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Greenville Business Magazine

REEM holds first Black Economic Mobility Summit in Greenville

Jun 16, 2023 09:17AM ● By Angelia Davis

Photo above: Carlo White, president/CEO WH Trucking; Gail Peay, vice president, Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County; and the Rev. Stacey Mills, president of REEM GVL, discuss generating and transferring wealth during the opening plenary at the REEM Black Economic Mobility Summit in Greenville. 

Photos by Angelia Davis

Washington, D.C. attorney Aimee Griffin believes that “when we know better, we can do better.” 

Griffin is the founder/president of the Association of Black Estate Planning Professionals, Inc., an organization committed to bridging the racial wealth gap through collaboration and capacity building of financial professionals and economic education. 

She was in Greenville Thursday, June 15, 2023, to help the Greenville County Racial and Equity Economic Commission (REEM Greenville) spread knowledge and resources toward improving economic mobility. 

Griffin was the keynote speaker at REEM Greenville’s first Black Economic Mobility Summit. 

The aim of the summit was to “deepen our conscious participation and conversations in practices regarding wealth building, business ownership, wealth transfer, and wholesome personal financial management practices,” said Stacey Mills, REEM’s executive director. 

Griffin encouraged residents to, among other things, build generational wealth, to view other Black business owners as collaborators and not competitors. 

“We are a superpower,” she said. “We are better together.  

Also, she said, “We need to be thoughtful about how we come together, how we grow together.” 

REEM was launched in 2020 to address racial inequities, highlighted by the death of George Floyd Jr., who died after being restrained by a Minneapolis police officer. 

His death shed light on the condition and quality of life experienced by millions of Black Americans across the nation, Mills said. 

Greenville commissioners committed themselves to addressing disparities that negatively impact the Black community, issues in the realm of health and wellness, criminal justice, education, community-wide learning, income and growth. 

These are the five areas that speak to inadequate, inequitable experiences that the average Black Greenvillian navigates on a daily basis, Mills said. 

With the number of Black citizens hovering right at 98,255 and the average household income for Black families being $40,000, compared to the average Hispanic household income of $48,000 and white household of $70,000, challenges abound, he said. 

Nationally, the unemployment rates over the last 18 months rose to 3.7 percent. The number of unemployed persons increased by 440,0000 to 6.1 million. That increase for Black Americans rose from 4.7 percent to 5.6 percent, Mills said. 

“Though the employment gap between workers of colors and white workers is closing, the historically low Black unemployment rate remains significantly higher than the white unemployment rate, which stands at 3.3 percent,” Mills said. “In addition, the Hispanic and Latino unemployment rate also remained higher than white unemployment rate at 4.04.” 

“When we look at employment, we know the transfer of wealth is directly tied, in our community, to the ability to earn a paycheck and while our open plenary talked about generating wealth and transferring wealth, we know that a person’s ability to have an income – to move from surviving to thriving – is ultimately what we’re talking about,” he said. 

Also, Mills said, “when we look at all that’s happened in Greenville, with growth and economic boom that we have, with wonderful green spaces, wonderful entertainment that we have, but for the Black community to be able to access them, one of those of entry points, comes through somebody’s ability to make a living.” 

REEM’s six-hour event Thursday included breakout sessions where local professionals shared information on wealth building, education, entrepreneurship, money management, homeownership, investing, and the importance of Black elected officials. 

A session on “Young, Gifted and Supporting Black Entrepreneurs” was led Terrance Tucker, founder of the Tuck Project LLC, an organization with a mission to “provide comprehensive and streamlined support that equips and empowers youth with the confidence, knowledge and integrity to be benefactors of the society they live in, for their growth and self-sufficiency.” 

“There are so many people who do not know how to start a business or how to sustain a business,” Tucker said. “There are some people who may have the want or desire to start a business but don’t know how. Sometimes me coming out, telling my story, may motivate one or two people to start their own business.” 

Tucker also said there’s a need for more events like REEM’s summit. 

“This set the standard high for a lot of other conferences going on,” he said. “The vibes in the room, the networking opportunities are second to none. 

Mills described the energy at the summit as phenomenal. 

“I believe the people who were in attendance here shared an enthusiasm for the information that was shared,” he said. “One person said to me ‘can we do this more than once a year. 

“We believe it is inaugural in the sense that we have the opportunity to grow this and manage a bigger audience with a wider range of information.” 

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling was an event partner for the summit.