An unprecedented moment unfolded Friday in the Mississippi Delta at the EE Bass Cultural Arts Center as the city of Greenville’s first black mayor welcomed the first black vice president of the United States.
Mayor Errick Simmons said it was a “great day” for small businesses in rural communities as Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Queen City and one of its long-standing establishments to highlight commitment of the Biden-Harris administration to “support and uplift America’s small businesses”. .”
Harris was joined by US Homeland Security Chairman Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-2), who said of the Biden-Harris administration, “They don’t forget the people who allowed them to serve”.
Thompson said this administration’s investment in communities, cities, counties, school districts and even the state of Mississippi has yielded opportunities not often presented.
“We now have more money than we ever had, but now we have to decide how we are going to spend it,” he said.
Joyce Johnson, owner of Joycee’s Fabric & Sewing Center at 622 South 9th St., was visited by Vice President Harris early Friday afternoon.
During her VP presentation, Johnson explained what it meant to her to open her own business in 1994 and the commonalities she and the VP share as they both learned to sew under guardianship of their own mother and grandmother.
Johnson, who described opening Joycee’s sewing and fabric center as a “dream come true,” also shared what it meant to her to be able to sustain her business through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What you may not know is that, like many small business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened my livelihood – I had to make some serious decisions about whether I could keep Joycee open,” she said. “But, through Hope Credit Union and programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, I found I had options that would allow me to keep my business open and my dream alive.”
Vice President Harris began her address to the audience by reaffirming the importance of a small business like Joycee’s.
“I know what it means to have a place like this in a community where you can go and families go and where it’s cross-generational in terms of families being impacted by the work that goes on in places like this “, she said before. thanking Johnson for allowing him to visit.
The Vice President highlighted the efforts of Congressman Thompson on behalf of Mississippi State as well as Hope Credit Union CEO Bill Bynum, who also encouraged her to see for herself what is happening in Magnolia State with regards to the economy and small businesses.
And, she noted Tuesday’s passage of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022, which makes lynching a federal hate crime.
Vice President Harris considered the city of Greenville resilient, alluding to the 1927 flood.
“Over the past two years, like so many communities across our country, you have faced incredible challenges and you have met those incredible challenges with incredible strength,” she said. “Greenville is a place built by the ambition and aspiration of its people.”
The same is true, as history suggests, for America.
However, achieving certain dreams and ambitions is not as easy as some might think.
Vice President Harris pointed out that turning ambition and aspiration into action often requires capital – capital to start and grow small businesses and to buy and renovate a home, which requires financial services that are not equally accessible to all, especially those living in rural communities. .
“Black entrepreneurs are three times more likely to say they did not apply for credit for fear of being turned away by a bank. Black and Latino homeowners are rejected at a higher rate when applying for home loans from traditional financial institutions, even when they have similar credit profiles to other applicants,” she noted.
These reasons explain why Vice President Harris continues to make strides such as securing $12 billion for Community Lenders in December 2020 and supporting the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
She highlighted the importance of community lenders in rural communities, as she believes they often see potential that others may overlook.
“Hope Credit Union loaned Joyce just over $10,000, an amount too small for most traditional banks to bother to lend, but it was an amount that transformed Miss Joyce,” the vice-president illustrated. President Harris. “Throughout our country, small businesses are engines of economic prosperity and this is especially true in rural areas and in Mississippi where more than 99 percent of all businesses are small businesses.”
Vice President Harris, even more comprehensively, illustrated how small businesses and their owners help prepare future generations and lead the communities they serve.
“They are civic leaders, they sponsor local softball teams, they mentor and hire youth from the community, they are role models,” she added, noting the challenges they sometimes face.
These challenges, according to the vice president, are being met with solutions such as affordable high-speed internet access, expanding the country’s investment in community lending institutions, and expanding and expanding the Community program. Advantage – a loan program introduced by the US Small Business Administration to meet the credit, management, and technical assistance needs of small businesses in underserved markets.
Vice President Harris summarily said Greenville is a place that can help the Biden-Harris administration “take the temperature” of how it is doing when it comes to its small business investments.
“It’s a place full of talented, tenacious and ambitious people. People who, when given the opportunity, will build something extraordinary,” she concluded. “There are communities like Greenville in the South and in our country, reservoirs of ambition and aspiration just waiting to be tapped, that’s why we invest in community lenders and that’s why we We will continue to work to build an economy that includes everyone and that is why we will continue to work to ensure that every person in our country, no matter where they live or who they are, has the opportunity not only to succeed , but to thrive, because when we do, we lift up communities like Greenville and we lift up our small businesses and all of America.