A Message from Epicenter: Black Businesses Matter Too

By Leslie Lynn Smith

As many of you have, we’ve paused some of our normal work this week to reflect and grieve.

First and foremost, we condemn police brutality targeting Black people and the murders of Black Americans like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many countless others. Today, and every day, we’ll say it louder: Black Lives Matter. In Memphis, in Shelby County, everywhere.

Black-owned businesses matter, too. Every day, we intentionally put entrepreneurs – and especially, in a majority Black city, Black entrepreneurs – at the center of everything we do. But we can and will do more.

Our commitments to the Black founders and small business owners with whom we work now and in the future are: 

We will continue to name the racist and structural frameworks that prevent full participation by Black founders and entrepreneurs in local, regional, and national economies as we work to challenge them and replace them with programs, policies, and systems that do not disproportionately exclude Black business owners. 

We will continue to scale capital resources for Black business owners, invest in Black entrepreneurs, and engage investors to do the same. 

We will continue to purchase goods and services from Black businesses. 

We will continue to elevate Black stories, successes, and challenges. 

We will continue to listen to Black entrepreneurs and invite Black entrepreneurs into co-creating the resources that serve the community.

We know that economic autonomy — the ability to build wealth and spend money — must accrue to Black individuals, families, and communities equitably, not only to create a just, thriving, and growing economy, but also to build a world where Black lives are valued and treated as worthy in all of the ways that are humanly possible. We wake up every day working toward that Memphis — a more equitable, vibrant Memphis. 

We will continue to invite our entire community to do the same.

Leslie Lynn Smith
President and CEO

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