Philadelphia Commerce Director Michael Rashid urged a group of minority business leaders to give back to the community and help young people who are being impacted by gun violence.
“Our young men are dying on the streets just as if it’s a war — it is a war,” Rashid said Monday during a kickoff event for Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week at the Laborers’ District Council Training and Learning Center.
“It’s a war on our young people, it’s a war on our future. We as businessmen and women should not be focused on making money without remembering if you don’t give back to your people, use your brain, use your money, use your contacts, if you aren’t doing something for your people you aren’t doing anything.”
“Minority business people, we can not only come together for MED Week, we can come together and form some coalitions and let’s see what we can do for our young people,” he continued.
Every year, MED Week highlights businesses owned by women and people of color and the resources to help them grow.
MED Week co-founder Bilal Qayyum, an anti-violence advocate, spoke about the importance of minority businesses coming together to build a strong economic base. He was recognized for championing diversity in business during last year’s all-virtual MED Week and received his award in person Monday.
“Asian businesses, Latino businesses, white women — they have to support Black businesses,” he said.
“You can no longer just support each other. Black folks in the city of Philadelphia are in crisis. One of our major crises is economics.”
“We have to grow a stronger economic base about supporting each other business-wise,” Qayyum said. “That’s the way that we are going to make a difference in the city of Philadelphia.”
Valerie Cofield, president and CEO of the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council, highlighted the financial strain of the pandemic and said Black and Latino businesses have received fewer business loans since the COVID-19 shutdowns began.
“Much needs to be done in the public and private sectors to help close these systematic gaps and achieve economic parity for MBEs (minority business enterprises),” she said.
The annual celebration of minority businesses is co-chaired by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce, African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ & DE; Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency, Women’s Business Enterprise Center, and Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council.
The theme for this year’s MED Week is “Unmuting Your Opportunities.”
“Unmuting your opportunity means making your opportunities transparent, making them so you can see them, making them accessible to you,” Iola Harper, deputy commerce director for entrepreneurship and economic opportunity, told the business leaders.
“That’s the goal of this week. That is the goal of the Office of Economic Opportunity — to make opportunities accessible, available and clear for you.”
MED Week, which runs through Friday, will have more than 40 in-person and virtual events, including a discussion on the future of the Philadelphia Navy Yard and opportunities for small businesses and an information session for entrepreneurs to learn about a new concept in retail: container malls.
For information, go to phila.gov/med-week.