Minneapolis' first-ever Black Business Week takes aim at underrepresentation

Dozens of people packed into a downtown Minneapolis restaurant Sunday to participate in the Twin Cities’ first-ever “Black Business Week.”

To kick it all off, Rep. Ilhan Omar held a panel to discuss racial equality in the world of tech.

The goal Sunday was to get the conversation going and to hear from leaders in the industry so others in the community can learn from the experts as they work to get closer to economic inclusion and solve the underrepresentation in the tech industry.

Four speakers from four backgrounds had four different job titles, but one common objective Sunday.

“I look forward to the day when these racial disparities don’t exist,” said Antionette Smith, the co-Founder of Techquity. “So, that is what I look forward to. That is what I fight for.”

Sunday morning’s panel kicked off the first-ever Black Business Week to celebrate the nearly 1,000 black-owned businesses and ensure they and other businesses that have opened have the resources they need.

“This is the right thing to do,” said Mayor Jacob Frey. “This is the economically smart thing to do.”

The panelists told a room full of eager ears that progress is made when enough people work for it.

“When conversations aren’t leading to change, sometimes it’s about talking louder,” said Caroline Karanja, the CEO of Hack the Gap and 26 Letters. “Sometimes it’s about getting more people to talk with you, getting you to the point where it’s something that has to be addressed or at least heard.”

That long-term change has to start at a young age. Through community involvement, they can band together and promote change within the Twin Cities.

“We constantly have to show up, make our voice heard and get as loud as we can because we can no longer live under a system that doesn’t recognize our dignity and humanity,” said Rep. Omar.

All of the panelists hoped the issue of racial underrepresentation could be solved today, but also for the future.