Tribune Staff Writer
Greater Philadelphia chambers of commerce are condemning the recent racist threats against Black-owned businesses.
At least 10 Black female-owned businesses throughout the city — including Harriett’s Bookshop, Marsh + Mane, The Sable Collective, Stripp’d Juice and Urban Karma — received threatening emails recently.
The sender used racial slurs, threatened to sexually assault employees and burn down the businesses. The emails also said the “better Latino master race” will take over their businesses, homes and land.
The leaders of five chambers of commerce — the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, Independence Business Alliance, and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia — condemned the “reprehensible threats of violence” in a joint statement.
“Black and brown business growth is key to the success of our city and regional economy and job creation,” the statement said.
“Today, and forever more, we must be clear in our call for the end of racism. Our chamber member companies set a high standard for diversity, equity and inclusion across all aspects of our work and will continue to fight for equality,” the statement continued.
“We are certain that with much urgency, hard work, collaboration, and understanding we will be part of bringing lasting change.”
“Cowardice racist threats have no place in our society and will not be tolerated.”
The statement was signed by Steven Scott Bradley, chairman, African American Chamber of Commerce – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware; Jennifer Rodriguez, president and CEO, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Narasimha B. Shenoy, founder, president & CEO, Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia; Zachary Wilcha, executive director, Independence Business Alliance and Rob Wonderling, president and CEO, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.
Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, lauded the chambers for uniting to denounce the threats.
“I think that it just sends a message when you have all of the chambers of commerce coming together,” he said.
Lassiter said the community needs to stand in solidarity economically with these Black-owned businesses.
“This should serve as a teachable moment where now we can have a larger conversation around how we can support Black businesses economically even more during this stressful time,” he said.
Lassiter said people should not be surprised when incidents like this occur.
“We have to be ever vigilant and we have to provide safeguards for minority businesses because we know that there are those who want to send warnings of racial animus at this time,” he continued.
“There is and has always been an anti-Black hatred that has permeated this entire democracy and the foothold that white supremacy has had on Black Americans doesn’t stop because of voting. It stops when white elites who have power and privilege join in with Black people to simply say ‘we are going to put push back in policy against structural racism’.”
Lassiter says the threats against the businesses must be treated as a priority by law enforcement.
A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department encouraged all businesses that received the threats to file a documented report with the department.