CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — As hashtags such as #BlackoutTuesday flood social media, the editor of a directory that spotlights dozens of black-owned businesses is urging people to go above and beyond social media.
“Seeing what businesses you can support can really help the cause, because what you give your money to is what you give power to,” Mariah Madison says. “And if you support the community, you strengthen local economy overall.”
Madison’s site, Buy Black Chambana, also offers a magazine and a quarterly subscription box with seven to eight products from local businesses. She’s also working on expanding with a bi-monthly newsletter that will offer resources to business owners and community members. The site also includes a directory with more than 150 local businesses, including the CBPB Popcorn Shop on Neil Street.
“Popcorn is a universal treat,” owner Alven Allison says. “It doesn’t matter – it’s not a black or a white product, it’s just a good treat. So, it helps us, but a lot of black businesses don’t have that particular advantage. So, patronizing them and going to them really does help keep them going.”
He says it’s important for young black people to be able to find mentors in black business owners.
“If they all go away, I think there’s no more motivation with all this violence and stuff for the black youth to look up to and say, ‘man, I wanna to grow up and own a body shop, I wanna grow up and do popcorn, I wanna grow up and be a black accountant. With the black community, we tend to be able to motivate our youth more if the person they’re admiring looks like them. It’s no different than any other race. If the person looks like you, you think you stand a better chance of getting there.”
Both Allison and Madison say it was uplifting to see hundreds show up to march in peace together Monday afternoon.
Allison says his business is one of many that hasn’t been able to get a small business loan during the pandemic, but customers have continued ordering popcorn in order to make sure CBPB stays open.
As for Buy Black Chambana, Allison says it’s opened his eyes.
“It’s allowed me to see that there’s a lot more black businesses than I ever thought there were,” he says. “I think the Buy Black Chambana platform, the way it’s structured, it really does help get the voice out if the circulation was in a way that everybody shared it.”
That’s why he wants to make sure people of all races learn about and visit the site. And Madison says that’s not the only way to keep the momentum going.
“First thing’s first, I think we all need to make sure that we’re voting,” Madison says. “Next, take the time to invest in black businesses in the community. De-invest in the people that don’t support the cause and don’t support inclusion and support those who do.”