People from across Canada will converge on Halifax this weekend for the National Black Canadians Summit.
More than a thousand attendees are expected for three days of panels, performances and workshops focused on the Black experience and deconstructing racial discrimination in Canada.
Black Nova Scotian business owners say they are looking forward to the influx of visitors to the province and can’t wait to show what they have to offer.
“I’m really excited,” said Tiffani Young, who will be part of a roundtable of Black entrepreneurs.
Young owns and operates Natural Butter Bar, a Dartmouth hair and skin care company.
Young started her business about a year and a half ago and says she’s glad to share her experience about starting a company during a pandemic.
“It can be scary to take that jump and start a business, especially when you may not have a business background or necessarily the financial backing either,” she said.
She hopes anyone listening to her or the other Black business owners at the event will be inspired to do what they love.
“If you have an idea, and you’re passionate about it, as long as you take that time to put in the work, you should take that leap and really pursue it. Not everything is gonna work out that we try but if you never try then you’ll never know.”
Supporting local businesses
Matthew Martel is the chief operating officer of the Black Business Initiative (BBI), a Halifax-based organization which receives government funding to deliver a range of training, grants, mentorship and other programs to Black entrepreneurs.
“A lot of [summit] delegates have kind of requested to do a little tour of our space, our offices and maybe even visited a couple of the businesses in the kind of local area around the convention centre. So we’re going to help facilitate some of that,” said Martel.
Martel encourages people visiting Nova Scotia to support Black-owned businesses during their stay.
“One of the best things that we can do is promote our clients and make it easy for the people that have come this far to really go in and support the local Black economy.”
Pearl Ejelike owns ELA Lani Hair Salon And Spa in Halifax and says she is ready for the summit and the people it could bring to her business.
“Thankfully, we all have the restrictions lifted, we can have people visit and see how beautiful Nova Scotia is,” said Ejelike, who came to Halifax from Australia 12 years ago. She has been running her own salon for the past six years.
Ejelike says she’s happy about the summit because representation is important. She said it is part of the reason she opened a salon in the first place.
“Representation, especially in our industry, is so, so important,” said Ejelike.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to feel the way I felt when I was told, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what to do with your hair.’ So that’s what we’re here to do.”
‘It’s for everybody’
Trevor Silver founded his own clothing company in 2017, combining his passion for design and an urge to inspire others and channeling into a fashion brand which he named tREv — trust, respect, education, and value.
“It’s for everybody, and I’m conscious of that on the regular,” said Silver
“That’s why what I try to do is promote inclusion and involve different races, different languages, and all sorts of different stuff like that.”
Since starting his brand, Silver has been part of Atlantic Fashion Week and has collaborated with groups such as One North End Community Economic Development Society and award-winning Canadian R&B recording artist JRDN.
He says he’s looking forward to the summit, and wants people who are in town for the event to buy his clothing not just because his store is Black-owned but because they enjoy the clothing.
“Support is welcomed, but I want people to buy the stuff that they like, I don’t want people to just buy because ‘oh, it’s a Black brand.'”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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