When Philadelphia and the nation began to experience unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, people reacted in different ways.
Many marched. Others protested. Some were destructive.
Alexis Akarolo and Zelnnetta Clark created a nonprofit.
“I was seeing it physically in my community. It was unbelievably sad,” said Kensington resident Akarolo, referring to the looting that took place throughout Philadelphia early last month. “That was the driving force. We were always interested in creating something that would be beneficial to the community.
“When recent events started—with the looting and destruction and protesting—we were not seeing enough conversations about small businesses who were affected,” she added. “I tried to find the best ways that I could connect to the businesses that I saw were affected.”
As a result, the brainchild of Akarolo and Clark—Rebuild the Block—was created and has already helped more than a dozen businesses in need. The nonprofit helps Black business-owners across the nation directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the destruction caused by looting as a result of racial injustice.
Rebuild the Block originally began as a Go Fund Me page, which has raised more than $194,000 since May 31. It has quickly grown and was officially deemed a nonprofit on June 12. The organization has since helped businesses in the Philadelphia area, as well as Georgia, Illinois and Maryland, among others.
“With today’s political climate and with the pandemic all affecting us in multiple ways, I thought during this time filled with so much negativity, this would be a positive way to uplift hard-working business owner’s spirits,” said Clark. “Not only them, but everyone in our community, to see that everyone could be involved with something bigger than themselves. The amount of support we received was divine confirmation that we needed to take action now to become an official nonprofit and to expand our mission beyond the small business relief fund.”
The feedback that Akarolo and Clark received was immediate and abundant—both from people wanting to donate and help, as well as businesses that were struggling and looking for assistance.
“With heightened social unrest, I think some people had some difficulties figuring out ways they could get involved in helping the community besides protesting and utilizing social media platforms to spread awareness of recent events,” Clark explained. “When Rebuild the Block was created, I think it made people feel like they could make a progressional change by supporting our cause or initiating their own missions to help the community.”
Businesses looking for assistance are welcome to apply online. To qualify for a donation, businesses must be Black-owned and affected by COVID-19 and/or looting. Businesses must have been launched no later than Jan. 1, 2020. Once the application process is complete, there is a thorough verification process to analyze how the business was affected through profits and losses, which determines how large of a donation can be given.
“It’s very important to uplift people’s spirits during times of negativity and find solutions to these issues that we are facing. Organizations like ours, take it a step further than just awareness, we are actively looking for solutions and ways to redistribute wealth and knowledge into our community,” said Clark.
“We want to give something that you didn’t have before so you can put your business in a better place. I feel it’s vital because we have to give back to our communities anyway we can,” added Akarolo. “When you invest in your community, your community invests back in itself. We want people to see that we’re trying to help each other, and see as a society, we can still be good to each other.”
For more information about RebuildTheBlock Corp., visit rebuildtheblock.org or stay up-to-date on social media @RebuildTheBlockCorp on Instagram and @RTBCorp on Twitter.