Black History-in-the-Making: Tae Winston

Black History-in-the-Making: Tae Winston

Dayton Powerhouse supports Black-owned businesses in the Dayton area, brings commerce back into the community

 

By Amber Wright, Development and Marketing

Every February we celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans throughout history.

A simple Google search will generate endless pages filled with iconic pictures: Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowds in Washington, Muhammed Ali standing over a knocked-out Sonny Liston in the boxing ring, protestors holding signs while marching in unity, and Rosa Parks poised with strength and dignity in front of a bus.

These images are snapshots of pivotal moments in American history, cataloging the struggle of our nation as we began the transition from slavery and segregation to civil rights and equality.

At The Foodbank, we realize the fight is not over yet.

Our organization is dedicated to addressing the root causes of poverty, which includes factors such as systemic racism, redlining, and other policies that have contributed to racial inequity. It is crucial that we have these conversations so we can develop sustainable solutions.

While it is tempting to reiterate the atrocities that took place in our country and the extraordinary men and women who fought (and often died) to bring about change, that information is better taught in school textbooks where it can be discussed in-depth.

For this blog, we want highlight history-in-the-making with a profile of a local woman who is part of the solution for systemic change. Tae Winston is a Black entrepreneur who is using her talents to improve local communities and the small businesses they house.

 

Tae Winston: Entrepreneur

Tae Winston has made it her business to help other local businesses.

In a time of pandemics, natural disasters, rising inflation and economic instability, the people who often suffer most are small business owners. Factor in decades of redlining, discrimination, and food deserts, many historically Black Dayton neighborhoods have been deeply affected. Winston’s success with the Dayton Powerhouse is helping to reverse the damage by providing the space and guidance for local entrepreneurs to thrive.

The Dayton Powerhouse is a collective created by Winston which also sponsors community events. It includes two buildings housing various businesses, an educational center and a bus that has been converted to a mobile fashion store.

Her first brick-and-mortar store, the Entrepreneur Marketplace, was opened in 2019 as a space for local entrepreneurs to have a safe place to connect, shop, and sell their products or services. Local vendors can display their product without having to finance all the overhead costs for things like rent, electric, staff and property maintenance. The Marketplace comes staffed with its own manager, so independent sellers can still work a normal job while their wares are being sold.

Located in the Wright Dunbar business district, it also provides a place for the community to buy local in an area where many businesses had permanently closed.

“When I first came to Wright Dunbar it was a food desert and business was dead,” said Winston. “It inspired me to bring a chef into the Marketplace and have food trucks outside to give people options. Now the district is drawing in other businesses and beginning to rebuild.”

The launch was so successful that she opened two additional brick and mortar locations. The Entrepreneur Shoppe, also located in the Wright Dunbar business district, is another store housing more than 30 Black-owned businesses. The Entrepreneur Connection is an academy that works with small business owners by providing workshops, resources, guidance, and support. It also can be rented out to other community members who need space to host classes of their own.

“My thing is, anyone can get an LLC and become a business, but can you sustain it? Can you grow it and make a profit? That’s what we offer,” Winston said.

Opening the Connection is continuously helping the community by giving local small businesses an opportunity to gain footing in a market dominated by large corporations. With a pandemic induced shutdown and an immediate rise in inflation, bigger businesses are often the only ones able to survive. The Marketplace and Shoppe enables smaller vendors to access space. The Connection coaches them on how to use it.

In addition to facilitating commerce in her brick-and-mortar stores, Tae Winston attracts customers with her organized events. The Fashion Meets Food Truck Rally has hosted more than 50 vendors and 15 food trucks in Trotwood. Winston also created what former mayor Nan Whaley officially proclaimed “Wright Dunbar Day” on June 27th, 2021. This event has already created revenue for 80-100 small businesses and 30 food trucks, according to Winston. Her events have the capacity to feature as many as 300 merchants. This generates cash flow that stays in the community.

The Dayton Powerhouse did not pass unscathed from Covid. All the large events had to be canceled and her stores saw a decline in sales. Winston adapted with a curb-side pickup policy and managed to keep her doors open. “Covid just came and changed the game,” she said. “I’m still struggling to make up for the losses, but I’m making it work.”

Winston says she faced the same barriers many Black entrepreneurs face when first entering the market: lack of capital and support. Her entire business venture has been self-funded without grants or a business loan. That is a problem many people face in areas that have been redlined, often disproportionately effecting people of color. After securing her brick-and-mortar retail space, she encouraged other small businesses to share it.

While most small businesses she works with are Black owned, she offers her services to everyone.

“I don’t care what color you are. I don’t just cater to Black vendors, I help all races,” she said. “I am proud to be a Black business owner, but I am here for everybody. What I do is out of love. That’s how I was raised.”

Experiences with discrimination motivated Winston to help other aspiring business owners by being more inclusive and supportive. “I was a vendor that was thriving and doing well, but I was pushed out of my space for trivial reasons,” Winston explained. “That’s what made me want to create a safe place for people to thrive where they wouldn’t be pushed out like I was.”

All of Winston’s efforts have revitalized the community so greatly that Winston’s business was selected for the Ohio Business Spotlight and received a certificate of commendation from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The recognition is given to organizations for transforming the community and educating job creators about what it takes to succeed.

“I’m more concerned with helping others instead of only building myself up,” she said. “I think the community would look different if more people were willing to collaborate, share information and support each other in life and business. We can all win.”

The Dayton Powerhouse has worked with more than 350 Black-own businesses in the last three years. More than 25 vendors have already grown into their own independent locations which are still sustaining. Annual events like Wright Dunbar Day bring the community together while supporting local and minority-owned businesses.

Winston credits her success to hard work and to being part of the community, not just doing business in it. She has taken a seat on the Greater West Dayton Incubator Advisory Council where she can also be a voice for the community she serves.


The long shadow of the “welfare queen” narrative

The long shadow of the “welfare queen” narrative

The majority of public benefits recipients are white, but racist narratives harm benefits access for low-income people of all races.

By Emily Gallion, Grants & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager

Some misconceptions about public assistance are easily debunked: Fraud rates in these programs are extremely low, the majority of people who receive assistance are white, and most participants who can work do.

It is more difficult to address the racialization of government benefits discussions. This is because policies such as work requirements that may seem racially neutral first appeared in a much different context.

Many lawmakers made little effort to hide the intent of these policies. Early resistance to public benefits programs included concerns about the economy, which was reliant on low-wage Black laborers.

As one lawmaker said, “I can’t find anyone to iron my shirts!”

In this blog, we will tackle the difficult history of public benefits access for Black households — and how stereotypes about low income people of color have led to policies that are harmful to people of all races.

Demonization of Black Welfare Recipients

Particularly in the South, states added restrictive policies in the 1900s to prevent Black families from accessing aid programs. Some states restricted aid to domestic or agricultural workers, which were predominantly Black. Louisiana limited aid to families during cotton picking season.

As a result, 90% of Black women laborers were initially ineligible for unemployment and Social Security programs, and two thirds were still excluded a decade later, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

Some of the worst examples of discrimination in public benefits programs come from the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program, created in 1935 to support children living in poverty. This program had origins in mother’s pensions for widows and would later develop into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Many restrictions to the ADC originated from racist ideas about Black women, especially Black mothers. Some of these included so-called “man-in-the-house” or “suitable home” policies, which targeted Black and unmarried mothers. 

For example, in the three months after Louisiana restricted ADC funding to children whose mothers were “unsuitable” for unmarried sex, 95% of the 6,000 children removed from the program were Black.

Lawmakers expressed particular concern that Black women would have more children solely to increase their benefits. One man, Mississippi State Representative David H. Glass, stated, “The negro woman, because of child welfare assistance, [is] making it a business, in some cases of giving birth to illegitimate children.”

Rep. Glass also introduced a 1958 bill in Mississippi to order sterilizations of women who gave birth to children while receiving benefits. The state of Ohio is one of several to consider similar forced sterilization policies.

The Welfare Queen Myth

These derogatory narratives about Black women appeared more recently in the “welfare queen” hysteria of the 70s. During Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign, he spoke of a “woman from Chicago” who earned $150,000 a year from government checks.

This woman was a real person named Linda Taylor who did receive nearly $9,000 in benefits by using fraudulent names and addresses. Ms. Taylor was a biracial woman with a complicated personal history. Her all-white school expelled her at age 6. At age 14, she gave birth to her first child. Several psychiatrists and lawyers stated that she experienced mental illness and seemed incapable of telling the truth.

This is not to present Ms. Taylor as an innocent victim — some historians also believe she committed a variety of more severe crimes, including kidnapping, child abuse, and even murder. However, she never faced prosecution for any of these suspected crimes. Media coverage of her life focused on her welfare fraud instead.

In total, the county spent $50,000 to convict Ms. Taylor. Her story was amplified to foster the belief that welfare fraud was widespread — in reality, just 1 percent of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s annual budget was lost to fraud and abuse, with the majority of ADC mispayments originating from simple mistakes.

A Lasting Legacy

These ideas — that poor people, especially people of color, are lazy, deceitful, and require harsh penalties to coerce them to work — persist in our public benefits system today. TANF, which replaced ADC, still includes language about marriage and unplanned pregnancies that calls to memory the “man-in-the-home” policies of the original program.

Stated Goals of Temporary assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Ohio’s TANF program, Ohio Works First (OWF), is difficult for people living in poverty to qualify for. Families can receive OWF for a maximum of three years (lower than the federal standard of five years. To qualify, a family’s gross income can only be 50 percent of the federal poverty level. This is $630/month ($7,560 annually) for a family of three. OWF recipients are subject to strict work requirements with no exception for adults who are ill, pregnant, elderly, or responsible for childcare.

Due in part to these requirements, over 80% of cases in Ohio are child-only, which typically means the child is living with a family member who is not their parent. According to the Center for Community Solutions, Ohio is second in the nation by number of child-only families, behind California but ahead of New York.

While stable, long-term income is a worthwhile goal for people living in poverty, there is little evidence that work requirements in public benefits programming accomplish this. Analysis of multiple studies by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that work requirements ultimately do not reduce poverty — and some families fall into deeper poverty while participating in these programs.

It’s true that work requirements in programs such as TANF and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do result in modest initial gains in employment. However, these employment increases are not enough to lift families out of poverty. They are also generally not sustained long-term and do not address barriers such as health issues and childcare.

Work requirements disproportionately impact people of color. They are more likely to experience challenges like high local unemployment, transportation barriers, and poor physical and mental health. This, along with alleged bias by caseworkers, may be why people of color are significantly more likely to be sanctioned for work requirements.

Research also shows that people who lose benefits due to work requirements meet conditions that should make them exempt. One study of Tennessee’s TANF funds found around 30 percent of sanctions were made in error.

SNAP also comes with work requirements, which some counties in the state of Ohio are exempt from due to high unemployment rates. These counties are predominantly white and rural, despite that areas with highest rates of unemployment are typically Black and urban. 

This is because the state of Ohio administers exemptions at the county level, obscuring pockets of high unemployment within counties. According to analysis by the Center for Community Solutions in 2018, 97% of people living in exempt counties were white. 

The same report determined that seven Ohio cities that could qualify for the exemption were home to 40 percent of Ohio’s Black population and over half of Black Ohioans who live in poverty.

Closing Thoughts

It is particularly cruel to characterize people of color as dependent on government assistance when these same programs contain racialized language and policies. While these policies disproportionately impact people of color, efforts to weaken safety net programming harm all people living in poverty.

We support policies that help the people we serve to live a healthy, active lifestyle. We couldn’t do this work without programs like SNAP and TANF. It is our hope that we can implement policies that treat people living in poverty with dignity and respect.

For up-to-date information on policies such as SNAP, you can sign up for advocacy alerts from our partners at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and Feeding America.