On a recent Monday night, a group of Black business owners, entrepreneurs and activists met at Gregory’s Soul Food in northwest Lansing. They swapped stories. Shared business ideas. Heard presentations from a life coach, a bodybuilder, a tour guide, a plant shop owner.
Their goal was simple: Black economic stability for Greater Lansing.
Since last fall, Gregory’s has served as the meeting place for Black Wall Street of Lansing, a networking group aimed at building a self-sufficient Black economy in the city. The group takes its name from Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District — a.k.a. Black Wall Street — a once-thriving Black business district burned to the ground by a white mob 100 years ago this week.
Black Wall Street of Lansing co-founders Leo Brown and Ahsahki Guy started the group in November to address issues they say stem from a lack of Black ownership in Lansing, including a dearth of Black-led educational institutions, grocery stores and community programs.
“We’re trying to create an incubator in our own city to build people’s businesses and use it as a networking hub to get people’s big desire — give people a sense of hope and unify our dollar to build Black economics here in Lansing,” Guy said.
In starting the group, Guy and Brown sought to replicate what was destroyed in the Tulsa massacre, which raged from May 31 to June 1, 1921. At the time, Tulsa’s Greenwood District was the wealthiest Black community in the United States. After violence broke out surrounding the arrest of a Black man for assault on a white woman — charges that were later dropped — a white mob tore through the Black neighborhood, burning businesses and shooting from overhead in private airplanes.
The mob destroyed 35 city blocks, 1,250 homes and virtually every business. Experts estimate up to 300 were killed.
The Lansing group wants to prevent something similar from happening again — and to be prepared the next time a world-changing event like COVID-19 exacerbates preexisting racial inequities.
“We’re trying to start something so big that when COVID or any type of tragedy happens again, we have a place we can go to for financial stability, for agriculture so that we can eat, for shelter so that people don’t go homeless,” Brown said. “Because anything can happen.”
So far, Brown has hosted five monthly networking events, which he calls “think tanks,” at Gregory’s. This month’s event on May 24 centered on the Tulsa centennial and how to network.
Joy Gleason started GLAD Tours in 2016, giving walking and bike tours of Lansing and East Lansing. A speaker at Monday’s event, she noticed more young residents turning out to learn about small business ownership.
Gleason wants to see Black Wall Street of Lansing build Black wealth organically. She views the group as a way to help entrepreneurs “pull themselves up by the bootstraps, but with Black Wall Street of Lansing’s help.”
Brown, a jack-of-all-trades who works as an actor, designer, promoter and barber at Mo-Cuts, started hosting sporadic networking events at his home in 2014. They caught on, but lacked a concrete plan of action, he said. So he paused the meetings while he honed his chops in design and cosmetology and relaunched Black Wall Street with a mission of improving Lansing from the inside out.
“We’ve made a lot of genuine connections with people who are willing to help others,” Guy said. “And that’s what we want to start seeing more of — not competition, but people coming together to help one another collectively, because we all want to see Lansing thrive.”
Their next community-facing event is a 5K walk/run June 20 at the Capitol. The race celebrates both Father’s Day and Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in America. The group is soliciting donations to Black Wall Street leading up to the race.
Quesha Taquay, who consults on credit repair under the nameThriving Credit Solutions, joined Black Wall Street of Lansing to help make her city a hub for Black business. She said Monday that while there are barriers to attaining wealth for Black residents of Lansing, the pandemic and a heightened focus on racial equity has spurred many into action.
“People have (been) challenged a lot during the pandemic. There’s been so many blessings and (so much) heartache,” Taquay said. “(But for) those that have persevered, it’s the right time to make some movement happen.”
She added that not everyone who attends a Black Wall Street think tank need be an entrepreneur or activist. At Monday’s session, she overheard a recent college grad express gratitude to others for sharing their ideas and building off one another. For him, it was a networking event — a way to find and connect with likeminded people.
Black Wall Street of Lansing’s next step is an “each one teach one” program, in which established business owners will be paired with young people to mentor on entering different industries.
The program, Guy said, will allow older business owners to pass down hard-earned wisdom to Black youth, such as how to devise a business plan, raise funds and get a loan. Guy also hopes to lead after-school programs on gardening and growing food to focus young people’s minds on “positive things,” she said.
As for Black Wall Street of Lansing, the sky’s the limit.
“This is the very beginning, and they’re in the phase where they need to have the community lifted,” Gleason said. “My hope is they don’t run out of steam and keep going — remain focused and have the gentrification in town done by Black business owners and not other elites.”
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Dave says: If you need a cosigner, you're not ready – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
How to improve your credit score in 2021: Easy and effective tips
If you’ve ever wondered “What is my credit score?” it’s probably time to find out. Having a good credit score can make life a lot more affordable. If you’re about to buy a house or car, for example, the higher your credit score is, the lower your interest rate (and therefore, monthly cost) will probably be.
Your number may also be the deciding factor for whether or not you can get a loan and ultimately determine if you are even able to buy something you want or need.
So, yes, the goal is to have the highest possible credit score you can, but increasing the number doesn’t just happen overnight. There are important steps to take if you want to increase your score, and the sooner you start working on it, the better.
“If you’re trying to increase (your credit score) substantially to accomplish a goal, you’re really going to have to have as much lead time as possible,” said Thomas Nitzsche, director of media and brand at Money Management International, a nonprofit financial counseling and education provider that advises people on how to legally and ethically improve their credit score on their own.
If you have fair credit and you’re trying to improve the number for a house purchase, for instance, you’ll want to start working on it at least a year in advance, he explained to TMRW.
But even though that sounds like a long time away, you can (and should!) start doing things right now to bump that number up. Below, see seven things you should do — and not do — to help improve your credit score:
1. Review your credit report
The first thing you’ll want to do is pull up a copy of your current report so you know where you stand. You can get free reports from all three agencies — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — at annualcreditreport.com. Nitzsche said it’s important to take a moment and understand the financial snapshot of where you are today and where you want to be.
You’ll also want to take some time and look for any errors on your report, which could negatively impact your score. “If your name is misspelled, that’s not going to hurt your score,” he explained. “But if you see a late payment or missed payment (that’s in error), or maybe you have an account that should be reporting but isn’t, then that’s a problem and that will impact your score.”
If there is an error, you should dispute it and try to provide as much proof as you can.
One other thing: You can also ask a creditor to remove an issue if it’s been corrected (i.e., if you paid off a collection debt). Nitzsche said it doesn’t hurt to ask and the worst thing they could say is no.
2. Have good financial habits
“The biggest part of your credit score is payment history, so the most critical thing is never missing a due date,” Nitzsche said. Set up a monthly autopay or add all due dates to your calendar so you never miss a bill.
You can also achieve a higher score when you mix different types of accounts on your credit report. It may seem counterintuitive to get extra points for having debt in the form of student loans, mortgages and auto loans, but as long as you’re paying them off responsibly, it shows that you’re reliable.
3. Aim to use 30% or less of your credit at any given time
Know your credit card limit, and try not to use any more than 30% of that number each month, otherwise your score could lose points for too much credit utilization.
Another thing you can do is ask your bank to increase your limit. “That will give you more flexibility to spend more,” Nitzsche said. You could also pay it off twice a month to keep the balance low. But he does warn that you never know when the balance is going to be reported to the bureau. It can happen at any point during the month, so it might be the day after you make the payment or the day before. “You don’t necessarily want to use the card and pay it the next day because that doesn’t give the bureau the chance to know that you’re using it,” he said.
4. Avoid requests for new credit
If you’re looking to increase your score around the time you want to buy a house or car, you won’t want to open up a new line of credit, like a retail card, credit card or loan. That’s because “hard” credit inquiries like those can lower your score, and sometimes it comes down to a few points over whether you’re approved or what your rate will be, Nitzsche said.
“Soft” credit inquiries, like when an employer checks your credit or when you pull your own report, won’t affect your score.
5. Keep all accounts open, even ones you don’t use anymore
Even if you don’t use that credit card from college, it’s a good idea to just keep it open because closing it could hurt your score. Nitzsche explained that you’ll be dinged some points for each account that is closed. If you want or need to mentally break up with a card, just cut it up instead.
6. Build your credit if needed
If you haven’t established credit yet, you might not even exist … in the credit report space, that is! “If someone has never fallen in delinquency on any subscriptions or utilities or never had collections on anything and they have not utilized credit cards or loans in the past seven to 10 years, they may not have a credit profile at all,” Nitzsche said. “That presents a challenge when you want to buy a home.”
If this sounds familiar, you may have to get a secured credit card where you put down a deposit, he advised. “You still have to make payments and use it responsibly. Not all banks offer them but you can usually check with your local bank or credit union.”
7. Reach out for help
There are many apps and credit-monitoring services that can help you stay on top of your credit score. You could also reach out to a professional credit counselor who can help you navigate your specific situation. (Here’s a good resource about finding a reputable service.)
One last thing: Nitzsche warned that everyone should beware of credit repair scams that claim to be able to increase credit scores for an advance fee to get accurate negative information removed (even temporarily) from credit reports.
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