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Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors Fight for Justice

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Lessie Benningfield Randle, Viola Fletcher, and Hughes Van Ellis, Sr. – the last three known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, recently appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court requesting it to pick up a case that a lower court dismissed last month. 

Their suit filed in 2020, sought reparations for the victims and descendants of the 100-year-old massacre, including an unnamed amount for punitive damages, a compensation fund, a scholarship program for descendants of those living in the Greenwood district at the time of the massacre, mental health and education programs for Greenwood residents. 

Damario Solomon-Simmons, lead attorney for the three survivors and founder of Justice for Greenwood, said the case was wrongly dismissed. 

“The facts of this case fit squarely within the common law property-based limitations that have shaped Oklahoma’s public nuisance statute for more than a century,” Solomon-Simmons said. “The District Court unlawfully imposed on survivors a heightened pleading standard that has never been adopted by a court in Oklahoma.”

The Tulsa Race Massacre occurred in 1921 when a mob of white individuals, deputized and armed by municipal and county officials, killed, looted, and burned down the Greenwood area. The massacre resulted in the murder of more than 300 Tulsans and the destruction of the prosperous Greenwood neighborhood, often called “Black Wall Street.” Greenwood was co-founded by Black Creeks — it became one of the most prosperous, organized, and thriving Black communities in United States history and a place for Black people to escape the political, economic, and social oppression of southern lawmakers post-civil war.

“It is important to recognize that if the Oklahoma Supreme Court allows Judge (Caroline) Wall’s decision to stand, it will become far more difficult for individuals and businesses across the state to vindicate their legal rights,” said Solomon-Simmons. “While this case carries historic significance for the Greenwood community that has been damaged and exploited for more than 102 years, the significance that the District Court’s holding would have on all Oklahomans seeking justice through the legal system cannot be overstated.”

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Treasury Department Releases Report on Benefits of Unions to the U.S. Economy

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The Treasury Department recently released its most comprehensive-ever look at the role that labor unions play in the American economy with a new report by the Department’s Office of Economic Policy. 

The report represents over 70 actions the White House Task Force implemented on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. It finds that unions play an important role in addressing the middle class’s longstanding challenges – including stagnant wages, high housing costs, and reduced intergenerational mobility.  

The report’s key findings are:

  • Middle-class workers reap substantial benefits from unionization. Unions raise the wages of their members by 10 to 15 percent. Unions also improve fringe benefits and workplace procedures such as retirement plans, workplace grievance policies, and predictable scheduling. 
  • Unionization also has spillover effects. Competition means workers at nonunionized firms see increased wages, too. Heightened workplace safety norms can pull up whole industries. Union members improve their communities through increased civic engagement; and they are more likely to vote and donate to charity. 
  • Modern unions have broad representation across race and gender. In 2021, Black men had a particularly high union representation rate at 13 percent, as compared to the population average of 10 percent. 
  • Unions can boost businesses’ productivity by improving working environments and giving experienced workers more of an input into decisions that design better and more cost-effective workplace procedures. 

Promisingly, there have been recent signs of a reinvigorated labor movement, as union election petitions in 2022 bounced back from the pandemic to their highest level since 2015, and public opinion of labor unions is at its highest level in over 50 years. Other actions taken by the White House include:

  • Prioritizing the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Sector Freedom to Negotiate Act.  
  • Promoting “know your rights” initiatives to provide workers with better information about their organizing and bargaining rights.
  • Announcing a new rule to raise wage standards of construction workers by updating wage regulations.
  • Requiring employers to pay prevailing wages and abide by apprenticeship requirements to claim the full value of many clean energy tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act as part of the Treasury Department’s implementation of the law.
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First Black Franchise Symposium and Trade Show Coming to Plano

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The Franchise Game, the U.S.’s first and only African American Franchise Symposium and Trade Show, is coming to Plano, Texas, on Friday, September 15, 2023. The event, spearheaded by “The Franchise Player” Tarji Carter and Marketing Maven Dessie Brown, Jr., will take place at Yum! Restaurants International Corporate Campus from 8am-5pm CST. The symposium aims to bring together experts and industry leaders to discuss the secrets to success, challenges, and opportunities in franchising. The theme for this inaugural event is Doing The Work! 

The day will kick off with a message from James Fripp (Chief Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Officer,

Yum! Brands) and a powerful keynote address from Nicholas Perkins (CEO of Fuddruckers and the first African American to own a National Hamburger Franchise System), followed by an explosive lineup of panel discussions led by franchise subject matter experts including Mike Quinn (Franchisee, Pizza Hut), Tim Williams (Director of Operations, Williams Chicken), Damon Dunn (Franchisee, Dunkin’ Brands and Retired NFL Player), Delmas Arthur (Operations Manager, Dunkin’ Brands, Starbucks, 5 Guys, McDonald’s, and Hardee’s), and “The Franchise Player” Tarji Carter.

“With this event, we are looking to attract multi-unit franchisees, owner/operators, potential investors, athletes, entertainers, and franchise brands seeking to attract franchisees that reflect the communities they serve,” says Carter, who has worked with some of the world’s most delicious restaurant brands, including CinnabonCarvelBaskin RobbinsDunkinWingstopEdible ArrangementsFuddruckers, and Bojangles’. “We want to increase franchise ownership and wealth across the African American community by providing education, resources, and opportunities to aspiring franchisees and small business owners – and we can reach this goal by partnering with franchise brands committed to inclusion, equity, and belonging.”

Fueled by iconic African American magazine/brand JET, the Franchise Game will consist of sessions from franchisees, lawyers, business development officers, and operation managers. Sessions include A Day in the Life of a Franchisee (where attendees will learn from some of the industry’s best multi-unit franchisees), Talk to My Attorney! (where attendees will learn about the legal rights and responsibilities from franchise attorneys), Bag Secured (which is designed to address accessing capital for business), Operational Excellence (which is designed to show attendees how to grow from an Owner-Operator to owning a large enterprise), and How to Get Started and Approved (which is the official guide to franchise ownership).

Before the symposium and trade show, The Franchise Game will also hold a VIP Reception on September 14, 2023, for executives, brands, and select attendees.

To register or for more information, please visit www.thefranchiseplayer.com/events. Early registration is recommended, as space is limited

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Black Life Texas

Supporting Black Business 365

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With the Black community making up 6-7% of the population in San Antonio, it’s critically important that local Black businesses are supported. As in June for Black History Month and August for Black Business Month, the focus needs to be more than twice per year.

There are more than 2 million Black-owned small businesses in the United States. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of new Black business owners has risen 38 percent, with Black female entrepreneurs leading the charge. 

Despite this progress, Black entrepreneurs are struggling to stay afloat, with 8 out of 10 Black-owned businesses expected to fail within the first 18 months, according to a 2021 CNBC report. The struggle is real for African American companies. According to a 2022 report by Bank of America, 46% of Black business owners in the U.S. face problems accessing capital, and 44% don’t have a mentor.

While San Antonio is home to several Chambers of Commerce, two cater to the Black community. The Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce of San Antonio provide ways for entrepreneurs to be mentored and learn from others. They offer lunch and learn series, ongoing mixers, resource fairs, and business institutes. 

The Biden Administration has recently made it simpler for many small-business owners to get loans. As part of a series of changes effective Aug. 1, the Small Business Administration has simplified loan requirements to make it easier for financial-technology firms to participate. The SBA is also increasing the scope of licensed non-bank lenders to issue SBA loans. Also, the federal office is providing additional flexibility in credit criteria for loans under $500,000 to reach more credit-worthy small businesses. 

SBA loans, typically made by banks and other financial institutions, help entrepreneurs start and grow small businesses. Entrepreneurs can borrow up to $5 million in SBA-backed loans, making the loans less risky and more appealing to lenders. 

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