ONE LOVE FOR LITTLE JAMAICA
Black Business and Professional Association Launches
‘BBPA IN THE COMMUNITY’
TORONTO - June 3, 2020 --
The Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA), in conjunction with the City of Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture Division, and the Confronting Anti Black Racism Unit (CABR), are leading a collaborative community development initiative to achieve sustainable growth in the post-COVID-19 era, by revitalizing and strengthening existing Eglinton West businesses and entrepreneurs.
As part of this new initiative, the group has launched a new website
which will have information on Little Jamaica, the businesses that operate in the area and upcoming events all in one place.
The group has also put together an online weekly webinar called “I remember Little Jamaica when…” which will launch on June 17, 2020 at 6:00 PM and run through on a weekly basis until July 15, 2020. The webinar will provide business owners and residents of Toronto an opportunity to engage in online discussions hosted by renowned storyteller Sandra Whiting. The webinar will include artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and cultural icons who have had a personal connection with Eglinton Ave. West. The series will bring to life the magic that Little Jamaica has brought to Toronto’s cultural community. Guests will include Mayor John Tory, Jay Douglas, Letna Allen Rowe , Itah Sadu and more. For more information please visit: bbpa.org/littlejamaica.
The community development initiative for Little Jamaica was founded after consultations from Mayor John Tory’s Roundtable on Black Business. The initiative will be led by the BBPA under its program, ‘BBPA in the Community’. Collectively a plan that supports local Black-owned business growth and long-term sustainability will be devised, while celebrating and preserving the community’s cultural heritage and supporting the incubation of new business concepts.
“Little Jamaica is the heart and soul of Eglinton West. It showcases our city’s diversity and resiliency, its people and small businesses. It’s an important part of Black history in Toronto and therefore an important part of our shared history,” said Mayor John Tory. “I am pleased that through my roundtable on Black Business, a partnership has been forged with the City, the BBPA and CABR that will not only revive this vibrant area but will work to help keep small businesses open and prosperous during these challenging times.”
The BBPA will continue to work with other levels of government to preserve the area and declare ‘Little Jamaica’ a Toronto cultural heritage area. The BBPA has been hard at work, engaging with business owners and promoting current programs offered by the City of Toronto including Digital Mainstreet and ShopHERE which provide support to independent businesses by helping them launch online stores and services. Both programs are free to businesses. For more information please visit:
All the businesses of Little Jamaica are now BBPA members and will be part of the programs to be developed which will include: Development Training, Entrepreneurship Development, Business Marketing, Financial Literacy, Leadership Training, Support and Development Youth Entrepreneur of Young Professionals, all of which will leverage the area’s economic development. Other community partners include the business and industry associations representing Eglinton Hill, Fairbank Village and York-Eglinton.
Little Jamaica, home to the highest concentration of Toronto’s Black and Caribbean-owned businesses, has experienced a high level of disinvestment resulting from the Crosstown Light Rail Transit (“LRT”) construction project -- and COVID-19. Many long-standing local businesses have closed their doors, resulting in over 48 vacant storefronts.
Casual Beauty Salon, long time area business owner Jason McDonald, lauds the new effort, saying that, “The community’s many assets will be enhanced as a result.” “I’m pleased with how the BBPA has engaged the community. I’m also happy to have created the new Little Jamaica logo that will be part of the brand,” McDonald said.
“Toronto’s vaunted vibrancy and livability are a direct result of distinct cultural hubs like Little Jamaica,” said Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Ward 21, Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee. “For our City to remain true to its commitment to foster diversity and encourage grass roots entrepreneurism, it is essential that we support Little Jamaica and our other cultural neighbourhoods as they deal with the existential threat brought by the current pandemic.”
Black Urbanism TO, a grassroots organization that has been working with the businesses on Eglinton West, is encouraged by the BBPA’s initiative. “Soon the businesses will be well positioned to benefit from the Crosstown LRT, with a stop right at Oakwood in our neighbourhood,” said co-founder Romaine Baker. “Our location is perfect. We’re on Eglinton near the busy intersection of Allen Road. Our future should be bright with Little Jamaica becoming the economic and cultural hub that it was meant to be. We envision Little Jamaica becoming an even bigger go-to destination for Torontonians and tourists.”
“The BBPA has developed several programs to support businesses,” said BBPA president Nadine Spencer. “By partnering with Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture Division and the Confronting Anti Black Racism Unit, we are pleased to work with businesses in Little Jamaica not just through the crosstown expansion but COVID19 as well.”
About the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA):
Founded in 1983, the mission of the BBPA, a charitable organization, is to advance Canada's Black community by facilitating the delivery of programs supporting Business and Professional excellence, higher education, and economic development. The BBPA represents the interests of Black Businesses and Professionals throughout Canada and is involved in advocacy, training, communications and leadership development. The BBPA presents the annual Harry Jerome Awards, the BBPA National Scholarships, and the National Black Business Convention (NBBPC).