This summer, the U.S. Black Chambers celebrated 10 years of serving as the national voice for Black businesses. I am proud to say that I was a part of the group to create this purposeful organization.
This summer, with B. Doyle Mitchell, president and CEO of Industrial Bank, and Antwanye Ford, CEO of Enlightened Inc., as incorporators, we launched the Greater Washington Black Chamber of Commerce.
Entrepreneurship has long been a significant tool in economic empowerment. As Black people, we have been systematically underemployed and devalued. Entrepreneurship for people of color and women has been a tool of self-determination.
When interviewed regarding the Black Chamber, I was asked the question of what is the difference between the DC Black Chamber and the DC Chamber. The obvious answer is the word black.
Pay equity is an issue that many have acknowledged with the disparity of women making 80 cents to the dollar of white men earn. Black women make 61 cents on the dollar. The disparity underscores the struggle to earn one’s way out of the racial wealth gap using traditional means. The inequity that may or may not be intentional for individuals is and has been a systematic tool over the years forming the foundation of institutional racism.
The Black Chambers have the capacity and the responsibility to directly address the inequity of access and opportunity. Entrepreneurship provides an opportunity to create a livelihood for the owners who can impact the communities that they are a part of.
The U.S. Black Chambers built a platform with the following five pillars: Advocacy, Access to Capital, Contracting Opportunities, Entrepreneur Training and Chamber Development.
The Greater Washington Black Chamber, an affiliate of the U.S. Black Chambers, holds the mission to promote Black business growth in the District of Columbia through the facilitation of business opportunities and education.
Black Chambers hold an unabashed commitment to grow the businesses in the Black community. With centuries of oppression and institutional racism, this disparate economic reality will not dissipate with time. There must be an aggressive and assertive action to provide access and opportunity to close the racial wealth gap.
One of the struggles in closing the racial wealth gap is that money begets money. Those who have assets to invest will gain while those who do not are not able to invest, and therefore lose. Entrepreneurship is a struggle and without access to opportunity and capital, there are limitations to access to success.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners (SBO), over 90% of Black and Latino businesses do not have a single employee. For Black women-owned businesses, approximately 98% have no employees. Sixty-seven percent of firms without employees had annual sales of less than $25,000. The ability to survive does not exist with these numbers.
Advocacy is necessary to pave roads that lead to access and opportunity. Frederick Douglass taught us, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
I am proud to say that The Griffin Firm is a member of the Black Chamber in Atlanta, Durham, northern Virginia, District of Columbia as well as the U.S. Black Chambers, the National Voice of Black Business. Wherever we have an office it is our intention to become a member. Successful entrepreneurship impacts communities in tangible and intangible ways. The Black Chambers’ mission to support the profitability of Black business will only be successful if the community joins the effort.