By Aaron Sánchez-Guerra The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Patrice Bethea and her husband, Kevin founded "The Triangle Black-Owned Businesses group" to invest in more Black-owned businesses. Since its launch on Facebook four years ago, the group has soared to include more than 14,000 members.
When Philando Castile, a Black motorist, was killed by Minnesota police in the summer of 2016 -- four years before the killing of George Floyd -- protests erupted nationwide against police killings of Black men.
A Raleigh couple also felt inspired to act.
Their response? Pooling the capital and networks of the Black community in the Triangle to invest more in Black-owned businesses.
Four years later, the Triangle Black Owned Businesses group on Facebook formed by Patrice Bethea and her husband, Kevin, has over 14,000 members. "This was the most positive way we felt that we could do something to help our community thrive," Patrice Bethea, a native of Southeast Raleigh, said in an interview with The News & Observer. The group's popularity shot up this summer during the resurgent nationwide protests against systemic racism. Bethea credits the protests as a key factor in people being more conscious of to whom they give their money. "The increased interest in Black business is something new," she said. "The additional diversity within the group members is a result of that. It's also helping identify areas that the Black community is missing, and where some entrepreneurs and solopreneurs can really dig their teeth into and provide some services where there are some voids." Patrons post in the group asking for virtually any service or good, and "every response is a local Black business that's willing to help out," Kevin Bethea said. "There are hundreds of Black doctors and lawyers and all these people out there," said Kevin Bethea. "It's not that we don't know that they're out there, we're just trying to find out where." For people focusing on home improvement or moving during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Facebook group has connected them to Black painters, repairmen, landscapers, movers and more. The growing popularity of the group inspired Kevin Bethea to develop the BLK Book Directory, a digital directory of Black-owned businesses and firms in North Carolina, similar to directories and guides that existed in the segregated Jim Crow era. "We're bringing back something that should have never left," Kevin Bethea said. While the pandemic has damaged small business across the state, the group has also served a forum for skill sharing and directing capital to people in need. Federal aid through the Payroll Protection Program has been harder to get for Black-owned business, The N&O previously reported. Only 12% of surveyed Black and Latino small business owners received the aid they requested. More than three times that -- 41% -- said they were denied help, while 21% reported no response yet, according to a May survey by Global Strategies Group. A Goldman Sachs study also pointed out that of the Black-owned businesses who sought help in the first round of PPP funding, less than half were approved. "The Black community is one of the greatest consumer groups here," said Patrice Bethea. "If we did more and were able to use our own resources within our community to empower one another it would improve the educational divide ... issues with poverty ... it's just a ripple effect." Grocers on Wheels, a Black-owned nonprofit that delivers groceries to low-income people, and Black Farmers HUB, a grocery store, both promote their services on the Triangle Black Owned Businesses group on Facebook. Both serve Southeast Raleigh, a predominantly Black area, which has lacked access to healthy groceries available elsewhere and is considered a food desert. "We've been sharing information with each other on there for years," said Demetrius Hunter, founder of Grocers on Wheels and cofounder of Black Farmers HUB. Increased consciousness of the role of race during the pandemic and in incidents of police violence has emphasized the support businesses are getting now, said Hunter. "It's a call to an uprising... it has also caused us to support each other and create equity and equality around the dollar," he said. ___ (c)2020 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) Visit The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) at w