It was a milestone celebration for the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce on Saturday evening. 20 years ago, Ali and Earlena Morris, who created the chamber, were honored at the gala for tirelessly working to help black businesses and owners grow.
In 2001, Ali and Earlena Morris moved to Bakersfield and found that there wasn’t a Black chamber of commerce here. So, they decided to fill that void and create an organization to help African American businesses with the resources they need to thrive in the county.
Ali Morris said their work began because of a passion to help small businesses. “So to see this happen this way and to give us some recognition for helping get a big part of this started here in Bakersfield, it means a lot to me,” Morris said.
Earlena Morris passed away in 2017 and unfortunately isn’t here to see how her work has impacted the community, but her husband says he is grateful to honor their legacy. He adds that a lot of what the chamber is today can be credited to her creativity.
Nick Hill, president of the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce says the work they do would not have been possible with the Morris couple. “If they had not founded this chamber, then we would not be here today,” he said.
Hill says this milestone celebration represents all of the work the chamber has done in uplifting the economic landscape for businesses in Kern over the past 20 years. It has been helping small businesses grow over the years and given members access to opportunities to help get more exposure and grow their business further.
Morris adds that the purpose of the chamber is to help entrepreneurs launch their business and help equip them with the tools to make them successful.
“We’re doing our best to make sure that if you do have a passion, and you want to start a business related to that passion, that you also take into consideration the business administration part starting a business. And I think we’re doing some pretty good work to make sure businesses get started off the ground correctly,” Morris said.
Hill adds that it’s important for black owned businesses to be heard, and the chamber helps create a platform to do that. He says that business owners need to “make sure that we’re sitting at the table ourselves instead of having to wait for someone to allow us or invite us to the table, even if we have to pull up a chair to the table ourselves and get up there, we need to do something.”
Hill says the event was sold out with 400 people registered to attend the gala. The proceeds from the gala will go back into the community, to help encourage more people to start their own business or give them resources to grow. The funds will go to the Black chamber foundation that is made up of the junior chamber of commerce and also help fund the Ali and Earlena Morris scholarship program. Hill says he hopes to partner with more schools and students to make these resources accessible.
For more information about the Black chamber, you can visit www.kcbcc.co