Black-owned businesses in Colorado and across the country are operating amidst a triple crisis — the COVID-19 pandemic, devastation of local economies and systemic racism — and we are disproportionately impacted by all of them. These are treatable “illnesses” and the cure is equity, education, real opportunity, financial access, health-care justice and deliberate efforts by our elected leaders, caring enough to not only listen but to also have a plan to execute.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ plans to Build Back Better and their Agenda for the Black Community do just that. They address the questions and discussions that we have in our offices, restaurants, barbershops, beauty salons, and at the kitchen table.
These plans from Biden-Harris are for entrepreneurs, and not just a select few. In order for us to imagine the American Dream, there must be a team in the White House who may not understand all of our “hurdles” but know enough to listen, learn and put into place a plan to revitalize our communities and make them thrive.
According to Black Enterprise, 40 percent of all Black-owned businesses across the country will close permanently due to decisions made by the current administration. Even when they do survive, some Black-owned restaurants in Colorado have seen their revenue drop by as much as 80 to 90 percent.
Additionally, Black-owned businesses have only received 2 percent of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. This is a reflection of the “normal” — read: unequal — access to finance that most Black business owners feel they receive. This must change, and it can with the Build Back Better plan from the Biden-Harris ticket.
From coffee shops to construction companies, our small businesses are the backbones of communities, tirelessly working to stay strong and bring us together. In the context of COVID-19 recovery and lack of access to PPP loans, the result has been that many Black-owned businesses are forced to again take loans from private lending sources, which we have to pay back with interest, often far higher than elsewhere.
However, it’s not just about access to credit or contracts. Access to high-quality healthcare and education, the transformation of police departments and practices to support our communities, public transportation, training programs in the trades, access to banking, community partnerships and mentorship are imperative. These are all needed to create durable, generational wealth opportunities in Black communities.
How we act in this moment — and who we elect in the upcoming election — will resonate for decades.
We need leaders who will act to save and support our communities, our small businesses, and our futures. Who invest in racial economic equity. Who support existing small businesses in recovering and restarting, and provide resources for new businesses to develop and grow.
The recent movement to support Black-owned businesses can’t be a temporary fix to a 400-year-old issue. We, as Black business owners, are determined to back it up at the ballot, hold all elected officials accountable and continue to contribute to our community, our state, and our country.
We can build back better, more equitably and more just. We believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will put us all on this path. They have earned our vote, and we urge Coloradans to support them as well.
Denise Burgess, President/CEO, Burgess Services
Ryan Cobbins, Owner, Coffee at The Point
Rhonda Fields, Rhonda Fields Colorado Senate
Jacob Gilmore, President, Gilmore Construction Corporation
Rick Griffith, CEO, MATTER Ltd.
Mowa Haile, President, Sky Blue Builders, LLC
Phoenix Jackson, Chief Communications Officer, Phoenix Affect
Demetrius Johnson, Founding Member, DSquared Financial Group
Richard Lewis, President and CEO, RTL Networks, Inc.
Rita Lewis, RLImmigration and the Law Firm of Rita R. Lewis
Ava Montgomery, Founder, Principal Consultant, Conscious Media Consulting, LLC
Cheriece Peterson, Owner, Natural Urbanity
Dave Petty, Owner, Dave’s Lock & Key Co.
Portia Prescott, Managing Partner, Jefferson Prescott Consulting
Joslyn and Brittney Reese, Founders, FIT & NU
Daphne Rose, Owner, Different Strokes Paint n’ Sip Art Studio
Victoria Scott-Haynes, Community Leader
Angela Wells, Owner, Serein Naturals
Westword frequently publishes op-eds and essays on matters of interest to the community. Have one you’d like to submit? Send it to [email protected], where you can also comment on this piece.