As a black business owner, it's so important that I am able to reach a diverse audience. In this financial space, education is much more than teaching someone how to save money. Education is reaching those who are held back by continued discrimination, those who don't have access to private education and or simply have not been introduced to financial importance. There has been thousands of women and men of color that have paved the way for our current success. Without these efforts, break aways from traditional norms and challenges to fight institutionalized racism- there would be no diversity within the financial/business world. In honor of Black history month I would like to take this week to highlight black leadership in the business spaces- current and old, as their actions and impact have changed what opportunity looks like for a person of color.
Maggie Lena Walker
Maggie Lena Walker chose not to crumble under the pressure and bias faced in the business community. In the early 1900s, Black businesses found it hard to find banks that would do business with them and there were little to no Black run banks. This is where Maggie Lena Walker stepped in and became the very first Black woman in the United States to start and serve as president of St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. Walker was the daughter of a former slave and abolitionist and believed strongly in Black empowerment, and through this bank, fellow Black business owners could continue to grow financially. Walker served as an inspiration to many in the Black community, and her memory lives on in Jackson ward neighborhood Virginia, where her house is currently preserved as a historical site.
The next business leader is the founder of a cable network that most people are familiar with, in the Black Entertainment Television (BET). Robert L. Johnson started out as a lobbyist, and when he began to attain the grasp of the business world and how it operates, he decided to branch off in creating BET. Which then led to it becoming the first Black-owned business to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. From there he used BET as a platform where he would later become the African American billionaire. Johnson’s financial reach didn’t end with BET but rather went on to form RLJ Companies where their focus lay within media, hospitality, and sports industries.
Robert L. Johnson
Placed on Forbes Americans Top 50 Women in Tech '18, Debaun is a prime example of leadership within the black community. Launching Blavity, Morgan Debaun created one of the largest media startups and lifestyle brands for black millennials. Her efforts don't stop there as she supported and created several summits, NYC EmpowerHer for black women, San Francisco's AfroTech for black people in tech industries alike, and M.Roze Essentials which is a lifestyle and skincare brand designed specifically for black women. At the young age of 31, it's admirable to see all she continues to do and work towards for the black community. Her work portfolio continues to grow as she creates more brands, consumer summits, and advises global brands.
Ottowa (O.W) Gurley is the starter of Black Wall Street, an educator, entrepreneur and was once considered one of the wealthiest black men. His vision and focus of success and prosperity for all black men and women alike was crafted in Tulsa, Oklahoma (known as the Greenwood District) where he bought 40 acres of land and began businesses. Delving into real estate as well, many flocked to the area as a safe space to escape discrimination and racial prejudice. Gurley passed in 1935 but his efforts to create a successful financial environment for the black community through Black Wall Street are forever recognized.