When Bob Dickerson appears to be like again on his childhood in a segregated Birmingham within the Sixties, one determine stands out: his neighbor who made cash by promoting greens out of the again of his pickup truck.
Dickerson, who now leads the Birmingham Enterprise Useful resource Middle, grew up south of the town limits in a Black neighborhood known as Roosevelt Metropolis. Residents, together with Dickerson’s mother and father, included Roosevelt Metropolis in 1967 as its personal unbiased metropolis as a part of a motion that swept the South, as Black folks claimed self-governing energy and fought to protect their communities.
He recollects his mom, and plenty of others within the neighborhood, shopping for squash and beans from their neighbor Charlie Davis.
“He was proximate to us,” Dickerson, 70, advised AL.com. “He represented success in my viewpoint as a result of he was a member of the neighborhood and a enterprise proprietor.”
Dickerson shared his observations of Birmingham’s Black workforce by means of the years throughout a Q&A on the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute as a part of final weekend’s Freedom Fest occasion. He spoke about his childhood, profession and the place issues stand right now when it comes to financial alternative for Birmingham’s Black neighborhood.
After all, Dickerson recalled, there have been different Black enterprise homeowners in Birmingham 60 years in the past. He went on to work for A.G. Gaston, the well-known businessman who owned the A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham’s core that served because the headquarters for efforts to desegregate the town, in addition to an insurance coverage firm and a financial institution, amassing a portfolio of thousands and thousands. Black residents additionally held key positions within the metal and development industries, Dickerson stated.
“They had been constructing homes, renovating homes,” he stated through the Freedom Fest occasion. “Probably the most rich of us had the largest homes as a result of they constructed them.”
Different well-liked avenues of labor for Black Birmingham residents in 1963 included Black-owned grocery shops and different retail, he stated. However Black enterprise homeowners had been turned away from conventional banks in 1963 for loans and subjected to discrimination within the hiring course of and on the job, that means wealth-building alternatives had been extraordinarily restricted.
“When you consider the wealth hole, we now have been robbed of wealth all through the historical past of America,” Dickerson stated. “That financial theft nonetheless impacts our neighborhood. How can we take the cash we make and use it for ourselves that creates wealth?”
Dickerson discovered his personal path, now counting 5 a long time of banking and monetary expertise. He’s the manager director of the Birmingham Enterprise Useful resource Middle, an area nonprofit he based in 1996 after studying that the metro space didn’t have a program that mixed loans with capability constructing and advocacy for enterprise homeowners. He noticed that Black enterprise homeowners had been significantly impacted by a scarcity of entry to capital – and so he got down to discover a solution to fill the hole.
Since then, the Birmingham Enterprise Useful resource Middle has loaned practically $900 million to native companies, in addition to supplied consulting companies and provider and vendor improvement.
Dickerson additionally serves as CEO of Basis Capital, a U.S. Small Enterprise Administration-certified improvement firm. He based the annual A.G. Gaston Convention that organizes leaders to handle financial mobility for folks of shade alongside the mission of “navigating the journey from civil rights to financial justice.”
After graduating from the Tuskegee Institute with a enterprise administration diploma in 1973, Dickerson began his first post-grad job at Birmingham Belief Nationwide Financial institution. He climbed the ranks to be the second Black officer on the financial institution – and, to his data, the third Black particular person within the area to change into an officer of any financial institution, he recalled.
“Banks weren’t recruiting us. In actual fact, I’d by no means thought of working for a financial institution. My connection to the financial institution was going within the financial institution and opening an account or cashing a examine,” he stated, including that relationships he constructed by means of a summer time job working for legal professionals obtained him a method in.
Per Dickerson’s calculations based mostly on his work with native small companies and his examine of the U.S. Division of Commerce’s information on small, minority-owned enterprise, native Black enterprise homeowners’ share of Birmingham’s enterprise income makes up lower than one %, although the town’s inhabitants is almost 70% Black. That development exposes still-existing obstacles going through Black enterprise homeowners within the area to market entry that different companies have, Dickerson stated.
In Birmingham’s neighborhoods with the best median family earnings, Black residents had been incomes $93,139, whereas white residents had been incomes $152,778, per 2020 information. Poverty is concentrated highest amongst Black residents. And of Birmingham’s roughly 5,076 employers counted by the latest Census Bureau information from 2017, 12% are minority-owned – which incorporates however isn’t restricted to Black-owned companies.
“We nonetheless are a good distance from being truthful,” Dickerson stated, including that he’s pushing for main enterprise leaders to strategically help extra Black companies.