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Number Of Black Businesses Fell 41% Feb To Mar: Time To Support

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Closed businesses for COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, closure sign on retail store window banner background. Government shutdown of restaurants, shopping stores, non essential services.

A recent study for the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the number of Black business owners actively working fell 41% from February to April. If accurate, that would mean 440,000 Black entrepreneurs were forced to close up shop, in that time. During the same period, active white business owners experienced a drop of just 17%. The pandemic has hit Black businesses exponentially harder than whites, a fact that was always perfectly understood. What is less clear is how many of those Black entrepreneurs will be gone, for good. If you find a Black entrepreneur, this is the time to support them: Black people cannot afford to lose more.

640,000 Black entrepreneurs were working in April. Before the pandemic, the number was 1.1 million. The steep drop is all the more glaring, when compared to whites, a disparity that is certainly rooted in the lack of capital. A number of those Black entrepreneurs will make their way back but to be sure, many have permanently closed their doors. The Black entrepreneurs who remain are the only hope Black communities have and at all costs, they must be supported. Without them, Black people have little chance to create jobs in their community. With significantly fewer businesses and jobs, the idea of creating wealth is mere fantasy. Without strong Black businesses, all the protesting in the world will make little difference: Black people will continue to live under the thumb of white people.

What is it that Black people have been protesting for? Is it merely the right to not be killed by police? Black people were objecting to a world in which they don’t live freely, a condition impossible to achieve without economic independence. The number of Black owned businesses has, for the moment, decreased. Those that remain must be supported such that they grow, expand, franchise, diversify and reinvest into other Black entrepreneurs. The recent emphasis on supporting Black owned businesses nationally is well-timed but isn’t nearly sufficient to replace all that has been lost and grow to the true need of the Black community. Millions of Black people need jobs with living wages and indeed, quite a few are locked up and have no place to go, once released.

The commitment to Black owned businesses must be even stronger than what has been observed, of late. Black people are digging out of a COVID-19 hole, which was set in the broader context of every historical disparity Black people wrestle against. A few weeks of energy simply can’t undo all of that, Black people must continue on and with even greater resolve.

Black Owned Drive-In Movie Theater Offers Great Vibes, Social Distancing

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When was the last time you went out to see a good movie? COVID-19 has all but erased the possibility but two Black entrepreneurs in the Chicagoland area are reviving that old time feeling, in an an old school way, according to the Chicago Defender. PR Pop-Ups is a mobile drive-in operation that provides a turnkey solution for family fun. The business model allows for quick setup at sites around the area, enabling the company to literally take their show on the road. Movie theaters still aren’t able to open in most places but as always, Black entrepreneurs are using their creativity to feed the soul.

Percy Scott is the Founder of Global 360 Marketing. His partner, Rita Lee, is the owner of NuFace Entertainment. On Mother’s Day, the two combined their creative energies to launch PR Pop-Ups. The company has already, as the Defender reported, executed sites in Harvey and Hazel Crest, both suburbs south of Chicago. The company has immediate plans to expand to more sites in the Chicagoland area, a much welcomed solution to a summer that may otherwise be void of family entertainment options. COVID-19 forced Percy and Rita to be creative. Percy’s marketing company had few options, since concerts were canceled. Rita came up with the idea to do a drive-in movie theater and they launched on Mother’s Day weekend. As rioting and looting was happening all around them, families from around the area were peacefully enjoying the show.

Percy and Rita

The first show took place in Harvey, where they got the mayor’s approval to do the show the Friday morning before Mother’s Day. The pair had a flyer ready to go by Friday night. By 9 the next morning, they already had 500 cars reserved. The event had 350,000 shares on social media, according to Scott. The mayor of Hazel Crest heard about the success of the event and quickly requested PR Pop-Ups to duplicate the event there. PR Pop-Ups is pure innovation, motivated by the necessity of Black entrepreneurs who needed to make a pivot. Their success is proof that even now, opportunities are plentiful, with the right hustle and creativity.

Please read the Chicago Defender’s interview with Percy and Rita here.

Black Owned Banks To Receive $100 Million From Netflix

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Netflix Inc. has pledged to shift as much as $100 million to financial institutions that serve the Black community. Netflix should be applauded for the move, which in some ways was overdo. Indeed, with over $5 billion in cash, it seems appropriate that the streaming giant give some thanks to the Black community: nearly 40% of African American viewers subscribe to Netflix. This news, however, should also serve as an indictment on the larger Black community; 40% of Black folks are subscribed to Netflix but just a small few bank Black.

Netflix will kickoff its giving by shifting $25 million into the Black Economic Development Initiative, a new fund that will invest in Black owned financial institutions. Another $10 million will go to Hope Credit Union. Netflix will also steer 2% of its cash on hand– currently around $5 billion– to financial institutions that directly support Black communities. The move is welcomed, as Black owned banks need the cash. Black owned banks are starved for the cash, however, because Black consumers are still much too eager to deposit their funds into banks that quite literally used slavery to build their wealth. The utter insanity of it is appalling.

JP Morgan Chase has roots extending to two banks in Louisiana that served plantations (read slaveowners). Between 1831 and 1865 they accepted approximately 13,000 slaves as collateral, ultimately owning about 1,250. Two of Bank of America‘s predecessor banks (Boatman Savings Institution and Southern Bank of St. Louis) had slavery ties and another (Bank of Metropolis) accepted slaves as collateral on loans. Direct or indirect ownership of slaves, however, isn’t the end of the matter. Many other banks and financial firms in the North very much profited from slavery and did so gladly. Put simply, the past matters and institutions that benefited from the rape and sale of our grandmothers, isn’t fit for one dime of our money today.

Netflix has done something commendable. Black people should celebrate it mildly, understanding that 40% of Black folks are subscribers, anyway. More importantly, Black people should have enough respect for self to not let Netflix outshine them, at their own institutions. Beyond that, Netflix has its own challenges with diversity, they’re not saints. The ultimate win is building up Black owned streaming platforms, like KweliTV. After all, Black people should never give anyone their money and just hope it works out.

COVID-19 Causing Layoffs, Massive Cuts At HBCUs

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Photo courtesy of TSU Twitter account

Morehouse College handed down 13 layoffs, 54 two-month furloughs and 194 pay cuts on June 1, according to The Undefeated. The school had little choice, with an estimated 25% decline in enrollment estimated for the fall. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black people and certainly, Black institutions of higher learning. Harvard has an endowment of $41 billion, chances are they’ll be fine. Black colleges, however, are walking a much tighter rope and they were doing so well before COVID.

Homecomings and classics mean that much more to HBCUs, than PWIs. Not only do they have tremendous value culturally but economically, as well. Indeed, many alums who don’t cut checks throughout the year buy game tickets and leave a “love offering,” during a big weekend on campus. North Carolina A&T State, Winston-Salem State and North Carolina Central have already canceled homecoming events. Classics in Baton Rouge and Memphis have been canceled, also. As these announcements pour in, the revenue shortfalls continue to add up.

Even with a new, permanent funding source from the President and Congress, HBCUs have been historically underfunded. Surviving, doing more with less and walking a tightrope are very much the norm, for Black colleges. Still, COVID-19 represents a massive straw that could break some schools, institutions already burdened by a straw house. As always, Black people cannot look to others to save their institutions: Black institutions are the responsibility of Black people, ultimately. It’s time to step up and rally around the colleges and universities that have contributed so much to us. No more talk, it’s time for action.

Give

Find the HBCU located closest to you geographically and give a small amount, each month: $5, $10, it doesn’t matter, just do it.

Gear

It’s time to stop buying gear from Ohio State, Florida State and Notre Dame. If you must rock a sweatshirt or hat this year, get it from Bowie State, Hampton or Miles College’s official bookstore or athletic site.

Go

If you have the opportunity, visit these schools. See them, touch them and find your place in them. If you can, take others with you. Whether it’s a tour organized for high school students or just a random solo excursion, go.

Black colleges are a treasure and in this time, especially, Black people must do all they can to sustain them.

‘Golden Girls’ Episode With Blackface Joke Removed: Not The Change We Seek

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Hulu recently removed a ‘Golden Girls’ episode from its platform because it sort of featured blackface (Rue McClanahan’s Blanche and Betty White’s Rose characters were in fact wearing mud masks). Fans of the show– of all races– are debating whether the episode was actually offensive but in either case, removing episodes of a classic show from a streaming platform isn’t the change Black people are looking for. Whites are seeking opportunities to “help” but Blanche and Rose never did us harm: terrorism did and that’s where the energy should be focused.

Well over 90 percent of contracts from cities, counties, states and the federal government, generally go to companies owned by white men. From the dawn of the republic this has been so but there was one small period of hope. During the 1960s and 1970s, Black people used their numbers in urban centers to elect Black mayors. Men like Richard Hatcher of Gary, Maynard Jackson of Atlanta and Marion Barry of Washington, used the power of government to steer up to 30 percent of contract dollars to Black businesses, in some cases. Whites objected and took their case to the Supreme Court. In a landmark 1989 case, the Court ruled that past discrimination based on race didn’t justify using race to address disparities in contracting. The progress of those mayors was undone, overnight. The sudden onslaught of white guilt and sensitivity to the Black Lives Matter movement today should be directed to these acts of racial terror, not Rose and Blanche.

Symbols and hollow gestures of white guilt may or may not come from a sincere place: what’s in the heart cannot be known. The level of sincerity, however, isn’t very important to Black people. What is important, in this moment of history, is focusing on the substance and not the sideshow. The sideshow is removing instances of elderly women wearing mud masks on a classic television show. The substance, however, is billions upon billions of dollars still being awarded to companies owned by white men, while the country allegedly seeks solutions to the problem of race. In truth, the solutions are plentiful but the will to pursue them has always been anemic.

Black people must transition these moments of unrest to substantive change. This will only happen if they keep a laser focus on the substance and disregard the sideshow. Hollow, insignificant gestures of racial inclusion and sensitivity will not undo the economic terror Black people have lived under for centuries. In that the will has never existed to approach these terroristic roots, Black people must keep a solid focus on buying, building, affirming and committing to all things Black.

Over 1,000 People Came Out To The Black Farmers’ Market

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Photo/Curtis Guynn

Black farmers are at the core of the movement: if a people can’t feed themselves, they certainly can’t fight. Black people have no hope for true independence and self determination, without Black farmers. On yesterday, over 1,000 people came out to support Black farmers in Raleigh. Customers waiting in long lines to show their support and make the radical statement that Black farmers, too, matter.

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@TheBlackFarmersMarketNC has teamed up with the @TheBullsOfDurham to raise $8000 to take our mission to the next level. We are working to create a sustainaBULL eco-network of Black farmers & entrepreneurs across the state of North Carolina. We host monthly markets in both Durham and Raleigh with the hope of expanding our impact & frequency.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ Please click the #LinkInBio on @thebullsofdurham page to make a contribution of $6.19 or more.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ Our goal is to raise $8000 in 8 weeks.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ Here are our benchmarks & their impacts:⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ 🍅$500 | New Market Signage – Directs more foot traffic to markets & thus more sales for farmers.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ 🥕$2000 | New Website – Allows direct sales through farmers & market preorders for fast pickup.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ 🌽$6000 | Market Manager Stipend – Pays market manager a living wage for her time & hard work.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ 🥬$8000 | Creation of Farmers' Assistance Fund – Helps farmers with unexpected farm costs.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ Special thank you to @Provident1898 for sponsoring the monthly Durham markets allowing the Black Farmers’ Market to maximize their financial resources & host their markets in a great, historic location.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ 📹 @RainBennett @SixSecondStories.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ #SupportBlackOwnedBusinesses #ThisIsWhatCommunityLooksLike #ThisIsDurham.⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ .⁠ ⁠ .⁠ #Juneteenth #Juneteenth2020 #BlackFarmersMarket #BlackFarmers #BlackMarket #BlackEntrepreneurs #SelfSufficentByAnyMeansNecessary #BlackOwnedBusiness #bfm2020 #BlackFarmersTradeUnion #BlackDollarsMatter #Durm #BlackLivesMatter #TheBullsOfDurham #DurhamNC #Raleigh #Raleighcreatives #UrbanFarmers #BlackPeopleGrow⁠ ⁠ ⁠

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As WBAL reported, this is the first time the Black Farmers’ Market took place in Raleigh. The event had taken place for five consecutive years in Durham, before. While the setting differed slightly Sunday, what was dramatically different was attendance and the general level of enthusiasm shown by patrons. Over 1,000 people attended the Market, a number that is staggering. Those patrons lined up to support, according to the Black Farmers’ Market map, 26 local Black owned businesses. Those businesses were selling everything from fresh veggies and fruits, to lemonade and skin care.

More than anything, the Black Farmer’s Market shows the power and simplicity of this movement. Power is over 1,000 people recycling thousands of dollars into Black businesses and Black farmers, in particular: on a regular Sunday. Simplicity is Black people, without the need of a fancy event, retail space or even a building, organizing to come together and support their own businesses. The challenge now is to translate successful events, like the one that just happened in Raleigh, into daily occurrences. When this happens, Black unemployment will quickly disappear and Black wealth will be the rule and not the exception.

Police Using Facial Recognition Technology To Falsely Identify Black People

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“How does one explain to two little girls that a computer got it wrong, but the police listened to it anyway?” Those were the words of Robert Williams, a Black man in Farmington Hills, Michigan arrested after facial recognition technology erroneously suggested him as a suspect. Williams is thought to be the first known wrongful arrest involving facial recognition technology. As Black people continue to wrestle with the implications of racism in the criminal justice system, this can’t come at a worse time. Advocacy in the courts is necessary but Black tech must also provide solutions.

Automatic soap dispensers often fail to recognize Black hands. While somewhat comical, it points to a larger problem in the tech world, the severe shortage of Black talent. Ultimately, Black people cannot and should not look to white venture capitalists or tech firms for “inclusion.” Rather, Black people must take seriously the role of tech in our world now and without question, in the future. As Black people fight to take back the beauty supply industry, produce essentials for their communities like laundry detergent and clothing, tech must not be neglected. Further, the movement in Black tech must be rooted in, funded by and sustained by Black institutions. Black tech must answer the problems of Black people first and foremost and that cannot be done, ultimately, if funded by non-Black sources.

Technology must serve the interests of Black people. The development and use of technology should foster economic growth, wealth, political advancement and self determination. Black tech must answer the concerns of Black people or it will attain a status of irrelevancy, on par with the average Wall Street hedge fund. The goal of education should not be to produce Black scholars who will solve the problems of other communities. In the same way, Black entrepreneurs in tech cannot make their highest aspiration to solve the problems of Microsoft: not when technology is being weaponized against Black people. Black people, in every arena, must make their primary concern the advancement of their community.

What happened to Robert Williams should be a wakeup call. Indeed, the use of technology, as a weapon against Black people, cannot be tolerated. Further, Black people cannot look to others to advance tech, in a way more equitable to Black people. Black people and institutions must teach, train, fund and advance tech innovation for the collective. Looking to others to solve the problems of your own community, based on the history, isn’t a viable strategy.

Police Shootings Can Hurt Black Businesses

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After the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Black businesses experienced a dramatic upswing of business. It happens whenever a high profile display of racism happens. Black owned pancake companies received a boost over the past week as a result of the Aunt Jemima controversy, in fact. These sudden, dramatic spikes in business sound great on the surface but they can actually be harmful. Businesses accustomed to selling 40 units each week simply can’t handle 400 next week, without preparation. The end result can be a less than ideal experience for the customer and the business and undoubtedly, consumers will blame the business when they should really blame themselves. Purell still doesn’t have hand sanitizers in stores and people are okay but when Black businesses are overwhelmed, it’s a problem.

Businesses operate to make a profit. If they normally sell 40 units each week, they optimize operations to sell 40 units: staffing, inventory and technology investments are made to handle 40. It wouldn’t make sense for that business to purchase 400 units of inventory because it costs money to buy the inventory, store it and if the items don’t have a long shelf life, they’ll go bad. When a business is suddenly faced with a sudden onslaught, of course they’ll sell out quickly. Further, they simply don’t have the manpower to service 400 customers, if their staff is optimized to service 40. Long lines and long waits for shipments are inevitable. Individual circumstances might vary but it may not be that easy to quickly expand and accommodate 400 customers each week. It takes time to recruit, interview and onboard new staff, while trying to fulfill the sudden surge of orders and replenish inventory. When it all goes bad, of course, customers will say, “That’s why I don’t deal with Black businesses, they never have stuff together!”

It’s simply not fair. The sudden surge of focus on Black owned businesses is appreciated but in some ways, frustrating: all of those new customers could’ve been supporting all along. The criticisms and critiques are hurtful, especially considering that those same critics have never been supportive in the past but if they had been, the businesses they’re complaining about would absolutely be in position to meet the demand. It’s not that “Black businesses never have it together,” it’s more so that Black consumers only pay them attention when someone is shot and that’s what is broken here, not the businesses. Those who criticize Black companies who struggle to handle “viral” moments are simply ignorant to how business is done and rather than critique the businesses, they should ask themselves why they just came late to the party

Dramatic surges in business certainly are appreciated but businesses, as a rule, fare better with steady growth. Investments in staffing, inventory and other infrastructure follow the pace of business, over time. When a new surge of customers comes, entrepreneurs do the best they can, with their existing capacity and supply lines, to service them. It’s simply far too difficult to expand staffing or even inventory, when it’s not clear how long the surge will last. New customers came when Trayvon died but most didn’t stay. More came after Michael Brown but they didn’t stay. Today, many consumers are complaining about Black businesses but in fact, many of them won’t be around next week and they’ll blame the business, rather than taking a hard look at themselves.

No More Talk: FREE Downloadable Business Toolkit For Black Entrepreneurs

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On June 16th over 3500 Black Entrepreneurs registered to attend No More Talk: Our People, Our Businesses, Our Responsibility. The virtual event, a collaboration between We Buy Black and The Gathering Spot, focused solely on “right now” strategies to propel Black entrepreneurs forward, in this post-COVID era. John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope, James Lindsay, CEO of Rap Snacks, Wise Intelligent and many more were featured. Black Capital Partners organized the event and in its aftermath, is offering a free business toolkit to Black entrepreneurs. This toolkit, filled with resources from the event participants and other sources, will give entrepreneurs powerful tools on everything from accessing capital, to marketing and branding strategies.

If you didn’t watch live, click here to see full coverage. Also, you can download the toolkit at no cost below:

Young HBCU Grad Owns Blocks Of Houston

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When we say, “Buy the Block,” Chris Senegal takes it quite literally. At only 36, this Southern University grad has acquired two entire blocks in a historically Black neighborhood in Houston. The first is now a $3.9M 14 townhome development focused on bringing successful black professionals back to the neighborhood.  The second is a $1.3M package of 18 homes, 2 commercial buildings and roughly $700,000 of investment through crowdfunding to protect long term, fixed income residents from displacement. Gentrification threatens the existence of Black people in American cities but Chris, rather than fear it, is executing the blueprint for how Black people can buy back and control their own neighborhoods. Black neighborhoods are a national treasure and Senegal sees the value in them: this young real estate pro is actually buying blocks.

White supremacy will rule for another 100 years, if Black people are erased from cities. Cities are the centers of government, commerce, transportation and most other infrastructure: to control them is to control society. Black people must fight to maintain a stronghold in the city and rather than debate the matter, Chris is doing the work. In 2013 he bought up a block that few wanted to live on– drugs and blight were the prevailing norm. He was turned down by 23 lenders before he received funding. Chris worked equally hard on educating young Black professionals as he did securing financing for redevelopment. If Black people prioritized moving into their communities, buying homes and raising the standard, the amenities would follow and so would rising property values. Rather than look for the suburbs, Chris made it cool to move back to the hood, before it gentrified and prices were out of reach. It’s working in Houston and it can work elsewhere, too.

Chris used a creative approach to buy the package of rental properties, located just blocks from the new homes he previously developed. No banks are involved. Instead, he used crowdfunding to allow everyday people to invest as little as $250 to own a piece of this real estate portfolio. The area is in Houston’s 5th Ward, at one time Houston’s “Black Wall Street.” Here, Black lawyers, doctors, grocery stores and financial institutions were once the norm. The deal Chris closed included 20 properties total, most filled with tenants who’d lived there for decades: Black tenants. Rather than instantly raise rents, understanding that property values would rise, Chris was happy to keep those tenants in place. The revolutionary act of simply buying property in Houston’s historic “Black Wall Street,” before anyone else wanted to, positioned Chris to keep Black families in their neighborhood, while continuing to improve it. On the other hand, having stable tenants provided Chris with steady cash flow from day one, while the commercial buildings he acquired would provide additional cash flow, after renovations.

The success Chris has had in Houston is rooted in his drive to educate Black people on the value of their neighborhoods. Rather than seek overpriced neighborhoods, where property values are already high, Chris motivated young Black professionals to buy in their own communities and it’s been lucrative. Only in neighborhoods targeted for gentrification, after all, can families buy homes and within a year gain in excess of $10,000 in equity. The blueprint is simple and Chris is executing it. It’s working in Houston and two more cities are next up. For information on the 5th Ward crowdfund, which is open to investors until June 30, visit buytheblock.com.