Montreal·2021 Black Changemakers

She felt Black people needed a place to come together, so she created one

Last June, Kayla Crawley started a Facebook group called Black Business Atlas - Building Our Community, a forum for Black people to unite, support each other and promote themselves and their businesses.

Kayla Crawley started a Facebook group to help unite people after the George Floyd murder

Last June, Kayla Crawley started a Facebook group now called Black Business Atlas - Building Our Community, a forum for Black people to come together, support each other and promote themselves. (Jelani Gittens)
(Graphic designed by DestaNation Creative Agency)

CBC Quebec is highlighting people from the province's Black communities who are giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future. These are the Black Changemakers.

Last year, Kayla Crawley saw that many people around her were reeling after the murder of George Floyd. She made sure to keep in touch with friends and family and confronted people saying ignorant things, but she wanted to do more.

One day after work, she started a Facebook group called BLACK MTL – Building our Community, a forum for Black people to come together, support each other and promote themselves, but also for people who wanted to support Black business owners and Black people in general.

She figured maybe 500 people would join, 1,000 tops. Within the first week, the group had 10,000 members.

"It really showed the need, the need for us to have a space to promote ourselves so that we can get our names out there, and put our products out there and what we believe in out there."

The group is currently closing in on 47,000 members. Crawley is now part of a team of people that approves the posts and moderates the comments in the group.

While they have had to deal with some hateful comments, the good outweighs the bad, she said. She has heard from members who say they went from having few customers to a wait list for their services after joining the group.

Right now, she and her team are working on building Black Business Atlas Inc., a company that would use web platforms to connect customers with entrepreneurs. The name of the Facebook group recently changed to Black Business Atlas – Building our Community, in line with the business name.

Crawley doesn't have a business background — she has a bachelor's degree in criminology from the University of Ottawa — and it's been challenging to figure out how to run a business, she said. She and her team have been reaching out to others for advice.

"I've noticed people are so willing to help out and really just kind of, have that conversation to support us."

Crawley said her grandfather, who immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean, was once denied a job when the employer realized he was Black. She counts her family members as her biggest inspiration because, she says, they don't sit back and let things happen to them, they stand for what they believe in.

And what Crawley believes in, she said, is the power of community. She is focused on the business aspect, but above all she is trying to unite people.

The group is a space where people ask each other for advice on how to handle issues they're having, she said. After the news started to spread about Mamadi III Fara Camara, a Black man who was wrongfully arrested and detained last month after he was accused of attacking a police officer, people started posting about how they could help him and his wife, who was pregnant with twins.

"At the end of the day, we're not judging each other. We're there to help one another and support one another," she said.

"We're a community and we're dealing with issues just because of the colour of our skin."

The Black Changemakers is a special series recognizing individuals who, regardless of background or industry, are driven to create a positive impact in their community. From tackling problems to showing small gestures of kindness on a daily basis, these changemakers are making a difference and inspiring others. Meet all the changemakers here.

Written by Kamila Hinkson, with files from Rowan Kennedy