The business of being Black never ends

8/11/2022, 6 p.m.
August is Black Business Month, and it’s safe to say that most Black business owners agree that running a business ...

August is Black Business Month, and it’s safe to say that most Black business owners agree that running a business is a 12-month marathon.

Still, the long hours and all-consuming work it takes to build and maintain a business is worth acknowledging. That’s part of the reason why John Templeton, the editor of the former Richmond Afro-American Newspapers from 1980 to 1984, co-founded National Black Business Month in 2004.

Mr. Templeton, who now lives in California, and BBM’s Frederick E. Jordan Sr. also envisioned an increase in Black-owned businesses.

When Black Business Month was established, there were approximately 1 million Black-owned businesses.

Today there are between 2 to 3 million black-owned businesses that reflect the creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness that Black men and women have long displayed, either for their innate curiosity or, more importantly, their survival.

Richmond is no stranger to a thriving business community that has existed for decades. Many of us are familiar with historic business leaders such as Maggie L. Walker, who owned banking and retail establishments as early as 1903, and Waller & Company Jewelers, the family-owned dynasty established in 1900.

Both Mrs. Walker’s and The Wallers’ stories are legend, and continue to inspire Black businesses locally and nationally. And two years ago National Public Radio featured Barksdale “Barky” Haggins who started his record store in 1956, even though he encountered opposition. Today the store at 18 E. Broad St. is known as Barky’s Spiritual Stores.

No doubt, much work remains in building Black businesses, many of which suffered setbacks with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While several establishments owned and operated by Black people sought to hang on as long as possible, the virus eventually consumed them too.

The Carver community ice cream shop that also served scoops of jazz, wings and great conversations.

The Second Street Carribean restaurant that offered mouth-watering jambalaya and curry chicken and rice.

Various boutiques and jewelry stores that sold one-of-a-kind outfits and trinkets.

Despite those closings, numerous Black businesses (doctors, attorneys, personal care professionals) and nonprofits survived and continue to tell their stories, some of which were shared this week during the BLCK Business Conference.

Hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs attended the daylong conference hosted by the Jackson Ward Collective Foundation, which seeks to replicate Jackson Ward’s “story of Black success and echo the spirit of the original Black entrepreneurship throughout the Richmond region, Virginia and beyond.” The organization’s name symbolizes the strength that grew out of Jackson Ward, once known as the Black Wall Street of the South.

We share more about the JWC in this week’s edition, along with mentions of Black-owned or Black-serving institutions. We won’t tell you where to look for those stories, but we hope you will find time to further explore the owners’ work.

They include the Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union, Monica Ball, James “Plunky” Branch, Cathy Hughes and Bobby L. McIntosh.

Certainly, do learn more about Devon Henry of Team Henry Enterprises LLC, the construction firm that removed 23 Confederate statues in Virginia since 2020 and will likely remove Richmond’s remaining statue of A.P. Hill, the fallen Confederate soldier. Mr. Henry is now repurposing this history into a charitable CryptoFederacy project that highlights 13 star causes and changemakers via the 13 Stars NFT Art Collection, according to PR Newswire.

“The task of dismantling these statues has literally been monumental,” Mr. Henry said in the April news release, which noted the harassment and death threats he faced as a result of answering the call to “re”mantle history. “It’s very humbling to be the one who fulfills a 131-year prophecy. But that’s not enough. I feel a responsibility to use these deconstructed pieces of our past to construct a better tomorrow.”

The prophecy Mr. Henry references is that of John Mitchell, Jr., the editor of the Black newspaper, The Richmond Planet. In 1890, when the Robert E. Lee statue was erected on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Mr. Mitchell foretold of a Black man one day taking down the statue. “He put up the Lee monument, and should the time come, will be there to take it down, Mitchell wrote,” stated the news release.

The news release added that on June 19, 2022, the CryptoFederacy project was “to mint an inaugural collection of 13 NFTs that represent the dismantled statues. It further noted that Mr. Henry planned to sell the NFTs and raise $1 million dollars for 13 different charitable causes that address societal issues that stem from the ideals and actions reinforced by the Confederate Generals whose statues were removed.”

No more business as usual.