By DR. JOY MARTINEZ, Staff Writer
For more than 400 years, the economy of our country and white Americans’ wealth were built with the unpaid labor of the Black people they enslaved.
The Emancipation Proclamation, signed in 1863 during the American Civil War, ordered the release of enslaved people. But the timeline and path were slow and brutal for the four million enslaved people to whom freedom was promised. Many enslavers simply ignored the Proclamation.
It wouldn’t be until June 19, 1865, two and half years after freedom for slaves was announced that slaves in Galveston, Texas, finally received the news that they had been freed. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Orders, Number 3 declaring, “an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.” That day is now celebrated as Juneteenth.
In many ways, and for many people the commemoration of Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the United States has always been delayed for Black people.
In the years following the anniversary of General Orders, Number 3, celebration included prayer and family gatherings. Now a federal holiday, these celebrations require meaningful and authentic action and initiative, and cannot be simple boxes companies and banks check off on their calendar. The relationship between “employer and hired labor” hasn’t been equitable across racial lines in the history of the nation. And although the Emancipation Proclamation ended chattel slavery, slavery is still legal and continues through a loophole in the 13th Amendment.
The continued denial of access to wealth-building homeownership and education benefits in the GI Bill, redlining and loan rejections for businesses are several critical components of today’s widely discussed racial wealth gap. While there are philanthropy events, community service initiatives and even “volunteer time off” events for employees to get involved in the community, the best way to celebrate Black freedom is probably the simplest.
Unfortunately, while banks and SBA loans have been charged with making access to capital more equitable for entrepreneurs, a recent study found that this hasn’t happened. In fact, the annual number of Small Business Administration loans to Black businesses decreased by 84 percent since its peak before the 2008 financial crisis. On average, Black-owned businesses receive about 3 percent of SBA 7(a) dollars.
Celebrate Juneteenth by supporting Black creators, entrepreneurs and businesses.
The Center for American Progress reported that “while Black Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they own less than 2 percent of small businesses with employees. By contrast, white Americans make up 60 percent of the U.S. population but own 82 percent of small employer firms.
If financial capital were more evenly distributed and Black Americans enjoyed the same business ownership and success rates as their white counterparts, there would be approximately 860,000 additional Black-owned firms employing more than 10 million people.”
According to the Brookings Institution, if the number of Black-owned businesses matched the revenue of non-Black-owned businesses, the total revenue for Black-owned businesses would increase by $5.9 trillion.
The power of Black-owned businesses to reshape the U.S. economy and lead the way in health care, high tech and dozens of other growth industries is the power to close the wealth gap and generate true freedom.
A Seed At The Table was founded in 2021. It’s a mission-driven capital raising equity crowdfunding platform committed to connecting diverse entrepreneurs with accredited and non-accredited investors to obtain equity in early-stage companies led by Blacks and people of color through modest investment amounts. Through Seed, individuals can seamlessly discover and invest in owned companies that align with their values.
The civil rights advocacy group Color of Change launched Black Business Green Book to support Black-owned businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Black Business Green Book offers ways to browse businesses in many different categories, including home goods, fashion, health and wellness, books, and art. There are different filters for shopping businesses in a selected state or online- only companies.
The U.S. Black Chambers, with support from American Express, developed an extensive directory and certification program for Black business owners to join called ByBlack. Businesses that identify as Black-owned can join the directory for free by supplying the name of the business and the business owner; the business’s website, phone number, and address; and the business category, description, and NAIC/Industry code.
We know large corporations and organizations have announced a commitment of many billions to support Black businesses and communities. In reality, most of them aren’t organically connected to Black people or places. The best way to leverage those is to invest in Black-led companies and financial firms with a history and strategy to invest in high growth business led by Black people.
Companies from all over the country declared that “Black Lives Matter” in 2020. Two years later, some of the loudest voices that chanted the declaration have since quieted. According to a study by Creative Investment Research a little over $250 million has actually been spent or committed to a specific initiative.
Of the $450 billion given to charities each year, only a tiny fraction goes to Black-led nonprofit organizations. These are the organizations most likely to be grounded in and aligned with the needs of the Black communities, have missions connected to positive action for Black lives, employ Black people, and empower Black leaders, all while also being systemically underfunded.
You can find a list of organizations to support on the Giving Gap’s website, which lists Black-led nonprofits by cause and state.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs have been longtime wealth builders in our society. By supporting more Black-owned businesses, all Americans can create more opportunities for meaningful savings, property ownership, credit building and generational wealth. And this freedom, is cause for celebration.