More and more over the past five years, buyers have entered Sagine Pierre-Charles’ business with a specific question: “Are you the owner?” When she confirms that she is, customers are often delighted: “Yes! Black owned,” she said, they respond frequently.
Black business owners and community leaders in Elmont and surrounding communities reflected on the state of Black-owned businesses during Black History Month, and said there was a increase in consumer awareness in recent years, with more people choosing to shop from black people. stores in local communities.
“We failed to have our own businesses,” said Pierre-Charles, owner of Sage & Angie Boutique in West Hempstead, of the history of black American businesses.
She said one of the reasons black-owned businesses don’t exist in greater numbers on Long Island and across the United States is the reluctance of many black parents, who traditionally emphasize the prospect of education and “working for someone else”. But black-owned businesses have become more common, and consumers in communities such as Elmont and West Hempstead are spending their money in these stores more consciously, Pierre-Charles said.
“I think people are really making an effort to at least make conscious decisions to redistribute their dollars within the community,” she said, adding that she’s seen a noticeable improvement over the past five years when she had opened her business.
Pierre-Charles underscored the importance of the trend in this direction, lamenting that although black Americans account for nearly $1 trillion in gross national income, only 2% of that amount is reinvested in black communities. “Having money and being economically stable is a way to make our voices heard and to be united,” said Pierre-Charles, linking the rise of black-owned businesses to the ongoing fight for racial justice for black Americans.
“In order to really create wealth, we have to start by recirculating our dollar within the community,” she stressed.
Every year since 2019, Pierre-Charles’ company has organized an “Afrocentric event” to help raise awareness of black entrepreneurship. At the event, African-themed clothing, with “bold” colors and “vibes”, is sold. This year’s event should take place in May because Afrocentric pieces are very “summery”, Pierre-Charles said.
During this five-year awakening, Pierre-Charles said he witnessed an increase in enthusiasm for the prospects of prosperity within the black community.
“There’s an excitement that goes with it,” she said, “because for a long time we didn’t understand why it was important to support black-owned businesses.”
Additionally, she said most black-owned businesses are “mom and pop stores,” which are critical not only to the US economy, but also to the economic development and cultural ethos of black communities. “We know our community,” said Pierre-Charles.
According to U.S. Census data, 50% of Elmont’s population in mid-2021 was solely black or African American, an increase of nearly 5% since 2010. In comparison, only 2.7% of the population of Franklin Square was black or African American at the same time. time.
“If you don’t take care of your self-interest, no one else will,” Phil Andrews, president of the Long Island African Chamber of Commerce, said in a Herald-sponsored webinar last year. , focused on building connections between black homeowners. leaders and businesses, emphasizing the need for majority minority communities to own and operate businesses.
He highlighted the important role played by black entrepreneurship in the fight for black representation in society. “We have to be at the table,” he said of the involvement of black businesses. “We have to be involved, because if we put something on the table, we can take something out of it.”
Similarly, in an earlier Herald story, Alicia Ray, the creative director of Black-Owned Long Island, a self-proclaimed guide to such businesses, made a connection between black-owned businesses and the fight for civil rights in the 1960s and the struggle continues today for racial justice.
“The great significance of Black-owned businesses is recognizing and representing over 400 years of disenfranchisement in global, national and local economies,” Ray said. Black-owned businesses, she added, often focus on the advancement of black people and have historically served as a means of mobilizing the community to create change.
As consumer awareness is on the rise, the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced the number of black-owned businesses nationwide.
According to research conducted at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2021 and a report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 41% of black-owned businesses, at least 440,000, were closed by Covid-19, compared to only 17% white-owned businesses.
Jon Johnson Sr. of Elmont, president of the Elmont Cardinals Sports Club, stressed the need to build — and fund — Black-owned businesses amid this downward trend, saying there is an inherent connection between business ownership and the advancement of black Americans.
“Black-owned businesses have been the foundation of the black community for a very long time,” Johnson said, adding, “To say black lives matter is to be able to talk about black ownership.”
Johnson called for the creation of more black-owned businesses in both Elmont and Franklin Square, adding that those that already exist are not frequented enough by community members.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and Empire State Development support black entrepreneurs with certification of minority and women-owned businesses. For more information, visit https://www.ny.gov/programs/minority-and-women-owned-business-enterprises-certification-campaign.