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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
The National Black Chamber of Commerce announced this week the death of its co-founder Kay DeBow Alford on July 19, 2021.
Highly focused, efficient and determined, Kay was the linchpin of the Chamber, defining multitasking to its highest degree.
Kay, as she was affectionately known, was named Kayanne at birth on December 12, 1957, to the parents of Charles DeBow Jr. and Aurelia Jane Stuart in Indianapolis, Indiana. She seemed to be born for business leadership, coming from a family that were known educators and entrepreneurs.
Kay’s father, Charles DeBow Jr. was one of the first four Tuskegee Airmen, serving in World War II. Kay’s maternal family were the Stuarts, who were entrepreneurs, owning several successful businesses in the greater Indianapolis area.
A graduate of Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, she received her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She began her professional career at Colgate-Palmolive in Detroit, Michigan. It was in Detroit on June 8, 1980, Kay met husband-to-be Harry Cicero Alford Jr.
After a short courtship Kay and Harry were married on October 31, 1980.
The Alfords made their home in Indianapolis. Kay pursued government work and at the height of that work she became the Director of Marketing for the Hoosier State Lottery in Indiana.
The couple also became entrepreneurs owning several video stores and private ventures.
Through their business experiences, Kay and Harry early on realized there was a need for a national connection.
When Kay DeBow Alford and her husband Harry left Indianapolis, Indiana and moved to Washington, D.C. in September 1994, they had already founded the National Black Chamber of Commerce on May 23, 1993.
They had begun locally to fill the void of a Black business organization by founding the Hoosier Minority Chamber of Commerce in Indianapolis which evolved into the NBCC.
The NBCC was crafted from the empowerment principles of Booker T. Washington, the business acumen of Congressman Parren Mitchell, and enforced by the father of affirmative Action Arthur Fletcher.
Kay and Harry Alford took the business mission to new heights.
The organization, comprised of chapters throughout the United States expanded its reach internationally to France, Mexico, England, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Kenya, and Ghana.
Kay coordinated and singlehandedly organized and produced the national and international conventions and conferences.
She helped guide the NBCC, assuring its participation in business discussions on Capitol Hill and their interaction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Officers and members were saddened by Kay’s death and sent along messages:
“Kay was the backbone of the National Black Chamber, the mother and driving force behind the great accomplishments of the NBCC. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her and who benefitted from her tireless drive to make the nation better for all Black business owners,” said Chairman of the NBCC and President/CEO of the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce.
“We will continue her legacy to fight for the improvement of African American communities throughout the Black Diaspora.”
John E. Harmon, Sr., Founder, President and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) remembered Kay by saying, “words, although spoken softly, were at times, penetrating, yet nurturing and impactful.”
“Her commitment to attaining the best for Blacks was the cornerstone of her advocacy. I am grateful for the moments we shared together and her investment in my development as a Chamber Executive which has led to huge dividends for many and will never be forgotten.”
“The business community lost one of its champions with the passing of Kay DeBow Alford. Co-founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) with her husband, Harry Alford, she was the power behind the scenes of the many accomplishments of the NBCC,” said Dorothy R. Leavell, who served as a Board member and previous Chairman of the Board of the NBCC.
As serious and fierce as she was in the business arena, she was equally invested in her family. A devoted wife to Harry Jr. of forty-one years and the mother of twins, Harry III and Thomas, both successful sportsmen and businessmen.
Her most recent pride was being the grandma to Tatum and Archer. Her abounding love stretched out to her brothers, Charles Henry DeBow III and William Weir DeBow; sister, Natalie Jane; nephew Jonathon C. DeBow and countless nieces and nephews.
Services will culminate with burial in Shreveport, Louisiana. Services are entrusted to the Winnfield Funeral Home, Shreveport, LA.
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ATLANTA, Nov. 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — “Shop Black Week” began years ago as a meeting of the minds that included determined Black business owners and community organizers as a campaign to promote Black economic empowerment that soon escalated and became a world-wide movement. The idea of Shop Black Week (SBW) was to encourage consumers to simply add “shopping with a Black-owned business” to their to-do-list. The Official Shop Black Week 2020 campaign has over 200 organizations involved, which represents over 1.5 million members, subscribers and followers who will share and hashtag #shopblackweek to encourage mass participation. The SBW campaign simply asks every American to make at least one purchase from a Black-owned business from November 20-27th and into the holiday season.
Systemic economic disparities are not new; however, the COVID-19 pandemic brought this to the forefront. Recently, an overwhelming amount of attention has been placed on the disparities and injustices within the Black community. Because the SBW organizers are Black business owners themselves, they were more than aware of these disparities and even more than aware that nothing short of a major movement would be necessary to address this issue knowing that many small businesses suffered and had to shut down.
As Black business-owners, the SBW campaign began as a S.O.S. (Save Our-Selves) call to action. However, it seems that others want in on the Black movement because it is in fashion these days. Recently, TikTok, Wal-Mart, Amazon and Shopify (all non-Black owned entities) have launched Black initiatives, and specifically TikTok has termed their “new initiative,” unbelievably, “Shop Black Week” too. According to the organizers of the Official Shop Black Week, in an attempt to preempt the Official Shop Black Week campaign, the corporate giant has created a new start date, one week before the official grassroots campaign launches. “Google ‘shop black week,’ to see hundreds of results displayed; visit the website to see all of our participating organizations and partners. As the true Official ‘Shop Black Week,’ we are concerned that these large corporate giants have not responded to our request for partnership, but instead, they are attempting seemingly to capitalize off Black consumers and business owners,” said Carla Tillman, PhD, Shop Black Week’s National Director.
The copycat shop-black-week promoters indicated that they have hand-picked and pre-selected some Black-owned vendors to feature. “That’s great!” says Sharon S. Gordon, media partner of SBW, “however, organizers of the Official Shop Black Week campaign welcome all types of Black-owned businesses who would be able to keep 100% of the proceeds from their products and services.” A qualified business simply has to register and pass the vetting process by signing up at shopblackweek.org. Organizers of the Official SBW forecast an average of 30,000 daily website visitors who will be searching to find quality Black-owned businesses to support.
Everyone making a purchase from a Black-owned business during Shop Black Week November 20-27th should hashtag #shopblackweek and let everyone know about any purchases including business names, locations, dates and photos.
Source: Shop Black Week
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BLACKGWINNETT Magazine is the only county-wide neighborhood magazine dedicated to informing, empowering and speaking out for the black community of Gwinnett County, Georgia. The publication is digital with limited printed editions circulated through our advertisers and supporters in Gwinnett County first released November 2017.