Aisha Adams on doing the work during a pandemic

POINT OF VIEW: Among Aisha Adams' initiatives is the "Equity Over Everything" social enterprise, whose mission is to "advance equity by closing the gaps in social equity, entrepreneurship and homeownership within low resource communities across the South." Photo courtesy of Adams

Entrepreneur Aisha Adams has kept a lot of plates spinning during the coronavirus pandemic — which isn’t unusual for the business coach, blogger, media personality, educator, parent and speaker. And until a few days ago, when she recorded a new episode of her online talk show The Asheville View for the first time in several months, Adams had been doing it all without leaving her South Asheville home except to go to the grocery store.

But Adams’ husband, Rafrica Adams, works at local television station WLOS News 13 and has been leaving home throughout the pandemic. When one of his co-workers got sick, Rafrica and Aisha decided to socially distance from their 18-year-old son, Dorian, who has Type 1 diabetes. That meant not using the kitchen at the same time and making sure Dorian’s dog stayed with him in his room rather than having the run of the house. After four days, the co-worker’s COVID-19 test result came back negative, and family life resumed a more normal rhythm.

One of Adams’ key roles is connecting people in the black and brown communities to business resources. As local initiatives such as the Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund (fueled by revenue from the lodging occupancy tax) and the One Buncombe Fund (underwritten by local governments and donations) took shape, she was dismayed to see that the programs’ criteria didn’t fit many business owners of color.

“If you notice, black people will partner, but most of the time, each one of them is a separate business,” she says, pointing out that 95% of African American-owned companies have only one employee. “That’s just how we roll. That’s our culture.” 

But to qualify for grants or funding under the rules of the local programs, Adams continues, businesses must have a certain number of full-time employees. Adapting those criteria with an eye to equity, she says, would mean recognizing that, “People in black and brown communities, we have a different culture. We don’t even think, ‘Oh, let me get an employee.’”

As community members of all backgrounds protest George Floyd’s killing at the hand of police, she says, “I just want people to remember Black Lives Matter is not just about the dead, but it’s also about the living. 

“I didn’t see people up in arms that the tourism fund didn’t include people of color.”

This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at


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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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8 thoughts on “Aisha Adams on doing the work during a pandemic

  1. Richard B.

    The article describes a person, Ms. Adams, who appears to be smart and resourceful, and working hard to help those less fortunate through education and hands on involvement. Doing something for the Community, which is a whole lot more than many so-called leaders of color are doing elsewhere around the country, even when they’re in high positions of power.
    The last sentence wherein she expresses dismay that she didn’t see people up in arms, etc., has stoked my curiosity as to why she felt it necessary to state her opinion in that fashion.
    I’d like to ask her if she really thinks that the Tourism Board honestly planned their budget to purposely leave out businesses owned by African Americans, and that the average citizen should have immediately recognized this flaw, and “be up in arms”.
    It strikes me as unnecessarily provocative, and in today’s social climate, not really helpful. No problem bringing her thoughts to our attention, which is helpful. No problem with pointing out potential areas for these funds to more effectively and appropriately distributed.
    Just lets all of us try to give each other a break from all the accusations, finger pointing, and even attempts to intimidate.
    Let’s assume that there are more good folks out there who really do want to see everyone prosper, regardless of skin tone, than there are those who don’t. I do believe that this is what MLK thought.

    • Laura Hope-Gill

      Thank you, Xpress, and Aisha, for expanding everyone’s awareness. There is indeed a blind spot in the program, and that is greatly populated by Black-owner businesses. What an excellent opportunity for TDA and all grant-giving institutions to examine their practices and improve. Aisha’s Equity Above Everything workshops and classes ought to be on every Asheville and American to-do list. White-led organizations truly do not see their own systemic racism. How could they? That’s the nature of systems. They look inward, they self-perpetuate. Thankfully we have teachers like Aisha to strengthen our systems and city. Thank you, Aisha. Always for opening our eyes and showing the way out of white blindness.

    • Laura Hope-Gill

      Richard B., I just read your comment. I recognize where you are coming from— alarmed, taken aback, moved to speak. What if you considered and listened? Did you know that most Black enterprises have one employee? I had not thought of that. Do you think an organization that makes millions of dollars on selling Asheville should know that about Asheville? Do you think TDA really made an effort here to ask our small business what they need? They dragged their feet to do anything at all for anyone here who makes their product. And they are an all-white organization with no strategy for equity. So, rather than criticize Aisha, which really is your whiteness telling her Blackness to quiet down and behave so you can be comfortable in said whiteness, listen. And look into TDA and ask it why it doesn’t invest in our communities. That’s where your discomfort really lies. Recognize the problem and address the problem. Don’t attack the people who teach us to see the problem.

      • Richard B.

        Laura, sadly, I have little Hope that you will outgrow your profound sense of white guilt, enabling a stultifying blindness to your own hypocrisy. Did I attack anyone in my comment above? No. Did you personally attack me? Yes.
        Your assumptions of who I am, of the color tone of my skin, – with little more evidence to make such generalizations than a few paragraphs of my response, – does say a whole lot about your elitist sense of superiority and entitlement to make such pronouncements.

    • Virginia Daffron

      Richard B., if you have read other items in this COVID Conversations series, you will know that they are intended as short snapshots of the experiences of different community members during the pandemic. Aisha and I had a 45-minute conversation that touched on a variety of topics. I distilled that conversation to some 350-odd words. You should recognize that the emphasis here reflects what I found most thought-provoking and relevant (for the purposes of this series and the issues of the moment) from our conversation, not what Aisha necessarily meant to highlight. To explain fully how organizations may unintentionally create inequitable programs or policies would go beyond the scope of this short format.

      • Richard B.

        Ms. Daffron, I always appreciate your articles, editorial direction, and especially responses to commentary as above that do help to clarify and expand the conversation. As I do the most recently posted above.

        As I stated originally, not knowing Ms. Adams, you very effectively communicated her many talents and contributions to those in our community who can benefit from her creativity and zeal. A person to be admired by any measure.

        However, having reread your original elucidating article, I still felt the same with the very last line in quotes.
        I still am not sure what Ms. Adams meant by declaring that she didn’t see people up in arms because the tourism fund didn’t include people of color, implying what? Your article was the first time, I’m sure, that many folks became aware of this.

        So now, if Ms. Adams still doesn’t “see people up in arms”, after being placed on notice, then I do believe that she would have a legitimate complaint. And I don’t think her quoted statement would be perceived as pointing the finger or being prematurely accursatory as when people weren’t aware.
        If I were to see an article in Mountain Xpress down the road a few weeks or months that nothing has been done based on Ms. Adams astute observations, then I indeed might be “up in arms”, as would others.

      • Richard B.

        As MLK did express toward the end of the letter, it certainly is long, however, it is well worth the read. It left me wondering if the
        Clergymen to whom he addressed the letter were moved by it, if it softened their world views on segregation, perhaps even moved some to action. I would think so. It is an epic letter, beautifully written, – expressing a profound understanding of the Bible, of the history of segregation and bias in this country and around the world, of human nature with all of its frailties as well as Godly spirit and courage, and most of all, his perspicacity that there are good people who would respond to the incredible wisdom of his non violent, steadfast protests and eventual success in widespread acceptance of the Civil Rights Law of 1964.

        Thank you, Manila M.

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