed that goal by over $10,000!” writes organizer Leda Edwards. “Because this amount is way over our initial goal, we will be putting a cap on our campaign. The last we want to do is to seem greedy because our establishment was never built on that. We just want to make donuts and serve them. That’s it.”

Buying gift cards is another easy and safe way to support Black-owned restaurants. Spots like Ina Mae Tavern and Frontier, both helmed by acclaimed Chef Brian Juptier, have taken to creating super helpful online forms to simplify the ordering process. “In general, Black-owned businesses don’t have the resources of other businesses, they’re dealing with even tighter margins, and a lot of times black-owned businesses aren’t in the best neighborhoods," Chef Jupiter told Thrillist. "For blacks to have an even playing field, in any business, people need to go out of their way to support them because we’re already outnumbered to begin with. Spend your money where it counts, be an ally, and continue to learn and be better. Not just now, but always.”

A longtime vocal advocate for diversity within the hospitality industry, Causing a Stir is another fantastic resource for learning how to get involved in supporting Black-owned businesses and workers around Chicago and beyond. Co-founders and accomplished bartenders Alexis Brown and Ariel Neil have spent years promoting inclusion and spurring critical discussion about race and gender behind the bar on both a local and national scale.

Support local retailers

Like their culinary counterparts, Chicago’s vast network of Black-owned retail shops could also use an extra dose of community support these days. Also like their culinary counterparts, local do-gooders have stepped up and put together searchable databases featuring hundreds of Black-owned businesses around the city. Instagram’s @chicagoismyboyfriend has been keeping a running tab both in their Stories feed as well as on this neighborhood-specific spreadsheet. Black Nation takes things a step further with their user-friendly business discovery app, which makes it super simple to connect with Black-owned businesses of all kinds in your area. And Tanikia Carpenter’s Black Owned Chicago has served as a valuable resource for shoppers set on supporting Black-owned businesses from spas and nail salons to clothing boutiques since its start back in 2016.

Gift cards are also a helpful tool when it comes to supporting Black proprietors. Semicolon on North Halstead, Chicago’s only Black woman-owned bookstore and gallery space, offers gift cards through their website where you can also donate to their #CleartheShelves campaign benefiting CPS students. Hyde Park creative hub The Silver Room also offers gift cards in addition to taking donations to support their staff and further their two-decade-long mission to unite and inspire local makers through events and community building.

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.

Meredith Heil is a contributor for Thrillist.