This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, January 2022.

Founded by small business owner Kyla Booker, Black Leaders Achieving Culture Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) Collective has a mission to promote entrepreneurship, self-sufficiency and to uplift the Black community.

Booker hopes the work of B.L.A.C.K Collective will encourage others to get involved, share their stories, pursue their dreams and support others in the Black community. When Booker’s mother ran for city council in Riverside, she realized that she didn’t see many African American leaders in the area and wanted to help change that.

As a fledgling nonprofit, founded in 2019, B.L.A.C.K Collective immediately jumped in to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization distributed information to keep the community up-to-date and safe. They also distributed masks, hand sanitizer and launched a public pantry to assist with other needs, sharing on social media what was available and ensuring those in need received the items they were lacking.

B.L.A.C.K Collective also worked with partners to increase the visibility of racism and forward the discussion of how it affects the well-being of the community. Following discussions with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, on Aug 4, 2020, the Board voted 5-0 to declare racism as a public health crisis, agreeing to take steps to address the issue.

“We made our case why we thought racism should be declared a public health issue,” Booker said. “It affects housing, education, employment and causes a health burden.”

One of the organization’s biggest accomplishments to date was holding its inaugural Junteenth Festival, which was held at Fairmount Park on Jun 19, 2021. The event hosted 1,700 people and featured 50 different vendors. The event was free, open to the public, and included local Black-owned businesses as well as nonprofits assisting with housing, health, and other community needs.

The next focus of the organization will be economic development. Booker plans to provide classes led by successful business owners who will teach others how to achieve the same success.

“I really want to uplift African American businesses, mom and pop shops, and young entrepreneurs,” Booker said. “By helping others build these skills, it can help our community.”

On Feb 12, the organization will be holding an event at Fairmount Park to celebrate Black History Month. The event will feature clown dancers for the kids, a jazz band, and local vendors. The event will be free and open to the public. B.L.A.C.K Collective hopes that community members will come to both enjoy the fun and to learn more about the overlooked aspects of Black history.

“Come listen to what our culture is really like,” Booker said “A lot of what we are taught about in school is a sad history, but there are black adventurers, inventors, scientists, and lawyers — not just basketball players. We need to change that narrative.”

Recently, the B.L.A.C.K Collective received a grant from the Black Equity Initiative through the Inland Empire Community Foundation to help it build Black unity and Black economic development. The organization is volunteer-run and has been primarily funded by Booker and her family. She hopes that this is just the beginning of building more programming that will make the community stronger.

Those who are interested in helping B.L.A.C.K Collective with its work can reach out to the organization on social media to inquire about volunteering at an event or being a mentor for its classes on launching and running a business. Those interested in starting their own business are also encouraged to follow the organization on social media and watch for the launch of their business development classes.

“Unity is important and rebuilding our village is important for the young generation,” Booker said. “Our culture is so strong and so powerful in so many different ways.”

More information: theblackcollective6@gmail.com or instagram.com/theblackcollective.com

Photo: Board Members Montrel Lawrence and Denise Booker share information with the public about B.L.A.C.K. Collective’s work.