Supporting local has always been so important. In October 2019, Titi Semahu started the Instagram page called @BlackMontrealBusinesses, which highlights black-owned businesses 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."
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?