By the time Kareem Matariyeh arrived Sunday night at his family’s liquor store in Marquette Park, flames had already engulfed the business.
Like countless other storefronts in the city, the Quick Stop at 2424 W. 71st St. was targeted by vandals and looters amid the unrest that’s gripped the city and much of the country in the wake of protests over the officer-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Now, as protesters continue to fight against police brutality and broader systemic racism in Chicago and beyond, Matariyeh and others are launching crowdfunding campaigns to repair minority-owned businesses that have been ransacked and destroyed in the fallout.
Matariyeh said his father and uncle “built the store from nothing” after emigrating from Belize at a young age. Over three decades after opening, all that’s left now is “ashes and garbage and wood thrown everywhere,” he noted.
“It’s just a mess right now. It’s really sad to see,” added Matariyeh, whose family is Muslim and lives in Ford City.
As Matariyeh’s father and uncle sift through the rubble, they’re faced with the somber reality that they may have to demolish the building and start anew. Meanwhile, they’ve both lost their jobs for the foreseeable future.
To help cover some of the costs of rebuilding and make up for the lost income, Matariyeh launched a GoFundMe campaign hoping to raise $100,000. In just a single day, more than 200 people have pledged $8,381.
Other fundraising efforts aim to benefit multiple businesses that have been affected by the looting. My Block My Hood My City, a Chicago nonprofit, has set up a small business relief fund, while individuals from communities that have been affected by the looting have also stepped up.
Charles Pickett, of Humboldt Park, is raising $20,000 for minority business owners in his neighborhood, Austin, Humboldt Park and Douglass Park. As of Tuesday evening, he had collected $16,285 through the GoFundMe drive.
Pickett distinguished between the protesters and looters, though he said both are responding to “systemic oppression.” And while he empathized with the plight of those struggling to make ends meet after the coronavirus brought the economy to a screeching halt, Pickett said some of the looters are simply “opportunists.”
“There has been a lot of peaceful protesting. Unfortunately, there are other people that are taking advantage of this time and it’s being pinned on African Americans, and it’s just not right,” said Pickett, who is black.
“With the looting and the rioting, I would say that’s moreso just people being tired,” he added. “You have people that have been out of work for the last three months, only one stimulus check, not a lot of relief being sent out to the right organizations and businesses.”
Because the list of affected businesses continues to grow, Pickett said his nonprofit Earth Remedies hasn’t determined which will ultimately benefit from the fundraising effort.
Aaliyah Lara set up another GoFundMe campaign that’s already surpassed its $20,000 fundraising goal in just two days. Lara’s “Black and brown business relief fund” will benefit the Flamingo Bar & Grill in the Gold Coast, Express Food Market in Stony Island Park and Quesadilla Monarca in Ashburn.
“It was important for me to start this fund for people of color because as a girl apart of the latinx community in Chicago, I felt like I couldn’t just sit back and not do anything,” said Lara, who grew up in Archer Heights and has participated in the recent protests.
“These black and brown folk put their blood, sweat and tears into maintaining these businesses and showing up for their community,” she added. “It’s only right that I do the same.”
After reaching her fundraising goal on Tuesday, Lara said she wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of support.
“I like to keep high expectations for my community and had faith that they would show up for each other,” she said. “And I’m so grateful that they did.”