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Joe Biden makes pitch to Black entrepreneurs at Charlotte stop
Presidential contender pledges stimulus access
 
Published Wednesday, September 23, 2020 7:15 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden hosted a Black Economic Summit today at Camp North End.

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden pitched his plan to help Black-owned business survive the recession at a campaign stop in Charlotte.

Biden held a Black Economic Summit today at Camp North End a mile north of Uptown. A onetime abandoned industrial space in a historically Black neighborhood, Camp North End is now a bustling economic hub and home to several Black-owned businesses since its launch in 2017. That success, Biden maintains, is an example of what small businesses do for communities and why they should receive federal stimulus funding to stay afloat during the coronavirus-sparked downturn.

“A small business is defined as less than 50 employees,” he said. “Most small businesses that are neighborhood small businesses are 10 or fewer employees. What I propose is we focus on making sure that the money goes directly to those businesses to be able to keep their employees on the payroll that are 10 or fewer employees, and then [focus on businesses with] 50 employees and under. But what’s happened is not only has that not occurred, but a lot of the money has gone to very big businesses.”

Black entrepreneurs – many of them from Camp North End – were on hand for the summit to ask Biden about policy that impact small business and Black communities. Biden, who was introduced by Oklahoma City Thunder player and Winston-Salem native Chris Paul, answered questions about what he plans to do for historically Black colleges and universities, the minimum wage—he wants it raised to $15—and what to do for K-12 education for students as well as teachers.

“We pour into the city,” said Davita Galloway, co-owner of Dupp & Swat, a retail, art and meeting space at Camp North End with her brother Dion. “We pour into everything [in] our daily lives. It’s important for us to be present, but also here at the summit just listen and see what Biden and [running mate Kamala] Harris are really talking about, and just to learn more about their initiatives, and how they truly intend to support Black businesses and Black entrepreneurs.”

Subrina Collier, co-owner of Leah & Louise restaurant, which opened earlier this year in Camp North End, asked Biden about what relief he would provide for small businesses owners, particularly restaurants, citing the struggle among minority business owners to access national aid during the pandemic in addition to reductions in staff and hours. Collier credited the city with providing grant opportunities throughout the pandemic to help small businesses stay afloat.

“Outside of getting to meet Vice President Biden and how wonderful that was, we needed an answer, because a lot of us in the restaurant community right now, we’re hanging on by a thread,” she said. “On the national level with the paycheck protection program, we know how that was fumbled by certain banks, and small Black businesses weren’t able to [access it], specifically a lot of the restaurants. We wanted some type of indication that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of the restaurants that are struggling and trying to hold on.”

Charlotte City Council District 2 representative Malcolm Graham thanked Biden for sending a video tribute to his sister, Cynthia Graham Hurd, who was killed in the 2015 Charleston church massacre. He asked how Biden would reimagine the Justice Department, particularly the civil rights division, in light of a national debate over federal protections and excessive use of force by police against Black civilians.

“This has been the most corrupt administration in modern American history,” Biden said. “The justice department has turned into [President Donald] Trump’s private law firm.”

Biden pledged that the Justice Department under his administration would be completely independent from the White House, and that he would have no say in what, who or how the department prosecutes its duties.

“With regard to the civil rights division I would significantly increase two things, one a civil rights presence in the Justice Department and elevate it so that it has access to and transparency to all police department’s activities across the country,” he said. “I would also make sure that I elevate the Civil Rights Division to have a direct office within the White House.”

BLKMRKT co-owner Dammit Wesley said he’s looking forward to more expansion for Camp North End as a business and living space.

“I have been able to sit in my studio since Camp North End started this venture that they’re going on, and I’ve seen it grow so much,” he said. “I’ve seen changes happen in the community, and I can only hope to see that my being here and the seeds that we’ve planted help grow this space into a healthier living area. Hopefully, we foster creativity and unity and humanity and all the things that have been missing in 2020.”

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