Entrepreneur diaries: Stephanie Byrd on supporting and helping Black-owned businesses right now

This is part of an ongoing series where Model D talks with local entrepreneurs as they navigate the local business landscape in the wake of the novel coronavirus. Read Stephanie's first diary post here and her second one here.

Sometime during the past week of the protests and unrest in response to George Floyd’s killing at the hands of a police officer, someone put up a sign at The Block that said “Black-owned. Please do not loot. #BLM.”

I haven’t heard or read much about looting during the Detroit protests, and compared to other cities there hasn’t been as much violence. While it’s still a concern and a worry in the back of my mind, I’m not afraid about our businesses, both The Block and Flood’s Bar & Grille, being in danger. But I took the sign down because I thought it made me a target. And after thinking about it, I feel like maybe I fell for that narrative that it made me a target.

Whoever put it up there had good intentions of saving and protecting our business. But I took it down because I thought it perpetuated the narrative that there are looting and violence in Detroit. If I were in another city, I probably would have kept it up. But I've been conflicted on a daily basis about it: Should I put it back up? Eventually, I decided to not repost the sign because of the words “don’t loot.” We are now beyond that as an issue but I am now looking to put up a sign that identifies our establishment as a Black-owned business so people know we’re still here and we need support.

This week has been overwhelming and stressful for me and my family. Since we work together bickering is normal, but after the past few days we are beyond bickering. We just got Flood’s up and running and had a successful first weekend. At the same time the protests started. Then the stay-at-home order was lifted and restaurants were given basically a week to reopen. Guests are calling asking about when we’re going to reopen for dine-in. We decided not to reopen this Monday.

Everything just came bubbling to the surface all at once, at a time when we were already so stripped, enraged, and emotionally depleted from watching our people get hurt.

As a family, we see the protests differently. And there has been some tension around that. My parents don’t want any conflict at all. For me, my stance has evolved over the past few days. We can’t stop fighting because this is war for Black people. We’re fighting for our lives.

Right now, for us to survive this difficult time, we'll need the support of our community, the Black community, Detroiters and Metro Detroiters. Black-owned businesses and specifically restaurants have been the fabric of Detroit for a very long time. Patronizing the business is the easiest way for people to help not just us but also help other Black-owned businesses overcome economic disparities and inequalities. Before the current crises, Black-owned businesses already were at a disadvantage and didn’t have the same opportunities. By supporting our and other Black-owned businesses, people can help give folks jobs and help provide stability to our community.

What happens next? What do you do after the uncomfortable conversation? So many people are being vocal about supporting Black Lives Matters and that’s great, it’s long overdue. But we got to have some actionable steps. And everyone may not agree on what the steps are. Personally I'm working on what are my actionable steps. I need to get involved immediately with local politics and not just pop up to support the presidential candidate every four years. I'm working with a group of my friends to hold each other accountable. In three months, six months, a year, I should still be doing the work. And what is the business going to do? How do we use our platform to further that dialogue? We can contribute and we need to be a part of the solution.




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