For the last five weeks, Juwan Brescacin has been staring at the screen in front of him watching the world react to the murder of George Floyd.
The Toronto Argonauts’ receiver felt the outrage, the pain and the unfortunate reality that this was far from the first time that we’d seen something like this happening. As he watched protests around the world unfold, the 27-year-old has been heartened by some of the positive change that’s come from it. He wanted to get involved and create change in the community around him.
After signing with the Argos over the winter, that became a lot more feasible. Brescacin spent the first four years of his CFL career in Calgary, leaving his family and friends in Mississauga, Ont. behind every spring to play football.
So he and two friends he grew up with created Black Dollars TO, a project that aims to promote Black-owned businesses and to better circulate the Black dollar within its community.
A number of CFL players, coaches and executives have penned their own thoughts on the racial tensions and the issues that accompany it on both sides of the border. Read what they have to say, in their own words … READ MORE.
“I wanted to find a way where I could genuinely help out in any way that I know how,” Brescacin said.
“For me, I felt like I’ve always wanted to get into marketing. I was just trying to find something that fit my genuine interests and when this happened it kind of just dawned on me that I can use that and help grow Black-owned businesses.
“It’s something that I want to continue to do. I wanted to get into it so people will continue to support when it’s possibly being talked about less. You haven’t really been hearing about the stuff going on as much on the news now, so what I’d like to do is to keep awareness going and in turn, do my part to help out the Black community.”
As of Friday afternoon, there were 40 posts on their Instagram page, highlighting businesses ranging from restaurants and bakeries to boxing gyms, hair salons, clothing lines, realty, brewers, law firms and artists, to name a few. It’s been an eye-opening experience for Brescacin, who even though growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, was surprised by the breadth of Black-owned businesses around him.
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“When we first started this, when I thought of Black businesses I thought of restaurants and barber shops. Those are the Black-owned businesses that I always went to that I just naturally supported,” he said.
“(Then) we started getting submissions from Black realtors, Black lawyers, Black contractors. There’s a Black-owned medi-spa. There are just so many different things that I was kind of blind to.
“That’s why I found this even more interesting, because it just shows that if you want to hire Black, or support Black businesses that there’s a variety of them. It’s not just a couple categories. I almost felt embarrassed that I didn’t know but I’m happy that I started this because now I see how many resources there are. It’s been pretty enlightening for me.”
For the many negatives of the pandemic, some have argued that the world essentially coming to a standstill over the last four months has forced people to grapple with issues of systemic racism and inequality. Brescacin says that even in the normal world, he would have found time to start up the Black Dollars TO project.
“I’ve always been looking to find something that I would like to do when I’m done playing,” he said.
“I’m obviously still young but being a football player you never know what’s going to happen, especially coming off of an injury, it makes you think even more. I definitely think I still would (have started the project) and even if the season does start off, I’ll still be heavily involved in anything that I can do.”
A lot of people have come away from the past month asking how they can help the Black community. Brescacin says supporting the community is one way to create positive change.
“Black businesses support Black families, which in turn supports the Black community,” he said.
“Money gives people the flexibility to do what they want and give back. Our goal is to basically help build Black Businesses in Toronto and the GTA.”