The Women Behind @BlackMontrealBusinesses Want More Than Just Your Support
We got the opportunity to speak with the account owners, Titi Semahu and Shirley D'Haïti.
Supporting local has always been so important. In October 2019, Titi Semahu started the Instagram page called @BlackMontrealBusinesses, which highlights and talent in the city. Before that, she had noticed a lack of resources and forums for these companies, stating that everything had been typical "word of mouth."
She then met Shirley D'Haïti, who knew she had to be part of the project.
The page is intended to showcase local businesses and talent in Montreal's black community, as well as create a forum for creators and entrepreneurs to network and share their thoughts and needs.
We had the chance to speak to Titi and Shirley about their platform and how the support has grown over the last two weeks.
They're reminding everyone that now's the "time to support, time to learn, time to do better" and to "commit to doing the work."
Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.
You've grown a community of 10.1K in less than a year. How has the platform changed since September? How has it stayed the same?
Shirley: It's the same in the sense that focus is definitely still on the businesses. That's always going to be our main focus.
We're really just trying to build a network within our own community. It's crazy — we've discovered so many businesses and people within our own community.
Titi: People are a lot more likely to buy something from someone that they know. As much as we want to promote the brand, we want to help give a personal feel and introduce the entrepreneurs to the world.
You started a new IGTV series profiling individual artists and creators on May 25, which has since become a pivotal date in the movement and the message. What does this day mean to you?
Titi: Before this, most of our followers were black, whereas most of our new followers are white. I love that people are trying to educate themselves.
But remember that as black women, what's happening now in the world is definitely not new for us. This has been going on for a long time.
Shirley: What's crazy to us is how much people reacted this time, I guess. That's really changed something in the energy around us. It finally hit some people that something wrong was going on.
What does Black Lives Matter mean to you?
Shirley: To me, black lives have always mattered.
It's been amazing to see that the response is not just in Montreal, but it's been global. It's very moving.
Titi: ALL the intersections of black lives matter. Black Lives Matter means ALL Black Lives Matter.
And it's important to seek justice for all black lives that have been lost. Not just those we put the spotlight on.
Shirley: But I do hope that other people of colour, white people, etc. take this time to actually educate themselves.
Don't just repost stuff and don't do anything. Make donations, read books, do your research, actually take the time to learn something about the movement, and the history of black people.
Titi: We're getting 1,000+ followers a day. Most of them are white, who are asking us things like, "what can I do to help?"
It's nice to show support, but if you really want to make a change, then you need to educate yourself.
What should people know about black businesses in Montreal?
Shirley: We're just like everyone else at the end of the day. We're great! We have great products, we come up with good stuff.
It's sad that without our page, some of these businesses would not be as well known.
Titi: What we don't want is for @BlackMontrealBusinesses to get all the praise. We're just a platform to help these businesses to shine and give them the exposure that they deserve.