Jabin Moore, UNO Student Body President
After witnessing the great outpouring of support and the amount of people rallying behind the Black Lives Matter movement, there are many questions that arise. How do we make sure that the support for Black lives goes beyond a hashtag and a black square displayed on social media? How do we expand beyond this movement and create a new normal that is equitable and intentional about the uplift of the Black community and the abolishment of racial disparities?
What if it didn’t take a man being murdered in the street for people to acknowledge the systematic and structural racism and inequities that are rooted in our nation’s history and shape our current reality? What if society loved Black people as much as Black culture? What if society’s love for Black people extended beyond musical artists, entertainers, and sports figures?
Considering the countless inequalities that have reached toxic levels in the United States, it is important that we make a conscious shift in thinking about how we support the Black community. One way that I chose to step up in this effort was by acknowledging and supporting the Black-owned businesses in my community.
Supporting Black-owned business is an investment not just for the businesses but the entire Black community. Supporting Black-owned businesses can help create more jobs, build up communities and help foster economic prosperity. The conscious effort to invest in underinvested communities, is an opportunity to promote inclusion throughout society, and open doors for everyone to participate, prosper, and access the so-called “American dream.”
At the beginning of June, I joined a challenge to begin intentionally supporting and posting about Black-owned businesses. In doing so, I realized there are actually quite a few Black entrepreneurs in Omaha. From men’s and women’s boutiques, to soul food, to vegan food, to ice cream shops, and coffee shops—there are so many ways to use your buying power to contribute to the uplift of the Black community, and it seems they are all hidden in plain sight. While I frequent many of these places, some of them were new to me, and I was able to try them for the first time.
The first place I highlighted on this journey was The Cooler Sno-Balls. Snowballs are a southern delight that I experienced as a kid. My dad is originally from Mississippi, and there are very few things in Omaha that remind him of home. One of the things that we miss about the south has always been snowballs. When you try a snowball, you will understand where they got their name. The ice is finely shaved, which gives you the feel of eating snow, plus you have over 50 flavors to choose from! The owners, Titus and Miranda Adams, are people who lived in the south and were used to getting a snowball on a hot day, but no one had brought them to Omaha yet. Thus, birthed The Cooler Sno-balls, in the heart of North Omaha. This is just one of many examples of a Black business that represents a piece of Black culture which many families can identify with and helps the neighborhood to thrive once again.
Many Black-owned businesses are created to bring access to services specific to the community’s needs. The need could be as simple as having a place nearby to get a good burger. Best Burger is a Black-owned burger joint that was birthed out of not having a place to get a good burger in the neighborhood, so the owners, Ashlei & Universal decided to create one themselves.
Among these, I have also been able to try the best rolled ice-cream from a Black-owned rolled ice cream shop called Mixins. I introduced my friends and followers to the greatest creation, and best kept secret in Omaha, from a place called Jim’s Rib Haven, something they call “saucy fries” which will absolutely have you hooked right away! One of my favorite places of all time is Okra African Grill, which offers a wide selection of authentic African cuisine. I even ordered a vegan meal from Soular Power Plate, which included a vegan mac and cheese and a barbeque jackfruit sandwich. In addition, I subscribed to the oldest Black female founded and ran newspaper in the country, The Omaha Star.
As I continue to make these posts, I find that many people had no idea that these Black businesses existed, and this social media challenge is inadvertently introducing a lot of people to a completely new perspective of North Omaha. Many of these businesses have been around for years, and a simple post and review introduces them to a whole new market.
Backing Black businesses makes a bigger difference than many people realize. It is the same concept behind the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement. By supporting Black business, we are consciously putting a spotlight on the ones that need it the most, while strengthening the Black economy and helping to shrink the racial wealth gap. Additionally, many Black businesses are more vulnerable now than ever given the impact of the coronavirus, which has also disproportionately affected the Black community. Supporting these businesses gives them an opportunity to succeed and an equitable chance to become competitive in the market.
Moreover, if consumer spending accounts for 70% of the entire US economy, imagine what directing some of that spending power to Black-owned businesses across the country can do. The next time you are looking for a quick meal, why not consider a Black-owned option? There are many to choose from! Whether it is a burger from Best Burger, or fried chicken from Time Out Foods, whatever you are craving, there is a good chance that there is a Black-owned option! Looking for something to cool you off on a hot day? The Cooler Sno-Balls or Mixins are great choices! Maybe you’re craving an iced latte or a cold brew, Dripped and Drapped has the best and most creative beverages to satisfy your craving.
By supporting these Black-owned businesses and elevating them to gain more exposure, we help to empower them and the communities in which they reside.