Racism Wasn’t the Real Killer of Black Wall Street

[Written by Jenefeness Tucker, MBA, Certified Business Advisor]

While we know that Black History is American History and we are unapologetically #black365, we still take February to commemorate as the official “Black History Month”. This is the month where we (black folks) are celebrated and recognized for our contributions that are otherwise ignored. We honor the work of our ancestors and the ones who came before us to start and continue the revolution that is changing the institutions around us.

This historic year is significant for Black-Owned Businesses as it marks the 100th anniversary of the devastation of Black Wall Street in the Tulsa Race Massacre. Back in those days, black folks supported one another. Everything we needed was sold by a Black-Owned Business in the community. We kept our money circulating through our communities nearly a year. We exemplified #buyblack before it was even a hashtag. And it is now time for us to get back to the practice of normalizing excellence amongst Black-Owned Businesses.  

Black-Owned Business Excellence is being intentional about supporting, promoting, educating and elevating businesses that are owned by black folks. You don’t have to be black to participate in this revolution. It will take allies to ensure that these businesses grow to unprecedented levels. A lot of people don’t realize that the Tulsa Race Massacre didn’t fully destroy Black Wall. There was a massive resurgence after that for more than twenty years. Desegregation was the real killer. When black folks were permitted to move about freely, they left Tulsa and started lives elsewhere leaving very few people to support the community businesses.

During these pandemics, I have been working with a group of Business Professionals {Curtiss Calhoun (Blackdot); BJ Stewart (Urban Impact); Desiree Albrecht (SBA); Taj Benford (Seattle Credit Union); Trena Payton (PTAC); Jay Lyman (Seattle Public Library); Giselle Saguid and Liz Jamieson (SBDC); Toraya Miller (Greater Seattle Business Association); Cassandra Mitchell (Key Bank); Alyssa Pizarro (Business Impact NW); Ivan Golovkin, Dierdre Patterson and Linda Womack (Minority Business Development Association—City of Tacoma); and business owners Rodney Proctor, Tali Lavarry and others} to normalize Black-Owned Business Excellence. We have been meeting to develop a collaborative community calendar and asset map to promote Black-Owned Business Excellence for businesses in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. We’ve hosted a few awesome events and are continuing this effort with quarterly symposiums.

According to data from the US Small Business Administration, about 10 percent of small businesses in the United States are Black-Owned. Here, in the state of Washington; it is very hard to gather the demographics, but the 2019 OMWBE Annual Report states that less than four percent of businesses are Black-Owned. There can be tons of speculation drawn for the reasons for the small number of businesses in the black community (i.e. access to capital, marketing, business formation, general population, and access to markets). I would like to draw attention to a few that are seldom mentioned – credibility, support, and exposure.

There are tons of businesses that are operating under the guise of a “hustle”. They lack credibility because they have not properly legitimized their business with licenses and registration. They have skipped the basics of business formation (i.e. business bank account, proper business structure, business email address and/or website) and then wonder why they don’t qualify for certain grant money and certifications. These businesses can find the resources they need to grow and thrive with support from the SBDC and many other community organizations. We have been working hard in the community to demystify the process of establishing (or re-establishing) a credible business that is sustainable and scalable. We have some amazing webinars to assist business owners with improving their credibility. 

And for those businesses that are credible, are sometimes stagnant in their business development due to low exposure and support. I see campaigns that admonish us to #buyblack, #buylocal, and #supportblack that quickly fade after a few posts. I am constantly reminding my clients (most of which who are solopreneurs) that no one creates a successful business alone. It takes a community to build successful businesses. When business owners come together to share their experiences and learn from each other, the entire community is strengthened and it causes a ripple effect that extends to every business in the vicinity. We need this momentum to extend beyond February. And we need this momentum to extend beyond black folks. And we are doing that with the Black-Owned Business Excellence events.

Nowadays, more and more people are strategic about where they spend their money. We want to support brands that are socially conscious. We have used our power through our spending causing racially inept company’s sales to plummet and culturally relevant endeavors to soar. We have to continue these efforts and ensure that we have the small businesses at the forefront of our minds when we budget our monthly spending. As an Educator, I love to share my knowledge with entrepreneurs. I do so daily as a Certified Business Advisor with The Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC). My primary responsibility at the SBDC is to provide no-cost, confidential, one-on-one advising on every stage of business development. The SBDC is a network of more than 30 business advisors working in more than two dozen communities across the state to help entrepreneurs and small business owners start, grow or buy/sell a business. We work closely with Ventures and other organizations to provide complementary services. Please help us to support, promote, educate, elevate and normalize Black-Owned Business Excellence during Black History Month and beyond.

Register for upcoming events, check out Black-Owned Business Excellence.
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Send me an email: [email protected]