February, as we all know, is Black History Month in Canada. Ultimate Ontario contributor Willa Jaggi shares 15 black-owned Ontario businesses to have on your radar this month, and urges us to remember that these innovative businesses can certainly be supported well beyond the month of February.
To most of the world, February is a month of love. To the African communities in Northern America, February is the month for recognition of their Heritage. Black History Month is that time of the year when African Americans and African Canadians get to celebrate and take pride in all that they have accomplished despite the tyrannies they have suffered. It is the month to acclaim all their triumphs throughout history.
The Origins of Black History Month
Let me take you through a brief history of how this celebration came in to being and why it is observed in February. Black history recognition started in America in the early 1900s to celebrate the emancipation and publicize the progress that black people were making.
Carter Godwin Woodson, American historian, journalist and Founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, sent a press release announcing Negro History Week in February 1926. In the 1920s, black people were already coming together in February to observe the birth anniversaries of American social reformer and abolitionist- Frederick Douglass, and the 16th President of America- Abraham Lincoln.
Woodson wanted to extend that observation to a celebration of black pride. His efforts throughout his life’s works, to get the black community the recognition that they deserve, is the reason why Black History Month finally became a tradition that expanded across United States in the 60s and is still celebrated today.
Black History Month in Canada
It was not until a decade later when Canada adopted the tradition. In 1979, Toronto became the first Canadian municipality to issue a proclamation for the Black History Month to reconcile with the past. Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian to be appointed in the federal cabinet, brought on a motion to recognize February as Black History Month across Canada. The House of Commons approved the motion in December 1995 and February 1996 was the first officially recognized celebration of Black History Month in the country.
Canada continues to celebrate Black History Month to give its growing African communities a platform to acknowledge the black past and celebrate the global impact the people of African descent have created. This month is dedicated to unfolding black narratives. It is a month of awareness as much as it the month of love. Each day of February is about highlighting the hurdles African Canadians crossed to reach where they are today.
For February 2023, Canada’s black history theme is “Ours to Tell” in appreciation of the stories of African Canadians. The month is devoted to bringing light to the incredible differences that the black community has made in to shaping today’s society. Follow the hashtag – #BHM2023 to track the Black History Month celebration on social media platforms.
Black-Owned Businesses in Ontario to Have on Your Radar This Month and Moving Forwards
Be it the hospitality industry, fashion & cosmetics, real-estate, or healthcare- African Canadians have made their mark in every sector. Not to mention the heights they have reached in the music industry – The Weeknd, Jully Black, Drake. That needs a whole story to itself!
In a ‘prime-delivery’ dependent world, choose to support local business owners and help them grow. If you live in Ontario, here is a list of a Black-owned businesses that you can support to participate in the celebration this month:
Ocean Spice Co.
Your taste buds will thank you when you try out the authentic Caribbean flavours that Ocean Spice Co. brings to you.
Ocean Spice is a Jamaican hot sauce company in London, Ontario that has commercialized their family recipe of hot sauces and dry spice rubs, passed it down for three generations, all with the goal of sharing island flavours with Ontarians.
Beach Hill Smokehouse
For BBQ lovers, Beach Hill Smokehouse serves delicious smoked meats, garnished with Southern hospitality, cooked over indirect heat from burning oak wood. They have multiple locations across Toronto and are known for their Texan flavours.
Cup of Te
Since we’re talking about flavours- Cup of Te brings you some aromatic ones for wellness with their exquisite collection of loose-leaf teas. Offering a wide collection of latte mixes, green tea, oolong, and rooibos they bring you some of the exclusive flavours with hints of berries, coconut, and ginger.
It is run by the former gymnast Taylor Lindsay-Noel.
Check out Cup of Té Café in North York (Toronto) and share that ‘tea’ over some tea!
Every culture is beautiful and deserves representation in one form or another. Veer Active is an online athletic-wear store based in Canada that has launched inclusive activewear with culturally significant patterns on them.
They also offer a 10% discount on first orders when you sign up with your email. Check out their unique collection on their Instagram page: veeractive.
Poetry Jazz Café
Poetry Jazz Café is a unique cafe celebrating musicians and poets on Queen St. in Toronto. They host poetry shows, jazz, blues and RnB bands all year long and serve you some of their carefully crafted cocktails and fine wine.
You can also shop their classic merch for all the poets in the house!
Dr Liza has combined comfort and fashion to make shoes that match with your dress but don’t pinch your heels. Their shoes are created with Brazilian leather and EVA for cushioning to make walking-in-heels painless.
Check out their stylish collection with blue accents ranging from sneakers to pumps.
The Curl Lounge
Treat yourself with a professional hair-treatment in the GTA at The Curl Lounge. The staff is trained to handle hair of all shapes and forms- straight, wavy, textured.
From reparative treatments to restore moisture in your hair, to trimming the damaged ends, to protective styling- they have a hair solution for all your hairy problems.
To help you plan for the future Willym.ca provides insurance & financial services and help you create a sound investment portfolio.
They have professionals working to get you competitive rates and offer a free consultation to support your financial goals.
Everything that is broken CAN be fixed and Monoxide has proved it!
The company started when the founder tried fixing a broken piece of jewellery and now it sells some of the most remarkable jewellery designs.
The accessories represent a mix of Bahamian-Jamaican cultures in a visually pleasing line of gold and silver bracelets, earrings and chains that are handcrafted in Canada.
Check out their BOLD collection on their Instagram page: monoxidestyle.
B Ryan Speech Language Pathology
To help you with speech and articulation difficulties and voice disorders – B Ryan Speech Language Pathology in Pickering has a team of licensed professionals who would help you reach your speech goals and have an improved self-image as your quality of life improves with their care and treatment.
Van Delivery App
If you need assistance moving your stuff to a new apartment or an office space or if you just need a junk removal, Van Delivery has got you covered!
Van Delivery is a black owned moving company in Ontario (covering Kingston, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Toronto) that provides extended services. They have a team of professional packers and movers for both long and short distances to help you settle in the new place without the heavy lifting.
Wild Moon Jewellery
Wild Moon Jewellery brings a Ghanian touch to the Toronto jewel industry with their creative line of eco-friendly accessories made with recycled silver, repurposed brass, and semi-precious stones.
Here’s there Instagram for you to browse through their voguish designs – wild_moon.
Reliv organics has set new beauty standards with their luxury line of organic skin care products. They source all of their ingredients just north of Toronto, and now ship for free across Canada on order over $75. The skin-care lines are all natural and paraben free are cater to the needs of sensitive skin types.
They promote healthier skin with cruelty free products like vitamin c serums and honey repair gels. Add to cart and watch your skin glow brighter!
Hair Granted in Toronto is a one stop shop for a virgin-hair-wigs. It is a Bahamian hair-for-all store that offers human hair and synthetic wigs ranging from as short as 6 inches to a full 42-inches.
With increasing demands, they started offering hair glue, gels, hair appliances and a wide variety of skin care all listed at the best market pricing.
For your fitness needs Marine Kickboxing (in Toronto) is a training centre that caters to all levels of fitness enthusiasts.
They offer mixed martial arts training including kickboxing, weight training to help you reach your fitness goals. They let you have a free week to try out their classes.
I encourage you to try out some of these services and write a review if you can to share your experience. Help your African-Canadian friends grow their businesses and show them that they are appreciated for all they have brought to your markets!
Willa is a new goofy writer on the block. She writes relationship stories, travel blogs, and confessional comedy for the world (minus the glorification of course) and indulges in some raw poetry for fun. Growing up as a ‘middle child’ in her native Delhi, she started to find misery in everything and eventually humour in that suffering that she expressed through her writing. After months of trying to find a platform for her creative endeavours, she finally got her first by line in a national daily at the age of 16. She has worked with Hindustan Times, Times Internet – MensXP and gotten training from reporters at Times of India as well. Under heavy familial influence she pursued a career in law. Willa gave five years of her life to the legal field. She finally quit her semi-established career as a paralegal and went back to school to get a degree in Journalism in 2022. Currently, she is building herself back up, finding her way around the world as she continues to write. Stay tuned!