“We are a Black-owned business. We are hurting. We forgive you.”
A local business boarded up their windows following city-wide break-ins, and spray painted this message outside their building.
Today, local Black-owned businesses are attempting to recoup from COVID-19 and recent protests. Georgia State senior Fatoumata Fofana and Mercer alumni Macire Aribot and Nassim Ashford banded together to create a GoFundMe for Atlanta’s Black-owned businesses, reaching halfway to their goal of $10,000 in just a week.
On May 25, according to the New York Post, a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man accused of a nonviolent offense.
Protests erupted around the nation and world, emphasizing racial equity and anti-police brutality, with many attendees holding signs reading “Black Lives Matter” or “I Can’t Breathe.” Some demonstrations have remained peaceful, while others have led to the destruction of businesses and local property.
In Atlanta’s initial protests, some participants resulted in the looting of businesses surrounding campus, Centennial Park and Lenox Square.
These protests catch businesses at a volatile time, already unstable through the economic downturn following COVID-19. Throughout the city, businesses display signs stating, “This is a Black-owned business,” hoping to avoid getting damaged.
These events inspired Fofana, Aribot and Ashford to found NoirUnited International, a nonprofit that aims to improve “the social, economic and political stature of the Black diaspora through service, education and cross-cultural exposure.”
As their first order of business, the group created Atlanta’s Black-Owned Business Support Fund on GoFundMe. The collected funds will be split evenly and given directly to BIO BIO, Gilly Brew Bar, The Blaxican, Panther’s Den and Mabel Marie.
Fofana, Ashford and Aribot met during their freshman year of high school, and have envisioned starting a nonprofit together since they started college. While the trio had already planned to found an organization, recent events quickened their pace.
Fofana emphasizes the importance of communal support, adding that “without the support from our own people, it would not be possible to run a Black-owned business. We wanted to help out in any way that we could.”
Ashford adds that recent events disproportionately impact Black people.
“Systematically, Black people are more affected by many aspects in our society, more than any other racial group,” Ashford said. “In terms of the COVID-19 outbreak, Black people have been disproportionately affected in the case of the number of infections [and] of deaths.”
The group has attended several protests and Fofana believes it’s essential to fight for one’s rights, but it should be done peacefully.
Aribot also believes in the importance of protests and feels that the movement has garnered more attention and support than ever before.
“People are tired of having to deal with the same issues over and over again,” Aribot said. “It’s mentally draining for people of color to see themselves dehumanized by the police. People of all different cultures, people of all different races, are coming together to say that enough is enough, and we want to see something done about this.”
NoirUnited is just getting started. Ashford added that the organization will focus on social campaigns designed to unite Black people.
“We hope to be the revolution that we want to see,” Ashford said.