Community Organizing Responses to COVID-19
Queens Spotlight was launched in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time of incredible hardship and severe shifts in how society functions, we are continually inspired by the resourcefulness, responsiveness and resilience of Queens community members. In this series we highlight community organizing work and hope to provide insight into the vitality of this work within our borough during the pandemic.
August 6, 2020
Founder of the BlaQue Resource Network
Aleeia, you are the founder of BlaQue Resource Network (BRN), “a space for Black people in Queens, NY to network, discover local businesses and events, and share resources.” Could you give us an introduction to BRN and what inspired you to found it?
I founded the BlaQue Resource Network one year ago as a way to support the Black-owned businesses in my community. I’ve seen the model in other communities and thought it was what we needed. I noticed a disconnect with businesses and consumers. Most people just didn’t know what was available. We needed a platform to help break the barriers to shopping local and shopping Black. We also needed an online location for community news, to connect with our neighbors, and a space to discuss local matters. Initially focused on Southeast Queens, our membership quickly expanded across the borough and we now have over 9,000 members in our Facebook group.
You’ve been organizing recurring Share Health, a Pop-Up Food Share for the past few months, sharing 600+ boxes of fresh produce every week in Southeast Queens. Can you tell us more about how the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on your work, communities, and on Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs?
Because of joblessness, limited supplies and health concerns during the pandemic, our focus has shifted towards providing hot healthy meals and fresh food to our communities. In addition to our weekly produce distribution, we have fundraised $10,000 in our group to buy food from Black-owned businesses and distributed it directly to anyone that needed it including homebound neighbors and essential workers.
COVID-19 shut down affected businesses, Black businesses included. We have been spearheading community work to support them through pushing their take out options and promoting their online stores. This has resulted in thousands in sales for our community businesses.
BRN is organizing around food justice and economic injustice for Black communities. Is there a campaign or an aspect of your work that you’d like to highlight? How can the broader public support your work?
Some of our recent initiatives include organizing and participating in many rallies against racial injustice and other topics affecting our community. Our efforts have been seen on CNN, FOX, PIX 11, Good morning Australia and many other media outlets, capturing the work being done right here in Queens. In the early spring, we produced a Black Business crawl, bringing out hundreds of neighbors to walk up Merrick Blvd with the intention of supporting local Black-owned businesses.
In July, We organized a bike rally to address the issue of economic injustice in our community. We assembled at York College and rode around Southeast Queens, raising enough money to provide 10 young entrepreneurs with seed grants to help start their businesses. The following week we organized the Get Counted Community Bike Ride, an hour long youth bike ride in low performing areas to bring awareness to the census and encourage people to get counted.
Currently we are working on a Black Business directory for Queens, NY. Our anticipated release was this summer, but we now have to move it to the fall in order to address more pressing issues. If you’d like to get listed in the Black Business directory email info@BlaQueResourceNetwork.com and we will send our form. You can support BlaQue Resource Network by purchasing tickets to our fundraiser on Aug 15, becoming a sponsor, or by making a donation.