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On Blackout Tuesday, leaders urge shoppers to limit spending to Black-owned firms

Hempstead officials and business leaders gathered to promote shopping at Black-owned businesses, as part of a nationwide Blackout Day on Tuesday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Hempstead leaders marked Blackout Tuesday by encouraging consumers to patronize Black-owned businesses.

With COVID-19 now exacerbating disparities, patronizing Black-owned businesses is critical,  said Hempstead Village trustee Jeffery Daniels at a small gathering downtown.

“We spend across the nation well over a trillion dollars,” Daniels said of Black Americans. “One way to get change is to utilize or leverage that spending power."

Blackout Tuesday is part of a national movement urging shoppers to limit their spending to Black-owned firms. It's part of a tradition of  economic activism such as the bus boycotts in the 1950s, speakers said.

Black executives had a harder time accessing federal assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program because companies needed to submit applications through banks, Daniels said. 

"We didn't have the same access to funds because we didn't have banking relationships," he said. "We don't have the financial paperwork … necessarily, to get the loans, and get the loans in a quick way."

Slightly more than 30% of Black-owned firms receive loan approval for all the financing they request from lenders, compared with nearly 50% of white-owned firms, according to a 2019 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Black-owned businesses also had applications denied entirely at a higher rate, the report said. 

Hempstead Chamber of Commerce Director Belinda Watkins said she regularly shops at Black-owned businesses and has helped her three children and five nieces and nephews launch companies.

"We can't afford a space or a storefront because the taxes [and rent] are too high. So everybody is basically mobile or home-based," said Watkins, a Uniondale resident who runs multiple businesses, including a home health care firm and an events company that hosts pop-up shops for youth entrepreneurs. "That's a problem within itself."

Watkins said she brought her daughter, Janiah Sykes, because it is important for her to see that people support her. 

Janiah, 11, started her business, Janiah's Scents & Candles, last year, which offers candles, incense and fragrant oils.

"I love to make candles," she said. "They're peaceful. They're nice."

Janiah said getting materials is one of the harder parts of running her business.

"You've got to buy the supplies. You kind of spend a lot of money, but you actually get it back," she said.

Correction: Hempstead Village trustee Jeffery Daniels’ name was misspelled in an earlier version of the story.

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