Sitting in the Dupp&Swat space at Camp North End on a recent Thursday afternoon, I couldn’t help but consider the significance of that 1,500-square-foot garage studio, not just symbolically, but as an epicenter of the recent conversation around black women entrepreneurs in our city.
I was there to talk to Dupp&Swat co-owner Davita Galloway and her intern Tierany Griffin-Purdie about a co-working space they’re launching in Dupp&Swat called The iNCubator. Their mission is to give black creatives and entrepreneurs a welcome space to create, minus the code-switching, glares and awkward small talk that many have felt subjected to in other co-working spaces.
You can find our full talk about the great things Tierany and Davita are doing with The iNCubator here, but the irony of meeting with the pair in that space layed in what had come before.
Just last year, that same studio garage was home to Sherrell Dorsey and BLK TECH CLT. In our last issue, we published a story about Dorsey’s experience running BLK TECH, held up by city leaders and national media in recent years as a shining example of Charlotte’s burgeoning role as the “New South.”
In the story, however, Sherrell discussed the closing of the BLK TECH CLT space at Camp North End, saying that she didn’t feel that the big-money investors in Charlotte — mostly older white men — even understood who the target market was for her organization, let alone why they should invest.
In the end, Sherrell closed down the office, scaled back the organization’s operations and, at the time that I’m writing this, is still considering leaving town. In the article, our writer Kassidy Brown spoke to two other black women who once had promising futures in Charlotte but skipped town after feeling underappreciated and/or disinvested in.
The article was shared across social media platforms in Charlotte and got attention in other parts of the country. Reactions were mixed, but for the most part, the article did exactly what we had hoped it would do: It started a conversation.
We heard from folks who said they think about leaving the city on a regular basis, and we heard from plenty of others who felt they could relate to the women in the story in different ways.
We also heard from women like Davita, who moved into the space that BLK TECH vacated. Davita felt that two big parts of the story were missing: the success stories from women like her who are still in the city hustling and solutions for the very real obstacles that women like her and Sherrell face.
On the Monday after the article came out, Davita and Melody Gross hosted a town hall meeting at Dupp&Swat called the State of Black Women Entrepreneurs in CLT, during which local black women discussed the staggering stats about black business ownership and, more importantly, solutions and suggestions for moving forward.
I didn’t make it to that meeting. I wanted to give those women their space to speak freely. I know Davita well, and I know she has no problems critiquing our work, just as I have no problems listening to it. But I didn’t want anyone else who doesn’t know me to feel as though they weren’t able to share their thoughts comfortably.
But when it comes down to it, none of that mattered. Nobody was there to tear down the article any more than they were there to tear down each other. They were there to come together and help each other forward in a city that has too often made others feel as if doing so was just too difficult.
And that is what makes me most proud of Kassidy’s article. It did exactly what it was meant to do.
The way I see it, we as journalists are not necessarily meant to be searching for solutions. We aim to tell people’s stories. We want to highlight people doing great work in the city, we want to shed light on people doing shitty things in the city, and in this case, we want to share the experiences of those who have the talent and ethic to do great work but can’t for whatever reason.
We let them tell us what held them back, we share those stories, and then we get out of the way.
When there are folks like Davita, Melody and Tierany in town to take action fighting those obstacles, I rest easy knowing that they’ve got things taken care of.
As for us, we’re on to the next story.