On Friday, Netflix released its second season of the lighthearted baking competition show, “Bake Squad,” featuring Jamaica Aali, a Long Beach resident and founder of the nonprofit organization Black Everywhere, in one of its episodes.
In celebration of Black Everywhere’s 10-year anniversary event, four bakers created ‘80s prom-inspired desserts for Aali to select from.
“I’m feeling excited, I’m feeling a little bit nervous,” said Aali. “I know that the show gets a lot of viewers, so I’m just really curious about how this translates in terms of visibility for Black Everywhere.”
Black Everywhere, a nonprofit that Aali first founded while living in Philadelphia, has blossomed into an over 12,000-member organization across the United States over the past decade.
Initially formed as a book club back in Philadelphia, the nonprofit quickly shifted gears once it became clear that no one had actually read the book, Aali said.
“You know when you’re in school, and you can tell no one did the homework?” she said. “It was just like that.”
Although the group never returned to the book, Aali realized that a book club wasn’t about reading—it was about the connection and camaraderie.
“So what Black Everywhere truly is, is a book club with no book,” she said. “We’re either a very successful nonprofit or a very unsuccessful book club.”
Aali didn’t initially plan on having Black Everywhere in multiple locations, until moving to Long Beach about seven years ago—where the organization truly got its wings, Aali said.
While Aali loved how community-centric Long Beach felt, community gathering spaces for the city’s Black population were lacking, she said.
“People who don’t know each other can’t support each other when they’re seeking housing. People who don’t know each other can’t help each other find jobs,” Aali said. “For me, Black Everywhere is like watering the seeds, it’s like creating a fertile ground for us to develop anything else you want to develop.”
Through continuous support from the Long Beach community, including being recognized with a Spirit of Downtown award last year, Aali has been able to develop Black Everywhere even more.
While Long Beach has become home to one of Black Everywhere’s largest and most active groups, the organization hosts meetups in 12 cities across the United States that include activities like picnics, kayaking and even international trips.
“Sometimes it can feel trivial, you’re just getting together to grab drinks, or go for a hike—but that’s just it,” Aali said. “Because it’s a light lift, because it’s something that everyone feels comfortable doing, those are people who end up communicating with one another, and realize, ‘Hey, we have a lot of commonalities.’”
In the coming years, Aali hopes to be able to go to any city throughout the country and find community through Black Everywhere.
But as for this year, Aali hopes to focus on the cities where the organization is already situated, and further establish its presence.
When Aali received a message on Instagram from a Netflix “Bake Squad” crew member, with the opportunity to celebrate the organization, it felt “serendipitous,” she said.
“I said, ‘You know what, I might as well just see what happens,’” Aali said. “The next thing you know, it’s me and Christina Tosi, tasting cakes.”
“This is truly a dream come true,” she said. “It’s dessert—it’s wholesome, it’s positive, and my goal of reaching every city in America, I feel like this is a huge step in that direction.”