Black in Bayonne has been busy in the city, continuing to promote Black excellence and to carve out spaces for people of color.
Camille High, co-founder of Black in Bayonne, filled in the Bayonne Community News on the group’s most recent activities in Bayonne. Following “Power in the City” in June, the group has continued to remain active in the community.
‘Give Thanks Bayonne’
Then in November, the group kicked in high gear again for its second annual iteration of “Give Thanks Bayonne.” In 2021, the group was able to give out 350 meals.
Black in Bayonne partnered with a number of businesses in the meal giveaway effort, this year including Little Food Café and the Bayonne Police Department to give out an additional 30 meals to the homeless.
“The Bayonne Police Department went out and found individuals within the community that are homeless and they provided them meals. Little Food Café reached out to us to assist us, so they provided the meals to the homeless.”
Following that, the group further developed 2020’s “Buy Black Bayonne” efforts for Black Friday, growing from promoting the Black businesses in Bayonne to hosting a Black business crawl. The event was basically a bar crawl, but for all types of Black-owned businesses.
“We wanted to find a way to basically support Black businesses here in Bayonne, not just by words, because we usually post information online to educate people, but we wanted to make sure that we are promoting and celebrating the Black businesses in Bayonne by actions as well. So we initiated the ‘Real Black Friday’ as a Black business crawl.”
Including online businesses too
High said that Black in Bayonne reached out to Black businesses in the city, with some even reaching out to them to participate. The crawl traveled to various businesses across all parts of Bayonne. And for businesses without a brick-and-mortar location, Black in Bayonne made sure to include them as well.
“For online businesses, we allowed them to set up shop within Space 214, which is located at 216 Broadway,” High said. “We had some of the other businesses set up at DRIP Gelato. We wanted to make sure we were celebrating all of the businesses in all forms. That was the purpose of ‘Real Black Friday.’”
Black in Bayonne promoted the crawl using a hashtag for social media, #BuyBlackBayonne. According to High, the event had a great turnout from locals and those outside the city.
“We had various people from outside of Bayonne that came out to support the businesses too, which was really a great experience,” High said.
High said the goal of events like this are to support the existing Black businesses in the city and promote more to open.
“We want Black businesses to come to Bayonne,” High said. “We also want those that are here to keep their doors open. And the best way to do that is, not just through words, but to support them through actions.”
‘Tis the season for giving
In December, Black in Bayonne held a toy drive and giveaway they dubbed as the “25 Days of Gifting.” The group cooperated with local businesses to collect toys through December to giveaway to children in need, including Squeeze’D Wellness and Juice Bar on 25th Street, BayOhm Yoga, Little Food Café, Double Batch Bakery, Bayonne Batter, and DRIP Gelato and Café, which was opened in part by Black in Bayonne co-founders Clarice High and Shaniqua Borders.
“Black in Bayonne is really big about collaboration over competition and having businesses support each other and the community,” High said. “So we reached out to various businesses within the community, allies as well as Black-owned businesses, and we had them have a donation box set up within their business so people can drop off toys.”
High said there was also an Amazon wish list that community members could use to purchase toys for the donation. Black in Bayonne collaborated with the Bayonne Youth Center to give out more than 300 toys.
“Tons of people from the community came out and dropped off donations. That was a really great turnout.”
Later in December, the group hosted a “Flick with Saint Nick.” They further collected at a give away at the event held in conjunction with DRIP Gelato, the Bayonne Youth Center, and the local branch of the NAACP.
People were able to come in and take a picture with a Black Santa Claus, played by President of the Bayonne NAACP Donald Byrd.
“When we talk about inclusivity, we wanted to make sure we had a Santa Claus that looked like us,” High said. “That was really big for us.”
Black Santa came to Bayonne
Children had the opportunity to come in, write letters, and present the letters to Santa. High said they were able to create their own hot chocolate at a station set up by DRIP Gelato.
“We want to make sure that while we were celebrating the holidays, we were able to give people an opportunity to assist those in need,” High said. “The holidays are not always a joyous occasion for everyone. We wanted to make sure that we were able to provide some type of joy to community. We wanted to make sure that we are providing the joy that they may not be able to experience because they don’t have the finances. COVID-19 has affected us in so many different ways. So we wanted to make sure that we were providing an atmosphere of love, joy and excitement to the community. That was the goal to end the year. Going into 2022, the goal is the same, to continue to provide services.”
High reiterated one of the primary goals of Black in Bayonne will always be to carve out a space for people of color in the city.
“Black in Bayonne has always been really big about providing spaces for us and by us, and our allies as well, where we feel we can be our most unapologetic self,” High said. “A space where we can be our Black and Brown selves and not feel like we’re not included. Inclusivity is something we want to make sure happens by us creating spaces for others.”
Supporting like-minded youth groups
Most recently, Black in Bayonne met with the Young Black Excellence Club at Bayonne High School in December. Topics included: how to create a culturally relevant and competent classroom that allows queer and students of color to thrive in Bayonne High School; how to address issues of inequality and inequity; micro-agressions felt from the administration, teachers, and students; the development of racist clubs within the district; safe spaces for students and mental health resources; and collaborative events and efforts.
“Every grassroots movement needs young people to move the mission forward, to move the idea forward,” High said. “We wanted to make sure that we were up there to hear the thoughts of the Young Black Excellence Club to support them.”
High said Black in Bayonne is planning on collaborating with the student group on several events in 2022.
“We wanted to let them know, it’s never too late to start a movement,” High said. “The Young Black Excellence Club has volunteered at all the events that we’ve done since the start. The goal is to support them in any way that they feel like they need to be supported. We want to make sure we are empowering our youth to get started no matter what their age is. Activate your power.”
Black in Bayonne has met with representatives from the Board of Education in the past, including Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Kopacz. High said that the group has been meeting with and will continue to meet with Kopacz regarding pertinent issues throughout 2022, including herself, Clarice, Shaniqua and fellow co-founder Rashad Callaway.
“We want to make sure we’re connecting the Black community, celebrating Black excellence, providing them with resources, and keeping them educated,” High said. “When you educate people, you’re liberating them. That is what we have been doing from the beginning, and that’s what we want to maintain in the year of 2022. We have to keep the momentum going to create political and social change within the city.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.