NEW BEDFORD — Some Black business owners reported a surge in business over the summer — a time that saw nationwide protests in response to the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police. It was a period that became a sort of awakening for many white people to educate themselves and support Black members of their community both morally and monetarily.
Months later with protests fewer and farther between, some New Bedford business owners feel this boon to Black businesses is here to stay, thanks in part to a strong community.
“Buy Black is a movement that helps Black-owned businesses amid COVID-19. It’s definitely more than a trend, it’s a movement, one that is going to continue for a long time,” said Celia Brito, a Black Cape Verdean woman who owns Celia’s Boutique in downtown New Bedford with her daughter, Tanya Alves.
In addition to the summer of protests, Brito credits a local directory, “Buy Black NB,” for helping these businesses survive. The online platform created in June by Justina Perry, a New Bedford physical therapist, highlights Black-owned businesses on the SouthCoast.
On social media, Perry spotlights various business owners and their products or services, and on her website, she curates a store directory organized by category.
Brito and Alves said the site has brought them new customers.
“We’ve had Cape Verdean non-English speakers come in here and because of that directory, we’re told ‘you speak Cape Verdean,’” Brito said, adding they might just need directions, but it’s a way to build a relationship with potential customers.
Alves said it also helps connect business owners with one another so they can share advice or provide moral support, “It’s been able to open up a dialogue on how to build the business community and come together.”
Having a network is key to having a sustainable business, said Samia Walker, the SouthCoast program manager for E for All, a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs build and sustain their new businesses.
“Whether [buying Black] would be a trend or ongoing, in terms of E for All, what we focus on in our program is building those relationships and networking,” Walker said. “Yes, a lot of the outside activities are encouraging people to buy Black, but I also believe with the relationships they’ve learned to build, they are also maintaining these customers.”