‘Bust A Move Monday’ Can Help Jonesboro, Officials Say

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 209 views 

The idea behind a program that has helped black-owned businesses in Memphis for nearly 15 years can provide the same opportunity in Jonesboro, officials said Monday.

Dr. Kenneth Whalum, Dr. Dee Lofton and Myron Mays spoke Monday to the Forge Arkansas group about the program, called “Bust a Move Monday.”

Whalum, who is the pastor of the New Olivet Baptist Church in Memphis, said the idea for the program came one day when he and his wife were driving on Park Avenue in the Orange Mound community in Memphis.

The community – one of the oldest in Memphis – was also one of the richest African American communities in the country at one time, Whalum said.

Then something happened.

“I was disgusted with the blight,” Whalum said of Orange Mound.

Whalum’s church then began BAMM.

According to the group’s website, the ministry picks a black-owned business in Memphis on the first Monday each month and asks people to spend money there.

Whalum said the program provides a public/private partnership to revitalize the area.

“You in the room today have to be the leaders,” Whalum said.

Whalum also cited scripture in Isaiah 58:12, which reads in part, “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

The work has been tedious but also rewarding, Whalum told the group of about 40 people who attended the meeting at the Jonesboro Municipal Center.

“You have to have the right kind of mindset, your heart has to be in the right place and you have to be ready to do the work,” Whalum said.

Lofton said the program has helped nearly 140 businesses in Memphis since it began.

The decision to help the business is multi-fold, Lofton said.

A scout will typically go to the business to first and see the business in action, Lofton said. Lofton then visits the business to see things for herself.

From there, the business gets help on everything from finding places to advertise and financial literacy to building customer bases, Lofton said.

Mays, who works for the Black Business Association of Memphis, said city officials there have worked to build entrepreneurship.

A Renaissance Business Center on Beale Street houses several agencies including the Small Business Administration as well as city and state offices, Mays said.

The center also has a reference library and seven computers that are available for people to research ideas to start a business.

Mays said you can “see tumbleweeds” on some days at the center, but the resources are available for people if they are interested.

Lofton said the success of anyone who wants to start a business depends on how they “germinate their seed” of an idea.

Steven Trotter, an official with FORGE Arkansas, said he and members of the group had the opportunity to hear from Whalum, Lofton and Mays during a recent meeting.

“Once we met them, we felt like it was something we could replicate in Jonesboro,” Trotter said.

According to 2010 numbers from the Census Bureau, 18.4% of the population in Jonesboro is black or African American. Meanwhile, Trotter said there are very few black-owned businesses in Jonesboro.

Trotter said the idea would be one of the pieces to the proverbial puzzle for his group, working with new entrepreneurs.

Trotter also said he believes the idea of a one stop place like a Renaissance Business Center would be successful in Jonesboro.