(BALTIMORE – March 6, 2016) – I’ve been to several of the mayoral forums held around town as of late. Through them all, there is one topic – besides education – that has not been fully explored. It is the issue of black business.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford told Bmorenews.com a few weeks ago over in East Baltimore at the grounds of the new bio-park that black businesses are more likely to hire black people and therefore must be supported. Thus, I am very proud of Sheila Dixon’s understanding of what black businesses have to go through in Baltimore and I think, consequently, this helps make her the best possible candidate for Mayor .
Granted, business is tough for everybody regardless of race. The rigors of the life of an entrepreneur are not for the masses, indeed. However, in a majority black city where unemployment is through the roof in the black community, the plight of Baltimore’s black businesses is a real issue that deserves major attention if we, as a city, are going to head in a progressive direction.
In her work with the Maryland Minority Contractors Association for the past several years since leaving office, Dixon has had the opportunity to hear first-hand the concerns and challenges facing black businesses. She has had the chance to get an in-depth understanding of the day-to-day issues black businesses in particular face. And, she has had a chance to see how these black entrepreneurs find a way to cope. Quite frankly, the stress can eat you up if you let it.
In the mayoral forums that have occurred, she has really not had the opportunity to discuss the state of black business much at all, especially when it is something that cannot be overlooked if we are truly serious about making Baltimore better for everyone.
Over time, I have seen Dixon’s evolution in the realm of helping these businesses succeed. Truth is, we have to be able to do more to help these businesses position themselves for more prime contracting opportunities.
Sure, the paperwork has to be correct – but if you have ever worked with small black businesses then you know that it will take even more than proper accounting to get them up to a level that they can truly thrive and compete with mainstream businesses. Often, the issue is lack of access to capital.
I am not making excuses, but I am pointing out that across the board, many black businesses out here are struggling. And, if we want them to succeed, then we need to pay closer attention to their growth and development – and not just call them up for campaign contributions.
Sometimes, it’s simply letting a business know of an upcoming opportunity that might suit them. The exchange of basic information can open doors previously unknown. But it takes a mayor, a leader who can match businesses with potential opportunities. That’s not something you can learn in a classroom. It comes from being engaged and understanding the needs of one’s community.
In the past, black businesses have often been ignored and overlooked. Or, as is quite often the case, a prime contractor gets a waiver saying that he could not find any qualified minorities to hire when with a little effort, one may find more than enough qualified black businesses. Truth is, there is an ocean of traps and pitfalls in play for black businesses, although rarely discussed in the mainstream media.
Further, this is not just in contracting and construction. Oh, no! From our beauty salons to our barber shops to our funeral directors, black businesses have historically been challenged. From changes in policies and standards to legislation being passed in Annapolis, most of the giants who battled for black people have died. Arnold Jolivet was one of the last greats to leave us; he is sorely missed already as the black business community has only a couple of voices, Lt. Gov. Rutherford being one of the strongest.
I will end with this: As an entrepreneur for the last 13 years, I am proud to know that Sheila Dixon at least has a grasp of what black businesses in Baltimore have to endure. From the night life scene to the small neighborhood tavern, I am fully confident that if Sheila Dixon is elected, it will be a great day for black business in my hometown.
I believe this in my heart.
Just down the road 45 minutes, Marion Barry had a solid understanding of what it took to help empower his community. He – just like Maynard Jackson in Atlanta – made sure that black folks got a good piece of the pie.
Many times in these mayoral discussions, other topics tend to dominate … like crime. However, I am also reminded after 50 years of living in this city that quite possibly the best crime prevention strategy out there is a job. A working man is less likely to get in trouble.
So, these are some thoughts as to why I think we need Sheila Dixon back as Mayor of Baltimore. I think she will attract much business to town, too, because people know that a riot will not go down on her watch. I think most folks agree that the riot, which wreaked havoc on area businesses of all races including some of which had to close, could have been avoided.
Vote Sheila Dixon for Mayor. April 26th is Election Day. Early voting is April 14th to the 21st. Do vote and do vote for Dixon for Mayor.