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 email@example.com.