Municipal leaders from across the country gathered in Philadelphia this week for the 2nd Annual National Convening of Black Mayors. The event is being held at WHYY Studios in collaboration with African-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) of Pa., N.J., and Del., and media partner 6abc.
Mayors attending in-person:
- Hardie Davis Jr. of Augusta, Ga.
- Derek Slaughter of Williamsport, Pa.
- Thaddeous Kirkland of Chester, Pa.
- Judy Ward of Pleasantville, N.J.
Mayors attending virtually:
- Tishaura Jones of St. Louis, Mo.
- Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, Ill.
- Steven Reed of Montgomery, Ala.
- Ras Baraka of Newark, N.J.
- Wanda Williams of Harrisburg, Pa.
The event is meant to be a platform to elevate conversation surrounding the advancement of black owned businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2017 and 2019, the number of U.S. Black-owned businesses grew in all sectors of the economy.
To continue growth, Williamsport Mayor Derek Slaughter said the city is working to create policies and invest in Black businesses to ensure they’re getting the same chances as other businesses.
One initiative is to create awareness for ways Black businesses can access funding.
“Just getting them access, giving them representation and giving them a seat at the table to say, ‘Hey, we’re here, we’re in the community now,’” Slaughter said. “Make sure we have access to these resources like everyone else.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and its financial impacts also continues to affect businesses nationwide. Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said inflation has had an effect on all mayors around the country.
“The cost of materials has gone up exponentially,” Evans said. “So if you have the government, us building a particular corridor or any of our old buildings that we are revitalizing, we have to factor in rising costs, which has a major impact on the budget.”
Census Bureau data shows that American entrepreneurship as a whole regardless of race has been on the rise since 2021.
In the wake of the pandemic, Black households continue to face wealth inequalities compared to white households. According to the Brookings Institution, in 2019, the median white household held nearly eight times more wealth than the typical Black household.
The National Convening of Mayors lasts until Friday. According to a release, Philadelphia is the second largest city for a majority diverse population, including 42.2% African Americans. Yet, it has the lowest black owned businesses per capita rate of any major US city, at 1.8 black owned businesses, per every 1,000 Black residents.