This February, The Local Crowd (TLC) Monadnock invites you to celebrate Black-owned businesses, Black history, and diversity in our communities. We’re teaming up with the American Independent Business Alliance and partners throughout North America to promote our Shop Black-Owned campaign. Together, we can build stronger local economies that are diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
How can you celebrate Shop Black-Owned Month in February? Here are some ideas!
Looking for more diversity on your plate? Eat at Yahso Jamaican Grille in Keene owned by Jamaican native Gail Somers. The food is authentic, and the atmosphere makes you forget you’re living in chilly New England. Yahso means “right here” -- reflecting Gail’s commitment to making her restaurant a gathering space for community.
“We are a family at home away from home,” shared Gail. “We have made our home in New England and love it here, but we are also fortunate to have preserved some of our rich cultural roots with us in the foods we love to cook and to share and enjoy with family and friends.
How about adding more diversity to your glass? Sisters Alisa Lawrence and Nilaja Young own New England Sweetwater Farm & Distillery in Winchester with their spouses, Karl Lawrence and Kenny Young. The distillery makes vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, and a variety of creative cocktails. Many of their spirits contain locally grown ingredients, including cider apples, blueberries, and juniper berries from their own farm. Visit their inviting tasting room made from reclaimed wood and take a tour of their distillery (by appointment): newenglandsweetwater.com.
“There’s always something new to try while we guide you through the process of making each spirit and why we created it,” said Alisa. “Our spirits are cultivated from local products that spur local agriculture and sustainability.”
The more dollars spent at Black-owned businesses in our community, the more dollars recirculate in the local economy, boosting job growth, charitable giving, and overall prosperity.
Ask your favorite locally owned businesses if they carry products made or grown by Black-owned businesses. Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene plans to call out Black-Owned business products with shelf signs. Look for their signs when you shop at the Co-op throughout February.
We want to give a shout-out to one specific Black-owned business, Global Village Foods in Quechee, VT. Global Village makes delicious allergen-free samosas and African-inspired ready-to-eat dishes featuring produce from four Vermont farms. Owned by Damaris and Mel Hall, they blend their two backgrounds into one fantastic business.
“Damaris grew up in Kenya where simple, fresh ingredients and rich aromatic spices created vibrant traditional dishes for family gatherings and communal celebrations,” states Global Village Food’s website. “A world away, Mel from Memphis cherished Sunday dinners with three generations of family around a table full of bold, soulful Southern fare.”
Recently, Global Village won a grant from Vermont's Working Lands Enterprise Initiative and a New England Food Vision Prize to expand into college dining halls. Global Village will build relationships with more local farms, giving preference to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals and immigrant farmers. They’re working with the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success in Manchester and Concord, NH.
A new initiative hosted by the Keene YMCA, the Monadnock Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Coalition (MDEIB) works to promote and develop our region as a welcoming and inclusive place for all — including BIPOC individuals who live, work, and visit our community. MDEIB formed in 2021, guided by the City of Keene’s Racial Justice and Community Safety Report. Partners include community members, businesses, organizations -- and maybe you?
“To be a welcoming community and ultimately a thriving community, we need to celebrate and embrace our diverse people and cultures,” said Dan Smith, CEO of the Keene YMCA. “At the YMCA we support Shop Black-Owned Month as one small way of doing so. We see it as part of our commitment to becoming an anti-racist multicultural organization.”
The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire will host the Elinor Williams Hooker Tea Talks both in-person in Portsmouth and virtually each Sunday in February and the first two Sundays in March. They titled this year’s theme, Bringing It Back: Conversations We Still Need.
The first Sunday’s discussion centers around the silenced stories of our history. "Before European Contact: Changing the Ways We Present Our History” on February 5 at 2 p.m. brings together panelists to bring forward our history from Indigenous and African people’s perspectives: Anthony Bogues, Director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Brown University; Anne Jennison, New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs; and Akeia de Barros Gomes, Sr. Curator of Maritime Social Histories, Mystic Seaport Museum.
A big thank you to this year’s Shop Black-Owned Month Monadnock Region partners: Keene Family YMCA, Monadnock Food Co-op, New England Sweetwater Distillery, TLC Monadnock, and Yahso Jamaican Grille.
Stay tuned for Shop Black-Owned Month updates and how we’re collectively building stronger local economies that are diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
The Local Crowd Monadnock - Mailing Address: 63 Emerald St. #114, Keene, NH 03431