As Dallasites took to the streets for the ninth day of protesting police brutality in Dallas, spurred by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police last week, Valery Jean-Bart, owner of Val’s Cheesecakes, began distributing supplies to help hydrate and protect them.
The idea to pass out these supplies to marchers came to Val last week. “One afternoon I got home and sat here in silence on my sofa and started to think about George Floyd. I’ve seen the video so many times, and that cry just got to me,” Jean-Bart says. “There’s a mixture of terror and horror and hope, that he’s talking to his mom, and even though she passed away two years ago, he’s calling to her. I lost it. And then I said, I’ve gotta do something.”
Since Wednesday, Jean-Bart has been collecting water, new face masks and hand sanitizer at his two Dallas-area locations to distribute to protesters in Dallas via the delivery truck typically used for cheesecakes. Countless locals, as well as small businesses like car service Alto and chef Reyna Duong’s Vietnamese restaurant Sandwich Hag have donated water, hand sanitizer and masks to the cause.
Jean-Bart closed down his shops on this past Saturday to allow his employees to “be present at those marches, passing out those waters, those masks and sanitizers — everything that our protesters need.”
Quickly overwhelmed by bottled water donations that filled the entire shop’s interior space, on Friday Val pivoted. In lieu of donated water bottles, Jean-Bart asked his followers to donate cash via CashApp, which would then be donated to local charities. As of Saturday morning, Jean-Bart says that had raised around $2,000 in less than 24 hours.
This month and leading up to the business’ five-year anniversary, Val’s is also turning his attention toward taking positive action, like voting. During his five year anniversary celebration on June 30th, Jean-Bart says that he’ll set up tables at all of his locations to help register people to vote. “I’m that type of guy, I get psyched about voting,” he says. “I need the marchers to be healthy, to keep marching all the way to November. These marches are nice, but November 3rd needs to be ten times that.”