CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Following the death of George Floyd and days of protests across our area and the nation, many are now wondering, what’s the next step? How we do institute real, lasting change.
In addition to attending protests and using social media to amplify the voices of black people, activists are also encouraging people to support local black-owned businesses.
“Protests are great, they draw awareness, they put everybody’s eye and spotlight on a particular problem, but we have to remember these problems are interconnected and systemic,” says Dr. Shante Williams, chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Williams says the Chamber is calling on the community to make visiting a black-owned business a regular habit, instead of a single gesture.
“A lot of our businesses tend to operate in survival mode and that survival mode is because they don’t have the capitalization in the front end to be, you know, to grow and scale and have all the bells and whistles, and so our dollars directly in to patronize are really important,” she says.
Dr. Williams says a boost to the business, will boost its financial stability, and the more financially stable the community, the more voice they have.
“The more that any business, but particularly black businesses, can expand their customer base, their consumer base and the more intentional we are about supporting those businesses in particular, the more they’re able to hire more people, they’re able to expand their service offerings, they’re able to own their property and real estate,” Dr. Williams says.
Another way to create change is at the polls.
This week, former President Barack Obama published an essay saying, in part:
“The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.”
President Obama’s sentiment is one echoed by the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte.
“In each of us we have the keys to drive for the change we want to see done, but those keys are with our vote, and if we all decide that you know what, we want to make this change happen today, we can make significant change nationally, on the state level and on the local level,” says Khalif Rhodes, Chairman of the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte.
Rhodes says protesting and politics go hand-in-hand, but says the only way to truly change a systemic or institutional problem is through policy, and he says the only way you can change policy is through voting.
“So if you’re talking about an incumbent, someone that was already an elected official and has already been in office then you can look at their voting record, you can see where they stand on issues that have affected your community and if they have stood on issues that have disproportionately affected you in terms of crime, or funding or policies that have had a disproportionate impact on your community, than you would obviously say those are red flags, that you should look at it and make it not a popularity contest but a vote that lines up with your ideals,” he says.