I run a Black-owned small business and I’m voting for Joe Biden


Special to the Outlook

I first started my small business 14 years ago. In that time, I’ve faced plenty of hardship, whether in the Great Recession, or being a Black woman operating a small business. We’ve never had anything handed to us and we’ve always had to make things work ourselves. The truth is, it has never been easy, but it has always been worth it. It’s been worth it because there is no greater feeling than achieving the American dream for you and for your family. In achieving that dream, though, you learn to take the good with the bad. Nothing could have prepared us for the current hardship we face, and COVID-19 pandemic has hit our business hard. There have been times where we were doing well as a business, and there were times when things were a little unsteady. Unfortunately, I know that feeling now more than ever. As a result, I don’t know if my business will survive and if my American dream is over.

My restaurant, Arlene’s Bar-B-Que & Grill, is a mom and pop in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Pensacola that would normally seat 181 guests indoors. But, due to health concerns, we now seat only 30 comfortably on our covered patio outdoors. I’ve come to know the people who stop by, and even though I’m busy running the restaurant, I always take the time to learn the new faces who come in for a good meal. That’s the welcoming spirit of a Black-owned family restaurant. We invite everyone from all races and backgrounds and everyone becomes our family. What is happening to my restaurant hurts my family and me, and I know we are not the only ones struggling through this crisis. There are many other Black-owned small businesses across Florida who are also afraid of losing everything. I had the pleasure of meeting several of them at a virtual roundtable discussion hosted by the Biden for President campaign. Although I wish I had met those business owners under better circumstances, I learned that we shared much in common, including a passion for entrepreneurship, and that Donald Trump failed us when we needed him most.

Submitted photo

President Trump talks a lot about what he has done for the Black community and for our small businesses, but actions speak louder than words – and he sure does speak a lot. The Trump administration’s economic policies have prioritized his wealthy donors, not small Black businesses like mine. To keep my business going, I have leaned on my faith and turned to using the services of Uber Eats and DoorDash to make ends meet. Trump has waited on hand and foot for those who have more than what they need, while we are being left out of the recovery efforts.

When COVID-19 hit and businesses across the state and the country were closing their doors in accordance with safety protocols, I immediately applied for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to keep our restaurant afloat. Week after week, I followed up and waited to hear if I had been approved. I never heard back. It was difficult learning that most Black businesses were denied or never got a response. Since February, Black businesses across the country have fallen 41 percent as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The virus exacerbated long standing economic inequities for Black communities and businesses and Donald Trump has failed to address this in his policies, despite all his rhetoric.

This economic disaster from COVID-19 would have been bad under any administration, but there is no doubt that it didn’t have to be this bad. That’s why we need a competent and compassionate president who understands the economy and who has a plan to address these racial and economic inequities and build back better. I believe that leader would be Vice President Joe Biden.

Arlene Williams is the owner of  Arlene’s Bar-B-Que & Grill in Pensacola