AACCCCFL-The Orlando Times
BY JALESSA NEAL, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Left to right: Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, ‘Business Opportunity Scholarship’ Recipient Eddy Duran, Duran’s mother, Orlando District 6 Commissioner Bakari Burns, President/CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida Tanisha Nunn Gary, and President of Florida Technical College Dr. James Burkett. (Photo provided by Eleven 11 Communications)
CENTRAL FLORIDA – Despite a worldwide pandemic, the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida (“the Chamber”) did not slow down in providing valuable resources to their members and community. In honor of Black History, The Orlando Times is proud to recognize the Chamber for their commitment to the growth and sustainability of Central Florida’s black-owned businesses.
They began hosting online webinars to provide resources as well as training and development for members and the Central Florida community. Last year, they hosted about 40, some in partnership with other organizations. They were a “tremendous success” in being able to help people navigate issues regarding the pandemic. In addition to business related webinars they also held ones about the results of the pandemic, including its effect on mental health and its disproportionate effect on the Black community.
“The chamber has been a voice for black businesses for so long. Oftentimes our black businesses don't have the access to not only resources but specifically capital and the black chamber can be that liaison helping black businesses to get that capital,” said Bruce Mount, Jr., Board Chair of the Chamber.
According to CNBC, Black-owned businesses in 2020 saw a decline of 41% compared to white-owned businesses that saw a 17% decline.
In response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others who sparked the outrage against social injustice, the Chamber hosted a well-attended and emotional webinar on the effects of violence and the effect it has on African Americans and people of color in the workplace.
“One of the positive things that come out of this pandemic has been increased awareness about the need and the focus on black businesses. We've all seen the hashtags #BuyBlack #SupportBlackBusinesses so we want to continue that momentum, and it's nice to see that on the local level as well as nationally,” said President and CEO of the Chamber, Tanisha Nunn Gary.
Last Wednesday night, in honor of Black History Month, the Chamber was glad to partner with Florida Technical College for an award ceremony. They gave out the ‘Business Opportunity Scholarship’, valued at almost $60,000, to be applied toward tuition and fees for a bachelor’s degree program in Business Entrepreneurship, Management or Marketing available online at any Florida Technical College campus. In addition, they awarded grants in the amount if $5,000 to three chamber members- in partnership with AT&T. The event featured special remarks from Mayor Jerry Demings and City of Orlando District 6 Commissioner Bakari Burns.
“Investing and promoting education for minorities is the right thing to do,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. “Programs such as the Business Scholarship Opportunity, helps us level the playing field to reduce educational disparities within all communities.”
The recipient was Eddy Duran, 53, an award-winning, Emmy-nominated director of Film and T.V. He recently moved to Central Florida two years ago from New York, with the mission of becoming a contributor to the African American business community.
“This partnership will inspire more young black entrepreneurs to go into business for themselves and create a black generation of wealth,” stated Duran. “Personally, a master’s degree in business will provide me with the knowledge and skills I need to take my company to the next level.”
They also partnered with the Black Business Investment Fund (BBIF), The Central Florida Urban League (CFUL), and Prosperity Now for a new initiative called ‘Enterprising Black Orlando.’
“We want to help promote and build generational wealth within the black community,” said Gary. “Once we build wealth within the black community, we know that just increases the opportunities for better education and home ownership. We build stronger communities when we build stronger black businesses.”
Partially funded by Wells Fargo and the Central Florida Foundation, the initiative’s goal is to look at the business community and the economic landscape of Central Florida and conduct an impactful study to see where it stands. Their goal is to put together a proven national model and have the data that they need to better support the Central Florida black business community going forward.
“We need to make sure that we are supporting black businesses which have been hit the hardest…during the pandemic,” said Mount, Jr. “My goal this year is to continue to provide the resources for our members during this pandemic, not only allowing them to survive but to thrive.”
Established in 1945, the Chamber is a members-only network devoted to cultivating a business environment for African American companies, public awareness for minority firms, and education and advocacy for both members and the Central Florida community. It serves Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties.
Their board of directors is made up of 9 executive board members and 21 additional board members.
As President of the Chamber, Gary is also assisted by her staff made up of three other successful black women. Najah Hines is the Manager of Operations and Strategic Initiatives, BB Bangura, CNP is the Membership Coordinator, and Sade Lee serves as the Programs and Events Coordinator.
The second oldest of her siblings, Gary was born and raised in Blackshear, Georgia. Her mother, Mamie Jenkins and her father, Thomas Nunn Jr., had their oldest daughter Tamika Nunn and then Tanisha. After they divorced, her father remarried and had Michaiah Young and Sianna Nunn.
Throughout high school Gary served as yearbook editor, she was very active in student council and the beta club- she was even voted most likely to succeed. After graduating with honors from Pieree County High School, she went on to graduate in similar manner from Spelman College, with her B.A. in Political Science in 1996. In 1999 she earned her Doctor of Law (JD) Juris Doctor from Quinnipiac University School of Law.
Following a successful law career, Gary became CEO and President of the Chamber in October 2018.
A proud mother of her son, Christian, she is part of various organizations, including the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College.
“We appreciate and acknowledge the support that black businesses are receiving,” said Gary. “But we want to make sure that we keep that in the forefront and it's not fleeting but something that's permanent.”
More information on the Chamber and how they have been helping the community during the pandemic, visit http://www.blackcommerce.org/