Since our beginnings in 2019, Black Leaders Detroit has worked to introduce real capital for Black-owned businesses and nonprofits to the city. There are systemic barriers that persist for Black entrepreneurs, even long-time business owners, and nonprofit leaders when it comes to accessing money for their organizations. These may look different over the years, but even in a predominantly black city, they are still there.
At BLD, we focus on breaking down these barriers. In less than two and a half years, we’ve donated more than $400,000 exclusively through grants to Black-owned businesses and nonprofits operating in Detroit. We were able to provide financial support to 132 organizations and businesses responsible for over 450 jobs, most of which are filled by Detroit residents. We’re happy to help put money directly into the hands of people running jobs and nonprofit leaders who understand the problems they’re trying to solve and provide real solutions and impact. and measurable.
In January, we launched our interest-free loan program. We’re really excited about it. Detroit-based Black-owned businesses can apply for a loan of up to $20,000 through our website. We have received applications, which we will start processing on March 15. Funding permitting, we hope to increase our maximum loan amount to $50,000 by the fourth quarter. Our goal is to send between $400,000 and $500,000 in loans this year.
In honor of Black History Month, BLD donated a minimum of $2,000 per business day to a nonprofit organization founded and run by Black people in the city. I feel like I have the best job in the world, being able to encourage and even surprise these leaders with support. You can learn more about the hard work each of these organizations do for the people of Detroit from the short celebratory videos on our Facebook page.
What is really significant is that each of these organizations was nominated by our members. One of our core values at BLD is to share power, as well as resources. Our members know black leaders doing important work here that needs funding. We asked them to guide some of the decision-making within our organization in recommending these nonprofits, as they recommended others in need of emergency assistance during the pandemic.
BLD members are everyday people who want to be part of a fair solution for Detroit. One way we fundraise, and how we see ourselves fundraising long-term, is to ask individuals to donate $1 or more per week for our work. We know they are concerned and give people willing to donate $52 a year for real solutions that already exist, or to create access to capital for people in the for-profit sector through an interest-free loan. Our goal is to change the face of the hero, and increase this number to one million partners.
We were fortunate enough to raise over $92,000 and we count on it. But we’ve also been fortunate to receive grants from places like the Ford Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, Huntington and Flagstar Banks, Hudson-Webber Foundation, McGregor Fund, Pathways, and others. We value people who are in a position to help bring equity in a real way and who are willing to put the action behind the word equity.
When it comes to black leadership, I think we’ve all been conditioned to guess. In my opinion, the only way not to do that is if you’ve done some internal work to overcome the messages we’ve been getting about black people and black leadership here. In some credit institutions, we now have leaders who want to solve the problems they inherited. But they often learned their trade in these institutions, so the desire to change it and the ability to change it are two different things.
At BLD, we weren’t raised in the institutions that historically kept us in and out. So we have already done the work. When we see black leaders in the for-profit and nonprofit space, we assume they have the same abilities and abilities as our white colleagues when leading similar businesses or institutions. I think it’s a big difference to have a pot of money that’s controlled and managed by other black leaders who are in Detroit. We don’t believe we are the only solution, but we believe we have a part of it, and we hope to continue to earn the trust of our community.
In the near future, we would like to see a portion of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) dollars go into our interest-free loan program. Readers who believe in our work can support us by joining our $1/week membership and contacting the Mayor’s office and their Congressman or Senator to recommend that we be considered for a portion of those dollars, particularly because ‘Much of it will be focused on the small business community.
I’m afraid we’re not being seriously considered, and a study five years from now will show the low percentage of black entrepreneurs who have had access to those dollars, much like we’ve seen with PPP loans. We end up taking care of it much too late.
BLD is able to help those programs and those dollars succeed right now. Aid is often presented as one-sided, and while we could certainly use funds for our program, I think our government could really use our aid to figure out what to do with those dollars. It’s frustrating because there’s a lot of money being spent looking for things that we as black people talk about in the barbershop, the beauty supply store, and around the dinner table. We understand it because we live it. But we take that frustration and use it to motivate and inspire us to be great.
We’re trying to build something that’s sustainable and sustainable here, something that we think will be very beneficial to other cities with large black populations as well. We want to iron out any issues and learn as much as we can over the next two years so we can share this model.
Dwan Dandridge is the CEO and Founder of Black Leaders Detroit. This entry is part of our Non-profit journal project, an initiative inviting leaders of nonprofit organizations in Metro Detroit to share their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19, heightened awareness of racial injustice and inequality, Climate change issues and more affect their work – and how they respond. This series is made possible through the generous support of our partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.act Detroit.