Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

SBA, NBJC hold business convention for LGBTs of color


NBJC's Sharon Lettman-Hicks. Photo: Courtesy NBJC
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An economic empowerment tour for LGBT communities of color will make a stop in Oakland next week.

The Many Faces, One Dream tour is organized by the U.S. Small Business Administration in partnership with the National Black Justice Coalition. It is in the midst of its first 13-city tour across the United States and will be at the Oakland Marriott City Center April 21-22.

The two-day event will consist of workshops, one-on-one and small group counseling, and a business resource expo with local community partners. Seminars will be conducted on strategic planning, access to capital, and social media marketing.

Eugene Cornelius, Jr., deputy associate administrator for field operations for the SBA, is the architect of the MFOD tour.

"The minority community is an underserved community and these are the people we are trying to reach," said Cornelius. "We do believe in enriching them and bringing them to a level playing field with the overall population to help them be more successful in the overall economy."

The tour is an introduction to the tools, resources, programs, and services that are available to LGBT people of color to promote and train them to become successful business owners. It is also sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Black Enterprise.

Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director and chief executive officer of NBJC, is hoping to engage the ethnic minority community through the tour.

"It is very challenging to live at the intersection of LGBT equality and racial justice. The SBA having distinct focus on ethnic minorities, as well as the Obama administration priorities on LGBT equality, have made such a wonderful combination," said Lettman-Hicks. "We are trying to bring visibility to an otherwise invisible community."

The cities that the tour is visiting have the highest population of LGBT communities of color that the MFOD is trying to target and, in addition to Oakland, include Atlanta, Brooklyn in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New Orleans.

"That is our specific target," Lettman-Hicks said. "We wanted to see if this type of opportunity that the SBA gives us would be received in communities where we have the most density."

During MFOD's first year of research it recognized that there were many LGBT entrepreneurs of color, who have mostly been engaged on the ethnic minority side, whether with the African American Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations, but who didn't know how to break into the LGBT market, or to bring all of their identity to the table. The MFOD tour is trying to show the type of opportunities that these small businesses need to recognize in the $830 billion LGBT consumer market, according to Lettman-Hicks.

Mark D. Gibson, MFOD national communications director for the SBA, pointed out that President Barack Obama had instructed his cabinet members that they should be mindful and cognizant about reaching out to be more inclusive to communities that may have either gone overlooked or that are not familiar with the daily practice of the federal government.

"Cornelius took that and developed the MFOD tour as an introduction to the LGBT communities across the country to answer the call of the president to be more inclusive with the SBA," said Gibson.

Gay Berkeley City Councilman Darryl Moore, who is the NBJC board chair, said in a statement, "LGBT people of color contend with so much workplace, gender identity and employment discrimination. With the Many Faces, One Dream tour, we want to give them the reins to their own destiny through entrepreneurial tools."

Registration costs $25 and people can sign up at The Oakland Marriott City Center is located at 1001 Broadway, near the 12th Street City Center BART station.



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