Black business owners welcome the support
Business owners in North East Hamilton backed a campaign yesterday to support black-owned businesses.
Everton Dawes, the owner of Casual Footwear on Court Street, said that the movement was a good way to bring money into overlooked areas.
He added that “buying black” could allow people in mostly black neighbourhoods to invest into other black-owned stores.
Mr Dawes said: “When you buy from the neighbourhood you're investing and reinvesting that money into the community.
“For the black community to grow we have to support black businesses. We all support each other and encourage others to purchase goods from one another, so if more people came to one store then we can buy more from each other.”
Mr Dawes was speaking after Black Lives Bermuda, which held a massive rally and march on Sunday, asked supporters to boost black-owned businesses. The grassroots antiracism movement, founded in the wake of the murder of George Floyd after he was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at first asked for a rolling programme of one-week boycotts of supermarkets, but changed tactics after a “mixed” response.
Mr Dawes admitted that people from outside North East Hamilton did not shop in the area, because it was believed that Court Street was dangerous.
He said that the area's reputation meant he had had to pay more attention to advertising and building up a niche market.
But Mr Dawes added that the area could see more trade if people were encouraged to buy black and that extra income could be used to carry out improvements.
He said: “Basically it provides financing — if people came it would provide funding for businesses and then we could see more funding for infrastructure.
“If we don't have funding then it limits us.”
Dennishia Roberts, of Embellish Boutique, also on Court Street, said that the campaign helped bring attention to an often overlooked business district.
Ms Roberts added: “I don't think that black-owned businesses get enough publicity, especially if you're a business in ‘backatown'.
“We don't get as many customers as we would if we were in town, so I think that this is a really big opportunity for us.”
Ms Roberts said that her clothing store, which she co-owns with her sister, Dennikia, had seen more support in recent months.
She added that established businesses also had to support black-owned enterprises as well if the island wanted to see black economic empowerment.
Ms Roberts said: “Instead of Embellish supporting another business here, someone on Front Street could have flyers for smaller businesses in their store so that customers can hear about these businesses.”
Ashfield DeVent, a former Progressive Labour Party Cabinet minister, said that increased custom at black businesses was a concrete way to boost the black economy, which protests alone could not do.
He added: “I've had my share of marches and I understand the symbolic gesture — but at the end of the day if we don't begin to put our money and our efforts into making real change, then a march will just be a march.”
Mr DeVent, who asked for an emphasis on building black business in 2008, said that the idea seemed to have more traction now.
But he added that he was still sceptical, because similar campaigns had been mounted in the past but fizzled out.
Mr DeVent said: “I was at the Million Man March in the United States in 1995 and these same things were talked about then.
“Here we are in 2020 and the issues that prompted that march still exist.”
Mr DeVent added that people should also fight for better educational opportunities for black people.
He said: “If you look at many of those young black males that find themselves in conflict with the judicial system, for many of them it's because of an education system that failed them.
“I agree that we should start to try and support black-owned businesses, but it's a lot more than that.”