CSUF Institute Maps Black Businesses
By Dianne Anderson
No more having to travel hours outside of the county to try to connect with Black businesses.
In a world where map apps are everywhere, most Black businesses and organizations still can’t seem to find each other in Orange County, but that’s about to change this fall with the development of a new map to help point consumers in the right direction.
“I’ve talked to several businesses and owners and they say that they do programs, but often go to San Bernardino County or L.A County to do their work or vending because they don’t know or expect there to be events [locally] for Black culture,” said Dr. Natalie Graham, professor for the African American studies department at Cal State University, Fullerton.
So far, her project has connected with 55 Black businesses in the county, and continues to search online and reach out for more participation. She hopes that one contact will lead to another until they have established a comprehensive list.
Dr. Graham, also founder and director of CSUF Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation, said she was inspired to develop the map, along with Nicole Bailey, Senior Director of Development at CSUF.
Through their digital project, the technology and platform may also help develop entrepreneurs from their own student body. The virtual space is the first step, but eventually, she is looking to create a community council to get together quarterly with businesses, community-serving organizations, and churches.
Because the county’s Black population is small, she expects the map will go a long way toward helping the community take the steps to create a mapped network and counteract the isolation.
“Folks feel isolated, they’re in their own silos, they’re not even recognizing there’s a family over here or a business over there, a restaurant down the street,” she said.
The map will also help clear the path to encourage more inclusion, and also help open up conversations through the arts, and cultural events. Often, students in Orange County feel isolated and disconnected, and she sees the project helping them connect with a real network of Black enterprise that has managed to stay strong despite their small numbers.
Another negative impact that concerns her is that probably because of longstanding discrimination or exclusion in the area, some Black students shy away from their identity.
On one hand there is a legacy of exclusion and racism in Orange County, but she said there are also ongoing issues of exclusion at CSUF.
“We say 2% Black students [population], but there was a dip in students that identified as Black because they thought if they identified as Black it would be used as a negative mark against them,” she said.
Graham wants to see more all-around focus on the great strides that the Black community is making in arts, science and innovation. In recent times, popular media has centered heavily on Black trauma, which she feels should not be ignored. At the same time, she said the Black experience has so much more to offer.
“We really wanted to change the cycle of martyrdom and protests. In a lot of ways, you have folks interested in Black culture around trauma. We wanted folks to be like – CSU Fullerton is a place where they’re going to be talking about cutting edge research, art and design,” said Graham, who has been at CSUF for eight years.
But growing up in Gainesville, Florida, and seeing the level of Black ownership there, she said it revealed the keys to Black power and progress.
“I look at Orange County and California in general, we have to own businesses. We have to own houses if we’re not going to be pushed around — like literally, migration from one city or one county to the next,” she said.
Within the collaborative of faculty members, African American studies students will be reaching out this fall to get feedback from Black businesses, Black serving nonprofits and churches. She is also inviting all businesses and agencies to reach out to her.
Lots of ideas are brimming around the project and the future of The Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation. The programming covers a lot of good ground, and the technology is poised to draw the community closer together.
“We do arts programming, we also want to do technology,” she said. “We create these crossing lanes where people are talking about Black health and Black families because we want it to be inter-generational and crossing over.”
For more information, see http://hss.fullerton.edu/ibii/
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