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24 Black-owned businesses near U of T campuses that you can support

Doing your part with your dollars

24 Black-owned businesses near U of T campuses that you can support

Over the past month, the death of George Floyd and the protests that have followed worldwide have stressed the importance of recognizing and eradicating anti-Black racism on a global scale.  

We may feel unsure of how to support Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) while maintaining physical distancing under COVID-19. But it is essential that we do all we can to advocate for creating change for BIPOC. One way to do so is with our economic power.

For example, on July 7, The Blackout Coalition organized a movement called #BlackoutDay2020. Although people of other backgrounds were also welcome to participate, the movement called primarily on Black people to only spend money on Black-owned businesses. 

As it is estimated that Black consumers account for $1.2 trillion in spending in the United States, the aim was for the boycott to help push forward the agenda against police brutality and anti-Black racism. 

Though the movement focused on the United States, it is essential that people in Canada and at U of T draw inspiration from the cause. Whether by purchasing food or books as a part of student life, it is by controlling our spending that we can practice consistent, substantive allyship and affirm Black life and community. 

Below is a list of Black-owned businesses near U of T campuses that will help students do so.  

Near UTSG 

  1. A Different Booklist: If you’re searching for a good book to read while commuting, this bookstore specializes in literature from the African Caribbean diaspora.
    Address: 779 Bathurst Street
  2. Black Tires: Run into car troubles while commuting downtown for a lecture? Black Tires Inc. offers car services throughout the GTA. No matter how far from campus you are, they’ll be there!
    Address: Greater Toronto Area; call +1(416) 939 4590
  3. Classic Juice Co.: If you want to fuel your body with healthy ingredients for a better studying experience, Classic Juice Co. can offer immunity shots, cold-pressed juice, smoothies, and healthy wraps.
    Address: 287 Coxwell Avenue
  4. Dance Immersion: Want a convenient way to work out between classes? This non-profit introduces dances of African diaspora through a variety of activities.
    Address: 1000 Yonge Street
  5. Monoxide: Is handcrafted jewelry the perfect accessory to your best campus looks? Monoxide’s products have even been featured in Forbes magazine!
    Address: 1605 Queen Street West
  6. Nautica Simone: Searching for the perfect photographer for your club’s on-campus event? Nautica Simone is Toronto-based and is now accepting bookings all over the GTA!
    Address: Throughout Toronto; can be contacted through https://www.nauticasimone.com/contact
  7. Proprlifestyle: Though we know we have to care for our mental health during exam season, we also have to care for our physical health! Shop skincare products targeted to your skin type at this new store.
    Address: 458 Ossington Avenue
  8. Veggie D’Light: If you’re in need of a vegan snack between classes, this is a must takeout spot for non-GMO eats.
    Address: 160 Baldwin Street

Near UTSC

  1. ACR Hot Roti & Doubles: Looking to eat after class? This daily-made roti and curry come with tons of protein options.
    Address: 2680 Lawrence Avenue East 
  2. Art of BBQ: Trevor David specializes in barbecue at this smokehouse.
    Address: 2478 Kingston Road
  3. Deon Ambersley: Looking to create stronger friendships and relationships during the upcoming school year? Deon Ambersley is a registered social worker with more than 15 years of experience.
    Address: 3520 Danforth Avenue
  4. Ital Vital Vegan: Want healthy snacks for class? This joint offers vegan juices, food items, and desserts. 
    Address: 741 Pharmacy Avenue
  5. Kxng’s Table: If you want to make memories by eating homemade food during study sessions, this chef’s Instagram is the place to visit! You can either pick up items from his home or have them delivered to yours.
    Address: Scarborough-based; visit @kxngstable on Instagram for a specific address.
  6. Love Beauty Supplies: Need to look your best for those morning lectures? From hair to nail products, this beauty store has all the supplies you need to turn your classmates’ heads.
    Address: 80 Ellesmere Road
  7. Marsman Music: Whether you’re a music & culture major or you want to join one of UTSC’s many music clubs, Marsman Music offers lessons in piano, guitar, voice, violin and more!
    Address: 158 Bennett Road
  8. Peta Cakes: Need a sweet treat for a study session or a pick-me-up after a midterm? Peta Cakes offers custom cakes that can be delivered.
    Address: Scarborough-based; message on Instagram @petacakes for a specific address.
  9. Twist Catering: If your club is hosting an event on campus, search no further than this catering service! Twist Catering ensures a good rating from even the pickiest of taste-buds at any private event.
    Address: 91 Rylander Boulevard

    Near UTM

    1. Black Sun Comics: Whether you’re an English major, or just an avid reader, Black Sun Comics offers the perfect collection of comics to read during the commute to class.
      Address: Mississauga-based; order online from https://blacksuncomics.com/

      1. Charlie’s West Indian Food Mart: Looking for a tasty meal between classes? This grocery store is known for its fresh groceries and fish.
        Address: 3057 Hurontario Street
      2. Pretty Things Inside: Whether you’re dreaming about getting your degree or wanting to celebrate the small victories along the way, Pretty Things Inside makes custom treats to honour any occasion.
        Address: Mississauga-based; fill out an order form at https://prettythingsinside.net/contact-us to receive a full address
      3. Reddafire Restaurant: Looking for a place to bring friends after lectures? This bar offers a pool table for night-long entertainment.
        Address: 900 Rathburn Road West
      4. Snapback Tiara: If you want a unique brand to wear on campus that also showcases your values, Snapback Tiara is the place to order from! This business was developed by a queer woman whose pieces combine masculinity and femininity.
        Address: Based in Mississauga; online at https://snapbacktiara.com
      5. Super Nail: Want to look your best around campus? This salon offers acrylics, bio gel, and tons of nail designs!
        Address: 2551A Hurontario Street
      6. We Print What You Want: Want to express your individuality on campus by wearing custom designs? The name of the business, We Print What You Want, explains all you need to know!
        Address: 776 Dundas Street East

            U of T temporarily lays off scores of workers amidst COVID-19 pandemic

            185 CUPE 3261, USW 1998 employees face hardship, uncertainty, despite financial support

            U of T temporarily lays off scores of workers amidst COVID-19 pandemic

            In the midst of physical distancing measures and stay-at-home guidelines under the COVID-19 pandemic, U of T has temporarily laid off scores of workers at the university. 

            CUPE 3261, which represents service workers, and USW 1998, which represents administrative and technical workers, experienced 93 and 92 layoffs, respectively, as of June 27. This amounts to a total of 185 employees between the two unions. Although the university and federal government are providing some financial support, workers continue to face uncertainty and hardship under the pandemic. 

            U of T closed buildings across all three campuses on March 16 in response to provincial public health requirements, leaving workers who could not perform their work remotely in a precarious position.

            After an initial period of pay continuity, layoffs began in May — targeting jobs in services like parking, food, and athletics that could not operate or were partially shut down as a result of campus closures, and could no longer generate adequate revenue to sustain the regular level of employment.

            Financial support from university, government 

            CUPE 3261 and USW 1998 have been active engaging with U of T Labour Relations about how to best support their members. 

            Allan James, President of CUPE 3261, explained in an interview with The Varsity that “the union is supporting all of the laid off members” with accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides $2,000 per month for eligible Canadians whose employment has been affected by the pandemic. 

            Colleen Burke, President of USW 1998, called the layoffs “unfortunate” and “difficult” for members to weather. However, she acknowledged that U of T carried them out in accordance with their collective agreement. 

            U of T, in one instance, went above its contracted responsibilities while pay continuity was still in effect by providing casual workers with paid sick leave — a measure not originally included in casual contracts.

            “The university has worked hard to limit the number of temporary layoffs and to support affected employees,” a university spokesperson wrote to The Varsity.

            To further supplement CERB payments from the federal government, U of T developed a temporary income top-up scheme that provides laid-off workers with up to 80 per cent of their regular income — amounting to $1,000 — in addition to CERB. This means workers can receive up to $3,000 a month. 

            The university is restricted from increasing benefits under the top-up scheme as Canadians who receive more than $1,000 a month are ineligible to apply for CERB. 

            All casual and full-time U of T service staff received pay continuity and paid sick leave until April 30. 

            Workers face hardship

            Despite financial aid provided by the university and the federal government, COVID-19 related layoffs have negatively impacted U of T service, administrative, and technical workers. Burke predicts that many of their employees will fall on hard times. “It is going to be very difficult for our members to live on the CERB plus top-up, particularly if other people in their household are also laid off,” Burke explained in an email to The Varsity

            She also commented that their casual unit “has been very hard hit” and that many of the USW 1998 casual workers’ contracts have not been renewed because of the pandemic. “Our casual unit has shrunk by 700 people from the same time last year,” Burke wrote.

            The temporary layoffs have also drawn external criticism for its impact on workers, notably in a June 29 letter to the administration from 19 faculty members at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “These workers deserve employment security, not least because of precarity’s lasting negative consequences for both physical and mental health,” reads the letter, which calls on the university to “live up to its reputation as Toronto’s best employer and retain staff members on the payroll.”

            COVID-19 related layoffs are not the only hardship that workers have faced. James expressed his concern about the province’s treatment of service workers in general and hopes this pandemic can act as a catalyst for change. 

            “The reality is that workers were already suffering before the pandemic,” James wrote. “Now they are suffering more, and our future looks uncertain.” 

            He urges all levels of government to address the bigger picture of income inequality and “invest in people, invest in strong public services, support decent work and fair minimum labor standards and focus on getting us through COVID and beyond without imposing any cuts or austerity policies.”

            Uncertainty as campus plans to reopen

            U of T is developing plans for a safe return to campus; however, U of T is uncertain of when exactly employees will be called back to work. The uncertainty presents more challenges to employees, particularly casual workers who “may not be eligible for [Employment Insurance] when CERB runs out,” Burke wrote. 

            A university spokesperson wrote to The Varsity that the university is working closely with public health authorities and governments to determine the appropriate time to bring back workers in the safest way possible. 

            The letter from members of the public health faculty, however, raises concerns about university’s lack of consultation with its joint public health and safety committees in making decisions concerning the protection of workers. The letter calls on the university to “ensure adequate workplace health and safety measures by consulting with relevant groups [unions, faculty and employee associations, and front-line management] prior to the University’s reopening process.”

            On July 7, U of T announced a new mask policy that will require individuals to wear a mask inside U of T buildings, in line with the City of Toronto’s new bylaw that mandates mask-wearing in indoor public spaces. U of T will distribute two non-medical, reusable face masks to members of the U of T community, including the university’s workers.

            — With files from Ibnul Chowdhury

            Editor’s Note (July 25, 3:49 pm): This article has been updated to distinguish between CUPE 3261 and USW 1998 as representing service workers and administrative and technical workers, respectively.