Temperatures are dropping, but Black business ownership is about to heat up thanks to the Rev. Dennis Dillon. The New York Christian Times founder is hosting the reSURGEnce conference for Black Church and Black Businesses this Thursday, Nov. 17 and the next day, Friday, the 18th at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will feature speakers such as Mayor Eric Adams, Dormitory Authority of the State of New York Pres. Reuben McDaniel III and “New York Undercover” actor Malik Yoba. 

“The reSURGEnce, as the name suggests, is really to create a resurge, revival or a restoration—a recharge, so to speak of Black-owned businesses coming out of the pandemic,” said Dillon. “The pandemic has been deeply devastating to Black-owned businesses. 

“And so this reSURGEnce conference is really about the creation of a new Black economic renaissance. That’s really what this is about, and how do we work to ensure that all that is needed, and all that is necessary to create this renaissance and how all of the energies and resources ought to be brought to bear to facilitate and to create this renaissance.”

But Dillon doesn’t need a Sistine Chapel ceiling. His canvas is the Black consumer market in the New York/tri-state area, which tops $190 billion. Yet Black entrepreneurship doesn’t come close to commensurating to the community’s spending power. According to the city, only 3.5% of local businesses are Black-owned. So reSURGEnce aims to flip the switch by coaching entrepreneurship and assisting with applying for loans, government contracts and franchising opportunities. 

In August 2020, a city report found Black entrepreneurs, like most business owners, face challenges accessing capital. There was also a need for larger networks and support for customer acquisition. And they overwhelmingly open businesses to pursue their passions. But Dillon hopes they can think even bigger. 

“We’re selling culture, we’re selling cultural food, we’re selling cultural attire, we’re cutting hair—for the most part, most of the successes that Black businesses have endured has been wrapped around culture,” he said. “And we’re simply saying that it’s time for us to move the Black entrepreneurship to the mainstream. We gotta move it greatly to the mainstream. For instance, we have been extremely weak in New York and across the globe, as it comes to, as it relates to retail businesses. 

“So we want to create more retail businesses, the challenge we’ve had in the retail space for a lot of years, is the fact that most times we do not own the real estate associated with the retail. And in most cases for retail businesses, to truly succeed, there has to be a related ownership as it relates to the real estate.”

He adds that property ownership is key for true claim over Black communities, especially in neighborhoods battling gentrification like Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant. 

“We’re not in a position where we can truly claim any community as our own, because we really do not own the community,” said Dillon. “We only live in it. Only economics can change that.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://bit.ly/amnews1

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