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After 2020, Black-owned businesses find themselves in new landscape – Dayton Daily News02.07.21

But recent months have brought changes.

It seems to have awakened corporate America to wanting to do something different than what had traditionally been going on Hightower said.

There seems to be a new corporate awareness of structural issues facing Black-owned businesses, coupled with a push to include African-Americans in invitations to do business.

Post this whole Black-Lives-Matter incident that has happened, the African-American male is now back in the spotlight in terms of getting corporate Americas attention, Hightower said.

He speaks as a man who has owned his business for close to 40 years.

Steve Hightower, president and CEO of Hightowers Petroleum Co., at his Middletown office.

Probably 30 of those years were highly challenging in terms of breaking into the industry and being accepted as a legitimate business in the industry and working throughout the country, not just Ohio, and globally, he said.

He reports a pronounced adjustment in how corporate America speaks and how it responds to requests for proposals and requests for business quotations.

But Hightowers company is just one.

Dwindling ownership

Locally, the Dayton metropolitan area had 11,888 employer businesses in 2017, of which 270 were Black-owned about 2.3%, according to the most recent Census numbers.

Thats down slightly from the Census estimates in 2012, in which the metro area was estimated to have 11,616 employer businesses, of which 350 were Black-owned just over 3%.

(The Dayton metro area had 11,842 employer businesses in 2018. The Census said it was not able to provide a number of local Black-owned firms that year, because the estimate did not meet publication standards, because of high sampling variability, poor response quality, or other concerns about the estimate quality.)

Nationally, Blacks owned about 124,551 businesses, out of nearly 8 million employer firms, according to Census figures released Jan. 28. That number covers 2018.

Hightower takes nothing for granted and said he does not expect this renewed attention to endure. He has seen periods of focus on African-American challenges wax and wane over the decades.

Corporate America does not buy Black, he said. They buy services and price.

Andrea Cooks, who owns RA Cooks Renovations, home renovating business, with her former husband Ronald, said they have seen no great change in business dealings. She said their Moraine business has won access to funding not on the basis of any affirmative action program but through COVID-related programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program.

Andrea Cooks, co-owner of RA Cooks Renovations. Submitted

The bottom line for business is building relationships, she said.

Once they (customers) know us and once they know the work we do, then doors start to open, Cooks said.

The community has still been very supportive

Kendric Ellerbe, who owns Enhance U Sports Performance Academy in Beavercreek with his wife Tammie, said he has seen no great change in recent months. Institutions and residents were even-handed before and after the events of last summer, they have found.

Weve been treated pretty well by banking institutions; weve been treated pretty well by the insurance companies, said Kendric Ellerbe, an Air Force officer.

Before the Black Lives movement and after, business has been pretty much the same for us, said Tammie Ellerbe. The community has still been very supportive. The business has even grown during the pandemic.

The academy was closed by the pandemic, along with thousands of other local businesses last March. When the academy opened its doors again in May, eager clients returned on that very first day, Tammie Ellerbe said.

Our clients were constantly calling us, she said. Hey, when are you guys going to open?

The couple is well aware that racism is real. But we havent experienced that in Beavercreek or in any of our business dealings, Tammie Ellerbe said.

Do customers tiptoe around certain topics?

Sometimes you know there are certain conversations not to have, her husband said. You may not know how someone feels about it, so our customers dont comment. Well talk about sports, a little bit about politics. I have yet to have a customer come to me to talk about that whole situation or bring it (Black Lives Matters) up in a negative manner.

Systemic unease: It feels unsafe

Jason Harrison, owner of Daytons Present Tense Fitness, has a small fitness and personal training business. His inventory and supply chain needs arent massive, and if he wants to make more money, he simply works with more customers, he said.

But the Oregon District resident feels its important to explore not just business problems but more fundamental issues. When he moved to Ohio from Maryland several years ago, he recalls seeing a man in a Kroger store with a vivid and large swastika tattoo on his neck, shopping for oranges with his young daughter.

That was a wake-up moment for him.

Said Harrison: I think Ive seen more Confederate flags in Ohio than I did in the Washington, D.C. area.

Living in the Miami Valley, it doesnt feel safe, he said. And I dont say that hyperbolically. But I think the first challenge for a Black business owner in our climate I would link what we saw with George Floyd with what we saw at the Capitol because theyre all part of the same story.

Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died last May after being handcuffed and pinned under the knee of a white police officer for longer than nine minutes.

If you look at news stories centering around white supremacy from the last several years events or rallies in Charlottesville, Va., the Capitol and elsewhere You always see people from the Miami Valley traveling to go to these things, Harrison said.

Just as a human being operating in the climate, it feels unsafe, he added.

From a business perspective, he has seen attempts to support Black-owned businesses in person and on social media. He doesnt denigrate those efforts.

But Harrison said he would challenge people to go beyond hash-tagging and social media posts. The real work is to ask questions about representation in board rooms, law offices and elsewhere, he believes.

Thats the time to really show that George Floyds life meant something, Harrison said. Otherwise, its just performative.

Ongoing challenges

A new poll by the advocacy group Small Business Majority show that many business owners of color have found it hard to stay solvent during the pandemic, Black Enterprise magazine reported recently. About 32% have cut employee hours and 24% have shut down, the magazine said.

When COVID-19 shut down auto production for close to six months, Hightower found himself temporarily without a mainstay source of revenue. He said he responded by digging in and working harder.

Most employees went remote, and Hightowers Petroleum did not shut down. Instead, he and employees focused on contacting about 200 customers and some 170 suppliers across the nation, making sure they knew the company was still very much in business.

Hightower called that an aha moment for me.

When things get tough, its not time to retreat; its time to push forward and get aggressive, he said.

Black History Month

As part of Black History Month, the Dayton Daily News is featuring throughout the month of February the rich history of Black people in the Dayton area. In todays Local section you will find information on Greene Countys history and in the Business section we kick off a weekly profile on Black-owned businesses.

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After 2020, Black-owned businesses find themselves in new landscape - Dayton Daily News

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Israeli Restaurants Shalom Y’all and Aviv Were Vandalized in What Appears to Be a Larger Graffiti Spree – Willamette Week01.15.21

Three restaurants with Israeli-inspired menus were tagged over the weekend in what appears to have been part of a larger spreeagainst Portland businesses.

Vandals targeted both locations of Shalom Y'all, as well as Aviv's brand-new Pearl District eatery. Spray-painted messages on the buildings' exterior and sidewalk included "Free Palestine," "Murder" and "Yuppie Scum."

Other phrases accused the business of cultural appropriation, including "Falafel is from Palestine" and "Hummus is not Israeli," Some of the restaurants' outdoor tables were also defaced.

Aninvestigation is ongoing, according to Derek Carmon, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau.

Owners of Sesame Collective, the restaurant group that includes Shalom Y'all, Mediterranean Exploration Company, Yalla, and Bless Your Heart Burgers, released a statement condemning the graffiti.

"We are incredibly disheartened by these actions. We are committed to operating inclusive spaces, and do not tolerate messages of hate or racism in any form," the message read. "We are so thankful for the outpouring of support we have received from the community over the last 24 hours."

Sesame Collective also encouraged people to support the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crime, a partnership between community groups and government agencies.

Those weren't the only properties hit with graffiti in the same time frame.

Ball Was Life, a sports memorabilia store that opened just a few months ago on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, wastagged with references to Indigenous sovereignty, such as"Land Back" and "1637 Pequot Massacre," a reference to the mass murder of approximately 500 Native men, women and childrenthat occurred in aConnecticut village.

The message, however, appears to be misplaced: Troy Douglass, owner of Ball Was Life, is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. He also shares the building with another Native-owned business, Tattoo 34.

"Right message, wrong place at Ball Was Life," Douglass wrote in anInstagram post. "I'm native to this land. Yes, right here under the cement of 'Portland.' I'm Chinook/Wasco and an enrolled tribal member of Grand Ronde. Let these photos live forever, but I need to get back to work. I'm trying hard to get some land back."

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Israeli Restaurants Shalom Y'all and Aviv Were Vandalized in What Appears to Be a Larger Graffiti Spree - Willamette Week

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How the Networks Will Fill Airtime on a Quiet New Years Eve – The New York Times12.31.20

What becomes of Times Square when you take away hundreds of thousands of cheering, shivering New Years Eve revelers?

It may no longer be the biggest, most exciting New Years Eve party on Earth. But it may still be the nights biggest TV production set.

For this years pandemic New Years Eve, many television traditions will be scrapped, including the scenes of raucous celebrations across the world and impromptu interviews with exuberant party goers at bars and clubs, eager to say hello to their mothers and grandmothers back home.

Instead, networks are doubling down on the segments that they can safely pull off. Theyve increased the number of performers and interview guests, decreased the number of crew members and brainstormed creative and socially distant locations to send their reporters to. (Instead of reporting from a crowd of partyers, for example, one CNN correspondent will report from a crowd of puppies, which are not known to spread the coronavirus.)

So while the type of people who enjoy cramming themselves into crowds of strangers to watch the ball drop may be disappointed this year, the type that prefers to curl up and celebrate from their sofas will find their tradition largely intact.

In some respects its going to feel very similar to previous years, said Meredith McGinn, an executive producer of NBCs New Years Eve program, which is hosted by Carson Daly. You will see the same confetti fly at midnight; you will see the ball drop.

But, like most things in 2020, there were some necessary adjustments.

Dick Clarks New Years Rockin Eve on ABC will send Ryan Seacrest roaming around a much emptier Times Square with a camera crew in tow wearing a mask except when standing in designated areas. And CNNs hosts, Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen, will reunite in Times Square for an evening of interviews and cheeky ad-libbing. (The hosts are close friends who have been in each others social bubbles during the pandemic.)

In a typical year, Cooper and Cohen invite interview guests up to their riser overlooking the crowds; this year, the network will superimpose images of the guests full bodies beside the hosts in a technique that they will jokingly call teleportation. On NBC, rather than cutting to raging parties, the network will broadcast small family gatherings from inside their homes. Even the Times Square production set is smaller: While it typically stretches from 41st Street to 59th Street; this year it is limited to a space between 45th Street and 47th Street.

We had to reinvent Times Square, said Jeff Straus, the president of Countdown Entertainment, which co-produces the event with Times Square Alliance. He described the set up as a theater in the round, with two stages at the center. Three huge screens will provide close-ups of whats happening onstage for the small number of guests.

Emergency medical workers, frontline workers and essential workers were invited to bring their families to sit in specially designated areas in Times Square and watch the array of performances. In total, somewhere between 100 and 160 guests are expected to be present for the 11 scheduled musical acts, including a seven-minute show by Jennifer Lopez leading up to the final countdown. Those guests will be the subjects of the on-camera interviews, rather than the partyers among dense crowds of people, some of whom wait in Times Square for a dozen or more hours to ensure good spots.

To pull off the broadcast, networks must follow state guidelines on pandemic television production, as well as protocols set by the various unions representing the crews and performers. Theyve devised plans for testing production staffers for Covid-19 before New Years Eve and for feeding production staffers without letting them get too close to one another. (NBC rented additional space in Times Square to make sure crew members could eat and maintain proper distance.)

On Thursday, network employees will work from separate locations when possible. The director of Dick Clarks New Years Rockin Eve, Glenn Weiss, is overseeing the broadcast from his office on 46th Street instead of in the Good Morning America studio at Broadway and 44th Street. And NBC cameras are stationed on the third floor of the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel, where the network had to remove some of the hotels windows so that birds-eye-views of the event would not be hindered by glare.

All of the acts at Times Square will be live, including performances by Lopez, Gloria Gaynor, Billy Porter, Cyndi Lauper and Pitbull. Many other performances will occur on stages outside of New York including those by Brandy, Megan Thee Stallion and Miley Cyrus, all from Los Angeles, for ABC.

The networks have lined up more pretaped material than usual, however. (Most have not said which of the performances were filmed in advance.)

On PBS, a New Years Eve program, called United in Song, was filmed in November at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and in September at George Washingtons Virginia estate in Mount Vernon, where about 120 audience members watched from a distance and masked violinists were separated from unmasked brass players with plexiglass. NBC is showing a new Blake Shelton music video. Spectrum News NY1 will roll a highlight reel of its reporter Dean Memingers flashy New Years Eve suits over the years.

And networks are getting creative in other ways to fill the holes formerly filled by crowd shots and partyers. CNN will have one correspondent getting a tattoo, another skiing down an Oregon slope wearing a GoPro and an appearance from Carole Baskin of Tiger King fame.

With the pandemic driving people away from bars and restaurants and toward their living rooms, executives say its possible that there will be more viewers than ever before. ABC, which tends to have the highest viewership on the holiday, peaked last year at about 21 million viewers, according to news reports.

I can never predict what the Nielsen gods will bring, said Mark Bracco, an executive producer on ABCs program, but were hopeful that most Americans will be home on their couches.

In a year in which more than 338,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, viewers may notice a tonal shift compared with the goofy and sometimes tipsy coverage of years past. The Champagne popping and 2021 eyeglasses will be interspersed with appreciations of health care workers and emergency medical workers, as well as reflections on the lives lost and the economic hardship.

On ABC, Seacrest will interview President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill Biden, a rare political interview of someone other than the New York City mayor.

And on PBS, an opening performance of Lady Marmalade by Patti LaBelle in a gleaming white suit opens the hour-and-a-half program that includes more serious notes, including a monologue from the actress Audra McDonald about trailblazing women throughout history and from the playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith about the history of the slave cemetery at Mount Vernon as she walks through those grounds. On CNN, John Mayer is slated to perform a tribute to lives lost this year out of Los Angeles.

Were all going to be celebrating the end of this horrific year, said Eric Hall, the executive producer of CNNs program, and were also going to be celebrating the beginning of what looks to be a hopeful year.

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