A new resource from the Guelph Black Heritage Society will promote local businesses owned by Blacks, Indigenous people and people of color and help amplify their voices, the group president said.
The company launched the Viola Desmond BIPOC business directory and President and Treasurer Denise Francis says she hopes this will get people shopping locally.
She said the company had heard from people, especially newcomers to Guelph, Wellington County and the Region of Waterloo, say they wanted to support local businesses but didn’t know where to start.
“People were asking us for references: do you know a hairdresser, do you know this person or do you know this person? And now, by being able to put all this information together in a simple search engine, we haven’t been able to help the community and we want to help improve this long term success of our local businesses owned and operated by BIPOC ”, Francis said in an interview with CBC News.
The directory, however, lists companies located beyond the local area.
“When we started to publicize the launch of this project, we were amazed that people wanted to be included from afar and not just in our small area of Guelph-Wellington,” she said.
Francis said it was also important for them to keep the directory free for the community to use and for people to list their businesses. She said there is often a fee to list your business in these kinds of directories.
“We felt it was necessary to help promote our community and amplify our voices and our businesses, we had to try and do it as a service. And that’s why there is no charge for organizations that wish to register with us, “she said.
Named in honor of a civil rights activist
The directory is named after Viola Desmond, who many people know as a civil rights activist and whose face is on the $ 10 bill.
But Francis said they chose Desmond because she was also a business owner. She was a beautician and mentored other young black women through her Desmond School of Beauty Culture.
“She was a trailblazer in a lot of ways and that’s why we thought it was also, you know, not just to honor her but also to try to spread her story a little bit more because she was. first and foremost a businesswoman. And that’s why we thought it would be a good connection, “said Francis.
The company also received permission from the Desmond family to use the name on the business directory.
Kween, executive director of the heritage society and coordinator of social justice initiatives, said in a press release about the directory that it was “an opportunity for the world’s majority to have access to promote themselves and gain visibility “.
Kween added, “It helps amplify our voice, our message and it’s completely free. So in the words of Viola Desmond, ‘This is for you’.”
Francis said she hopes the whole community will embrace this project and others the company has undertaken, including the Change Starts Now educational initiative and the Flora Francis Memorial Library of Black Literature, which was launched earlier in year round and is located in the Company’s Heritage Hall. at 83 Essex Street in Guelph.
“Last year the world changed and the whole sort of Black Lives Matter movement, it wasn’t just a movement for us. It’s our life and we have to try to stay in people’s consciousness of the initiatives of social justice and the other projects we are working on, ”she said.
“I want people to continue to support the Guelph Black Heritage Society and our programs and activities and let us know what other services they are looking for because they want to work together and really try to be a community organization this is not just for the black community, but for the community, ”Francis said.