C/O Khadija Hamidu
McMaster alumna Khadija Hamidu has created an online platform to showcase Black culture and the BIPOC community in Hamilton
Activism and social justice movements around the world have greatly shaped this past year. Across Canada and the United States, thousands of people joined in on public demonstrations, protests and initiatives, like defunding the police, while other forms of activism and support took place online. Melanin Market Hamilton is one of the many online communities that have emerged during the pandemic in response to these social justice movements.
Founded in late January of this year, Melanin Market Hamilton is a project started by Khadija Hamidu, McMaster University alumna of 2016 and now an executive director of Workforce Planning Hamilton. The Instagram page represents her love for community development. It aims to highlight and celebrate Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) creators, businesses, achievements and opportunities in Hamilton. Previously, the page has featured Blackspace, a student-run club at McMaster, as well.
“I started doing experiential learning at McMaster and then going into community developing. And that’s what made me fall in love with community work and community development as a whole.” explained Hamidu.
Prior to starting the Instagram page, Hamidu worked at the YMCA Hamilton as a teacher. She forged a real connection to the Hamilton community during her time at McMaster and had decided to stay in the city. Although her passion for community work dates back to her undergraduate years doing experiential learning, it wasn’t until the pandemic she found the spark she needed to start Melanin Market Hamilton.
“I think the pandemic just started this whole new era of Khadija—trying to do new things, trying to focus on things that truly make me happy. Things that I really wanted to focus on was definitely something that highlighted the change of the pandemic,” explained Hamidu.
Hamidu recognized the struggles of the small businesses during the pandemic and she was inspired to create a platform for them. Melanin Market distinguishes itself from Blk Owned Hamont, an online space for Black entrepreneurs and businesses to showcase themselves, by carrying a broader focus on the BIPOC community as a whole.
“I think there’s a huge community here that needs to be almost uplifted and I wanted to be a part of that and give people the opportunity to showcase the work through my lens, through Melanin Market,” said Hamidu.
As part of this goal, Hamidu runs a series called Spotlight Fridays on the page where she interviews BIPOC creators, leaders and business owners, sharing their missions and goals with her audience.
She is also looking for more collaborative projects with local organizations to better connect members of the community. For instance, she has been talking to Hamilton Bike Share to organize outdoor activities for the Black community and promote healthy living.
“I think we as Hamiltonians are very proud, and I want to be able to put that into the Black community as well because we are very much focused on local businesses . . . but sometimes, I don’t see that transferring over to the Black community. I want to be able to connect the two a little bit more,” said Hamidu.
Engagement on Melanin Market Hamilton has been great so far. In the early days of operating the platform, Hamidu had to search for businesses and people to feature by visiting different parts of Hamilton and scrolling through social media. However, more people have begun to reach out to her as well. It has grown into a platform well appreciated by both folks from Hamilton and other cities such as Montreal where she promoted a few businesses during her trip there this summer.
“Being able to celebrate the Black community, no matter where I am, I think is the ultimate goal. I’m the type of person to always embrace where I currently am . . . It was just transitioning from Hamilton to Montreal but still keeping the same theme alive,” said Hamidu.
For Hamidu personally, Melanin Market has opened many doors for new connections. Prior to starting the Instagram page, Hamidu explains she very much disliked Instagram and was unaware of groups like Blk Owned Hamont that existed to celebrate the Black community in Hamilton. However, through this initiative, she has been able to discover new businesses and people she never knew existed before.
Moving forward, she is excited about expanding her work as a community connector and increasing her outreach to include more collaborations with other organizations.
“The love of Hamilton is clear. I’m happy to be a part of this community and I’m happy to showcase the work that’s being done in this community as much as I possibly can. My love for Hamilton is always going to be here and it’s just connecting the two between my love of the Black community and Black culture as well as the Hamilton area,” said Hamidu.