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“We continue to play such a critical role in the fabric of the United States,”: Highlighting Black-owned businesses around the Coachella Valley

Juneteenth is a day of celebration for all in the United States, and it commemorates the day all enslaved African-Americans were emancipated around the U.S.

"For me, it shows a day of celebration," said Jarvis Crawford, President of the Palm Springs Black History Committee. "This is true Independence Day. We can actually say in 1865, every American and every citizen living in America, was free.”

Crawford comes from a family of Black business owners. In his bloodline, several generations of entrepreneurs that moved to the Coachella Valley from East Texas.

"I can go far as my great grandmother having her own business as a janitor here in Palm Springs back in the 60's and 70's," said Crawford. That family tradition is something that makes Juneteenth even more special to him and his family.

"Coming to California and sharing Juneteenth and what the holiday really means, it brought a whole new meaning to Juneteenth," said Crawford. "And now here I am able to share the history of what Juneteenth is to not only my family, and my community, but to the entire Coachella Valley."

Crawford's mother, Gina Robinson, continued the generational entrepreneurship. She owns and operates Just Gina's, a salon in the Valley. Robinson says she built her business with a foundation of faith and culture.

“It's important to have a space here," said Robinson. "Being able to give back to my community, being able to give back to my children who I've raised as a single parent, but most of all giving back to myself, assuring myself that I am capable of being a business owner.”

Robinson says she hopes her business and determination inspires future generations.

"I try to get people to understand it's not a Texas thing, is not a Black thing — it's freedom for everyone," said Robinson, reciting a quote from one of her favorite public figures, Opal Lee. "I hope everyone can celebrate from June 19th to the Fourth of July, that would be celebrating freedom."

Dr. Reshae Crawford is Jarvis' wife, and she is the Founder and CEO of Area Hydration & Aesthetics in Palm Desert. She says black businesses have played an integral role in the history of the U.S. and its economy. Dr. Crawford says she's proud to be one of them.

"Knowing that so many African Americans have played critical roles in the United States history from building the country, whether it's buildings, whether it's factories, whether it's inventions, we have played, and we continue to play such a critical role in the fabric of the United States," said Dr. Crawford. She also recognizes that Juneteenth is a day to remember the sacrifices the Black community has made throughout history, as well as the hardships many black-owned businesses face, even today.

"Black businesses aren't always afforded the monetary funds from outside sources," said Dr. Crawford. "And so having to come up with that money on your own, and with less options to start a business, that's sometimes a challenge, but we overcame it. We're in a year and a half of existence, and we're going strong.”

Dutchess Sanchez, the owner of Thriftology, says much like Dr. Crawford, she too has faced challenges as a Black business owner.

"Sometimes, when people come in, they're really surprised that I'm the owner of this establishment and how well that it's doing and how nice it looks," said Sanchez. "I think that they're kind of taken aback because I am Afro Latina." However, she also says the community has been extremely supportive of her and her store.

"Most of my customers otherwise, are incredible, and uplifting," said Sanchez. "The community has been really supportive, and they've all rallied together to help the business be successful.”

Despite facing adversary, all of the business owners say celebrating diversity is something to look forward to, and to strive for.

"There needs to be more representation of everyone throughout wherever you live, not just this valley, but all kinds of valleys," said Dr. Crawford.

"We can do anything that everybody else can do," said Sanchez. "I think if you just take the time to look around and see what other black businesses are there, and what we're doing and how we're empowering our community, and we're impacting other young people to encourage them to do the same thing. I think you'll be really surprised."

For a list of Black owned businesses around the Coachella Valley click here.

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Tori King


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