My family is part of the Okemah community that was established in south Phoenix. This community consisted of 600 residents of which 98% were African American. Those black residents were only allowed to acquire property, residential or commercial, within this area located south of the railroad tracks.
They experienced disenfranchisement, racism, inequality, redlining and other economic setbacks due to the lack of access through lending agencies. The community relied upon their resources to build their own infrastructure that included black businesses, educational support, farming, and agriculture, and the first black church.
My family experienced racial discrimination when they opened brick-and-mortar locations and launched businesses that included a game arcade, telemarketing and many other first-time businesses that weren’t commonly owned by black businesswomen.
As a child, I witnessed my mother overcome the challenges and I decided to open a real estate consulting business, focusing on diversity with local and international developers as well as investors. As a decision-maker, I have been involved in the development process that includes site development design, master planning, and construction management oversight. Being in this position has given me the opportunity to create relationships with businesses that would not typically be awarded such projects.
As African American business owners, we understand the need for establishing alliances and sitting at the table and on boards that include development advisory boards, economic councils, homebuilder associations, planning and zoning, and local municipalities. We must be able to identify and build relationships and be appointed to these organizations so that our voices of diversity inclusion can be able to make the recommendations and impact that are so critical to this process.
The ability to create jobs and build wealth in our communities is very important to future generations. What we do today impacts the legacy that we leave. Toward that end, I also educate people on wealth accumulation by expanding our resources into master-planned community development and participating in the governmental and city contracts that are being awarded in opportunity zones.
Originally appeared in Phoenix Business Journal (June 12, 2020)