ELK GROVE — Americans on Monday celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The civil rights leader would have turned 95 years old.
For Black business leaders in the Sacramento region, including in Elk Grove, it's a special time to reflect on Dr. King's work and how his words inspired them to give back to their community.
Michael Thomas spoke proudly of his close-knit family as he pointed to a collage of photos hanging on the walls at MacQue's BBQ restaurant in Elk Grove.
The family business with humble beginnings is starting to expand. After franchising two years ago, Thomas says MacQue's will make its way to Las Vegas and two locations in Southern California, putting them in a unique category.
"We're one of nine Black-owned franchise stores in the country," said Thomas, a co-owner of MacQue's. "There's not a lot of franchises that are owned by African Americans, so we're proud of that."
He credits his family's core values of love, faith, and hard work for their business success. As he reflects on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he said he gets emotional given all African Americans have experienced.
"So to continue to get opportunities to be better and showcase the best of us is very important," he added.
According to Sac Black Biz, MacQue's BBQ is among 100 Black-owned businesses in Elk Grove. That's a drop in the bucket in a sea of 4,200 total businesses – both big and small.
It pales in comparison to the number of Black homeownership at 54% in a city ranked as the second-best in the state for homeownership.
Rod Brewer, District 2 city councilman and vice mayor of Elk Grove, said through the city's small business incentive program, they're starting to see change.
"Now a lot of people who live in Elk Grove who have their businesses in Sacramento or abroad, they're finding their way back to Elk Grove through programs we offer," Brewer said.
Those programs include the brew incentive program, designed to attract small breweries, restaurants and wineries, and the facade program to help existing businesses repair their storefronts.
On top of that, the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce's economic equity task force aims to close the economic gaps by mentoring minority business owners and guiding them to resources.
That task force, coincidentally, was created the same year Sacramento artist David Garibaldi painted an image of Dr. King, which is now on display at the Elk Grove civic center. It's an image Brewer said represents what Elk Grove is all about.
"This work is very symbolic of who we are as a community and where we're going as a society – lot of hope, lot of hard work, lot of faith, but more importantly, love," he said.
By the way, the Elk Grove civic center is called District 56. The number 56 represents the number of acres that now make up the center, nearby parks, trails, and the aquatics center.
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