As protests over racism and police brutality continue locally and across the country, many people are looking for ways to support the black community.
One of the most popular ways has been to make efforts to support black-owned businesses. In the past week, companies like Yelp as well as large publications like Forbes and New York Magazine publicized lists of African-American-owned businesses both big and small.
Some members of Black-Owned Businesses of Paducah (BOBOP), a Facebook group started by Eritrea McCorry over a year ago, have been compiling a directory of black-owned local businesses.
“It’s important to patronize black-owned businesses because these entrepreneurs have not only accepted the inherent risks of operating a business, but they also must overcome the socioeconomic disadvantages that have plagued our community for generations,” said Bryson Wells, the leading organizer on the directory project.
“We hope this directory will shine a light on businesses that often get overlooked.”
Wells wants to build the directory because it could potentially do a lot for the nearly 30 businesses included.
“(We aim) to become a resource for not only local business owners but the city as well by providing financial literacy, networking and community outreach opportunities,” Wells said. “The ultimate goal is to relieve some of the financial burden on entrepreneurs in our community.”
Local organizer Taj Adeia was excited to hear of the directory.
“(Spending money at these businesses) is an awesome way to support the black community,” said Adeia, who planned a vigil in honor of Breonna Taylor in downtown Paducah on Friday. “You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is.”
Black businesses, Wells explained, have a harder time acquiring start-up capital because of systematic oppression. Wells cited U.S. Census data from 2014: “The median income for a black household was fourteen times lower than that of a white home. This wealth disparity forces black entrepreneurs to seek alternative funding.”
“The result is black people funding their businesses using credit card debt at higher rate than any other demographic, putting them at a disadvantage before they even begin.”
Corbin Snardon — a local educator and second vice president of the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP helped Wells with the project — spoke about how black-owned businesses “have many barriers and struggles that other businesses traditionally don’t have” in an interview Thursday.
“It is harder to start a black business. It is harder to keep a black business and to maintain it for profitability. This is a great way that anybody in the city can support the black community.”
This isn’t a short-term project for Snardon and Wells, who have been working to gather the data over the course of months.
“Long before the protests and recent events, different people in the community have really been pushing for a stronger presence for black businesses in Paducah so we decided that it would be a really good idea to bring them all together in one resource,” Snardon told The Sun, “that way the African-American community as well as others can support those local businesses that we all love and cherish every single day that don’t necessarily get the same amount of publicity that other larger businesses and franchises get.”
The list, Snardon said, is continually growing and he hopes that’s the case for a while.
One way the list can grow is by working with the Paducah Area of Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re happy to be a resource for them as they’re compiling this list and to help them in any way that we can,” Chamber President Sandra Wilson said Saturday.
Not only will the chamber help the group build its directory, Wilson said, the chamber is taking its own steps towards promoting economic inclusivity by joining a national initiative to “discuss concrete actions that can be taken by government and the private sector to address inequality through education, employment, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice reform,” it said in a statement.
“The Chamber advocates for businesses in Paducah and McCracken County at the local, state and federal level,” Wilson said. “Building greater diversity and opportunity in our community, especially in these areas, is vital for the economic growth and betterment of all our citizens.”