Support for black-owned businesses in Oregon is increasing as protests continue, but will it last?
For black business owners, the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd by a police officer and the following protests came as an emotional shock.
Amalfi’s Italian restaurant and Abbey Creek Vineyard, like most businesses in the state and country, are reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had to immediately lay off 85%, 90% of our workforce,” owner Kiauna Floyd said of her northeast Portland restaurant Amalfi. “Really, it’s our family, we had to lay off 85%, 90% of our family.”
Bertony Faustin, owner of Abbey Creek Vineyard in North Plains, said, “We’ve lost 75% of our monthly income this time of year.”
And then came the video of a policeman in Minneapolis kneeling on George Floyd’s neck as he begged for his life.
As nationwide protests enter their second week, Portland’s black-owned businesses have seen their support increase. But some in the community fear this moment will not last.
Since the protests began, Kiauna Floyd has said he has seen “an outcry of just support and love” from the community.
Faustin had a similar experience. “We’ve seen a lot of support,” he said, “and not just in the purchase of products, but even just in support emails, letters or messages.
“What I find amazing about it,” he said, “is that people are intentional with their money.”
Social media has been inundated with advice for those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement on how to be better allies, including supporting black-owned businesses.
Jomo Greenidge created the website BlackPDX.com in 2016, and works on the site with alumni of Benson Polytechnic high school, Jose Luis Garcia and Jordan Clavon.
The website highlights black-owned businesses in Portland, and Clavon said he was amazed at how much interest in the website had grown during the ongoing protests.
“It’s crazy now to see my friends sharing the website, and it actually does what it’s supposed to do,” Clavon said.
Greenidge estimates that engagement with the website is up 200% to 300%. He said there were so many messages that he didn’t have time to reply to all of them.
Support is welcome from both Floyd and Faustin, who said the murder of George Floyd and the protest that followed was personal.
“I am my brand, they are not separate,” Faustin said. “So if I feel something, through some negativity or whatever is going on in society, it affects me with all my heart as well.”
Floyd struggles to juggle her roles as a business owner and mother in these turbulent times.
“Now I’m having a hard time balancing these two factors, trying to keep a business afloat during a pandemic and now trying to explain to my kids,” Floyd said, “that unfortunately sometimes they will be criticized and criticized for the color of their skin or at least put in a box because of the color of their skin and not because of their gentle loving heart.
Her children and husband took part in the marches, although Floyd couldn’t as long as she worked six days a week to make sure Amalfi remained open.
But, said Floyd, she was inspired by the community’s support for her restaurant.
“The beautiful thing is that we have seen a wave of support for Amalfi as a black-owned business, but also just as a grassroots neighborhood business,” she said.
Amalfi has been in northeast Portland for 61 years. Kiauna Floyd took over ownership from his father in 2006.
“And it’s really sincere,” she added. “It’s really sincere.”
Greenidge from BlackPDX.com said the wave of support from the white community surprised him. “But,” he added, “we’ve been here before.”
“We’ve been here at a time when whites galvanized themselves to take action that they wouldn’t normally take,” he said, “but then that moment passes and we fall back into normalcy.”
Still, Greenidge is somewhat optimistic.
“It looks a lot different than it has ever been before,” he said. “I would hate if we were excited for this to be any different and then white people back out of the opportunity to really make meaningful systemic change.”
Tony Hopson is CEO of Portland nonprofit Self Enhancement Inc., a nonprofit organization that works with families in Portland’s black community.
“On the one hand, there is a tremendous degree of excitement” about the protests, Hopson said.
But, he added, “For many of us blacks, there is a certain level of almost disgust that it has taken people so long. It is not the first time that someone has said, “I cannot breathe”. “
“As a black person in America, it’s kind of like you’re tired,” Hopson said. “It’s kind of like, wow, what took you so long?”
Greenidge and Hopson agree that while the current support for black-owned businesses is welcome, it is not enough.
“How do you take a moment in time and make it a complete movement?” Hopson said.
“It’s hope this time. That it’s not just another time another black man or black person was murdered in broad daylight, ”he said. “May this become a movement that all Americans support for change.”
The coronavirus pandemic could be one of the reasons why this moment may lead to something different, said Libra Forde, COO of Self Enhancement Inc.
“I think the added difference is that it’s a focused moment,” she said. “This is the first time everyone has been forced to watch. You can’t go and do something else because we’re all stuck in this moment. “
Greenidge believes the coronavirus was a catalyst for bringing many people onto the streets.
The virus, in some ways, he said, could be “one of the biggest things to happen if it can cause global systemic change.”
What will it take for this change to happen? It’s not just about sponsoring black-owned businesses while it’s trending. Forde and Greenidge agree: Whites must change.
“When it comes to racism, we as black people didn’t create it, we don’t benefit from it, it doesn’t serve us,” Greenidge said.
“If you want to know who should fight racism most categorically,” he added, “it’s the whites”.
Forde said, “In any relationship in life where someone does something wrong in the relationship, it’s up to the person who did the wrong to fix it, not the person who was touched by the wrong. .
“So we have to find something new to do,” she said, “and we can’t rely on black people to do it.”
– Lizzy Acker