New father and young entrepreneur Josaphat Mukazi was not feeling optimistic after being labelled a scam artist over the weekend on a Windsor, Ont., Facebook group with over 40,000 members.
Mukazi, 21, took to a popular Facebook group on Friday to offer trash cleanup, lawn maintenance and other services. He accompanied his post with some images that he had Googled, to show the type of work he could do.
"Basically I tried to start a small business cutting people's lawns and cleaning their yards, and I was trying to show people an example of what I'll be doing. I had to use pictures on Google since I hadn't done it before," he said.
After his post, Mukazi went on a walk with his newborn daughter and when he returned, he saw multiple notifications of people tagging him, along with notices that some of his listings on Facebook Marketplace had been reported.
"This woman took a screenshot of my profile and then started telling people that I'm scamming them, that those aren't my pictures. But she didn't ask me any questions. She also went on Facebook Marketplace and started reporting my posts there."
Although the accusatory post initially worried Mukazi, he decided to respond and explain he was offering legitimate work, despite using photos he found online.
"All I want is to take care of my family. I said she did this because I was Black, because why else make a post about me scamming people and saying not to book me? I don't know where to go from here, I'm very saddened by this," he wrote.
Group members soon took notice of what was occurring, including Robert Karagovski, an admin on the page, who decided to hire Mukazi and dispel the accusations himself.
"I sent him a message and said, 'You know what, I'm going to hire you. Come on in, I got a bunch of trash I need gone.' He came, he did the job. He arrived on time, he completed everything by hand," said Karagovski.
Others followed suit, and Mukazi suddenly had three new bookings and hundreds of comments inquiring about his services, including some users offering logo design and help with launching a website.
"I wasn't expecting it. I was just expecting to, you know, I guess get a few jobs, make an income for my little girl and just live life. But all this, I wasn't expecting all this. I'm thankful because Windsor is full of nice people," said Mukazi.
Comments began flooding in, praising Mukazi for standing his ground, with many asking for his rates and availability.
"I also talked to a lot of people that have their own small businesses and just sharing with me their stories was really touching. I could relate with them and they could relate with me and that's why they came to my defence. Not not because I'm Black, or different or whatever, but because, you know, I'm human," said Mukazi.
"We get a lot of posts, so I was weary at first too. But I thought if he shows up and proves he's legit then I'll help him out. It would've really affected him in a negative way if everyone in the city thought he was a scammer," said Karagovski.
The group Karagovski is an administrator for, Windsor Car Spotters, has been running for over seven years.
It started as a group for people to share photos of cars throughout the community, but according to Karagovski, the page's purpose has shifted over the years.
"It has kind of evolved into more of a community, news, what's going on in the city, feel-good kind of page. There's been times people have posted stolen bikes for example, and the community will come together and help make good things happen for the people."
The group member who posted the accusatory notice about Mukazi has since been removed from the community.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.