Spotlighting Black Business Owners and Leaders: Evalaurene Jean-Charles
Did you know that August is National Black Business Month? Black Business Month is a chance to recognize and support Black-owned businesses. Vireo is proud to work with many Black-owned businesses across the country. We recently profiled Tahir Johnson, who was appointed to be the Director of Social Equity and Inclusion for the U.S. Cannabis Council, and Ally Reaves, Founder and President of Midwest CannaWomen. You can read Tahir’s profile here, or read Ally’s profile here.
Black business owners represent approximately 10 percent of businesses in the U.S. and about 30 percent of all minority-owned businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that amounts to nearly two million companies owned by African-Americans.
In honor of Black Business Month, Vireo’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council is highlighting Black business owners and entrepreneurs, and also Black business leaders in the cannabis industry.
Our third interview of Black Business Month is with Evalaurene Jean-Charles, Founder and CEO of Black on Black Education, an organization that engages with education stakeholders and fosters anti-racist, culturally responsive educational environments that nurture the passion of students of color.
The DEI Council was excited to catch up with Evalaurene and ask about her experiences starting her own business, how she’s working to change educational environments, and how cannabis companies can create more equity within the industry.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live now? Do you have family you want to mention?
My name is Evalaurene Jean-Charles. I am from Rockland, New York, and currently live in Westchester and work in the Bronx. Just want to shout out to my dad who runs Black on Black Education with me.
Tell us about Black on Black Education and the organization’s mission.
Black on Black Education has two sides. On the business side, our mission is to transform, revolutionize, reimagine, and recreate education in the Black community by providing expert courses, conferences, and content that supports educators in remaining anti-racist and culturally responsive so that Black students receive the education they deserve.
On the non-profit side, we are out to transform, revolutionize, reimagine, and recreate education by engaging with education stakeholders to create student-centered learning spaces that work to “bring out” the passion and power of Black students and other students of color.
Tell us about your role and day-to-day work at Black on Black Education.
Black on Black Education is my love child, so like most business owners when they start out, I work on Black on Black Education at night after work. As the Founder and CEO of Black on Black Education, I pay close attention to the voices of educators, their needs, and how we can support ALL educators in their quest to be anti-racist and culturally responsive.
Why did you start Black on Black Education?
I started Black on Black Education because I believe that if the theory of Black on Black crime is going to exist, then there can certainly be Black on Black education. Black on Black crime tells us that Black people are the perpetrators of crime against Black victims, ignoring the research that tells us that nearly every race is likely to be the victim of a crime by a perpetrator close in proximity to them. This myth also ignores the fact that there is a tradition of Black on Black education in the Black community that is much longer and stronger than Black on Black crime. We named our business Black on Black Education to honor the tradition of collectivist communities passing down their knowledge, skills, and traditions.
What are some of the challenges you have faced running the organization?
Being young, Black, and uneducated in entrepreneurship has caused and still causes challenges. Most schools as they stand today don’t train students to start businesses and so I am starting this organization with no background knowledge, learning as I go. I love what I do, so I’d never want it to sound like a burden, but when you are starting from scratch, it is HARD.
You’ve interviewed members of Vireo’s DEI Council in the past. What sparked your interest in the cannabis industry?
A huge part of the status of our criminal justice system is the history of the criminalization of marijuana, which has hindered advancement in the Black community. I am interested in the cannabis industry because first, I believe the plant has the ability to heal so many physically and emotionally. Second, the boom in the industry has the potential to support the efforts toward advancing wealth in Black and Brown communities.
How can people and/or companies help make the cannabis industry more just, diverse, and equitable?
ALL entering the cannabis industry NEED to also be advocating for the records of people convicted for the possession of marijuana to be expunged and for people still serving time to be released. Why you might ask? Because many are unaware of the racist nature of the laws that led us here and that the reality is weed is now legal in 18 states and decriminalized in 13 others. If you want to profit from it, you should also be a part of undoing the harm unjust laws have had on so many lives. From there, communities that have been most affected by these archaic policies should have priority in licensing and business creation. Lastly, companies should look at their hiring policies and make sure they are not marginalizing felons or folks victimized by these unjust laws by creating hiring practices that normalize them being able to enter and then thriving in the workforce.
What are your favorite activities or hobbies outside work?
I am committed to my physical and emotional health. Mental health and self-care have been huge in the public sphere lately which makes me so happy. I work out daily, spend time with my dog, journal, spend time with friends and family, meditate, and maximize the few times I have for complete relaxation. Self-care is my passion and I will always make time for it.
How can people connect with you and with Black on Black Education?
Check out Black on Black Education on Instagram and Twitter or Facebook and LinkedIn. Also, go listen to the Black on Black Education Podcast Episode 11 with Vireo’s own Jaren Forbes to learn more about the history of the criminalization of marijuana in this country.
What events or other programming do you have coming up that you want to share?
Just check out our content, donate to the cause, and reach out if you want to learn more.
Thank you, Evalaurene, for taking the time to share your story with us!