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The Black Wall Street Forward initiative is modeled on the pillars that made Durham’s original Black Wall Street successful, and aims to continue the legacy of this vibrant work by supporting and catalyzing local leaders, Black business owners, and champions.
Forward Cities is a national nonprofit equipping communities and regions to grow and sustain more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems. Launched in 2014, Forward Cities started as a learning partnership between leaders in four cities: Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans, and Durham.
Generously supported by the Truist Foundation, and headquartered at Durham’s Provident1898, Forward Cities has pilot program’s in Durham, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Harrison Williams, the Ecosystem Builder-in-Residence in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Black Wall Street Forward program at Forward Cities.
If you’ve been to the Queen City as of late, you’ve probably heard “Charlotte is baby Atlanta,” however, this ATLien would disagree.
Unlike Atlanta, which relies on a inter-connected network of established Black-owned businesses as the lifeblood of their city and culture, Harrison argues, “it’s the major corporations here” which dictate how much they’re willing to address community issues.
Harrison states their intentionality, or lack thereof, directly impacts the livelihood and ability for Black entrepreneurs need to not only survive but thrive.
He states the performative tactics of companies and individuals has been revealing over the last year, explaining, “When you ask individuals in this space, ‘so what metrics are you using to validate the program or the thing that you’re trying to do?'”
He continued,”…. And if everybody looks around confused, and you say, ‘okay well, we want to help 20 Black businesses this year but [at the end of the program] you only helped eleven,’ as far as corporate accountability, someone should be getting fired. So why is that thought process not being applied when we’re saying, hey, why are we not hitting metrics?”
Harrison says the lack of results-based accountability often stifles progress and allows companies to delay the very goals once agreed upon to be inevitable.
Black Wall Street Forward is open for your business
North Carolina added the third largest number of residents between July 2021 and July 2022, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures released in December.
The Charlotte metro, which also includes neighboring cities Concord and Gastonia, came in at No. 6 on the list for large metros. Charlotte’s population grew by 8.1%, or 201,349 people. The 2021 population of the Charlotte metro was 2,701,046.
Charlotte’s rapid growth has led to some critical issues, including a lack of affordable housing and infrastructure issues, particularly with public transportation options (or lack thereof).
With transients moving underneath the Carolina blue sky into corporate-bought residential homes, Williams says the Queen City’s “feel good” lifestyle comes at a price many Black business owners cannot afford.
“What does it look like for a Black business owner’s rent to double in a year? You’re telling them they need to double their revenue—just to meet rent! And that’s not because they are not working hard.” He continued, “That’s literally a function of the policy which allows corporations to buy a property. So I think that’s where people don’t want to look at the intersectional and critical lens on these types of issues.”
“We take a targeted approach in helping entrepreneurs from more of an infrastructural standpoint to find out what’s missing in their ecosystem that will help the already existing infrastructure to support Black entrepreneurs to thrive,” Harrison said.
Black Wall Street Forward offers something for everyone across the Tar Heel state
As part of the program, in Durham, they are hosting a “Black Employee to Black Entrepreneur” event; Raleigh’s council is preparing a Small Business Success Academy and a “Green Book for the New Economy” digital directory.
Fayetteville is focused on supporting Black artists; in Charlotte, they are hosting an event called “Ubuntu, Legacy, and Growth: Reimagining Charlottes’ Black Wall Street” in partnership with the Carolina Small Business Development Fund.
Finally, in Winston-Salem they are launching a city-wide campaign that “produces measurable wealth, synergy and breaks down silos” during their Black Wall Street Experience (BWSX).
Learn more about the Black Wall Street Forward, their many community-based pilot projects, crowdfunding campaign launchings and a culmination celebration planned for March 30 in Durham.