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Maya-Camille Broussard
Photograph: Eberly Film Lab x Lindsay EberlyJustice of the Pies founder Maya-Camille Broussard

10 Black-owned businesses that are shaping Chicago right now

Show some love to these amazing Black-owned businesses in Chicago.

Written by
Aaron Oliver
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At the start of Black History Month, we are reminded that highlighting and celebrating local Black businesses shouldn’t be limited to just 28 days of the year. After all, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that our support for the Black community in Chicago cannot be conditional. It’s more important than ever to shine a spotlight on entrepreneurs and activists who are using their platforms to effect change throughout the city. Here’s a good place to start: 10 Black-owned businesses that are shaping Chicago right now—from a bookshop and marketplace of shipping containers to a pie purveyor and a South Side boutique. Quite honestly, we love to see it!

Aaron Oliver is the founder of Seasoned & Blessed, a site dedicated to chronicling and celebrating the diverse dining experience in Chicago and beyond.

Black-owned businesses that are shaping Chicago

It’s no secret that there’s a stigma around mental health and therapy in the Black community. No one knows this better than musician Christopher LeMark, who founded Coffee, Hip Hop & Mental Health after personally grappling with depression, PTSD and social anxiety. By working with licensed therapists to create safe, coffeehouse-style spaces, LeMark has helped communities normalize therapy and have honest conversations around mental health. Late last year, the organization even opened a concept shop in Lakeview that sells coffee and merch, with proceeds benefiting nonprofits like The People’s Food Drive and Normalizing Therapy University.

Follow them: @coffeehiphopandmentalhealth

Like so many in the food service industry, Q. Ibraheem didn’t let the pandemic stop her from doing what she loves. The fine dining chef who once charged $250 per person for her over-the-top underground dinner parties has pivoted to providing more than 20,000 free meals to families who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. The concept—cleverly named Kids With Co-workers—has morphed to include interactive Zoom cooking classes that teach little ones the basics of preparing meals at home.

Follow her: @teertsemasesottehg

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  • Shopping
  • Grand Boulevard

Boxville was founded in 2014 with the mission to disrupt the typical startup model, which is rife with obstacles for inner-city entrepreneurs. What started as a single shipping container offering bike repairs has grown into a bonafide commerce district in the heart of Bronzeville with room for 20 small businesses to operate. Boxville shows no signs of slowing down now—the shipping container marketplace now boasts a sausage shop (The Hot Dog Box), a loose leaf boutique (Good Thoughts Tea Co.) and a plant haven (The Greenhouse), among many other small, BIPOC-owned businesses that operate year-round.

Follow them: @boxvillechi

  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • River West/West Town

Chicago’s only Black woman-owned bookstore is a community space dedicated to both literature and artwork from female, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ creatives. Proprietor Danielle Mullen and her team work around the clock to provide a safe space for customers to relax and release—all while addressing the ongoing challenges of low-literacy skills that are commonly seen in low-income communities of color. With the help of donations through their ongoing program #ClearTheShelves, Semicolon has raised over $150,000 to provide books and financial aid to those in need.

Follow them: @semicolonchi

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Founded in 2017 by Laurell Sims and Erika Allen, Urban Growers Collective is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building and supporting community-based food systems that provide affordable and sustainable eats to the communities they serve and mitigate food insecurity. In addition to agricultural services, they also operate Fresh Moves Mobile Market (maybe you spotted it on Somebody Feed Phil?), which provides farm-picked produce and healthy eats to Chicago’s South and West Sides every week.

Follow them: @urbangrowerscollective

Whether they’re shoveling snow in Englewood or cleaning up debris from a tornado in Rogers Park, My Block, My Hood, My City’s mission is clear: Taking care of people, no matter what. In addition to volunteering, MBMHMC provides opportunities to underprivileged youth to explore communities and cultures outside of their own, helping young people network and expand their knowledge of the world they live in. Their core values—interconnectivity, empathy, hope and civic responsibility—help guide their mission and provide a foundation for the youth to ensure a successful future no matter what.

Follow them: @myblockmyhoodmycity

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Now in its sixth year, Chicago Black Restaurant Week is a delicious celebration of Black-owned food and beverage businesses in and around Chicago. Founded in 2015 by Lauran Smith, the mission of CBRW is to increase the visibility of Black-owned businesses that haven’t always gotten time in the spotlight. To drum up even more support in 2021, Chicago Black Restaurant Week has been extended to two weeks (February 7–21) with over 60 restaurants participating. Smith’s mission doesn’t stop once the event is over: She recently launched a virtual Kwanzaa Krawl in December to further bolster support for Black-owned eateries.

Follow them: @officialchicagobrw

  • Shopping
  • Jewelry
  • Hyde Park
  • price 1 of 4

For the past 24 years, Eric Williams has dedicated his life to curating authentic and creative spaces that bring value to the communities it serves. His vehicle? The Silver Room in Hyde Park. By providing a unique selection of goods and artifacts from around the world, the bespoke shop thrives on helping individuals craft their own personal expression in every aspect of their lives. Williams is also the mastermind behind the annual Sound System Block Party, a highly anticipated summer event brings together people from far and wide in celebration of the culture and freedom of expression through vendors, food, and of course the amazing music. Speaking of music, The Silver Room Radio in partnership with Sound Rotation is available to stream on all platforms!

Follow them: @thesilverroom

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Back in 2018, Liz Abunaw founded Forty Acres Fresh Market with the goal to provide high-quality produce to Chicago’s West Side food deserts. The organization tackles food insecurity by providing pop-up markets and delivery in underserved communities. Visitors can shop farm-fresh fruits and vegetables on-site or sign up for a subscription box for as little as $10 a month. Abunaw is now turning her attention to setting down roots, with a brick-and-mortar retail space to come in the Austin neighborhood.

Follow them: @fortyacresfreshmarket

Pies with a purpose? Yes, please. Founder Maya-Camille Broussard launched Justice of the Pies to honor her late father, criminal defense attorney Stephen J. Broussard, and celebrate his love of baking. She also gives new life to her dad’s belief that everyone deserves a second chance at reforming their lives. In continuing this mission, Justice of the Pies partners with the Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), an organization dedicated to providing aid and supporting low-income individuals adversely affected by the criminal justice system. It makes buying a slice of caramel apple crumble or strawberry basil key lime taste even sweeter.

Follow them: @justiceofthepies

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