Three Black Business Organizations Form Detroit United Front

The National Business League Detroit Chapter (NBL), the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce (DBCC), and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association (BTWTA) will announce new leadership and their coming together as the Detroit United Front at the 12th annual State of Black Business Summit on March 7.
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Detroit, Michigan, USA Downtown Skyline
The National Business League Detroit Chapter, the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association will come together March 7 to announce the formation of the Detroit Unified Front. // Stock Photo

The National Business League Detroit Chapter (NBL), the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce (DBCC), and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association (BTWTA) will announce new leadership and their coming together as the Detroit United Front at the 12th annual State of Black Business Summit on March 7.

The summit 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. Boyce Watkins, founder and CEO of Boyce Watkins Enterprises, will serve as the summit’s keynote speaker.

“It is unacceptable that (in) a city that has a supermajority Black population around 79 percent and a supermajority of small businesses (of) 80 percent, that Black businesses can’t access capital or ecosystems that provide resources,” says Danielle Cato-Benson, founder and. CEO of the HealHER Virtual Spa and 1:11 The Collective. “Detroit needs new leadership at the table that will move the needle forward, producing measurable results in the community.”

These 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 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,” says 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.

The new leadership includes:

  • Cecil Forbes, president of NBL Detroit Chapter and owner of ICareSpine
  • Orena Perry, chairman of NBL Detroit Chapter and managing member of JADL Events
  • Danielle Cato-Benson, president of DBCC and CEO of 1:11 The Collective
  • Chad Rhodes, chairman of DBCC and managing partner of The Rhodes Cos.
  • Bartel Welch, president of BTWTA and CEO of Red Diamond Digital
  • Crystal Gunn, chairman of BTWTA and Founder of The Amazing Woman Network

In 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, according to Detroit United Front.

“Detroit has one of the highest poverty and economic inequalities rates in the country, and one of the ways to address poverty and inequality in an 80 percent Black city is to support Black businesses and entrepreneurship. Black businesses should be the number-one employer of Black people,” says Rhodes.

The State of Black Business Summit and Press Conference, presented by Comerica Bank and MPS Group, will be held on Monday, March 7, from 8-11 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 the event.

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