OHIO- A protest aimed at highlighting economic disparities within Black Communities is set for next week, but members of the Mt. Vernon community in Columbus say they are not only committed to protesting but doing more. That includes turning the once-thriving area with black-owned businesses around by building black wealth.
What You Need To Know
- Information and resources needed to help black-owned business owners and those who want to start one are being shared
- Black-owned enterprises account for 2% of all firms in the US
- Blackout 2020 Protest against economic disparities July 7th
Once considered the mecca of the black economy in the 50’s, the ’60s and 70’s I AM Church Pastor, Julius Lancaster said, “You know, just the Black Economy was really at its maximum in this particular area when you wanted something when you needed something. You went east to get it, and you came specifically in this area.” Having grown up in the area and knowing the history, Lancaster and others want to see the area come alive again. So he’s starting with community conversations called Dollars and Sense. “What we’re doing is we’re inviting you to know specific key people that can come in that can speak to some of the situations that we have going on, you know, in our community from an economic perspective, in hopes that you know we’re able to plant some seeds so that we can eventually see harvest.”
He’s hoping that harvest will create a healthy community as they work on different strategies at A Cut Above the Rest, where barbershop owner Al Edmondson helps to lead the discussions. Edmondson said, “I think it will allow us to paint an agenda for economic development in our community cause we have…people have…We do individual things, and this is a way to come together collectively and making sure we have a strategic plan to continue to build up our community.” Edmondson grew up in the same area and has been in business for the last 30 years while helping to improve the Mt. Vernon. Understanding the needs and the times, Edmondson knows that something has to change in order for the community to fully turn around. He said, “People have great ideas, and they just don’t have the resources to develop their dreams, and So one of the things we got to do is provide a way where they can get the proper training, to know how to go after the bank loans how to fill out the right paperwork because nobody teaches us that.”
Based on data from the Annual Business Survey:
-Black-owned enterprises account for 2% of all firms in the US
-They generate $127 billion dollars in revenue, which is less than 1% of the $360 trillion dollars generated by businesses overall
-And they employ a little over 1,000,000 people out of 127,000,000, which makes up about 1% of total jobs
Otterbein Professor of Marketing Michael Levin studies retail and analytics. He said the low numbers are a picture of larger systemic issues of racism and discrimination that Edmondson, Lancaster, and others are working to combat. “And so that trickles over or spills over into act lack of access to the financial system. And so these companies are typically undercapitalized. And so they have lack of access then when there’s an economic downturn.”
That’s why Lancaster and others are taking the Blackout 2020 protest beyond the streets, making sure people who have businesses and those who want to start businesses get the right information and learn what they need to succeed. And if, when they’ve done that, they can see the community thriving like it used to, Lancaster said, “I think it will be like heaven. It literally will be so empowering and so uplifting, just to the black community in general. To be able to come in and see health and be able to see well, and be able to see prosperity amongst our own.”
Right now, there is a concern that many businesses in the Mt. Vernon may not survive if they don’t get PPP loan money from the federal government. Where many businesses received PPP loans already, those black-owned businesses in the Mt. Vernon community are still waiting to be approved for PPP loans. This is just one example of a disparity Lancaster and others will bring attention to. The Blackout 2020 protest will be July 7th at 6 pm, beginning at the King Arts Complex.