Black-owned businesses: Stories of struggle and success | PennLive launches a vital two-week series

COVID-19 has upended our way of life and forced us to reconsider how we do our jobs, school our children and negotiate the social interactions that bind us as families and communities.

The virus has forced a reckoning with racial injustice and inequity. It has served as a backdrop to the racial justice protests rocking the nation following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody.

The pandemic has also magnified the systemic inequities in health care and commerce and ignited a national conversation on their disproportionate toll on Black communities.

To advance this conversation, PennLive will spend the next two weeks documenting the experiences of Black proprietors and entrepreneurs across the region and the state. “Black-owned Businesses: Stories of Struggle and Success” will also present engaging discussions, promote mentoring opportunities and publish thought-provoking pieces by Black leaders.

These perspectives will reflect the economic impact of the pandemic and the broader structural hurdles of racism that have placed this community at such a severe disadvantage.

More than 40 percent of Black business owners said they weren’t working in April, compared to 17 percent of white-owned businesses, according to a study by University of California, Santa Cruz.

The coronavirus has proven to be more than twice as deadly for people of color under the age of 65, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 30 percent of people with color who contracted the virus died, compared to 13 percent of white Americans, the CDC found.

The Paycheck Protection Program, designed to throw a lifeline to small businesses in the pandemic, made it harder for Black-owned businesses to get help, the Center for Responsible Lending found.

The program required applicants to apply for aid through banks or credit unions. Over the past five years, only 31 percent of Black-owned businesses obtained loans from banks or credit unions, the center said. Without banking relationships, many Black-owned businesses struck out in getting help from the federal program.

PennLive’s series will examine those barriers and how some Black-owned businesses are overcoming the odds.

We’ll be showcasing local Black professionals – from brewers, barbers, beauty salon proprietors, heads of marketing startups to CEOs of tech companies and the culinary star behind a neighborhood diner.

As they share their experiences with the current economic turmoil, their stories will also reveal entrenched practices that have placed so many at a disadvantage in hard times as well as prosperous ones.

Black business owners will offer their perspectives on what it takes to succeed despite the immense hurdles of discriminatory lending practices, lack of mentoring, networking, investment, and outright self-doubt.

PennLive Opinion Editor Joyce Davis will speak with these leaders in online forums as they share their expertise in marketing, social media, hiring, recruiting and other business fundamentals.

We will engage elected local, state and national officials in the conversation on reforming archaic policies.

And an interactive PennLive map will spotlight restaurants, retail stores, marketing services and other businesses run by Black entrepreneurs in our region.

We hope you join us as communities long damaged by systemic racism endeavor to chart a course forward.

By highlighting these stories, PennLive hopes to help advance the political, economic and social policies aimed at dismantling the institutional and structural racism that has disadvantaged generation after generation of Black business owners.

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Unikorn Staff
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