MINORITY REPORT: Alliance hopes to create resource for
By CHRISTIAN MARTINEZ, Lansing State Journal
LANSING, July 5, 2020 (AP): Before the COVID-19 pandemic
and before police violence against Black people sparked
nationwide protests, a group of Black entrepreneurs had been
working to transition the Lansing Black Chamber of Commerce
into a more fleet-footed organization. The global and national
events of recent months have cast their effort in a different
light. ``I would say, in the last three months, that there has
been a sense of urgency that I have never experienced in my
lifetime,” Reshane Lonzo told the Lansing State
Lonzo is the owner of DRM International Learning Center,
a vocational school, and is the president-elect of the nascent
Black Business Alliance of Greater Lansing. “Look at the current
times,” said Alane Laws-Barker, president and founder of
the Black Business Alliance. ``That makes you work faster.”
``I think that with the COVID-19 pandemic and the
systemic racist practices (have) contributed, not only to the
Black unemployment rate being the highest in over a decade but
also the closing of Black-owned businesses across the country,”
reported in early June that Black unemployment had reached
16.4%, the highest level in over 10 years.
Laws-Barker, an OB-GYN, Lonzo and others, including
Laws-Barker's daughter, MiChaela Barker, an entrepreneur
herself with Melanin in Medicine LLC, are spearheading the
establishment of the alliance.
``Many black businesses are small and it's very difficult to run
a business organization in a town that’s small for businesses
that are small, because often they don't have the time to take
away from their business to run a chamber-type organization,”
``Our primary goal is to provide resources and networking and be
an advocate for businesses,” she said. ``At this point, we're
just trying to get businesses together and allow the community
to recognize that they’re here.”
The work of establishing the alliance includes the creation of a
Black-owned business registry. So far nearly 100 businesses have
The businesses span every sector of the economy, from
restaurants and retail to medicine and financial services.
Barker said the impact of COVID-19 on the Black community
coupled with growing momentum around protests for racial justice
created interest in highlighting Black-owned businesses.
``A lot of people will flock to the very well-known Black-owned
businesses, the ones that are known internationally or
nationally,'' she said. ``But a lot of times we overlook things
happening at our local levels and things that are happening
within our own backyard.”
Laws-Barker noted that not all of Black-owned businesses are
traditional. ``They’re not all brick and mortar because we don’t
have access to many of the loans and that sort of thing,” she
``We support all businesses, regardless of size, because we know
that with the right resources, businesses can and will grow.”
Charles Moore, a CPA and member of the Black Business Alliance
team, said running a small business can be tough.
``A lot of people just don't last,'' he said. ``And businesses
are based on relationships, so if your relationships are narrow,
your opportunity for success is narrow.''
The Alliance hopes to help Black business owners in part by
expanding relationships and connections.
In addition to the formation of the registry, Lonzo said she has
attempted to help businesses navigate the uncertainty of the
``The last 90 days have consisted of trying to help be a
lifeline for our local black businesses to see what their needs
are and how we can help them not close their doors,” Lonzo said.