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Activist Bernie Levv Says ‘Buying Black’ Is Key To Supporting Black Communities

Written by on June 19, 2020


Chicago’s Bernie Levv wears many hats – from activist to soul singer, she’s been one we’ve loved cheering on over the years.

Today, for a special Juneteenth interview, she joins us once again to talk about the importance of “Buying Black,” being advocates for real change, and learning to be patient and kind with herself over the last few months.

Vocalo: You’ve been a recurring interviewee with us here at Vocalo (including a previous conversation around Chicago’s Black Lives Matter movement back in 2017) and we’re so glad to be talking again! You’ve said that buying from Black-owned business owners, putting yourself right back into your community, and giving money are some of the most important forms of activism. How do you see that manifesting today?

Bernie Levv: I’ve been a HUGE advocate for Black economics as a massive progressive movement for some time now. It’s great to see that as a result of this universal surge in support and awareness of the Black community’s unfortunate circumstances with police brutality, disproportionate lack of care in our healthcare system, the prison-industrial complex, education and housing – just to name a few of the injustices we still face – a lot of prominent media outlets, and even people on their social media platforms, have taken to generating lists of Black-owned clothing brands, restaurants, banks, bookstores, etc. To me, as I’ve stated before, putting money into these establishments and our communities is key in supporting our progress as Black Americans.

For all that the world has changed in the three years since our last interview, much has remained stagnant. Looking at the protests and movements happening today…do you feel a sense that something is different this time around?

I do hope that something is different this time around. I feel with the lack of distraction, due to COVID-19 shutting the world down, I’ve seen folks [who would never] have these conversations…having these conversations. It feels good to be seen and heard – something Black people do not get to feel a lot of.

With that being said, I’m also a huge skeptic. I want to see more and more change. What’s going on is so ingrained in our society that it’s going to take a lot more than a couple weeks of people posting to get the job done. People have a lot more learning and unlearning to do when it comes to how to keep the conversation going in these situations and enact REAL CHANGE. We have to remember that for every one of us that knows and disagrees with everything going on, there is someone else out there that feels the opposite and will also fight to keep things the way they are.

So, let’s keep educating and taking the proper steps to keep the attention on this: Breonna Taylor’s killers still have their jobs, Black women are continuously dying at disproportionate rates during childbirth, our schools are being defunded over and over in order to feed back into police departments and there’s still Black men in prison for marijuana possession when I can go 2 blocks and buy an 8th with no problem. This is an ongoing and very large issue that dips into many ongoing and very large issues.


Who have been some of the most influential educators and leaders, to you personally, around Chicago?

There are so many talented and passionate individuals who have been fighting this fight for a long time, and many people have sung their praises over and over. Some of my personal favorites are Theaster Gates, Krista Franklin, Justin Cunningham and Essence Smith of Social Works (this list goes on and on).

But also the ones who have been around and not spoken of.

My best friend, Olivia Dockery, is a Black woman currently studying public health – she is the type of unsung hero we need more about. She educates me all the time. My mother has written two books highlighting Black businesses around the nation as well as the current Founder/CEO of a BPO business where we service predominantly Black-owned businesses, called Qui Virtual Support Solutions. Black restaurant owners like Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel and his wife, Nasya, who own Majani Restaurant and are dedicated to feeding Black communities in Chicago healthy, quality vegan food.

Special shout out to every Black teacher I ever had during my time at CPS; they are, and will always be, influential educators and leaders.

Juneteenth is always a deeply important day, but this year it’s falling, quite significantly, in the middle of a broader movement. How do you plan to spend the day this year?

Spending my Juneteenth continuing to educate people to the best of my ability on why this day is so important, writing to my reps, and celebrating Black life with a couple of my friends in my yard.

Finally, you mentioned on Twitter that you have felt the stillness from the past few months teaching you a lot about yourself. Can you share a little bit about what you’ve learned?

I have a lot to learn when it comes to patience. If I had to say I’ve learned anything these past few months, it’s patience with myself and with others.

I believe the stillness has allowed me to dive into my idea of what success means, my career, my timeline, relationships, and what I want to accomplish in this life. I think with all the movement of our lives, it’s easy to get lost in what you don’t have and what you’re not doing and trying to play catch up. When honestly, there’s no such thing as catch up. There’s only you, your life, your path, your journey, your happiness, and what that means to YOU.

You hear it so much, but I never understood that until all the things around me were taken away when COVID hit. It made me realize I literally have everything I need, everything else is a bonus.

I’ve found so much beauty in that stillness and have been living everyday like it’s a bonus since.

Check out our 2017 interview with Bernie below:

Follow Bernie On Instagram and Twitter!

Interviewed And Edited For Length & Clarity By Shelby Kluver

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