Equality in communities built through supporting black-owned businesses

Entrepreneurs say one way to make an impact during the nation’s reckoning following the murder of George Floyd is to support black-owned businesses.

Karita Lee is known as “Ms. Kay” to her customers, and she owns Kay’s Kitchen on North 30th Street in Tampa.

“I am Tampa's only restaurant that cooks Chicago-style fried chicken and fish,” Lee proclaimed.

She started off with a food truck and, in three years, grew into a brick-and-mortar location. But Ms. Kay said black-owned businesses face stigma.

“If we come together and look at us, we are human,” said Lee. “We have very good businesses.”

Kay’s Kitchen is one of hundreds of black-owned businesses in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties featured on the free directory Green Book of Tampa Bay, a website that was recently revitalized through funding from One Community St. Pete under the #InThisTogether initiative.

“You might find a lawyer or a yoga instructor who is black instead  of jumping first into whoever gets listed first for Google, because a lot of times black businesses aren’t the ones listed in that,” said Hillary Van Dyke, a co-founder of Green Book of Tampa Bay.

Co-founders Van Dyke and Joshua Bean created the site to spotlight black business owners.

“I think for us to really instill equity in the black community, we need to come together. I think we do that through economic vitality, by spending our dollars,” said Bean.

During a movement that is making the world aware of systemic racism and injustice, black entrepreneurs said the black community historically has not received the support they need to thrive.

They said now is the time to be genuine in your spending power and be consistent.

“My fear is when this news cycle dies down that people will forget,” said Van Dyke. “We want to capitalize on [this moment] in that people will continue to actually support black-owned businesses, not just this week, not because it's cool to use that hashtag right now. But because they realize the importance of spending your dollars and spreading that throughout all the community.”

For entrepreneurs like Ms. Kay, she said she wants to be seen, heard and supported beyond this moment.

“We in the black community and the brown community would love to see our children grow up and our grandchildren,” said Lee.

LINK: www.greenbooktampabay.org