Over the last couple of weeks the collaborators organizing the Blax Friday project have been hard at work creating new platforms to highlight the hundreds of Black-owned businesses in Tucson.
The first step was compiling a document with the names, websites and social media handles of Tucson's Black-owned businesses, which has more than 300 businesses listed so far. Then came the creation of the Blax Friday website and app.
And finally, Blax Friday Night Live, a virtual event Friday, June 26 showcasing the people and work behind some of Tucson's Black-owned businesses.
"It's definitely putting a face to the business. People may frequent different restaurants and storefronts, but they may not have the opportunity to meet the owner during that time," says Ashley La Russa, owner of Roux Events and one of the Blax Friday organizers. "So it's really great to put the Black owner behind the business and be able to discuss their story or push a new product."
The 30-minute event will be emceed by Shannoah Green of Curated Color and Freddie "Jay" Walker of 1 Focus Productions and will include a pitch competition called Pitch Blax that will feature 60-second pitches from a variety of Black business owners. You can sign up here to have the link for the event emailed to you, or watch the stream on the Blax Friday website.
"We have 12 to 14 businesses that have prepared a 1-minute pitch, either a new idea, an existing idea, a product or service or their story," La Russa says. "And we will award one of those businesses with a cash prize."
The pitch participants will represent a range of different industries including entrepreneurs who work in consulting, retail and non-profits.
"We definitely wanted to make sure there was a nice array of businesses so that it's just not one industry that's focused on," La Russa says.
After the event the public will have the chance to vote on who they would like the prize to be awarded to, La Russa says.
The other community leaders spearheading the Blax Friday project are — Seanloui Dumas of Black Renaissance, Khailill Knight of KPMADMAN/BLAX, Shannoah Green of Curated Colour, Terrell Henry of Creative Collabs and Cruiz of Cruiz Photos.
The organizers encourage attendees to support Black-owned restaurants by purchasing food and drinks to have during the event and find other ways to support the businesses they learn about.
"That might be investment support, that might just be contacting them directly going 'I heard your story and it's similar to mine. How can I help?'" La Russa says. "So we just really hope there's some more connection happening between the attendees and the businesses as well."
There are also opportunities for silent partners to support the work of the Blax Friday team and help with expenses associated with creating and maintaining the website and app and funding future events. Those wishing to contribute in that way can email La Russa directly for more information.
Editors note: This Is Tucson along with the Associated Press Style Book and many other newsrooms are now capitalizing Black as it refers to someone's race, ethnicity or culture. We will also capitalize Indigenous in reference to the original inhabitants of a place.