Dr. Key Hallmon Created A Village To Help Entrepreneurs Level Up In Business & Community

"Every opportunity my education allows me to get, I'm bringing my community with me."

Black Woman Owned

Dr. Lakeysha "Key" Hallmon is one woman who is serious about advocating for black entrepreneurs. She's the founder and CEO of The Village Market, and she cultivates events to provide a platform for socially-conscious, black-owned startups and entrepreneurs to get support, build community, and showcase their products and services.

As a social entrepreneur, speaker and curator, Hallmon uses her gifts of tenacity, smarts and bold confidence to rally behind small business owners, kidpreneurs and nonprofit leaders.

Carol Rose

"I started the village before the marketplace. I was teaching classes [on] entrepreneurship and holistic health at a coffee shop on Marietta Street in Atlanta," Hallmon recalled during an interview with xoNecole. "I was dealing with a community of entrepreneurs–some business owners working a 9-to-5 on the side–and from those classes, I would choose about 10 businesses that had a great deal of promise. We were a very small community that met inside a coffee shop once a month."

From there, the community grew, and Hallmon wanted to find a way to meet a common need among the entrepreneurs. "Those classes were the kick-start to everything. Being the researcher I am, I asked, 'What else do you need? Do you need to feel more confident in starting your business or in scaling and growing your business?' They [said they] needed a place where people could shop with them and know that they are here in Atlanta, so I started the market. At my first event, we had 31 small businesses participate and about 300 to 400 people came out. We had a lot of passion and no website or Instagram–just word of mouth. From there, it literally began to be the thing that people became excited about. Today, we offer them the highest level of customer service and entrepreneurs feel seen, guided, and heard."

The Village Market, helmed by Hallmon and her all-female team, is now held quarterly in Atlanta and features more than 50 vendors offering an array of products and services, from apparel to home goods to beauty products. Attendees can also enjoy live performances, a kids zone, and art installations. Hundreds of entrepreneurs vye for a spot at the market and the variety of products and services they offer are diverse.

Carol Rose

"Vendors have to apply. We do this partly because at this point, we get a great deal of [applications]," Hallmon said. "We then start our selection process, choosing the best of the best. [As a participant], you also agree to be trained and sign up for workshops and webinars. I wanted to have something that would be more than a marketplace, so entrepreneurs get to work with other entrepreneurs. We have a partnership with Google for our Saturday School and all of these are offerings we have for any business in the village. For the market, the communities get to see the businesses, but the businesses already began to form relationships with one another over the course of three months."

As part of the market experience, attendees can also enjoy plant-based food at the Village Cafe and get a taste of healthy eats. "We feature between 13 and 15 plant-based culinary artists, and the food is so good! I get so excited because …. some of [the attendees'] first experiences with plant-based food are from the Village," Hallmon said. "My goal has always been not to impose my lifestyle on others but to expose our community to other options. They may like something different and expose it to [their families.]"

Her venture into plant-based foods and holistic living began years ago with her mom, who, at the time, was battling lupus and cancer. Hallmon wanted to support her mother's journey to manage the illnesses and get well.

"We were learning a lot together at that time. She just wanted to be better–feel better. I was learning some things, and we began juicing together," Hallmon said. "My mother still transitioned, but I do know that the quality of her life changed. Everything that I support for the community is so that people can feel better and feel loved. It's what I wanted for my own mom. No one should be ashamed of what they don't know or about the foods they eat. We can meet people where they are."

Hallmon also credits much of the motivation behind her belief that education empowers, and opens doors, to her mother. The graduate of Tougaloo College, a historically black institution, continued her academic excellence in an effort to make her mom and family proud and went on to earn her master's and doctoral degrees, graduating from the University of Mississippi and Liberty University, respectively.

Carol Rose

"My mother was a high school dropout and earned her GED. She'd say, 'This is good for me, but it's not good enough for y'all,'" Hallmon said, adding that her mom wanted her and her sister to put education first and value the opportunities education would bring. "It was a no-brainer for me. [As a youth], I did well in school. I was an athlete and an avid reader. I'd read books by Maya Angelou and Toni Morison. I would try to find women who had the Dr. in front of their names and figure out how they got it. I once asked a counselor, 'How do I get to have 'Dr' in front of my name?' and he said, 'That's not something you'll ever probably get to do.' I didn't know why he'd say that to me considering I was a pretty good student. [When I went to] Tougaloo College, all of my professors had doctoral degrees and were black. It opened me up and felt so real. I wouldn't stop. I wanted to take the torch further."

She would later become an English teacher and then a Department of Education professional, and she uses those experiences today, as a full-time entrepreneur and consultant, in the work she does with entrepreneurs in the Village.

"There's a privilege that comes [with education] where people will pull the chair out for you at the table and believe that you're supposed to be there. I understand that," she said. "And because I know there's a certain privilege that comes with my education, I don't lose myself because of that opportunity. Every opportunity my education allows me to get, I'm bringing my community with me. When you can speak differently about your business and connect it to research and data, people listen to you differently. You have a different level of respectability. Getting my doctorate is probably one of the best things I've done for my family and my legacy."

"Every opportunity my education allows me to get, I'm bringing my community with me. When you can speak differently about your business and connect it to research and data, people listen to you differently."

That legacy intertwines with what the Village Market stands for, empowering black entrepreneurs through education and offering a community and customer base that will help them thrive, evolve, advance, and someday, pay it forward.

"The reason I created the Village Market: I tell everyone we operate in excellence. That's a hard part to always live up to, [but] I put my company up there. I need people to understand that if we put ourselves up to a level of excellence, you can trust every business that has come into The Village Market to showcase."

For more information on The Village Market, which will be held in Atlanta, GA on November 29-November 30, visit https://www.thevillagemarketatl.com/.

Featured image courtesy of Carol Rose.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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