Buy Black Downtown Macon was a great opportunity to highlight black owned businesses in the downtown area.
When first thinking and collaborating about the initiative, I didn't realize how many black owned businesses operating in the downtown area.
The project was able to help spotlight 1/3 of all of the businesses. This was a tremendous success considering it was a new project that has never been done. I personally was able to connect with more black owned businesses and to gather information about their thoughts on the initiative as well as what areas could be approved upon when matching organizations missions with community directives. I was able to help with the logistics of the task and planning aspect.
My fellow Americorp peers and I were able to encourage all who stopped by the information booth to consider taking the self guided tour.
It was a fantastic turn out and we even got free lunch provided by one of the black owned businesses that was located near our station's set up. I look forward to being a participant next year when and if the event is held again.
As a Macon native I was definitely aware that there were a multitude of black businesses in the Macon-Bibb County area, however I don't think any of us could have imagined that so many could and were flourishing in the downtown area.
The downtown area has always thought to have been dominated by white businesses and, in turn, white community members. This tour made it clear that the opportunities of business ownership and community involvement in the downtown area are open to all macon citizens.
The panel discussion after the initial self-led tour was a highlight of the evening. We were able to build a panel of four of some of the most influential and prominent black business owners in the downtown area and provide them with a platform to speak about their journey and connect with their fellow black business owners in an intimate setting.
We were also very lucky to host the panel discussion at a black business that had been struggling to stay afloat during Covid-19. The owner of that beautiful establishment is a veteran and we were so grateful to help with exposure for him; that kind of success is exactly what we were aiming for with this initiative.
I was unique from my peers at Americorps regarding this project in that at my own site I had already begun developing a thorough directory of the black businesses in the downtown area through my work with NewTown Macon. However, by collaborating with my peers, we were able to create this amazing tangible representation of all of the resources booming from black business in the downtown Macon area alone.
I definitely loved gathering contact information and researching, but I most enjoyed my face to face (Covid-safe of course) contact with each of the black business owners and every community member that came out to learn about and support the black businesses.
Right now, only 62 of the 261 businesses in the downtown area are black owned, but my work with Americorps has given me the tools and resources to close that gap and others like it not only in my city, but anywhere I go.
I truly believe this project has helped show to our community the importance of supporting black businesses because, in the words of Nancy Cleveland, “supporting a black business is supporting our community”. The involvement of downtown developers, black business owners, news outlets, and every member of our community that came out and supported showed us that.
This is only the beginning and we know our service at Americorps has provided us with both professional and life skills that we will put to use for years to come.
Sarah-Elise Blair, Andreas Cooke & Tiahnie Gibbs