These Entrepreneurs Were Affected by Riots, But "See the Forest Instead of Focusing on the Trees" Like many small business owners in communities of color, these entrepreneurs in Tampa are more concerned about forward progress than raging against rioters.
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For most small businesses across the country, it's been a devastating couple of months. The global health crisis has left many employers and employees reeling. But the hardest-hit small businesses have been black- and minority-owned. These entrepreneurs were overwhelmingly excluded from receiving relief loans in the early rounds of stimulus funding. Already struggling to survive on tightrope margins, there was no safety net for the most vulnerable businesses.
That's how it played out in East Tampa, a predominantly black neighborhood of the Florida city where Natasha Goodley is a senior consultant at White and Black Consulting, which advises businesses and political campaigns. "Many businesses were shut down for over eight weeks," Goodley says. "But we were struggling to come out of this stronger."
Finally, as Memorial Day approached, many small businesses in Tampa were preparing to reopen. The loss of life and income had been severe, but the community was hopeful about the prospect of rebuilding.
"Little did we all know, May 25, 2020 would be the day that changed America," Goodley says. "Millions of people watched the life slowly exit George Floyd's body. The community of Minneapolis took to the streets to begin protesting, which quickly spread around the country and ultimately, around the world. The protests turned into riots, which spilled over into the business world."
In some cases, the riots turned to looting, which #BlackLivesMatter activists around the country — including George Floyd's brother — have widely condemned. Practically no one endorses looting, but many say it's not so difficult to understand in the context of deprivation. Consider that one Tampa woman, arrested for looting a Walgreens, was charged for stealing $50 of merchandise — mostly boxes of diapers.
Perhaps it is understandable, then — if no less generous — that most of Goodley's clients are more supportive of the protests' larger goals than they are angry about their own losses.
"They all understood what was happening right now in this country"
"It has amazed me how many of my clients have chosen to see the forest instead of focusing on the trees," Goodley says. "I have a few business owners who have been directly affected by the protests and riots. One was a shoe and clothing store, Shoe Mountain. They were vandalized and had their merchandise stolen. The next morning, the owners had repaired the broken glass and were working to reopen. They put up a large sign that read 'Black Owned Business.' The other is a pharmacy that was broken into and had medication stolen. And I have a client, Pamela Thompson, owner of My Shade & Texture, located less than a mile from where the gas station was set afire. I told her to stay in her shop and guard it."
Later, when Goodley asked Thompson how she felt about what was happening around her, Thompson said that while the nearby looting was scary, overall the protests had actually brought more community members into her store to help monitor the shop or keep her company. "What is interesting is that while the business owners are hurt and sad, none really complained," Goodley says. "They all understood what was happening right now in this country."
As a black woman in business herself, Goodley says, "I understand the need for change. And I understand the need for the protests and riots ... I am hurting like the rest of the world. We need healing, and anything that works to separate and divide us should not be tolerated. If my business has to suffer so we can gain freedom and peace in this country, then so be it."