Leading Black Businesses Form Detroit United Front

Detroit, MI - /PRNewswire/ -- The National Business League (NBL) Detroit Chapter, the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce (DBCC) and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association (BTWBA) will hold their 12th Annual State of Black Business Summit to announce new leadership and coming together as the Detroit United Front.

The summit and press conference will take place on Monday, March 7, from 8-11 a.m., and will address the current state of Black business in Detroit, including the lack of support and resources that Black businesses receive from the philanthropic, public, and private sectors as well as the systemic, institutional, and structural neglect and exclusion of Black businesses. World-renowned speaker and scholar, Dr. Boyce Watkins, Ph.D., founder, and CEO of Boyce Watkins Enterprises, will serve as the summit's keynote speaker.

Due to the severe impact of COVID-19's economic shutdowns in the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan, as well as the country's racial unrest ignited by the unarmed murders of Black men and women, which sparked the global Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020, corporations made a plethora of grandiose announcements, unfulfilled commitments at numerous press conferences, appeasing platitudes and Black racial equity promises, but most companies have failed to deliver measurable results and must now be held accountable. No real economic advocacy in Detroit's present political climate is holding the philanthropic, public, and private sectors accountable for such flagrant negligence and for reneging on commitments made to the Black community, which is unacceptable. Something must be done to help Black businesses not just survive but to sustain and thrive in the marketplace.  

"As a successful Black business owner in the city of Detroit, it shouldn't be difficult to find support and resources to address the wants and needs of Black businesses, but garnering access has been extremely difficult and cumbersome. I can't imagine what the experience is like for those needing to be hand-held through the process," said Dr. Cecil Forbes, founder, owner, and operator of iCare Spine and Rehabilitation Centers, PLLC.  

In the city of Detroit, according to the 2019 census, there are more than 49,000+ Black-owned businesses out of a total of 62,000+, accounting for 80 percent of all small and medium-size firms. Even though Detroit is ranked 5th in the country for Black business formation and 1st in the country for Black women entrepreneurship, institutional hurdles, economic inequities, and exclusion continue to persist. Despite having an 80 percent Black population, 80 percent of small firms are locked out of city contracts, the private sector lacks adequate supplier-diversity programs to provide Black businesses with contracting and procurement opportunities, while banks and lenders fail to lend to Black business owners at an alarming rate, further increasing the significant disparity gaps in access to capital.  

"It is unacceptable that [in] a city that has a supermajority Black population around 79 percent and a supermajority of small businesses [of] 80%, that Black businesses can't access capital or ecosystems that provide resources. Detroit needs new leadership at the table that will move the needle forward, producing measurable results in the community," said Dr. Danielle Cato-Benson, founder, and chief executive of the HealHER Virtual Spa and 1:11 The Collective mental health resorts.  

This is a historic time in which three top Black business organizations have joined forces to speak out against the ongoing benign neglect of Black businesses by the philanthropic, public, and private sectors. The Detroit United Front will provide much-needed, real and independent representation to serve as a true economic advocate for Black businesses in the city for those who may not have a voice while simultaneously holding the systems, institutions and structures perpetuating lack of equity and exclusion, accountable. 

"Most of the next generation in the Black community wants to own their own businesses and make their own money, providing them the economic freedom their parents and grandparents did not experience working for someone else. Entrepreneurship will be the jobs of the future in the Black community," said Bartel Welch, CEO of Red Diamond Digital. 

The Detroit United Front will swear in its new leadership body during the State of Black Business Summit by 36th District Chief Judge William McConnico. During the meeting, the new leadership will unveil the state of Black business report. The Detroit United Front will also serve as the NBL's Midwest Regional Office. 

  • Dr. Cecil Forbes, President, NBL Detroit Chapter (Owner, ICareSpine) 
  • Orena Perry, Chairman, NBL Detroit Chapter (Managing Member, JADL Events) 
  • Dr. Danielle Cato-Benson, President, DBCC (CEO, 1:11 The Collective) 
  • Chad Rhodes, Chairman, DBCC (Managing Partner, The Rhodes Cos)  
  • Bartel Welch, President, BTWTA (CEO, Red Diamond Digital)  
  • Crystal Gunn, Chairman, BTWTA (Founder, The Amazing Woman Network) and their Executive Committee leadership team  

Crystal L. Gunn, founder, and CEO of the Amazing Woman Network, stated, "These times call for unprecedented leadership and new voices at the old table, or by creating a table of our own. Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Time to disrupt the insanity that produces no results for Black businesses."  

The State of Black Business Summit and Press Conference, presented by Comerica Bank and MPS Group, will be held on Monday, March 7, 2022, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Detroit at 525 W. Lafayette Blvd. Call 313-818-3017 for additional information. COVID protocols will be adhered to during this event.

"Booker T. Washington's business philosophy is more prevalent today than it was 122 years ago. It is time for the Detroit United Front for new leadership to carry on that legacy and to frame the Black business agenda for the city of Detroit," stated Orena Perry Co-Founder of JEADL, LLC.

About the Detroit United Front 
The Detroit United Front (DUF) is a uniting of the National Business League, the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association to address the systemic socioeconomic inequalities and lack of equity and inclusion among Black businesses in the city of Detroit. The combined members of all three organizations total more than 11,000 Black businesses in the city of Detroit. Making the Detroit United Front a powerful voice for Black businesses in the Detroit political economy.

About the National Business League Detroit Chapter 
The National Business League Detroit Chapter is the official organization of the national body in the city of Detroit. Historically, the NBL Detroit Chapter, serves as the programmatic, advocacy and platform arm of the National Negro Business League, now known as the National Business League, which was founded on August 23, 1900, by the legendary Booker T. Washington. The NBL Detroit is also the Midwest Regional Office of the National Business League, representing numerous chapters in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

About the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce 
The Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce (DBCC) was established in December 2000 to position Black-owned businesses for economic opportunities in Detroit. The Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce merged with the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce in 2009 as part of a statewide reorganization.  

About the Booker T. Washington Trade Association 
The Booker T. Washington Trade Association (BTWTA) was founded in 1930 by Rev. William H. Peck and a small group of local professionals and business owners as part of the National Negro Business League, now known as the National Business League, to promote the development of local Black businesses in Detroit.   

About the National Business League 
The NBL was founded on August 23, 1900, by the legendary Booker T. Washington and is the first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan and nonsectarian Black business and professional trade association. The NBL, celebrating a 122-year legacy, has 120,000 members nationwide and 125 Fortune 500 corporate partners, with regional offices in Atlanta, GA, Detroit, MI, Los Angeles, CA, and Washington, DC, as well as city league chapters throughout all 50 states and internationally. The organization provides access to 2.9 million Black businesses throughout the United States.

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