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How This Boutique Owner Is Rebuilding After Looting Destroyed Her Business

Princess Pope is working to unify entrepreneurs to come back stronger and better than before.

BOSS UP

When Princess Pope opened her Dallas store eight years ago, she wanted to provide a space where chic, fashion-forward men and women could come to shop, vibe, and find common ground. She built an IG following of more than 25,000 followers, launched pop-ups to expand the brand, and worked to motivate others to pursue entrepreneurship through speaking and advocacy. Her store joined the ranks of more than 12 million women-owned enterprises killing the game, and she also became part of a tribe of the fastest-growing entrepreneur group in the country as a black female CEO.

"I'm originally from California and had a boutique there for five years," Pope recalled during an exclusive xoNecole interview. "I visited Dallas and I just fell in love with it. I knew that with my next store, I wanted to serve both men and women, that way we would be marketing to [everyone], and that's when Guns and Roses Boutique came about. I found the perfect location in downtown Dallas, and we just took off. We've catered to the Dallas Mavericks, the Cowboys, and a bunch of different entrepreneurs. We are fashion, entertainment and retail therapy rolled up into one giant space."

With the support of loyal customers, friends, and extended family, Pope was able to sustain a successful retail business. The graduate of LA's Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising was finally doing her thing, realizing her dream of being her own boss, and on the glow-up---until about a week ago.

A peaceful protest in the downtown and Deep Ellum districts had reportedly been held during the day, but by nightfall, nearby shops were ransacked. Pope returned to her business only to find that it was among those that had been vandalized and looted.

"When I got to the store, it was so devastating," she said. "It was really bad. Glass was still dripping from the front window as I walked in. They wiped out everything. I was so sad. I just stood in the middle of the store watching how all my hard work had gone down the drain in a matter of minutes."

Image Courtesy of Princess Pope

We can all agree that the past few months have been more than tough. Besides COVID-19 still lurking around, the current climate has been filled with unrest, fear, uprising, and challenges after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died during a Minneapolis arrest at the hands of a white police officer. Despite the unity and vitality of peaceful demonstrations, counter-elements have emerged, negatively affecting minority businesses that were already hit hard by months of being closed.

"We have been working so hard on growing and ramping up and then COVID-19 hit, and now this," Mahisha Dellinger, the CEO of CURLS and a mentor to Pope, said in a statement. "When I heard her voice, I knew I had to rally my city around her to support. I am so proud of the outpouring that's happening, yet so utterly disappointed that we are here in the first place."

Dellinger, along with other family, friends and community supporters have rallied behind Pope in the form of emotional, financial and resource support. "There were four fake GofundMe pages going around before we made our own. My sister found them and she said, 'Princess, we need to make our own so people know who the real business is,'" Pope said.

"Our supporters wanted to pour back into us, so we gave them an avenue in which they can. There were so many people who wanted to help, so the page was set up so they can do just that. It's not just about a dollar-amount. It's that someone is saying, 'I see you, and I care.'"

Image Courtesy of Princess Pope

Like any smart business owner, Pope said she has insurance, but it could take weeks--even months---for relief. She said she has also reported the incident to local authorities, and again, an investigation takes time. "We've been closed since March 17, and we were set to reopen [a few days ago]. Now that won't happen. I go to trade shows all over the world to [fill inventory] and I can't just take one day to fill my store back up. It will take months for me to even recover the inventory."

Pope is grateful that her community chose to stand with her to raise funds and show both emotional and monetary support so that she could get back to what she loves and serve the community that has supported her for so many years. Her GoFundMe campaign has already topped the $100,000 mark, surpassing the goal.

"We've received a lot of donations so we will be donating to five other small businesses that have been affected by the looting. There are two [neighboring] businesses in particular on Commerce Street that I definitely want to donate to. People have helped me, and I want to extend that [giving] to other businesses."

Image Courtesy of Princess Pope

Dallas Boutique Owner Talks Rebuilding After Looting Destroyed Her Business

For other small business owners who are facing challenges, Pope offered the following three tips:

Pause and reevaluate. "Sometimes when you can't do anything, you just have to stand. Be still for a little bit and rethink what's going on," she advised.

Tap into support from right in your backyard. "Stay close to those who believe in you and support you. Hold on and stay tight with your community."

Partner up with other organizations and businesses. "The support I have received from the city of Dallas and the people near and far has really helped me to get through these days," Pope added. "I am super grateful to everyone who has reached out---donating, offering a lending hand. The support has been amazing. We're standing strong, and I know that we will be back bigger, bolder, and better than before."

For more information on how you can support Pope and her plans for rebuilding, visit Guns and Roses Boutique's Instagram or Website.

Featured Image via Instagram/PrincessTheCEO

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.

Reparations

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

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