Shelby County, Tennessee played a powerful role in the Civil Rights Movement. It’s the home of Memphis, a site of organizing and activism throughout the movement. It’s known for being the city where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, and where he was tragically assassinated the next day. This legacy is strong, but racial inequities persist in Shelby County. The median household income of white county residents, for instance, is more than double that of Black or Latinx workers. County Commissioner Willie Brooks, Jr. believes his community is ready to change.
“I’ve been here all my life,” he says. “Growing up in Memphis, I’ve been able to see the opportunity that exists.”
Brooks felt that entrepreneurship could harness that opportunity. He knew that small businesses were part of the county’s social fabric, serving as gathering places and cultural hubs. They were also economic engines.
“We need to be able to create jobs. And we create jobs by supporting the businesses in our community,” he explains.