CLEVELAND — August marked Black business month, but as it comes to a close it's important to remember that these businesses not only need, but deserve support year-round.
It takes a community to support one another and the Taste of Black Cleveland is an annual event that helps to spotlight nearly 30 black-owned restaurants across Northeast Ohio.
"Tonight is one of those nights, where the food is amazing, the spirit of the city is alive and it's being showcased at every single stand that you go to, so enjoy this moment. this moment is for all of you," said Cleveland Cavaliers CEO, Nic Barlage as he opened the event.
In its 4th year, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland NAACP, The Real Black Friday and Aramark, joined forces to host the Taste of Black Cleveland at Rocket Mortgage Field House.
"A day like this, you may think it's four hours, but it can be life changing to these businesses," explained LaRese Purnell, founder of the Real Black Friday. He's one of the people leading the charge, locally, in supporting black businesses. His annual event, which he began seven years ago, aims to elevate and support minority-owned businesses, which have faced even more challenges in recent years.
According to Nerdwallet, nearly 60 percent of Black owned businesses said the financial health of their business was at risk during the pandemic.
"For these businesses to still exist is very powerful. So we have to play our part to make sure they continue to exist," said Purnell. "We all know sometimes they don't get the same access to resources as far as marketing is concerned, people being aware they even exist."
And they why events like the Taste of Black Cleveland are so vital.
For Charene Bradley, who owns Vegan Vybez, the event's exposure is helping her prepare for when she opens her storefront early next year.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for my small business to be seen, and again, I'm opening a brick and mortar so it's great exposure for me. I am so honored to be here," said Bradley.
And she's not alone, Jeremiah Perkins, who co-owns UJerk in downtown Cleveland says that reaching a broader audience is key to business growth.
"It's a lot of restaurants out there that are black owned that not a lot of people know about so it's really just our chance to kind of get exposure our there to the city to kind of bring us to those individuals so we can expand, " said Perkins.
And expansion isn't possible without help from one another.
"Friendly competition, once again, everyone's here to help everybody, uh explore, different restaurants, expand out mindsets and more importantly get together for once common cause," Perkins added.
And that common goal is support, from all of Northeast Ohio.
“I like black box fix, I’ve been bite creole before, so looking forward to getting to those, but otherwise, just looking forward to trying everything that they’ve got here," said Lance Jackson who attended the event.
The Taste of Black Cleveland event is a shining example of all that is possible when people work together as a team.
"Collaboration over competition, the more we work together, all in, like the Cavs, there theme was the better off our community is gonna be," said Purnell.
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