MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Following the deaths of black Americans and the growing Black Lives Matter movement, people are finding ways to show solidarity by making an effort to support local black businesses. A new virtual event will make doing that easier than ever.
On June 19th, Memphis event planner Cynthia Daniels is organizing the Juneteenth Shop Black Virtual Experience, a one-day shopping event with 100 black-owned businesses under one virtual roof. Of the 100, 50 Memphis businesses, who have lost sales due to COVID-19, will be represented.
"You're really supporting a family at the end of the day, a black business owner that has not been able to operate in a critical time," Daniels said.
Due to COVID-19, Daniels had a lot of unexpected free time after the cancellation of many of her events. It was during her annual event, Black Restaurant Week, that COVID-19 hit the city, forcing businesses to close their doors.
Daniels says it was while putting together a black-inspired gift basket for Mother's Day that she was inspired to create the virtual black shopping experience. COVID-19 meant she wouldn't be able to visit her mother in Atlanta, and when she posted her gift ideas, she saw responses from people that didn't know the local businesses existed.
Daniels purposefully planned the event for Juneteenth, the date that last group of American slaves were freed from Texas in 1865.
"I wanted to make Juneteenth significant with not only thinking about the past and the pain, but how can we use that date to move forward, to celebrate, to help a newer black business, to help a fellow community advocate on that day," she said.
Chef Tamra Patterson, of Chef Tam's Underground Cafe, is one of the 50 Memphis restaurants participating in the virtual event. She knows all too well the hurt COVID-19 has caused business.
"I can honestly say it's by the grace of God that we are still in business," Patterson said.
After closing for COVID-19, business sales dropped 90%. Her restaurant went from hours-long waits on the weekends to a few take-out orders here and there. Patterson said recently, they've felt the impact of the local push to support black-owned businesses like hers.
"We've been getting tagged in every post you can imagine and people sending us messages saying we're on our way and then you look up and they've got the whole dealership to order food," she said.
They've also seen an increased foot traffic on their website, where she sells spices, sauces, and a pre-order of her cookbook for people who may not be comfortable eating out, she says. Chef Tam will be selling those same items during the Juneteenth event.
The event will feature eight categories when the virtual pop up opens on June 19th - like food items, clothing, kids, home goods, and novelties.
The virtual portal opens from noon to 8 p.m. on June 19th. People can RSVP now on cdcoshops.com.
"This has to be intentional. If we're intentional about supporting black businesses, they will survive COVID, survive the racism and they will thrive," Patterson said.