Positive Energy in Jackson Ward

Founders of the Jackson Ward Collective: (from left) Rasheeda Creighton, Kelli Lemon, and Melody Short.

by James A. Bacon

Alisha and Lamont Hawkins thought it would take 10 days to renovate their Inner City Blues barbecue restaurant in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood. Their effort tuned into a three-month “skirmish” with city regulators as they went up a painful learning curve. Hoping never to repeat the experience, Alisha joined the Jackson Ward Collective, an organization geared to connecting black entrepreneurs and promoting self help, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Founded by three black businesswomen in mid-September, the Collective has already reached its 150-member capacity. Members who join pay either $19.99 a month or an annual fee of $200. What they get in return is mentoring, networking, access to community resources through partnerships with established organizations. A top priority is helping members gain access to capital.

By naming the organization after Jackson Ward, the founders recall the entrepreneurial spirit of Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood, which had so many African American-owned businesses that it was often called the Black Wall Street or the Harlem of the South.

Rasheeda Creighton, Kelli Lemon and Melody Short formed the group to address what they had seen was a lack of support when they had started their own ventures. Creighton founded the 3Fifty Group, a business consulting company; Lemon owns the Urban Hang Suite social cafe; Short is co-founder of the Richmond Night Market.

Bacon’s bottom line: What a fantastic initiative! It’s great to see African-American businessmen and women taking their fate into their own hands. Creating and growing businesses is the only durable path to building wealth in a market-based economy, and it’s encouraging to see that a group like the Jackson Ward Collective could line up 150 African-American businesses in such a short time. Clearly, there is a pent-up demand for the kind of mutual self-help that the group offers.

Once upon a time, there was a lot of discussion about how to spur black capitalism. With the fixation on “social justice,” we haven’t heard much of that in recent years. Other than rescuing public schools from the progressives bent upon turning them into indoctrination factories, I can’t think of a better way to spur black economic progress than encouraging black entrepreneurs who over time will build wealth, employ other blacks, and help revitalize black communities. The Collective can play a vital role in this process. A group representing 150 black businesses will have a lot more clout than 150 individuals in forging relationships with banks, angel capitalists, and other financiers. I wish the founders the best of luck.

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4 responses to “Positive Energy in Jackson Ward

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Marcus Garvey would approve:
    “There is no force like success, and that is why the individual makes all effort to surround himself throughout life with the evidence of it; as of the individual, so should it be of the nation.”

    The sky is the limit for the Jackson Ward Collective. Very inspiring.

  2. Not really taught in school and often from family especially among immigrants.

    Govt has some heavy duty rules when it comes to serving food to the public and it translates into dollars (capital) for equipment and facilities.

    Only a small number of start-ups succeed and knowing the reasons is pretty important before one starts:

  3. What part did BLM contribute to making these black lives matter?

  4. “By naming the organization after Jackson Ward, the founders recall the entrepreneurial spirit of Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood, which had so many African American-owned businesses that it was often called the Black Wall Street or the Harlem of the South.”

    I’ve long heard two sides of the story of Jackson Ward. One says that racist rezoning used eminent domain law to seize property in Jackson Ward and Church Hill to build highways, office buildings and the Richmond Coliseum. The result was a destruction of community cohesion and the loss of the “Black Wall Street” concept. The other story is that desegregation in Richmond meant that many of the entrepreneurs of Jackson Ward could move to better neighborhoods and did so. This “brain drain” caused the area to fall into decline.

    I’m very interested in how the many Richmonders on this blog see the history of this area.

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