A look at entrepreneurship and closing the racial wealth gap

ByNzinga Blake, Alexis Johnson-Fowlkes KABC logo
Tuesday, January 30, 2024
A look at entrepreneurship and closing the racial wealth gap
Part of "Our America: In the Black" focuses on the importance of building Black businesses through mentorship as a way to close the racial wealth gap.

ABC Owned Television Stations is joining forces with Microsoft Philanthropy to drive conversations about building wealth in the Black community in a new one-hour documentary special called "Our America: In The Black."

The special follows Microsoft Philanthropic specialist, Darrell Booker, who works to close the racial wealth gap through their inclusive digital programs. Part of the special focuses on the importance of building Black businesses through the power of mentorship as a pathway to close the racial wealth gap in Atlanta, Georgia, commonly referred to as the Black Mecca.

"This is a city in a community where Black and brown people are really thriving, supporting each other, really excited for everyone to succeed and get to that next level," Booker said.

Despite the promising outlook for Black-owned businesses, the statistics tell a different story. According to census data, only 9% of businesses in the Atlanta metro area are Black-owned.

Recognizing the pivotal role entrepreneurship plays in narrowing the racial wealth gap within the Black community, the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs is working to build and scale more Black businesses. The organization attributes its success to facilitating collaborations, investments, and mentorship, which Darrell believes is critical to the success of small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Booker introduces the audience to Meagan Naraine, a post-graduate student and co-founder of the startup Culturally Relevant Science. She and fellow co-founder Tamir Mickens built this digital platform that provides STEM education to children from historically underrepresented communities.

Naraine was motivated to establish a business centered on STEM education for children from historically underserved communities due to the lack of representation of this demographic in STEM fields.

"If we're getting statistics, like less than 30% of women make up the STEM workforce or less than 20% of black kids are pursuing STEM degrees in college than what's already made," she said, "It's not working. So I see the digital platform that we're currently working on being that one-stop shop to reach those babies that need the most help."

Booker organized a roundtable mentoring session for Naraine to provide valuable mentorship and guidance as she navigates the early stages of her company. He worked to connect her with mentors who Booker believed could be instrumental in guiding her in the early stages of building her startup. The mentors are individuals who supported Booker when he relocated to Atlanta, and with whom he now partners with.

We meet Onaje Henderson, a partner and managing director of Zucot Gallery, which encourages the Black community to expand their investment options by collecting art. Terri-Nichelle Bradley, the founder of the STEM toy brand Brown Toy Box, built her company to break cycles of poverty by allowing children to see themselves in toy characters who loved STEM. The third entrepreneur Naraine met was Jay Bailey, CEO of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE).

"Being able to learn from people who look like us, that have done the steps, that's the only way me and Mr. Mickens can gain progress," Naraine said. "It's not by the grant money we get, it's not by the funding we get, it's literally filling our brain with more knowledge on how to expand this impact."

Watch more in the video above to learn more of Atlanta's influential leaders like Tiffany Pearson-Kilgore, Ashley Rutland from Planned to A.T. and community leader Daniel Blackman.

Start your journey in empowering your community to achieve generational wealth with Microsoft nonprofit resources at www.aka.ms/NTA.

If you're interested in following Naraine's journey and other individuals and nonprofits working to close the racial wealth gap, tune into "Our America: In The Black." Watch starting Feb. 2 online and wherever you stream this station on Roku, Apple TV, FireTV or Google TV. Also on Feb. 2, you can also find the special on Hulu's "Black Stories Always" hub, the ultimate streaming destination for Black stories and storytellers all year round.